The multicultural and cosmopolitan city of Toronto was formed by the assimilation of multiple small towns and villages, giving rise to a large number of unique and eclectic neighborhoods. From the former skid row of Cabbagetown to the city's largest Chinatown, explore Toronto's best neighborhoods and where to stay.
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A Guide to Toronto’s Downtown Neighborhoods
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Old Town, also known as Old Toronto, was the city's first officially named neighborhood. The area includes many heritage buildings, such as Toronto's first post office, the Cathedral Church of Saint James and the lively St. Lawrence Market. Old Town is located just north of Union Station, the main transit hub for commuters coming from the suburbs, and incorporates most of the downtown core south of Yorkville. The area's most photographed landmark is the 3D Toronto Sign in Nathan Phillips Square, between the old and new City Hall.
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The Entertainment District is west of Union Station, and includes one of the city's more dated but no less iconic attractions, the CN Tower. Toronto's main event center, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and premier stadium, the Rogers Centre, are both located here. Canadian music fans will enjoy exploring Canada's Walk of Fame, and for craft beer lovers, the historic Steam Whistle Brewery is a must. Those looking for a more exciting evening should head to the northern end of the neighborhood, where dozens of bars, night clubs and theaters keep things lively late into the evening. A smaller neighborhood known as Cityplace is within the boundaries of the Entertainment District, though Cityplace extends further west.
The Fashion District
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In the early 1900s, The Fashion District was filled with textile warehouses and garment manufacturers, which is how it got its name. These have since been converted to other uses, but the neighborhood is still home to several artist studios, creative services and hip hotels. The neighborhood's best attraction is the 1-kilometer long Graffiti Alley, an urban landmark created by local artists. Strategically located west of the Entertainment District between Richmond Street and Front Street, city developers have had their on the Fashion District, and many of its historic buildings were torn down to make room for new development.
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There are around half a dozen Chinatowns in the Greater Toronto Area, but the most recognized is the Downtown Chinatown which centers around the intersection of Dundas Street and Spadina Avenue. Most of the businesses here are owned by East Asian ethnic groups, and is the place to go for cuisines like Hong Kong dim sum, Vietnamese pho, Japanese ramen and the Chinese steamed buns known as bao. Chinatown also includes many Asian-influenced businesses like anime and toy shops, stores selling imported cosmetics and trendy cafes offering bubble tea and red bean ice cream.
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Kensington Market is Toronto's most unique neighborhood, occupying a small area west of Chinatown. The neighborhood is named after the iconic Kensington Market, a large open-air market and a refuge for independent shops and cafes and one of Toronto most-visited landmarks. The entire neighborhood is a National Historic Site of Canada and protected by the government, though there has been a sharp increase in the number of upscale businesses and a reduction in the area's working class immigrant population, once a key component of the neighborhood's personality.
West Queen West (Little Portugal)
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Arguably Toronto's most happening street, Queen Street West is a major artery running east to west from High Park to the Beaches. West Queen West refers to the western section of this busy thoroughfare, a trendy neighborhood housing Toronto landmark The Drake Hotel. Encroaching on this territory is Little Portugal, an ethnic enclave with many independent cafes, bars and artisan shops along Dundas Street.
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Formerly one of Toronto's biggest slums, Cabbagetown experienced gentrification and preservation during the 1970s, and many upscale business and working class professionals moved in. Despite this, the area maintains some of the largest concentrations of housing projects and homeless shelters in the city. According to legend, the area got its name from poor immigrants in the late 1800s planting cabbage in their front yards. Today, Cabbagetown is known for having the largest collection of Victorian Era homes on the continent, and for the larges number of celebrities who own homes there.
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Located North of Old Toronto, Yorkville is an upscale, high-class neighborhood known as the 'mink mile' for its expensive shopping and luxury boutiques. Visit Yorkville Village for organic produce and artisan homegoods, while fine jewelers and luxury boutiques are situated along every block from Bloor Street West to Davenport.
The Distillery District
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The Distillery District is Toronto's time machine, a cobblestone neighborhood on the waterfront which was once the site of a large whisky distillery. The unique neighborhood is lined with old brick buildings dating back to the 1800s which now house a variety of boutiques, galleries, theaters, bars and restaurants. The Distillery District has been the backdrop of dozens of Hollywood films including Cinderella Man and Chicago, and is host to the acclaimed Toronto Christmas Market each winter.
Toronto is the capital of the province of Ontario, and a major cultural and financial hub of Canada. It is also Canada's most populous city, and the mashup of cultural backgrounds of all those people have shaped the city. These are just a handful of Toronto's unique and impressive neighborhoods ready to be explored.