The student guide to Toronto

Kristina Spencer
Kristina Spencer

6 January 2021 • 5 min read

So you made the decision to move to Canada and picked Toronto as your new home. If you are feeling a bit lost, don’t worry — we’ve all been there before. Moving to a new city, let alone a new country, can put a huge stress on you, no matter how excited you are. 

To make life a bit easier for you, we have put together a list of places to see, do, eat and drink when you get there. On top of that, we are giving you a bit of a background on Toronto and the people who are proud to call the 416 home.

People have lived on the site that Toronto sits on today for tens of thousands of years, but it is only in the 18th century that the first European settlers reached the land. 

By the 20th century, Toronto had become a thriving city — a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, a trend that continues to this day. In the 21st century, Toronto has become a major financial centre with a number of North American corporations and financial institutions setting up their headquarters in the city. 

Why is Toronto a melting pot? Half of its population was born abroad — New York, by comparison, has 36 percent of its population that was born outside the US. The city publicly embraces its multicultural image with the motto ‘Diversity our Strength’. 

There is Greek Town, Chinatown, Little Italy and an Indian Bazaar. There are established communities of Polish, Korean and Portguese immigrants. The food options are endless, and combined with the city’s thriving theatre scene and festivals in the summer, make it a true pleasure to explore the city. All the more fun that Toronto is filled with streetcars to take you places. 

The Annex

Located downtown, the Annex is one of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods. Located close to the University of Toronto campus, it is brimming with independent restaurants and businesses and draws in a young professional and artsy crowd. 

Pop into Lee’s Place for a concert (its graffitied front is hard to miss) or browse books in BMV Books, Toronto’s beloved independent book chain which specialises in used and remaindered books. 

Heading for a night out? Grab a drink at Madison Avenue Pub - or the Maddie - which consists of three mansions, a variety of patios and an underground tunnel that connects them (the Maddie’s student nights are great fun). If you are looking for a quieter night, head to Snakes & Lattes, a games cafe beloved by Toronto’s inhabitants. 

Kensington Market

Located on the western side of Chinatown, Kensington is fiercely independent and stands out as one of Toronto’s most unique and fascinating neighbourhoods.

It is the city’s cultural mecca, filled with vintage shops, cheese and fishmongers and specialty food shops as well as hole-in-the-wall restaurants featuring cuisines from all over the world. Head to Pow Wow cafe for Native American inspired dishes cooked and served by Indigenous people, find some vintage treasures at Courage My Love or hang out in the sun in Bellevue Square Park. 

The Beaches

The quaint neighbourhood in east Toronto known as ‘The Beaches’ is home to sandy shores and the city’s boardwalk, making it a perfect summer destination. In the warmer months, there are endless cafes, ice cream parlors, restaurants and bars that the Toronto crowds head to for a day out in the sun. You sort of forget that you are in the middle of a bustling city once you get there.

Ossington

One of the city’s smallest neighbourhoods deserves to be on this shortlist of Toronto’s neighbourhoods to see. If you want to have the ultimate West End foodie experience, head to the part of Ossington Avenue between Queen Street and Dundas Street — it is a foodie’s dream and a perfect place for a bar crawl. 

Bellwoods Brewery is the ultimate summer spot - and Trinity Bellwoods park right next door is brimming with young people all summer long.

Other things to see and do

  • Head to the Royal Ontario Museum for a day filled with culture. ROM is Canada’s largest museum and one of the largest museums in North America, brimming with art, world culture and natural history artefacts. 

  • Climb the CN Tower and if you have the guts, do the EdgeWalk - the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk on a wide ledge that goes around the Tower’s main bit, a mere 356m above the ground.

  • Laugh your head off at The Second City comedy cabaret. It started in Chicago over 60 years ago and has spread to Toronto and Hollywood as well. You won’t be disappointed. 

  • Watch sports that thrive in the city - head to the Rogers Center to watch Toronto Blue Jays play baseball or the Scotiabank Center (known as the ACC for its previous owners) for a Leafs hockey game. Toronto is also very proud of the Raptors, its basketball team that won the NBA Championships in 2019.

 

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Kristina Spencer
Written By
Kristina Spencer

Kristina Spencer is a writer, editor and producer based in London, UK. She’s written for Vanity Fair, Vogue Business, The Business of Fashion and more.


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