Toronto is one of the world's most multi-cultural cities, and the Chinese comprise one of its largest ethnic groups.
The vast Chinatown area, centered at Spadina and Dundas Street West, radiates out and encompasses Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai restaurants and businesses in addition to the many eateries that tempt visitors with Szechuan, Hunan, Mandarin, and Cantonese fare.
Every few years, on the grounds of Ontario Place, Toronto's Chinese heritage is celebrated with the colorful Chinese Lantern Festival, a gorgeous display of colorful lanterns that honor China's past and future.
In addition to the Chinese, Toronto has significant populations from Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, India, Greece, and many other nations. Each has developed its own section within the polyglot city, where that country's fare is available and visitors can hear languages other than English spoken.
Toronto is also one of the world's safest big cities, so visitors who take normal precautions need not be wary about exploring its varied ethnic neighborhoods on their own.
Sip Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Royal York
Toronto's landmark hotel located in the heart of downtown, the Fairmont Royal York offers an afternoon tea in its EPIC restaurant.
Comfortable banquettes, tables well spaced apart, accommodating waiters, and a selection of traditional finger sandwiches and pastries make this elegant and romantic ritual a sophisticated pleasure. Reservations are recommended.
Visit Castle Loma
Castle Loma, designed to resemble a medieval castle in residential Toronto, opened in 1914.
It was built by Canadian stockbroker and financier Sir Henry Pellatt at a cost of about $3.5 million. Containing just under 100 rooms, it was the largest private home in Canada at that time.
Like many grandiose structures, Castle Loma has stood through its share of triumph and tragedy. Sir Henry and his wife spent fewer than ten years living in Casa Loma before financial reverses forced them to abandon the property; the flamboyant Pellatt died virtually penniless.
For the past 70 years, Casa Loma has been open as a tourist attraction. They pay a fee to enter and can take a self-guided tour. Many simply explore the fragrant and colorful Casa Loma Gardens, in bloom from May through October.
Casa Loma can also be rented for weddings that range in size from 125 to 1,200 guests and it has an in-house caterer.
Browse Toronto's Markets
Toronto's markets are where visitors go to savor a true taste of the city.
The two major Toronto markets are St. Lawrence Market and Kensington Market, and each has a distinct personality.
St. Lawrence Market, established in 1803, is a must-see for foodies visiting Toronto. Its main floor is filled with cheese shops, meat sellers, a fishmonger, bakeries, and delicacy purveyors. A peameal Canadian bacon sandwich or truffled mozzarella from this market will introduce your palate to new flavor sensations.
The lower level offers some ready-to-eat items and unique edible gifts, such as New Zealand honey and unusual jam flavors. Visitors may also find themselves taking away irresistible non-comestibles, such as handmade jewelry and original photographs. Find out more: St. Lawrence Market.
Kensington Market wakes up and stays up late. Vintage clothing shops, used furniture stores, multiple places to eat, art galleries and other bohemian passions comprise this multi-cultural community, which became a National Historic Site in 2006.
Kensington Market is also home to the Hot Box, a cannabis café, which is a safe environment where customers can smoke their own marijuana (it is not sold on the premises) and dine on vegan, vegetarian, and meat items such as Brain Melt grilled sandwiches and Chronic Quesadillas.
Try on the Bata Shoe Museum for Size
One way to know it's really love is when you can convince your other half to visit a place that doesn't seem like something he or she would be interested in. If your other half agrees, you're well on the road to enduring love, since you already know how to compromise. And if your other half goes with an open mind and ultimately finds the attraction as interesting as you do, bingo! You've got a keeper.
The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto needs that kind of preface. It's not a typical museum. In fact, it may be the only shoe museum in the world. Three floors of shoes hold both the expected (Princess Diana's heels, Elvis' blue suede) as well as a truly fascinating array of footwear that dates back nearly as far as when man first stood upright and needed protection for his tender soles.
Wooden sandals from Egypt more than four centuries old... intricately beaded moccasins made by indigenous North American peoples... silver wedding sandals from India... reindeer-skin boots from Siberia... and embroidered silk shoes as tiny as baby booties worn by foot-bound Chinese women are all part of this fascinating collection.
If you love handicrafts and history, a visit to the fascinating Bata Shoe Museum will expose you to other cultures, countries, and times from the ground up.
Find Enlightenment at Toronto University
Founded in 1827 as King's College, the University of Toronto is a liberal arts school with more students, faculty, and courses than any other college in Canada.
Its venerable Gothic buildings and quads evoke the scholarly ambiance of the Cambridge and Oxford campuses in England.
Whether strolling the grounds or arranging to have a wedding ceremony in one of the public spaces, couples will find the parklike property a worthwhile place to pause on a Toronto itinerary.
Toast Your Romance at Toronto's Distillery District
Another one of Toronto's National Historic sites, the Distillery District is a pedestrians-only, cobblestone area along the wharf that was once home to mills and breweries.
Today the Distillery District houses shops, restaurants, an exceptional bakery, performance spaces, galleries and artists' studios, and even a day spa.
Sail to Toronto's Islands
A number of tour boats ply the Lake Ontario harbor, and both lunch and dinner cruises can be booked.
But the best deal in town is the Toronto Island Ferry, which offers frequent service to the Toronto Islands, a recreational greenbelt a fifteen-minute sail from the mainland.
Sunbathe Nude on Toronto's Center Island
Another reason to worship summer in Toronto: Nude sunbathing is allowed at Hanlan's Point Nude Beach. Take the Toronto Island Ferry over, and keep your clothes on till you hit the beach.
Discover More of the Romantic Side of Toronto
Romantic couples can find plenty more to see and do on a Toronto visit. Among the most popular:
- Entertainment. Toronto is the entertainment capital of Canada, featuring Broadway-style musicals, renowned comedy and film festivals, and major concerts at the Molston Amphitheatre.
- Shopping. With nearly 300 stores, the indoor Eaton Centre is Toronto's largest shopping mall. We're big fans of Fruit & Passions items for the body and bath, located near the entrance. For upscale brands, browse the Hudson Bay Company across the street. Holt Renfrew is another important name in Toronto retail. It has three locations in the city.
- Dining. Sophisticated palates have a wide choice of fine and ethnic restaurants to choose from. Able to splurge? Make reservations at Senses in the Soho Metropolitan Hotel, the gourmet Susur Lee, the exotic Sultan's Tent, and La Maquette, voted Toronto's most romantic restaurant. For breakfast, no place beats Cora's on Blue Jay Way.
- Spa and Scenic Views. Good reasons to visit the Park Hyatt: For the couples treatment in the massage suite for two at the Stillwater Spa and for drinks at the hotel's rooftop lounge.If you want to feel on top of the world, the CN Tower provides the most panoramic vistas.