Toronto is made up of an exciting patchwork of diverse and interesting neighborhoods, each offering their own highlights in terms of food, shopping, and activities. Little India, also know as Gerrard India Bazaar, is no exception. This is where you’ll find over 125 shops and restaurants representing the various regional diversities of South Asia, covering culture, food, music, and more. But that’s not all. The area is currently changing to also include a variety of independent businesses, such as art galleries, cafes, and craft breweries. No matter when you visit or for what, you’re sure to be drawn in by colorful shops, great food, and unique things to do. Read on for the ultimate guide to Toronto’s Little India.
Overview and History
Toronto’s Little India got its start in 1972 when Toronto businessman Gian Naaz purchased the Eastwood Theatre and started showing Bollywood and Pakistani films, drawing the South Asian community to the area. From there, more new immigrants from India and Pakistan began opening their own business and by 1980, the neighborhood had grown significantly, so much so that the Gerrard India Bazaar, one of Toronto's oldest business improvement areas (BIAs), was formed in 1981. Gerrard India Bazaar is now the largest marketplace of South Asian goods and services in North America.
Today the area is gentrifying, which is often inevitable in any large city, but the new businesses only add to the neighborhood’s charm.
Location and Getting There
Little India is located on Gerrard Street East, between Coxwell Avenue and Greenwood Avenue. Getting there is easily done on public transit.
From either Queens Park or College Station on the Yonge-University-Spadina Line you can catch the 506 Carlton streetcar heading east on College Street West. Get off on Gerrard Street East at Greenwood Avenue, and you’ll see that Little India extends east along Gerrard Street.
From Coxwell Station on the Bloor-Danforth Line, leave the station and walk south along Coxwell Avenue to Gerrard Street East (about a 17-minute walk). In this case, Little India extends west along Gerrard Street.
Food and Drink
It’s always a good idea to bring your appetite to Little India. Here you’ll be treated to a mix of restaurants featuring food from North and South India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. And in recent years, more contemporary bars, restaurants, and cafes have been opening in the neighborhood creating an even more eclectic blend of food options. Check out the following on your next visit.
- Udupi Palace for vegan South Indian cuisine
- Eulalie's Corner Store for pub food in a cozy setting
- Lahore Tikka House for Northern Indian and Pakistani cuisine
- Moti Mahal for affordable, fast-casual meals and great samosas
- Hakka Wow for tasty Indian-Chinese dishes
- Lake Inez for craft beer and Asian-inspired food
- Maha’s for Egyptian brunch
- Gautama for AYCE (all you can eat) Indian favorites
- Godspeed Brewery for draft beer and small, Japanese-inspired dishes
- Lazy Daisy's Café for brunch favorites in a relaxed setting
Shopping and Things to Do
There’s lots to see and do in Little India, from shopping to art gallery-hopping. You’ll find textile shops full of colorful silks and embroideries, shops selling home furnishings, jewelry and art from South Asia, as well as Indian clothing stores. In addition, below is an overview of some of the best the area has to offer.
- Bollywood Music Centre is your go-to for, you guessed it, Bollywood music of all kinds
- Hamsa Heaven is where to go for incense, crystals, aromatherapy, and other wellness items, as well as reiki and massage.
- In addition to art exhibitions, Blue Crow Gallery offers summer camps, kids programs, and adult art classes.
- BJ Supermarket offers samosas and pakoras made fresh daily, and handmade sweets such as barfi
- Kohinoor Foods offers Indian spices and gourmet grocery supplies for anyone wanting to create tasty Indian meals at home.
- Flying Pony is an independent art gallery showcasing contemporary fine art, as well as serving up coffee and fresh baked goods.
- Greenwood Park, close to Little India, features a pool in the summer and skating rink in the winter.
Special Events and Festivals
There are two festivals well worth checking out in Toronto’s Little India. In July or August, the Festival of South Asia happens. This two-day festival celebrating South Asian culture features dancing, fashion shows, yoga, live music, buskers, storytelling, face painting, and lots of delicious foods to fill up on from the area’s many restaurants.
Then in November, Diwali (known as the Festival of Lights) is another annual celebration in Little India and one of the most important holidays on the Hindu calendar. Expect the area to be lit up with twinkling lights, which visitors can enjoy amidst singing, dancing, and of course, food.