48 Hours: Toronto

With an international film festival and all-night art event on the agenda, this alluring Canadian city has stellar appeal, says Cathy Winston

Click here for 48 Hours in Toronto map

Travel essentials

Why go now?

Toronto's International Film Festival (001 888 599 8433; tiff.net) takes place from 8-18 September – it is second only to Cannes in terms of big names and high-profile movies. Even when the stars aren't in town, the Canadian city's multicultural mix and stunning Lake Ontario setting mean there's plenty to entice, including the Nuit Blanche sunset-to-sunrise contemporary art festival (scotiabanknuitblanche.ca) on 1 October.

Touch down

Air Canada (0871 220 1111; aircanada.com) and BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com) compete non-stop from Heathrow. Canadian Affair (020-7616 9184; canadianaffair.com) has flights from Birmingham, Exeter, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, Newcastle and Manchester, while Sunwing (00800 7869 9464; flysunwing.co.uk) flies from Gatwick.

From Lester B Pearson airport, 22km north-west of the city centre, bus 192 – the "Airport Rocket" – (001 416 393 4636; ttc.ca) costs C$3 (£2) for the 20-minute trip to Kipling Station (1); the price includes a transfer onto the subway into central Toronto. The Airport Express bus (001 800 387 6787; torontoairportexpress.com) runs every 20-30 minutes, costing C$23.95 (£16) to major hotels.

A taxi costs around C$50 (£33).

Get your bearings

Toronto is roughly laid out on a grid, with Lake Ontario at the southern end and roads branching east and west from Yonge Street, which runs through Downtown and marks the city's centre. Just off Yonge is the Ontario Travel Information Centre (2) at 20 Dundas St West (001 416 314 5899; ontariotravel.net; 10am-6pm daily except Sundays, noon-5pm).

The central neighbourhoods, including the Entertainment District, Old Town, Yorkville, Queen West and the University, are all easy to explore on foot, while the TTC public transport system makes getting around very straightforward, with a mix of subway trains, buses and streetcars (trams). Single tickets for all cost C$3 (£2) or C$12.50 (£8.30) for a book of five; this also entitles you to transfer to a connecting route for free; pick up a transfer ticket from the automated subway machines or drivers on buses and streetcars.

A day pass costs C$10 (£6.60); at weekends, this is extended so it's valid for two adults or a family.

Check in

The sleek Thompson Hotel (3) at 550 Wellington Street West (001 416 640 7778; thompsonhotels.com) is a recent addition, with a Miami-style rooftop pool and bar restricted to guests and the occasional bunch of beautiful people who make it past the bouncers. Doubles from C$209 (£139), room only.

For a quirkier option, The Drake (4) at 1150 Queen Street West (001 416 531 5042; thedrakehotel.ca) has pieces by local artists and customised furniture in its 19 rooms; while the décor in the restaurant and roof terrace changes with the seasons. Doubles from C$189 (£126), room only.

Follow in Ernest Hemingway's footsteps by checking into the hotel where he stayed during his time as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star: the Clarion (5) at 592 Sherbourne Street, not far from upscale Yorkville (001 416 921 3142; clarionhotelselby.com). Doubles start at C$109 (£72) including breakfast. Ask for a redecorated room.

Day one

Take a view

The CN Tower (6) (001 416 868 6937; cntower.ca) may have lost its title of the world's tallest building to Dubai's Burj Khalifa, but at 553.33m high, it offers the best views of the city. Open 9am-11pm daily, from C$22.99 (£15). For a real adrenalin thrill, strap on a harness and step out onto the platform 356m up the tower, for one of the new EdgeWalks (001 416 601 3833; edgewalkcntower.ca; 10am-6pm Aug-Oct, weather permitting; C$175/£118).

Lunch on the run

St Lawrence Market (7) (001 416 392 7219; stlawrencemarket.com) is 200 years old, and a snacker's paradise. Head to Carousel Bakery (001 416 363 4247) for a peameal bacon sandwich with maple mustard (C$5.75/ £3.80). Or try street food, from empanadas to Asian and organic at Kensington Market (8) (kensington-market.ca).

Take a hike

Toronto's art isn't confined to museums. Start at the grandiose Old City Hall (9) on Bay Street and Queen Street West, where flamboyant architect Edward James Lennox caricatured 19th-century councillors in stone by the entrance. Across the road is the current City Hall (10): two curved concrete towers surrounding a "spaceship" on Nathan Phillips Square, home to regular outdoor art exhibitions.

