Toronto is a patchwork of neighborhoods with a remarkably vibrant downtown core. (Once you're in the heart of the city, you can head in just about any direction and end up somewhere with plenty to see, eat, and do.) Where most North American urbanites might know the heart of their metropolis as a workplace, a practical daytime shopping network, or an occasional night-time destination, more than 200,000 Torontonians eat, play, sleep — and work — in the downtown core. If you're coming in from Pearson International Airport, the city might seem sprawling, but once you're grounded downtown, everything is here: shoulder-to-shoulder shops, theaters, parks, galleries, restaurants and cafes, bars and nightclubs, and places of worship. Residential neighborhoods are found in pockets and increasingly with new developments in the downtown core.

The city's diverse cultural makeup is evidenced all around town. Foods reflect the multicultural fabric, from Little Italy's residential laneways lined with garages where wine and tomato sauces are made in late summer to outdoor BBQs charring spiced corn-on-the-cob along Little India's strip. There are cultural centers of every stripe, music to suit any taste, galleries galore, and interesting shops of interest all around.

Start anywhere in the downtown core, walk in any direction for no more than 15 minutes, and you'll see eclectic modern buildings side by side with neo-Gothic and Art Deco architecture, or catch a fair glimpse of the city's ethnic spectrum. Sometimes, you'll walk right into a pleasing patch of greenery.

This is a happy coincidence because the layout and organization of the city mean you will almost certainly get lost at least once during your stay. Streets have names, not numbers, and they have a crazy-making habit of changing their monikers as they go along. In Midtown, the must-see Avenue Road, for example, turns into Queen's Park Crescent, then into University Avenue as you head south, and into Oriole Parkway if you go north. My best advice: Relax and enjoy the ride.

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