By: Ellen Douglas
If Toronto is not on your list of unique city-destinations, it should be.
A trip to Toronto might include the waterfront (embracing lying on a hot, sandy beach), incredible museums, nature walks, picnics and bike rides on Center Island, architectural landmarks such as the CN Tower and Casa Loma and more. You will quickly learn that your days can be easily filled, but insiders know what is special about Toronto is its diversity.
This city has been named the most diverse city in the world by the United Nations and the BBC and stands out as a model of multiculturalism. According to official statistics, more than half of the city’s citizens were born outside of Canada, making it a melting pot of countries in one city.
It is said that Toronto has 140 neighbourhoods, some of which include Chinatown, Greektown, Little Italy, Portugal Village, Little India, Koreatown, Little Poland and Little Malta. In addition to this, the city is rife with culinary representation from Ethiopia to Israel, from Thailand to Mexican and beyond.
In the Toronto area, nearly 250 ethnicities are represented, with 180 dialects spoken. From Portugal to Pakistan, almost every country in the world is represented.
Here are just a few neighbourhoods you really should spend time in while visiting Toronto:
With upwards of 300,000 residents, the Chinese make up one of the city’s largest populations, accounting for 10% of Toronto’s foreign population.
Vibrant Chinatown is home to a diverse assortment of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese restaurants serving everything from dim sum to pho to modern fusion cuisine. Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as herbal medication and souvenirs, are available at the bustling Asian open-air markets and businesses along Spadina Avenue. Tourists and locals alike flock to Chinese New Year celebrations to see live stage plays, martial arts demonstrations, and lion dances.
Greek Town (The Danforth)
Crowds flock to this area for its international mix of restaurants, cafes, and bars, particularly the Greek tavernas and pastry shops, as well as a lively mix of specialized retailers. The Danforth Music Hall and the annual “Taste of the Danforth” festival, which features food vendors, live music, and dancing, are favourites in the area. Even the street signs are in Greek in vibrant Greektown, commonly known as “The Danforth.”
Little Italy / Portugal Village
Little Italy and Portugal Village can really be explored together, as the boundaries on these colourful and spirited areas blur.
Little Italy has an intimate European atmosphere and some of the best Italian cuisine this side of the Atlantic.Located on a stretch of College Street, this area is known for its iconic pizzerias, trattorias, and gelato spots, as well as casual café’s and produce markets. The area’s nightlife is rounded out with slick martini bars, stylish pubs, and buzzy patios.
Little Portugal is known for its vibrant street art, with murals covering many of the neighborhood’s brick walls. This diverse, multicultural neighborhood is home to a diverse range of eccentric taverns, small eateries, local shops, and classic Portuguese bakeries. It has traditionally been populated by individuals of Portuguese and Brazilian descent, but in recent years it has become even more varied. If you happen to be in town in June, you may attend the Dundas West Fest, a street carnival with music, food, dancing, and the arts. Bordered on the west by Lansdowne Avenue, the north by College Street, and the east by Ossington Avenue, the best way to get to Little Portugal is to take the 505 or 506 streetcars, which both run along Dundas Street West, or to take the Bloor-Danforth line and exit at Lansdowne Station.
These are but a few examples of the many opportunities to experience authentic international culture right in Toronto, a colourful, friendly and gastronomically diverse destination that checks off so many boxes.