A Fabulous, Fun-filled Toronto City Break

Sunday 27th Nov 2022 |

As the planet’s second biggest country, Canada offers an incredible diversity of landscapes with towering mountains and glaciers, dense verdant forests, and sparkling lakes spread across six time zones. And great cities of course – one of which is our destination on our first visit to this vast nation, we were headed for Toronto – the country’s largest. 

Set on the shores of Lake Ontario, this bustling cosmopolitan city is home to an incredible range of nationalities. This makes it an extraordinary amalgam of culture, food and sporting tradition with its outstanding museums and galleries, glittering high-rises, theatres and cinemas (it’s home to the glamorous Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)), sports venues, and of course, restaurants in multiple guises.

We stayed at the Westin Harbour Castle, a vibrant waterfront hotel close to all the city’s downtown attractions. Our spacious room had huge picture windows overlooking autumn trees in shades of red and gold, with the sparkle of Lake Ontario and the greenery of Toronto island beyond. A dream view to wake up and come home to. 

The hotel’s impressive facilities include a large indoor swimming pool, a well-equipped fitness centre, a rooftop terrace, and coffee shop. Dining is a joy at Westin Harbour Castle. The Mizzen Restaurant serves delicious a la carte and buffet breakfast (the best pancakes ever), and The Chartroom Bar and Lounge is open all day for cocktails and light bites. On the 38th, and top, floor Don Alfonso 1890 serves internationally acclaimed Italian dishes with a circular design that makes the most of the breathtaking 360-degree views of the city and the lake. 

On our first Canadian night, we enjoyed the ultimate in dining experiences at Savoury. At this intimate 10-person restaurant, we devoured a menu specially designed for us, including fresh oysters with an Asian twist, the most delicate of king crab salads, and a flavour-packed mushroom consommé served with wild mushroom ravioli. A great welcome to a city I was quickly falling in love with.

Toronto is a great city to walk around. And you can’t help gazing skyward at the dazzling high-rises reaching into the blue. The iconic CN Tower dominates the city skyline and is home to the highest observation platform in the Western hemisphere. And there’s the Royal Bank Plaza which has more glass than any other skyscraper in the world and towers covered in 24-carat gold. Truly dazzling! Other landmarks to take in include the elegance of the Toronto Old City Hall, a Romanesque-style building and my favourite fountain ever – the Berczy Park Dog Fountain which honours the neighbourhood’s furry friends with the water coming out of the mouths of 27 breeds of dog. Toronto proudly offers a visual feast to absorb that combines old and new with a touch of the whimsical. And all that sightseeing is bound to build up an appetite. 

Which means it’s time to head for the food market. The 200-year-old St Lawrence Market sells everything from fresh fish to giant steaks, delectable cakes and light-as-air bagels and the legendary peameal bacon sandwiches. Don’t leave Toronto without trying one. Or without visiting Chinatown, a mix of stalls and restaurants serving all manner of tasty treats. And then there’s the restaurants. Their diversity clearly reflects the many people who’ve made their home here. 

We savoured sensational sushi at Minami and mouth-watering Eastern Mediterranean cuisine at Byblos in downtown Toronto. We enjoyed farm-to-table fare gastro pub-style at The Dog & Tiger, sublime French toast and the freshest of salads at Sassafraz in hip and historic Yorkville, and the most gigantic and delicious of barbecue selections at Cherry Street Bar-B-Que. And of course, when in North America, visit a sports bar. At Real Sports Bar with its jaw-dropping banks of huge flatscreens lining the walls, we tucked into giant tacos, platters of nachos, indulgent poutine – Quebec’s national dish and crunchy wedge salads. After all, we needed our strength for our first live basketball game ever.

Canadians are passionate about their sport. Scotiabank Arena is home to both their hockey team the Maple Leaves and their basketball team the Toronto Raptors. Basketball is fast-paced, noisy and so much fun with flashing lights and music echoing around the stadium while 20,000 spectators packed onto precipitous terraces cheer their team on. Including us. Lets go Raptors, let’s go!

Absorbing this athletic extravaganza we also visited the Hockey Hall of Fame, home to the Stanley Cup and the most impressive collection of hockey artefacts in the world (ice hockey that is). A mind-boggling experience. Our sporting trifector was topped with a football game cheering the Toronto Argonauts on at the BMO Field, an afternoon complete with cheerleaders, giant beers and (somewhat bizarrely) a highly entertaining dog race during the break. Sporting events in Canada are more complex than anticipated.

Toronto is also a cultural hub. Whether it’s cinema, theatre or history you’re looking for the city abounds in opportunities. We visited the spectacular Casa Loma, a beautiful castle that’s one of the city’s most fascinating heritage landmarks and immersed ourselves into A Bridgerton Experience at The Queens Ball. We took in a movie at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and laughed out loud (a lot) at the production of Mean Girls The Musical at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, We also visited the Bata Shoe Museum which is surprisingly fascinating – it even has virtual shoes on display, well as on display as anything virtual could be. 

Toronto is certainly full of surprises and packed with attractions with plenty of ways to have immense amounts of fun. The land of raptors and argonauts, stunning lakeside views, abundant culture and all that irresistible cuisine, it’s also one of the friendliest cities on earth. And it’s easily accessible from the UK with regular direct flights taking only seven hours. You don’t need any more reasons to visit – just do it!

Words by Sandy Cadiz-Smith

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