Crossing University Avenue, head north up McCaul Street to the white-and-black spotted box balanced on brightly coloured stilts: OCAD University (11). Cut through Grange Park to Spadina Avenue in Chinatown before turning south again to Queen Street West which gives one of the city's most creative quarters, Queen West, its name. Keep an eye out for street artists at work and the guitars suspended outside Capsule Music (12), opposite Trinity Bellwoods park, as you head west along the street.

Art galleries dot the road and local artworks are on display in cafés and boutiques, or discover emerging artists at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (13) at number 952 (001 416 395 0067; mocca.ca).

Continue west until you finish at the Gladstone Hotel (14) at 1214 Queen Street West (001 416 531 4635; gladstonehotel.com), which also holds regular art exhibitions.

Window shopping

The days of the 1950s when city department stores drew curtains on Sundays to discourage sinful window shopping are a distant memory. Queen Street West is perfect for vintage fans. A theme develops with the retro bargains at House of Vintage (15) at number 1239 (001 416 535 2142), 69 Vintage (16) at 1100 (001 416 516 0669; 69vintage.com); and I Miss You Vintage (17), 63 Ossington Ave (001 416 916 7021).

Alternatively, take a cab north to Yorkville where the designer artery Bloor Street has given the stretch between Avenue Road and Yonge the nickname "mink mile".

An aperitif

The drinkable antifreeze of the Prohibition is long gone from the Distillery District (18) (001 416 364 1177; thedistillerydistrict.com), a quarter of restored Victorian-era industrial buildings. Opt for the local beers brewed for the Mill St Brew Pub (001 416 681 0338; millstreetbrewpub.ca) inside one of these red brick buildings. Beers cost from C$7 (£4.75).

Dining with the locals

Chef Claudio Aprile mixes molecular gastronomy and local ingredients at Colborne Lane (19), 45 Colborne Street (001 416 368 9009; colbornelane.com). Mains such as Thai-style scallops or a Mexican spiced lamb loin cost C$20-C$40 (£13-£26).

Or indulge in the generous portions at the new Torito Tapas Bar (20), 276 Augusta Avenue (001 416 961 7373; toritorestaurant. com). Dishes cost around C$8 (£5.50).

Day two

Sunday morning:go to church

The Gothic revival St James' Cathedral (21) (001 416 364 7865; stjamescathedral.on.ca) is on the site of the city's original wooden Anglican church. Sung eucharist is at 9am.

Out to brunch

Toronto loves to brunch. Brassaii (22) at 461 King Street West (001 416 598 4730; brassaii.com) goes for the city's penchant for exposed brick walls and tempts with lobster club sandwiches for C$19 (£13) and brunch cocktails such as a marmalade martini (C$5/£3.30).

A walk in the park

The Toronto Music Garden (23) at 475 Queens Quay West (harbourfrontcentre. com) was designed by the cellist, Yo Yo Ma. It is a tranquil, landscape version of Bach's Suite No 1 in G Major. Each section of the garden represents a different dance movement – a formal flower garden for the stately Minuet, a spiralling path through wildflowers for the Courante.

Take a ride

Further east along the Harbourfront (24), hop on one of the Toronto Island Ferry services (001 416 392 8193; 8am-11.45pm at weekends; C$6.50/£4.30 return) to one of Lake Ontario's peaceful islands.

On Ward's Island, hire a bike for C$7 (£4.50) an hour and cycle east along the boardwalk to the clapboard houses of the island's small community or west to the beaches at Hanlan's Point.

Cultural afternoon

The Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario (25) (001 416 979 6648; ago.net) is home to a collection of contemporary Inuit art, and the world's largest collection of Henry Moore sculpture. Open 10am-5.30pm daily except Monday, C$19.50 (£13).

Alternatively, pick from the trio of museums around the northern edge of the University of Toronto. The Bata Shoe Museum (26) (001 416 979 7799; batashoemuseum.ca) is unexpectedly absorbing. Open 10am-5pm daily (from noon on Sunday) C$14 (£9.50).

At the Royal Ontario Museum (27) (001 416 586 8000; rom.on.ca), the Daniel Libeskind glass addition to the natural history museum's original building still divides residents. Open 10am-5.30pm daily, to 8.30pm Friday, C$24 (£16). Opposite is the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art (28) (001 416 586 8080; gardinermuseum.on.ca) open 10am-5pm at weekends; 10am-6pm from Monday to Thursday; 10am-9pm Fri; C$12 (£8).

The icing on the cake

Jump on a streetcar for a spot of sunbathing by Lake Ontario. Around 30 minutes from Downtown on the 501 line, the 3km boardwalk runs from Balmy Beach to the busier Kew and Woodbine beaches.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices