Travel Guide: Downtown Toronto


toronto colorful skyline

I’ve been doing quite a bit of travelling over the past two years and people are always asking me for quick recommendations in different cities! Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of travelling for a 2 week or even 7 days – so some quick go-to’s can make the most of your travels!
I’ve lived just outside of the city my entire life, and in the past two years since my dear sissy moved to Chicago – I’ve been splitting my days between there and Toronto!

I’ll do some more quick guides for other cities that I’ve been to a couple of times and can thoroughly give some great suggestions… so first, none other than home.. Toronto!

toronto graffiti queen west
One Restaurant is perfect for a fine-dining experience, with a quality (& tasty menu) that is always changing. The perfect spot for people watching too, especially in early September during TIFF. El Catrin is hands-down the best Mexican food that (downtown) Toronto has to offer. Typically, our Mexican food/culture fails to our neighbours South of the border but El Catrin does a great job of closing that gap. Make a reservation as it gets pretty busy there, especially in the evenings/weekends. Toronto, in the past couple of years has found itself in a midst of a tiny little #burgerboom and The Burger Priest was kind of ahead of the curve. Either way with 9 locations in Ontario, a secret menu and a ridiculous cult-following you won’t be disappointed! Order my absolute fave, the California Classic and enjoy. Sotto Sotto is the best seafood/italian restaurant in Toronto, perfect date night location as well. It’s cute, quaint and the service staff are always super friendly.. but make a reservation cz you ‘ll regret it if you don’t. I’m a Thai-food snob, there I said it. No, I’ve never been to Thailand (it’s on my bucket list, obvs) but what can I say, I have tastebuds for quality Thai and Khao San Road absolutely delivers! Everything that they serve is great for sharing and is so so so so so good. I will give you a heads up, they’re only open for dinner, don’t take reservations and there is always a long line, so give yourself lots of time but once you’re in – you won’t even remember the hassle it took to finally eat. I added in one extra place because I couldn’t forget some Pizza! While Toronto is no NYC, or Naples for that matter but North of Brooklyn does a damn good job of Neapolitan-style pizza with quality American fusion – Kale & Bacon pizza anyone?
The Beverley Hotel is a cute and quaint boutique hotel on Queen St West. Located in such a cool, eclectic and prime area of the city – it’s the perfect little hideaway in the midst of such a bustling street. I’ve already mentioned on the blog how much I love The Thompson Hotel location in Chicago (here), so it’s no surprise that the Toronto location would be on this list. The fact that they have a beautiful, rooftop bar complete with infinity pool doesn’t hurt either. The Shangri-La Hotel is always a consistent and great choice, especially if you’re already inspired with the Hong-Kong based company. I love to pop in to their bar (especially on Thursday nights) with amazing live music and the freshest cocktails. If you’re more into boutique-style hotels The Gladstone Hotel is another great choice – located West Queen West, it’s the perfect area for creative professionals/hipsters and the like. Not to mention, each hotel suite is designed by a different artist so you have a completely different design in every room. My faves? The Blue Line Room (for it’s cool, contemporary, vivid look), The Skygrazer Room (for its art-deco, clean look), The Offset Room (for it’s structured, “room within a room” design, and let’s face it – exposed brick is always a win) and finally, The Canadiana Room for it’s classy nod to this beautiful country. If you’re looking to stay close to the Entertainment/Theatre district, then the Hotel Le Germain, Mercer St is the best choice; With Parking, Free WI-FI and a Deluxe Continental Breakfast you’ll be comfortable for your entire stay. Tip: Upgrade to The Signature Suite for your own terrace with a direct view of the CN Tower.
Bar Chef, for creative, gastronomic cocktails by the city’s best bartenders mixologists with ingredients like Black Truffle Snow, Lavender-infused Maraschino Liqueur and Beach Essence your taste buds will be celebrating. Weslodge for a visit back to the wild wild west with a cocktail menu that caters to the cowboy in us all. There’s a wine beer snob in every group, bring them to Bar Volo, but bring your wine connoisseur to Archive and last but certainly not least, Bar Hop for a casual, unpretentious vibe and a quality brew (not to mention, $1 oysters on Tuesday evenings!)
Clubs/Parties change like the weather, so sometimes it’s hard to keep a true pulse on the city. However, these places are a great time… Wildflower for the club within a hotel vibe. Everleigh, for when you want a bar or maybe a club or something but you’re not quite sure. Ballet, is a burlesque/nightclub – a show and a party #winning. Wayward, is perfect for those who want a smaller more mature crowd. A club that you can get a quality cocktail and great music?! #Sold. Hot people, Sparklers and a dance till dawn atmosphere? Then Same Nightclub is for you.
Balzac, for some of the best coffee that this city has to offer! I am with their ‘Atwood Blend‘, with the artwork designed by the famed Canadian author Margaret Atwood. More of an espresso gal/guy? Dark Horse is your one and only stop. Fancy some Tea instead of Coffee? Then Majesteas is perfect for ya. Warmest, most welcoming staff, comfy/cozy atmosphere and the best selection of Tea’s in T.O.
There are a ton of things to experience in the city that don’t involve eating and partying! Here are some great ideas to get your trip started…CN Tower Edge WalkCanada’s WonderlandMirvish TheatresCNE, Street Festivals (Salsa on St.Clair, Taste of the Danforth, BeerFest, Dundas West Fest etc.), Shakespeare in High ParkToronto International Film Festival a.k.a TIFF

Did I miss something on this list? Where are your favourite spots in Toronto? Tell me in the comments below!

first picture via tumblr