A local's guide to Toronto neighbourhoods
Like every big city, Toronto is bursting with a collection of neighbourhoods, each with its own personality and vibe.
And in a city that’s constantly evolving like Toronto, it always feels like there’s a new up-and-coming neighbourhood to check out, which can make exploring our fine city a bit daunting.
In any given day, you might spend your morning exploring historic Victorian-style architecture, shopping along Mink Mile, followed by an evening bouncing around the hottest nightclubs and bars.
And the best part is, no day in Toronto is ever the same simply because there’s always so much to do and see.
Whether you’re planning on spending a day or a lifetime in Toronto, the best way to get a taste of the city is by experiencing it first hand.
So put on your comfiest shoes and pull out a map. Here is our neighbourhood guide to the hottest hoods in Toronto.
King Street West / Entertainment District
If you enjoy performing arts, festivals, sports, and major attractions, Toronto’s Entertainment District is the place to be. Here you’ll find an impressive lineup of bars and nightclubs, hip restaurants, historical theatres and trendy cafés all within walking distance of each other.
Live like a local and get your caffeine fix at Jimmy’s Coffee, healthy eats at District Eatery, sip on indulging libations at Baro, get on island time at Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen, take in the stunning decor at Oretta, check out the most scenic skyline views at Lavelle or the Bisha Hotel, and literally hang with the regulars at Locals Only.
Vogue previously put Queen West on the map by crowning it one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, and for good reason. The stylish design district is home to award-winning restaurants, art galleries, music venues and tons of innovative shops and locally-sourced boutiques.
Must-see landmarks in this eclectic neighbourhood include Graffiti Alley, Trinity Bellwoods Park, and artsy hotels like The Drake and the Gladstone Hotel.
Ossington is hands down one of the most happening spots in the downtown core. The number of restaurants, bars and boutiques that have popped up on the strip between Queen and Dundas have transformed Ossington Avenue into a Torontonian’s go-to spot for shopping, drinking, and dining.
If you truly want to experience Ossington like a local, enjoy an Aperol Spritz and a slice of pizza at Superpoint, drink wine on Foxley Bistro’s hidden patio, try craft beer a Bellwoods Brewery, followed by some live music at the Dakota Tavern and dancing and libations at Sweaty Betty’s, Baby Huey’s or The Ossington.
Old Town and the Distillery District
Old Town is full of photographic gems like the Gooderham Building, which is known as the Flatiron Building to locals, not to mention one of Toronto’s best foodie experiences, the St. Lawrence Market, where you can literally spend an afternoon treating your senses to the freshest ingredients from around the world.
Stroll further east along Front Street and you’ll find yourself at the historic Distillery District, where you can stroll along cobblestone streets and explore the countless artisan shops, boutiques and art galleries.
You can end your visit to the Distillery District by cozying up by the outdoor fire pit at El Catrin or with a glass of wine at Cluny Bistro as you take in the surrounding charming Victorian-era vibes.
Tucked between Queen West and Roncesvalles, Parkdale is a vibrant, community-oriented neighbourhood bursting with colourful murals, incredible culinary options, and plenty of unique shops.
Spend an afternoon dining at some of the neighbourhood’s most popular spots including tropical Hawaiian restaurant and cocktail bar Miss Thing’s or Tennesee Tavern, where you’ll be impressed by the stupendous drink selection and affordable comfort dishes.
No visit to Parkdale is complete, of course, without picking up a treasure (or two) from one of the local boutiques and vintage stores including Shop Girls, Public Butter, North Standard Trading Post or Crown Flora Studios.
Easily one of the most colourful and eccentric ‘hoods in town, Kensington Market attracts thousands of tourists and locals daily. In Kensington Market, you’ll discover cultures from around the world that are represented through its diverse shops, restaurants, and stalls.
A little south of Kensington Market is Toronto’s historic Chinatown, where you can immerse yourself in the local community and visit the many grocery stores and shops bursting with produce and items from faraway lands.
What began as a small Greek community has grown into one of the largest outside of Greece. On the Danforth, or in Greektown as Torontonians like to call it, you’ll find countless places to eat, with options from around the world.
In the summer, the strip is hosts one of Toronto’s biggest food festivals, Taste of the Danforth, which welcomes over one million attendees each year.
Little Italy is lined with trattorias, trendy spots to grab a bite to eat, cafés, pool halls, bars, and plenty of traditional Italian restaurants with checkered tablecloths where you can indulge in a massive bowl of pasta or a killer slice of ‘za.
And what’s even cooler about this gem of a neighbourhood is there was recently a movie filmed and based in Toronto’s Little Italy starring Hayden Christensen and Emma Roberts.
Leslieville experienced a bit of a resurgence in recent years and is now home to an excellent variety of vintage shops and local boutiques in addition to a killer assortment of Instagram-worthy cafés and dining and watering hole options, giving us major Williamsburg vibes.
Popular spots to grab a bite to eat or drink include Frankie’s Italian, Goods and Provisions, Broadview Hotel, Maple Leaf Tavern, Boxcar Social, Hitch, Brickworks Cider, and Lloyd’s on Queen.
Often referred to as the Mink Mile, Yorkville’s cobblestone streets are lined with designer boutiques like Chanel, Tiffany, and Hermès. But don’t worry, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat if shopping isn’t your thing, including Planta, Brothers, Buca Yorkville, Sassafraz, Café Boulud, Chabrol, Estia, and Kasa Moto.
Pro tip: When strolling through Yorkville, always be alert, because you never know what celebrities you might run in to.
Go check it out and share your favourite areas of the city with us on #dailyhivemapped.