Guest post – Enjoying Toronto from the perspective of a local

Hello folks  – here is a guest post after a very long time  . Fellow traveller Priyank Thatte writes about Toronto and shares some lovely photographs here  . You can follow Priyank through his blog, twitter and facebook profiles too 

Toronto skyline - CN Tower and the Sky Dome being the distinguishing landmarks

Toronto, the largest city in Canada and the capital city of the Ontario Province, has been my home for over four years now. Top tourist sights include the CN tower, museums and art galleries, and so on. But like most other cities in the world, Toronto's 'real' charm lies in its other, ordinary, non touristic areas. My single most favorite leisurely activity in the city is to randomly walk around and discover new neighbourhoods. It's amazing what you end up finding!

Street signs

The name "Toronto" is derived from a native language and its exact meaning is being debated to be either "the place where trees stand in the water" or "the place of meetings." From 1793-1834, Toronto, the capital of Upper Canada was called York. The neighbourhoods around just to the east of downtown are identified today as ŇOld TorontoÓ. This block is relatively less developed and still retains some of the 20th century feel to it.

Distillery District - A lane in the Distillery

Located on the edge of Old Toronto neighbourhood is the Distillery District - formerly world's largest whiskey distillery. Now the industrial activity has ceased and the old factory buildings have been converted to a beautiful space filled with art galleries, boutiques, specialty restaurants, etc. It's a great car-free zone for getting in touch with Canadian artists and spend a day in outdoor cafŽs - very popular with the tourists too.
Streetscape - Just another street 

Toronto streetscape is filled with murals of all possible shapes and sizes. From the random punk graffiti to exquisite promotional murals, the city was leave you quite impressed. Unlike several cities in the USA, Toronto's graffitis are considered to be an expression of art, not a sign of a run down neighbourhood. In fact, every year the city holds a graffiti festival, during which a whole alley is opened up for local artists to get creative with their cans of spray. The result? A free open air museum showcasing our talent all year long!
Toronto's architecture is mixed, but most of it has been influenced by European and US styles and ideas. Some distinctly French and British influences can be seen on some of the older neighbourhoods and houses. Styles vary depending on the income level of the residents and some of the social housing blocks are simply functional modernist high rises. As per the current trend, latest residential towers being erected in downtown have a distinct green-blue glass look. Building designs of Museums such as the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario museums seem to suggest a growing push towards bolder ideas.

Queen Street tram

Toronto is among the few of cities in the world that still have trams serving core areas. Since I prefer rail over bus, the trams (or "street cars" as we call them) are a nice way to explore the city without too many distractions. The Queen Street route is the longest single route in North America and a a ride in it is quite interesting and educational. As the streetcar passes through residential neighbourhoods to commercial downtown and back to upcoming residential areas, one cannot but admire the transition in scenery.

Street Festivals - Crowds during Nuit Blanche

The city is relatively quieter during winter months with the exception of few festivals, most notable of them being "Nuit Blanche", a French term that means "White Night." On this night, the city gets converted to a museum, celebrating contemporary art and inviting people from all walks of life to appreciate it. Art galleries open their doors, artists setup street exhibits, parks and squares showcase creative productions and the streets gets immensely crowded.

Near Dundas Square

Summer months are packed with festivals with about a dozen activities going on in different parts of the city each weekend. The joy of the sunniest season of the year can be multiplied by attending these celebrations, a lot of which are thematic - Greek food festival, Indian bazaar, Gay parade, Bicycle rides, Marathons, Jazz festival, and what not.
CN Tower and rail lines from Bathurst bridge

As I write this article, I realise that I have only scratched the surface of what makes Toronto's neighborhoods so charming. Have you visited Toronto yet?


  1. Supriya 16 April, 2011 at 17:26 Reply

    A city that charms you to the core and grows on you..took a boat ride to centre island..the view of the city from the boat, with the sun setting behind the dome of rogers centre is still etched in my head…

  2. Priyank 17 April, 2011 at 02:42 Reply

    @nkr4068: I’m sure you’ll enjoy your visit here!

    @Sushmita: Thanks so much, you are always supportive! 🙂

    @Supriya: Watching the sun set behind the city is one of my favorite moments too. Especially the contrast of a natural phenomenon v/s man-made skyscrapers.

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