If you’ve been considering a trip to Canada but can’t decide where to head first, then Toronto should definitely be on your radar.
Tucked away along Lake Ontario’s northwestern shore, this bustling city has everything you would expect for a city break – and then some too.
Think bustling food markets, jaw-dropping architecture, and that world-famous Canadian charm.
Chris Granet went exploring to see just what you don’t want to miss off the itinerary – and here’s what he discovered…
What I’d expected was fear or adrenaline. Instead, I was listless – a dull, sick feeling as my senses refused to comprehend the 1168ft of abyss between myself and the concrete below.
Our far-too-perky guide tried to convince me to let go of the rope that held me there – face down over Toronto. But I couldn’t even speak the words: “No, leave me alone.” So I just grimly shook
I was on the roof of the main viewing deck of the CN Tower, formerly the world’s tallest building. Despite being only two thirds of the way up, we were still higher than any other building in Canada, and 164ft above the height of the Shard in London
We’d been kitted out with a harness and Guantanamo-style jumpsuit down at ground level, before being whisked up to begin the EdgeWalk.
The initial sensation of stepping out into the sky and seeing the panoramic view over the city and vast blue of Lake Ontario was incredible.
But then they went and spoilt it by making us lean over the edge – backwards and forwards.
Near the end of the circuit of the roof, the guide got us to lean back one last time for an individual photo. He jauntily asked me to smile. I couldn’t. He insisted.Yet all I could do was smear the grimace across my face. At least I didn’t cry like the poor woman next to me. ( edgewalkcntower.ca , from £139).
I was visiting Toronto as part of the Canada 150 celebrations – a century and a half of independence from the British Empire.
This modern, vibrant city is unrecognisable from the polluted industrial town the Brits left behind in 1867.
That said, it still retains a slight British feel, with downtown’s bustling avenues and pinnacles of glass and steel giving way to low-rise, leafy neighbourhoods of compact rows of brick houses.
It has the big-city buzz, yet at the same time a pleasant, mellow vibe – cleaner and neater than ramshackle British cities, and without the edge of larger US urban areas.
To say it’s cosmopolitan is an understatement – it’s supposedly the most multicultural city in the world, with more than half of its residents estimated to have been born abroad.
On the harbour front, I had hoped to capture the famed view of the city from the lake. Normally, this can be done by taking a ferry across to the nearby Toronto Islands, but due to flooding, the archipelago was closed and the ferries out of action.
Luckily, harbour boat tours were still running. Within 10 minutes I was drifting out under a spectacular skyline snapping happily away. (harbourtourstoronto.ca, from £20pp).
Even though it’s hundreds of miles from the sea, Toronto is known for its beaches. The most well-known of these are on the islands – mainly for being clothing-optional. But as I couldn’t get there, my blushes were spared.
The shore of Lake Ontario was the site the first British settlement, Fort York.
Built at the end of the 18th century, it stationed a garrison of troops to guard the region from the newly independent United States. It wasn’t a very good fort, and was overrun and destroyed by the Americans in 1813.
The rebuilt fort was better and most of it still stands today, though it now sits inland due to land reclamation (web.toronto.ca, £7.70).
It’s a national historic site, with pageantry and performances during the summer. When I went, it was hosting the Taste food festival.
The city’s ethnic diversity is reflected in its food. As well as the variety of cuisines, there are also plenty of fusion restaurants. Sushi burritos, anyone? Korean-Ukrainian steak and cabbage rolls? Duck confit pad Thai?
Farmers’ markets are dotted round town, selling local produce and endless varieties of street food.
And you have to try poutine – a French-Canadian offering of chips topped with gravy and cheese curds, probably best appreciated on your wobbly way home after night out enjoying the city’s many bars and clubs.
The pick of several great restaurants I tried had to be the Maple Leaf Tavern, a gastropub in the hipster neighbourhood Leslieville.
It does gourmet versions of traditional tavern fare – burgers, roast chicken, steak, and tasty, award-winning sausages. (mapleleaftavern.ca)
Toronto natives enjoy sport as much as food. In the countdown to a Blue Jays baseball game, the streets fill with a tide of blue as fans surge to the huge Rogers Centre stadium.
My last-minute ticket was up in the gods and I didn’t really know what was going on, but it was great fun (mlbcom/bluejays, from £4.50).
Craning my neck up, I stared at the CN Tower above and spotted the next lot of EdgeWalkers. Rather than relive my terror, I focused on the less thrilling, yet happily more down-to-earth sport of baseball.