From glass and concrete skyscraper to sturdy historical buildings, Toronto will delight any architecture enthusiast.
After a few weeks in the Canadian wilderness, arriving in downtown Toronto is a bit of a choc, especially when you come out of the station straight at the foot of the 533 meters tall CN Tower! But the senses quickly re-adapt to the urban environment and are excited by the variety of sounds, smells from street food and coffee vendors and everything there is to see.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada and typically North American. Its grid-like street plan, glass and steel skyscrappers and Art Deco buildings have nothing to envy to its American sisters. The only difference is the relaxed attitude of its 5 million inhabitants, who go "aboot" their business without stress or a frown on their faces.
After a look at Lake Ontario, head East to Lawrence market for a quick lunch. Founded in 1803, the market is still very much alive and offers food from all around the world. The fish and seafood stalls are particularly mouthwatering: fresh crab and lobster, marinated salmon, fishcakes, jumbo shrimps, etc.
Keep walking on Front St to find the newly re-developed Distillery Historic District. This complex used to be a whisky and spirits factory, built at the height of Victorian architecture. It is now a center for the arts and leisure with plenty of independent boutiques, bars and restaurants. The quirky little Antique shop called "Blackbird Vintage Finds" at the end of a small alley that is worth a visit.
Back in downtown, the square of St James cathedral offers a nice halt to admire the contrast between 19th century and modern buildings. A few streets up North, the old city hall and the new Toronto city hall are only a few meters apart but couldn't be more different in style. From there, you can talk one of the city trams to Chinatown and then Kensington Market.
This bohemian district is the new artsy and trendy neighbourhood of Toronto. You will find second hand and vintage clothing, independent coffee shops and natural remedies pharmacies. A few shops are surfing on the new law to legalise cannabis consumption for recreational purposes in 2017 and are already selling all the accessories necessary. There is graffiti art on every wall and even lampposts and cars!
Head to the campus of Toronto University for a more quiet atmosphere. The sturdy, massive buildings with references to Greek architecture or English Gothic style command respect. The parks and large alleys bordered with majestic oaks create an ideal ambiance for study in the middle of a busy metropolis.
Finally, go to the Royal Ontario Museum. Arriving from Queens Park St, it looks like any other major art museum in North America or Europe: a stone facade inspired by Italian Renaissance style. But turning on Bloor St, you discover the exuberant entrance by Daniel Libeskin unveiled in 2007. Called "The Crystal", it is a prime example of Deconstructivism. Its sharp edges, glass and aluminium facets are a stark contrast with the original building which created a controversy with the public when revealed. I found it impressive and exciting and actually made me appreciate the old building better by drawing comparisons.
To get in the mood:
Listen: Arctic Monkeys - I wanna be yours
- Eat: Peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery in St Lawrence Market