Toronto is a patchwork of interesting neighborhoods: one minute you're immersed in the financial district's suit-clad crowd, but 5 minutes on a streetcar and you're in funky, alternative West Queen West.
The following Toronto neighborhoods are central and accessed easily on foot or public transit.
Queen West / West Queen West
Especially famous for attracting shoppers is Queen Street West (University to Spadina). Edgy, hip and trendy all describe this area of Toronto, which also boasts some of the best-known clubs and cafes.
Queen Street West, in fact, became so popular that the truly bohemian moved further west to what is now known as West Queen West (between Bathurst Ave. and Niagara St.). West Queen West is known both as an art and design district and as a lesbian/gay/bi/transgender community.
Check out the Drake Hotel overnight or just for a cocktail
Boundaries: Along Queen from University to Niagara. About a 15-minute walk from Union Station or the Eaton Centre.
The Entertainment District is 8 blocks of nightlife, from small nightclubs to bigger venues like Roy Thomson Hall and the Royal Alex. Since the mid-2000's this district has garnered a poor reputation due to late night debauchery and violence. Toronto is nevertheless a safe city overall, especially compared to larger cities in the U.S.
Highlights include the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre and many shops and restaurants.
Boundaries: Spadina to the west, Queen St. to the north, University to the east and Queens Quay to the south. Just a few minutes walk from Union Centre or the Eaton Centre.
This pedestrian-only village is set amidst the best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America and is devoted to promoting arts and culture and entertainment. You won't find a franchise or chain operation here, so all the stores and galleries are one of a kind.
The Distillery District hosts numerous interesting festivals and events and has the Soulpepper theatre where you can catch a play. There are also several restaurants and coffee shops.
Boundaries: Mill Street from Parliament to Cherry Street, about a 15 minute walk from Union Station or half an hour from the Eaton Centre.
St. Lawrence District
St. Lawrence is a formerly industrial district that was revitalized in the 1970s. This neighborhood, which Jane Jacobs helped plan, is hailed as a successful blend of residential and commercial. Its focal point, St. Lawrence Market, is the city's biggest fresh-food market and former city hall and jail cell.
Boundaries: Yonge, Front, and Parliament streets. Not far from the Distillery District. About a 20 minute walk from the Eaton Centre.
Bloor-Yorkville is an area of Toronto most famous for high-end shopping, restaurants and galleries. This neighbourhood is also home to the Royal Ontario Museum and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. Yorkville especially is a delightful anomaly in the midst of Toronto high rises and shopping malls. Many celebrities stroll the sidewalks of Yorkville, especially during the Toronto International Film Festival.
Boundaries: Between Yonge and Avenue and Scollard and Bloor. About a 30 minute walk from Union Station and 20 from the Eaton Centre.
Toronto's bustling Chinatown - the second largest Chinatown in North America - offers up dozens, maybe hundreds, of restaurants serving not just authentic Chinese, but also Vietnamese and other Asian fare. In addition, people will find bargains on trinkets, jewelry, clothing and household items.
Great place to go in combination with a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which is close by.
Boundaries: Spadina from King Street to College. About a 15-minute walk from the Eaton Centre or Union Station.
Kensington Market offers hippie chic with international flair. It is truly eclectic. Browse the many retro furniture stores, vintage clothing boutiques or international food shops. Dining options range from a shwarma take-out to fine French dining. If you're looking for an escape from the usual downtown Gaps and Starbucks, Kensington Market is a great choice.
Boundaries: Spadina Avenue, Dundas Street, Bathurst Street and College Street. About a 40 minute walk from Union Station or
Little Italy along Toronto's College Street has expanded to include newcomers from South America, Portugal and Asia. This bustling neighbourhood is popular for its many fine and affordable restaurants and lively patios in summertime.
Boundaries: West of Bathurst along College
Toronto sits on Lake Ontario, and its downtown has easy access to waterfront. Though the neighbourhood does have a beach, it's more artistic than practical (Sugar Beach is man made and does not permit for swimming). Nevertheless, the waterfront community has several interesting cultural centres, including the cutting edge Power Plant as well as the Harbourfront Centre, which offers many free, family-friendly (yet interesting) events, the Queen's Quay Terminal, a former shipping terminal that now features the Museum of Inuit Art
Boundaries: Along Queens Quay between Spadina and Yonge.
Yonge-Dundas Square is a special event venue and urban plaza across from one of Toronto's top attractions the Toronto Eaton Centre. Visitors to Yonge-Dundas Square will encounter concerts, places to sit, special events and more. It's got
Boundaries: Intersection of Yonge and Dundas Streets.
The Beach (previously and still popularly known as "the Beaches") is an east-end Toronto neighbourhood that boasts a long stretch of waterfront. Stroll the boardwalk, hang out on the beach or shop or dine at one of the many fine, trendy establishments.
Boundaries: The heart of the Beach is between Queen Street and the water but officially runs north to Kingston Road.
Cabbagetown is a charming residential area in Toronto that boasts the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in North America. Many homes have been restored to their earlier glory and others feature modern additions that contrast the decorative trim work, turrets and other detailing typical of Victorian-era architecture.
Other highlights include the Riverdale Farm and the Necropolis Cemetery, which dates back to the 1850s.
Boundaries: Roughly the areas east and west of Parliament St. between Gerard and Wellesley. About a 40-minute walk from Union Station and half an hour from the Toronto Eaton Centre.
Known also as Greektown, the Danforth has more to offer than just fine souvlaki. This cosmopolitan community provides many services to the gentrified yuppie Riverdale neighborhood and thus offers excellent restaurants, pubs, organic and natural foods and more.
Bloor Street, one of Toronto's busiest and most fashionable streets, turns into the Danforth east of the Don Valley Parkway.
Boundaries: The heart of the Danforth is between Pape and Logan on Danforth Ave. Well over an hour to walk to, the Danforth is accessible by Queen streetcar and then 20-minute walk or subway to Woodbine or Main Street stations.
The Financial District is just as it sounds: men in navy suits, women in power pumps, cellphones glued to heads, Starbucks on every corner, tall buildings.
Though this neighbourhood does not have much to offer visitors, it is the financial centre of Canada and has a rich history and architecture.
Highlights include the TD Tower by Mies van der Rohe and the Hockey Hall of Fame. In addition, the underground PATH is 27km of shops and services, especially useful in inclement weather.
Popular, high-end hotels, like the Trump International, are located here and are generally less expensive on weekends.
Boundaries: Queen Street West to the north, Yonge Street to the east, Front Street to the south, and University Avenue to the west.