Shopping in Toronto
The shopping capital of Canada, Toronto has everything from super-sized malls to uber-trendy boutiques. Shopping in the city is highly seasonal - in summer the open air markets seethe with bargain hunters haggling over vintage finds; in winter, shoppers move indoors or underground into heated malls. The main shopping areas are in central Toronto, but each neighbourhood has its own individual commercial character.
As a vital, densely populated hub, the city centre is filled with open-air shopping streets, each with its own character. Queen and College streets attract style-conscious 20- and 30-somethings. Fashions are original, often with an emphasis on obscure labels, both domestic and imported. Queen Street West also is home to a variety of furniture shops, some offering cutting-edge modern designs and others displaying second-hand pieces from 10 to 50 years old. Yorkville features more upmarket shopping - Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton - including Holt Renfrew, 50 Bloor Street West, the Canadian equivalent to New York's Saks or London's Harrods. Yonge Street offers shopping of every variety from its beginnings near the waterfront right to the northern edge of the city.
The bounty of the vast Canadian landscape can be appreciated at St Lawrence Market, at the corner of Jarvis and Front streets. Here, visitors can take in the sight of piles of fresh fish laid out on beds of ice, pick among butcher shops, choose between delicatessens, bakeries and a host of fruit and vegetable shops overflowing with produce. The market is open Tuesday to Thursday 0800-1800, Friday 0800-1900 and Saturday 0500-1700. There is also a farmer’s market open Saturdays 0500-1500 and an antiques markets on Sundays from dawn until 1700.
Thankfully, Toronto has not succumbed to mall culture to the same degree as its neighbours in the USA - most malls tend to be firmly located in the suburbs, although there are a number of shopping concourses at the bases of the larger downtown office towers, linked by underground passageways.
The one important mall that has managed to take root downtown is the Eaton Centre, located at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets. The Eaton Centre is a mall for non-mall types - lots of shopping in a more soothing environment, with a huge fountain, a ceiling that is a vast barrel vault of windows and a famous sculpture of flying Canada geese.
Shopping is available seven days a week and stores are generally open 1000-1800, although it is common to find some open as late as 2200, especially on Thursday and Friday.
Good gifts and Toronto souvenirs are Canadian and Inuit art, local designer threads, Hudson's Bay point blankets and maple syrup products. The traditional Torontonian sartorial souvenir is a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of the city skyline, but for something a little less outré try the University of Toronto Bookshop and Gift store (www.uoftbookstore.com).
In addition to the 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST), a provincial sales tax of 8% is added to the listed price of most purchases. Please note that GST can no longer be redeemed by non-residents.