Toronto, a huge, loveable city spread across the shores of Lake Ontario, is Canada at its most cultured.
More sophisticated than Vancouver and more cosmopolitan than Ottawa, Toronto’s tower-dominated skyline and bar-lined downtown districts are eclectic, open and peppered with different flavours. After all, this is one of the most multicultural cities on the planet.
Just as visitors to the US are surprised that Washington, rather than New York, is the country’s capital, Toronto’s second-city status seems something of a miscasting. It stands as Canada’s biggest metropolis, and has all the energy, verve and electricity you’d expect of a capital.
Undoubtedly the city’s most iconic landmark is the vertigo-inducing CN Tower, one of the world's tallest manmade structures at 351m (1,151 ft), thrusting skyward over the city centre. The superb Art Gallery of Ontario, designed by Frank Gehry, also deserves special mention.
Just as emblematic of the city, however, is its quirky patchwork of outlying neighbourhoods, primed with markets, coffee shops, galleries and vintage stores. You’ll often find an independent streak to the city.
Canada being Canada, a trip here can assume a very different character in summer as opposed to winter. For obvious reasons, the warmer months are the most natural time to visit – festivals are in full flow and attractions such as Toronto Islands (perfect for cycling and picnics) are at their most appealing. Come in winter, though, and you’ll get an authentic taste of how the city lives when the cold comes.
Culture and sport loom large. Torontonians often say that the latest play will sell out nearly as quickly as a big hockey match – and they aren’t always joking. The Entertainment District has a theatre calendar packed with dance, musicals, plays and opera. And thanks to the diversity of the city’s inhabitants (some 140 languages are spoken), eating well is a given. As for a further boon: the Niagara Falls are a mere two hours away.