Toronto is a city of many faces and styles. With five and a half million inhabitants from all over the globe, it's a world within a city made up of colorful pockets of ethnic groups. The fifth biggest metropolitan area on the continent, it's also a city of fashion and fancy. Several top-of-the-line hotels have recently opened and more are coming. The modern opera house, recently gussied-up museums and a multitude of theatres give lovers of the arts many places to go. Among the ever expanding sea of condominiums, vibrant, hip neighborhoods are springing up with cool eateries and galleries.
In the Entertainment District, edgy clubs and wild behavior are part of the fun, yet the streets are safe to walk all hours of the night. Parks are dotted about the city, while major ravines run through neighborhoods, acting as a green lung of fresh breezes and flowing waters. Bikers, walkers and joggers use the ravine paths, a hidden treasure of nature that many visitors miss. City streets feature more and more designated bike lanes and BIXI rental bikes available for all to use.
Yearly events like September's Toronto Film Festival, the largest public film festival in the world, draw discerning international audiences. The Distillery District, The Brickworks and other former industrial zones have become new cherished areas where locals and visitors can hang out, eat and enjoy various activities throughout the year. Noted architects have transformed and built cultural venues such as the Jack Diamond-designed Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts, Daniel Liebeskind's Crystal addition to the Royal Ontario Museum, and Frank Gehry's graceful glass and Douglas fir remake of The Art Gallery of Ontario. Also adding to the notable vibrancy of the city are the completely new looks of The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, the National Ballet School of Canada and the Royal Conservatory of Music.
By the end of 2011, Toronto's billion dollar decade-long construction boom added 53 new towers, four million square feet of office space and hundreds of glitzy hotel rooms. The Hazelton Hotel, an ultra-deluxe Yabu Pushelberg-designed property that includes the restaurant One by renowned local chef Mark McEwan, opened in 2008. The Ritz-Carlton opened in 2011, followed by the Trump International in 2012 and a new Four Seasons.
The Westin Harbour Castle
Toronto's 200 distinct ethnicities add their diverse publications, faith and cultures to the mosaic of the city. Over 130 languages and dialects are spoken. Neighborhoods such as Corso Italia, Greektown, Little Poland, Via Azores and Gerrard India Bazaar reflect the origin of the locals with their bilingual signs, ethnic restaurants and foods imported from the different home countries.
The city's standout landmark is still the 553.33-meter CN Tower, which held the title of the highest freestanding structure in the world until the recently completed Burj Dubai took that honor. Recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers, it celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2011. Underneath the city, PATH is a 26-kilometer web of tunnels that connects hundreds of skyscrapers, hotels and restaurants via subterranean passageways. Filled with shops and eateries, it holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for the planet's largest underground shopping complex. Visa is accepted at many restaurants, stores and attractions; but if you need cash, you can use your Visa Debit Card and get Canadian dollars at ATMs all across the city.
Where you stay depends on your tastes and budgets. If you'd like to be in the heart of the action in a hip boutique hotel, Hotel Le Germain and the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel in the entertainment district offer stylish luxury at the throbbing center of club land. For sports and action lovers, Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is a sleek, urban hotel right at Maple Leaf Square overlooking the arena for NHL Hockey and NBA Basketball.
The Toronto Thompson Hotel, which is located in the art and design district of King West, is the prestigious chain's first foray outside of the U.S. It's ultra-chic with a private rooftop bar and pool with cabanas for guests. The Westin Harbour Castle on Lake Ontario is peacefully situated five minutes from the action on Toronto's waterfront. The Hilton Toronto has the advantage of being right across from the opera house and just steps from the financial and entertainment districts. The new tony Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, The Hazelton Hotel and the Park Hyatt are centered in fashionable Yorkville near the Mink Mile of shopping, while historic elegance and comfort can be found in the financial district's The Fairmont Royal York and The Omni King Edward Hotel. The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto brings glamour to the heart of the downtown core at the crossroads of the financial and performing arts districts.
Occupying the enviable corner of Bay and Adelaide streets is the 65-story Trump International Hotel and Tower, whose 261 rooms boast an elegant cosmopolitan style.
If you're part of the artsy crowd, you'll no doubt love the urbane Gladstone Hotel with its 37 unique, artist-designed rooms in the funky Queen West area, or the hip, nearby Drake Hotel — though be prepared for noise from trams, trains and neighborhood bars.