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Toronto City Trip

The Mississauga port in Toronto is one of city's busiest ports

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do

TORONTO DAY 2: Queen West Art & Design District, Chinatown and Yorkville

You're a savvy traveler with just a few days to see the many facets of Toronto, so take the day to explore its edgy and artsy side. If you're staying at the Gladstone Hotel or Drake Hotel you're ready to go. If not, grab a cab — Toronto's taxis are relatively cheap, though often scruffy — to the Queen West Art & Design District. If it's Sunday, have brunch at Mildred's Temple Kitchen at the nearby Liberty Village and stroll around this trendy neighborhood of condos/lofts, shops and restaurants. Artscape, a nonprofit urban development organization that revitalizes buildings, neighborhoods and cities, has a strong presence in Liberty Village, providing mixed live/work spaces for local artists. Its influence can be seen throughout the neighborhood, and the organization maintains the valued tradition of an area once dominated by artists searching for affordable living and studio spaces.

Alternately, start your day with baked goodies at the Corner Café of the century-old Drake Hotel, which has been refurbished in a nouveau-Bohemian style. Quirky, with cheekily mismatched furniture, it boasts a hip ethos that is part of the pulse of the new, cool Toronto. Then head east along this gritty part of Queen Street to explore the city's greatest concentration of contemporary art galleries, mod boutiques and chic furniture shops. See photos of cultural detritus captured at the Stephen Bulger Gallery, contemporary Canadian art at Angell Gallery or spiritual and social commentary depicted by the artists at Loop Gallery. Quasi Modo Modern Furniture features three levels of furniture by international heavy-hitters such as Vitra, Herman Miller and Santa & Cole.

Explore the shops in Toronto's Chinatown

If you're a good walker, keep trekking until you hit Spadina Road and then head north through Chinatown. Stop for a quick lunch at one of the many Asian restaurants. They are chock-a-block in this area. If you dig dim sum and want to experience what's likely the best in North America, take a two-minute taxi ride to the Metropolitan Hotel on Chestnut Street in "Old Chinatown." Here, on the second floor, you'll find the elegant and exquisite Lai Wah Heen. If you've stayed near Spadina Road, meander a block west to the lively Kensington Market to view vintage clothing shops and storefronts of all ethnic persuasions. Either way, you're near the Art Gallery of Ontario on Dundas Street, where you can dine at Frank Restaurant with delicious seasonally inspired menus and peruse the varying art exhibits. In 2008, the AGO had a major $254 million redesign and expansion under the guidance of renowned architect Frank Gehry. The Henry Moore Sculptural Centre boasts the world's largest collection of Moore's sculptures, and there are many great works by Canadian and international artists in the gallery's extensive collection.

For more culture, head a little north to Yorkville. On the west side of Avenue at Bloor, the Royal Ontario Museum had an ambitious redevelopment in recent years — one of the world's largest museum restoration and expansion projects. The original heritage architecture was restored, a new landmark building was designed by Daniel Libeskind and, inside, elegant new exhibit designs were created by Haley Sharpe. Libeskind's crystal design for six galleries hangs dramatically over Bloor Street, captivating passersby. Look up from the sidewalk and you'll see dinosaurs through the glass. The Galleries of the Age of Mammals were the first permanent exhibits to open inside the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Other Lee-Chin Crystal galleries that opened include the Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery; the Wirth Gallery of the Middle East; the Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, Americas and Asia-Pacific; and the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costume. Six million artifacts from around the world can be found here.

The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, an addition to the Royal Ontario Museum, officially opened in 2007

Toronto's a great shopping city, and the Bloor-Yorkville area is home to high-end retail with seasonal bargain-hunters' sales. In 2011, the area enhanced its reputation as Canada's premier shopping district with the completion of the Bloor Street Transformation Project, a $20 million streetscape beautification enterprise. Pedestrian-friendly granite sidewalks and curbs, the planting of 134 London Plane trees and flowerbeds and special lighting are just some of the enhancements. Hazelton Lanes Shopping Centre at the corner of Avenue Road and Yorkville underwent its own transformation in 2011. A destination for exclusive brands and services for 35 years, it was revived via the addition of a modern day piazza, the expansion of Canada's first flagship Whole Foods Market and a multilevel flagship TNT mega clothing emporium.

Intrepid shoppers will also enjoy a visit to Holt Renfrew, the department store for Toronto's upper crust, featuring three floors of luxury labels. At Holt's Café, you can get an open-face sandwich and a jolt of revitalizing java. For a more relaxed lunch, if you haven't already opted for Chinese, stop in at the Studio Café in the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. The fare is always excellent, as is the potential for celebrity and fashionista spotting.

Yorkville is full of good restaurants, cafés and bars with outdoor patios. At dinnertime, especially in warm weather, you might want to grab a seat outdoors and people-watch. One has a large comfortable patio that wraps around the fancy Hazelton Hotel. For indoor dining, Pangaea offers refined fresh market cuisine; Joso's is famous for its savory, grilled whole fish; and Sotto Sotto is a celeb hangout. Mistura offers top-notch Italian food in a glam setting.

The Shops at Don Mills features many high-end retailers as well as the grocery store McEwan. Owned by chef Mark McEwan, the market services his popular restaurant, Fabbrica, where guests can dine on rustic Italian fare including homemade pastas and wood-oven pizza.

Continue to Day 3

*Top images courtesy of Toronto Convention & Visitors Association


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