Meeting Place was the name the Native Americans had given to their camp on the shores of Lake Ontario. A prophetic vision. A few centuries later, Toronto has become the most cosmopolitan city in the world.
For two centuries, a reputation for Anglo-Saxon austerity hung over this former trading post built by the French around 1720, rebuilt 70 years later by the English, and for a time the capital of Upper Canada. That all changed in the early 1970s, when Canada decided to populate its vast territory and open its borders to skilled English-speaking workers whose occupations matched the country’s needs. Soon more than a hundred nations arrived, eager to start a new life in a peaceful country with a bright future.
So much so that in 30 years, Toronto has changed completely. Splendidly bold glass and concrete towers have sprung up on the lakefront, where people of all backgrounds now work. Entertainment has multiplied. The cuisine itself has been enriched with new flavours. Toronto has become, in every way, the most cosmopolitan city in the world, one of the most vibrant metropolises in North America.
This slender concrete spire with its terminal antenna reaching 553 m has symbolized the city’s dynamism since 1975. In 58 seconds, the exterior glass elevators propel 2 million visitors each year to the Skypod, a steel gondola suspended 346 m above the ground, from which the view of the city and the lake is obviously sublime.
However, it is on the Glass Floor, on the lower level of the gondola, that the vertigo really takes hold. You can walk on glass plates above the void, and even better, give yourself the illusion of walking on the narrow metal beams embedded in the mass. At the foot of the tower, the SkyDome, the first stadium in the world to have a fully retractable roof, also symbolizes the dynamism of Toronto. Its four 11,000-ton panels can be opened or closed in 20 minutes. Its turf and bleachers can be seen from the lobby of the hotel that is part of the complex.
Canada’s Wall Street stands with its cluster of American-style towers on the south side of the city, in a quadrangle bounded by Station St. W., Yonge St., Queen St. W. and University Av., from which the Entertainment District begins. This concrete, glass and metal forest of the business district encapsulates all the architecture of the last century, from Mies van der Rohe’s Toronto-Dominion Center (55 King St. W.) to the Royal Bank Plaza (200 Bay St.) and BCE Place (161 Bay St.), whose white arches house all kinds of stores, snack bars and restaurants.
The whole area is bustling with activity until the offices leave at around 5 p.m. It is deserted at night and on weekends. The New City Hall (100 Queen St. W.), with its two curved towers that enclose the huge saucer-shaped building where the city council sits, marks the boundary between the business world to the south and the much more bohemian and exotic Queen Street West.
Expanded many times since 1900, this vast brick and concrete complex has three main sections. One, the most exceptional, brings together the largest collection in the world of the English sculptor Henry Moore, more than a thousand works, including a hundred plasters and bronzes donated by the author in 1968.
The other houses old masters (Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Van Dyck), European and Canadian moderns, and beautiful Inuit art. The third, The Grange, is an authentic stately home from the early 19th century, restored and commented by guide-interpreters in period costume.
“ Known as the ‘Queen City’, Toronto, home to nearly 100 ethnic groups, is fast-paced, cosmopolitan, exciting and international. ”
Of all Toronto’s shopping districts, it is the most cosmopolitan and exotic. Gradually taken over by Jews from Central Europe, then by immigrants from Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Middle Eastern countries, and finally from India and Pakistan, it now brings together fifteen nationalities.
It starts on Spadina Av., opposite the stalls of Chinatown. All along Baldwin St., then Augusta and Kensington Av., Oriental-European clothes offered at ridiculously low prices stand next to sublime hams, cheeses, teas, sweets or spices, all under decorative panels of a grandiose kitsch. Unlike the stores in Chinatown, those in Kensington Market are unfortunately closed on Sundays.
Perhaps the most famous, Chinatown is often associated with Kensington Market, although there are several other Chinatowns in the Toronto area. Italians, the largest ethnic group, also have their own territory. Along College Street is Little Italy with its many trattorias, cafés and restaurants.
Lined with delicatessens and cafes, the Greek Quarter is nicknamed the Danforth, after the avenue that runs through it. Every year in August the Taste of the Danforth festival takes place, a good opportunity to discover Greek cuisine. The Indians are not to be outdone with their Little India, located on Gerrard, near Coxwell and Greenwood avenues. This festive neighborhood is a mix of restaurants, grocery stores and clothing boutiques.
Four levels of marvels from all countries and all eras, admirably staged in their environment. Among others, on the first floor, several collections of Chinese and Asian art of great beauty, superb Tang sculptures and an immense Ming tomb, completely reconstituted.
On the second level, dinosaurs on interactive screens, a gallery of birds captured in flight, a cave invaded by bats. On the third level, decors and works of art trace 4,000 years of history, from Pharaonic Egypt to medieval and classical Europe. In the last section, interiors of houses furnished with period furniture capture the spirit of the different centuries, while a voice-over recounts daily life. To see the entire collection, allow at least four hours.
The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art has a superb collection of pre-Columbian pottery, Italian majolica, Delft earthenware, and upstairs, porcelain from Meissen, Vienna and Sevres. An enchantment.
From antiquity to the follies of Hollywood, more than 12,000 pairs of sandals, shoes and boots are cleverly collected in the Bata Shoe Museum, a huge shoebox opened in 1995 by the manufacturer Bata.
At the Ontario Science Center, more than 600 activities and 10 exhibit halls make up this highly educational museum that will delight the curious, including children and adults, with themes such as the truth in question, the functioning of the human body or the brain in action.
A street in Chinatown