Although Ottawa is Canada's political capital, it might be argued – and I'm sure many Torontonians would agree – that this city is the place to be in the Great White North.
The city boasts a number of iconic landmarks, like the record-breaking CN Tower, the bustling Eaton Centre, the Ontario Place theme park built around the harbour and spiritual home of the national sport with the Ice Hockey Hall of Fame. World-class entertainment and shopping complexes, beautiful parks and green spaces, and a number of must-see festivals and exhibitions all call Toronto home.
Catch a Toronto Maple Leafs games at the Air Canada Centre, take a day trip down to the Niagara Falls or simply unwind with a famous Iced Cappuccino from Tim Robbins – the ever-present 'Ice Cap', as its known, is one of the most indulgent and addictive coffee and cream experiences you'll ever have!
What to see in Toronto:
The CN Tower was the world's 'tallest free-standing structure on land' until 2007 and rises up out of the city skyline to an impressive 553.3 m (1815 ft). On a clear day it affords views out as far as Niagara Falls and has a restaurant with 360-degree views of the city. Take the lift up to the outdoor observation deck, 342 metres up, and stand on the clear glass floor and look down. The Steam Whistle Brewery Tour is basically a museum trip around the building, where a tour guide discusses the history and traditional brewing techniques of creating a Pilsner beer "that Canadians can be proud of". Tickets can include free samples, or gifts like bottle openers.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is a kind of Mecca for fans of Canada's national sport. There are exhibitions depicting the history of the sport, interactive displays including a 'be the commentator'-style game, jerseys and even the Stanley Cup. Yonge Street is a little bit like the Times Square of Toronto. Filled with shops, restaurants, bars and with the Eaton Centre complex nearby, the area is always buzzing with a real mix of people including professional, trendy types and the 'alternative' young population.
What's on in Toronto:
Canadian Music Fest runs every March and is Canada's largest new music festival, with 600 artists in 50 venues over 5 nights. Luminato is an annual celebration of the arts, comprising theatre, dance, classical and contemporary music, film, literature, visual arts, and design. It takes place in the streets of downtown Toronto in June. The historic Unionville area plays hosts to the Jazz Festival every August and Main Street becomes a jazz hotbed in a unique atmosphere. The Canadian National Exhibition (known affectionately to locals as 'The Ex') offers summer fun for all the family.
The Food Building enables everyone to sample cuisine from many cultures and there are roller-coasters, parades, exhibitions and displays all weekend. The famous Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is held every September. The group behind the festival is the home of the Film Reference Library, which houses the largest collection of English-language Canadian film material in the world.
Where to stay in Toronto:
Life of luxury The five-star Hazleton Hotel is found on the very excusive Yorkville Avenue, close to the university and boasts spacious rooms impressive facilities including spa and therapy treatment. The Four Seasons in Toronto has a heated outdoor pool, valet and turndown services, and great restaurants. This hotel promises it all but has had mixed reviews – largely linked to management / administration issues. Affordable The Residence Inn Toronto Downtown is located in the happening 'Entertainment District' and is always popular for its staff and amenities.
The Drake Hotel is a funky, happening hotel in similar neighbourhood. A littler noisy for some but the location, cool deco and nearby facilities make it worthwhile for the younger / livelier crowd. Budget backpacker New College Residence is part of the university campus near Spadina Street. This accommodation offers student discount and better security than many hostels. The rooms are simple and some are just old but the common areas are handy. The Alexandra Hotel has cheap, no-frills functionality near the centre with friendly staff and good transport links. Small, clean, quiet. Job done.
Getting there and getting around:
By air Most international flights come into Lester B. Pearson International Airport, which is located just west of the city, about half an hour's drive from the lakeside city centre. The airport is accessible from highways 401, 427 and 409. UK cities that have direct flights here include London and Glasgow. Toronto City Centre Airport is found in Toronto Harbour, and is actually located on an island just separated from the city. The airport handles scheduled, private and corporate flights. Major airlines operating from the island include Air Ontario, Trans Capital Airlines and Grand Aviation.
By road Highways 401 and 2, and the Queen Elizabeth Way – or the 'Q E Dub' to locals – approach Toronto from the west and Highways 401 and 2 pass straight through the centre allowing access from the east too. Highway 400 runs from the north. Major bus routes converge in Toronto. Out-of-town buses arrive and depart from the Bus Terminal, located at 610 Bay St. Service. The Greyhound Bus service offers cheap access around the country, as does Coach Canada. One in the city, regular buses serve the city streets and are pretty reasonably priced. Daily and weekly travel cards are available.
By rail Toronto is served by VIA Rail, the network that provides all rail service throughout Canada. It connects with the Amtrak system, the US's service en route to New York at Niagara Falls. Much like London's tube system, the GO Train serves the city centre and surrounding suburbs, and goes as far as Hamilton to the West and Oshawa in the East, as well as Barrie in the North. Union Station, the city's main hub, is located on Front Street, between Bay and University stations. By water Toronto offers docking facilities and complete services for boaters. For information on harbour facilities, the Toronto Port Authority have details. Useful websites Official website for the City of Toronto Entertainment and tourism in Toronto Nightlife in Toronto