Toronto, Canada: Where to get lost and see the sights

There’s no lack for things to do in Toronto. While it may not be the biggest city, it certainly holds its own with ways to kill an afternoon, to gain some perspective and be a little amazed by life.

Traveling will teach you a lot of things, but one that’s most frequent for me is the reminder that Toronto is a very easy city. Things are close, packed right together, things are interesting and along the way, people are usually happy to help get you there.

That said, we’re guilty of not seeing as much of the city as we should. Scarborough Bluffs? Haven’t made it out that way. High Park? Once a year, maybe. Little India, Corso Italia and myriad other neighbourhoods? Barely seen ‘em. It’s a wrong we’ll most certainly right next time we decide to stay put in the city a little while. But for now, we want to celebrate the neighbourhoods we took full advantage of. The ones we love and the ones we’ll insist you visit if you’re stopping in.


Graffiti Alley

Rush Lane between Portland and Spadina (map)
localwiki.org/toronto/Graffiti_Alley  

There’s something about graffiti that draws people in - whether it’s the liberal use of colours or the wild talent on display, you can’t deny the magnetism of a great piece of work on a brick wall. Now picture, if you will, a kilometer-long back alley just covered in the stuff. It’s a thing of beauty.

Graffiti Alley might show up on just about travel list, but for good reason. Entering the alley, you’ll see trickles of good work right away, but make your way to the center and you’ll find an explosion of colour. Countless artists have left their mark for you to explore, including a couple massive murals by Toronto mainstay Uber5000. They’re big, they’re impressive and they’re begging to be photographed - just ask the many photographers who seek it out.

It’s hard not to stop and stare at the amazing work hidden in every crevice of Graffiti Alley. Keep an eye out for Uber5000’s little yellow birds, we love them.

It’s hard not to stop and stare at the amazing work hidden in every crevice of Graffiti Alley. Keep an eye out for Uber5000’s little yellow birds, we love them.

Toronto Islands

Accessed via the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal (map) or water taxi
torontoisland.com

Official home to few, unofficial haven to many, the Islands are a not-so-hidden gem just a stone's throw from downtown. As city folk seek an escape from the daily grind, they set their sights on summer months when the sun shines brightest on these little bits of land poking out from Lake Ontario.

Like a whole other world from the city that neighbours them, the Islands are full of surprises. Take an afternoon to stroll through and you’ll find a child-sized amusement park (ride the Scrambler, thank us later), a handful of beaches (including clothing optional), a hedge maze (we dare you), yacht clubs (naturally) and if you’re inclined to try something new, a frisbee golf course. All in all, it’s the perfect place to spend a day when you need nothing more than a vacation but your wallet needs nothing more than to stay at home.

Head over to the Islands during the week, and you may be lucky enough to snag a little section of beach all to yourself.

Head over to the Islands during the week, and you may be lucky enough to snag a little section of beach all to yourself.

Kensington Market

wikitravel.org/en/Toronto/Kensington_Market
Bordered by Dundas-College and Bathurst-Spadina (map)

In a city that is rapidly seeing the gentrification of its most questionable neighbourhoods, Kensington is a bit of a hold out, fighting hard to keep the grit under its nails. The battle is showing as of late, with a slew of nice establishments rolling in, but catch the market at just the right time and you’ll still find the relics of a neighbourhood with a long and winding history.

This tiny neighbourhood encapsulates everything you might need for a lively life in the city. It’s a place you’re best to explore and find your own haunts, but our perfect agenda sees us stopping by Witches Brew for a bottle of kombucha, then over to Sweet Hart Kitchen for a plant-based treat (she) and to the food court for an empanada (he), both to be enjoyed in the park. After perusing the barware at BYOB, it’s time to splurge on a snack at El Rey, have a few drinks at Cold Tea (or Ronnie’s if we’re being honest) and top off the day with a late night slice at Mare.

Take a bit of time to wander the streets and pop into as many of the little shops as you can in Kensington Market, it isn’t hard to find something surprising.

Take a bit of time to wander the streets and pop into as many of the little shops as you can in Kensington Market, it isn’t hard to find something surprising.