a guide to my toronto

Finally, I have compiled a Toronto primer! This is a loose guide to some of my favourite spots. I get quite a few emails asking me for my Toronto recommendations, which I understand because Toronto is such an unknown to so many people. It’s a bit challenging, because the most beautiful experiences I have in Toronto are having good conversations with friends over wine or going for a really long walk; Geoff and I don’t even eat in restaurants that often, and there are thriving “scenes” I know nothing about (e.g. theatre, clubbing). However! If you were to come to Toronto and we were to hang out for a few days, here are a few things we could do.

Toronto is very neighbourhood-y, and this particular guide will skew towards the west end, mostly because that’s where I live and where I spend most of my time, and it will skew towards the affordable. Toronto is LARGE. I stick to a fairly small area of it, so this is just a start. Oh, and sales tax is 13% so have fun with that, especially if you’re from the US! I love it here, and I hope you will too. Please feel free to add suggestions or to ask questions.

Many of these places and things to do have appeared on this blog before, but I thought one master guide could be helpful (if you would like to see more, click on the Torontolabel at the bottom of this post).

Freezing in winter and sticky humid-hot in summer! Of course, not as extreme as in some places, but enough that we complain bitterly/languidly at each low and high point. Same/similar latitude to Cannes and Boston, apparently.

I don’t think you need a car to get around Toronto, although I suppose it depends. I have a car, and in two years I’ve put about 9000 kms on it (about 5500 miles). Most of the time I ride my bike, walk, take the subway/bus/streetcar, or use cabs. You can rent bikes through Bike Share, or from places such as Bateman’s Bicycle Company in the Annex (I’ve borrowed their Linus bikes and it was great!). A car does come in handy if you would like to explore some real nature, or, say, want to hit up a drive-in movie theatre! There are gorgeous lakes and provincial parks all throughout Ontario, really lovely spots to visit in summer. I really want to go swimming in the Elora Quarry, for example.

Where to stay: 
I can’t help much in this respect! I suppose the usual suspects would be the boutique hotels: The Drake, The Gladstone, Hotel Ocho, The Thompson. I haven’t stayed in any of them myself, though. I always use Hotwire to get cheap hotel rates or AirBnB for unique spaces.

What to do:

Park hangs in Bickford Park

Sweet Woodruff



  • Bakerbots Baking (Bloorcourt): the BEST ice cream sandwich you will ever eat in your life (100% serious; all freshly-made ingredients and the sandwich is prepared at the time of your order). Also, banana pudding & carrot cake. Related (same owners): Bang Bang Ice Cream (Ossington) and Home Baking (Bloorcourt).
  • Glory Hole Donuts (Parkdale)
  • Clafouti (Queen West): really good croissants if you get there early enough.
  • Nadège (Queen West): most photogenic treats & Kusmi teas.
  • Bobette and Belle (Queen East): a friend gave me a bag of their marshmallows once. They were gone so fast.
  • Patachou Patisserie (Rosedale): I still think about the bûche de Noël I ordered there years ago.
  • Petite Thuet (King West)
  • The Big Chill (Little Italy): freshly made waffle cones, smells amazing in there.
  • If you’re in my Toronto, you have to eat a pastel de nata, or Portuguese custard tart. HAVE to, sorry!
  • Dutch Dreams (St. Clair West): this place is a little bonkers and there’s usually a long lineup, but it’s been around forever and it’s just a really fun place to visit.
  • Bunner’s (Kensington Market, The Junction): vegan and gluten free treats, including soft serve.
  • The Bake Shoppe (Little Italy-ish): homemade pop tarts, ice cream milk shakes, etc.
  • Ed’s Real Scoop (Roncesvalles, Leslieville, Beaches): amazing ice cream.
  • Kitten and the Bear (Parkdale): This spot is tiny but serves up the most incredible jams and scones.

 Bakerbots ice cream sandwiches (insert chorus of angels)

The Big Chill


North of Brooklyn

Where to eat:

You can get pretty much any type of food in Toronto, although in some cases you have to travel out to the suburbs for specific ethnic foods. Always worth it! Restaurants in Toronto have gotten more interesting and daring in the past five years, which is very exciting. Acqtaste is a locally published magazine about food, so check it out if you’re interested!

Lineups are a possibility, but I doubt you would ever have to wait more than an hour to get a table... it just depends. You can usually leave your number and they will call you when your table is ready. But really, it shouldnt be too much trouble. Also, you’ll have to check with the restaurant to see if they are cash only/accept credit cards, etc.

Robber (sadly now closed!)

  • Gravity Pope (Queen West/Ossington): shoes!
  • Eleven Thirty (Dufferin Grove): leather bags and cuteness.
  • Easy Tiger (Dundas West): cute shop in my neighbourhood, a good place for gift items and some clothing and accessories (Samantha Pleet swimsuits, Dieppa Restrepo shoes).
  • Jonathan + Olivia (Ossington): clothing; brands include Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant, Band of Outsiders, Jeremy Laing.
  • Lost and Found (Little Portugal): clothing (and coffee); brands include Alden, Makr, Saint James, Dana Lee.
  • The Future of Frances Watson (Parkdale): clothing; brands include Penfield, Filson, Fortnight Lingerie.
  • Vintage clothing shops (some of which offer a mix of vintage & new): Philistine (Parkdale), Penny Arcade Vintage (Little Portugal), I Miss You (Ossington), 69 Vintage and V by 69 Vintage (Queen West), Cabaret (Queen West), Magwood (Queen West)
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter (Queen West and Mirvish Village): clothing; lots of lovely Canadian brands.
  • Coriander Girl (Parkdale): flowers!
  • Sweet Woodruff (Dundas West): more flowers!
  • Art Metropole (Dundas West): artist books.
  • The Workroom (Parkdale): sew by-the-hour space, but also sells a variety of craft supplies, books, and fabric.
  • Drake General Store (Queen West & various other locations): pretty good for gift items, lots of Canadiana.
  • Good Egg (Kensington): bookstore with a cooking bent.
  • Type Books (Queen West): not going to lie, bookstores in Toronto are in a sorry state. This is one of the few independents left.
  • Likely General (Roncesvalles): amazing selection of home goods.
  • Scout (Roncesvalles): nice selection of gifts and cards.
  • Music: Soundscapes, June Records, Rotate This, Sonic Boom.
  • Mjölk (Junction): modern design (furniture & objects) with a Scandinavian/Japanese focus. Really beautiful. While in the Junction, walk around; lots of design/antiques in the area.
  • Blue Button Shop (Dundas West): clothing shop stocking Japanese imports.
  • The Monocle Shop (Little Italy)
  • Holt Renfrew (Yorkville): a classic Canadian department store. Our version of Nordstrom.
  • Sydney’s (Queen West): fancy menswear.
  • Hoi Bo (Distillery): handcrafted waxed canvas & leather bags.
  • Victoire (Ossington): (mostly) Canadian-designed clothing for women.

Bicyclette (sadly now closed)


  1. AWESOME!!!!! <3

  2. Man, every time someone asks me about Toronto I'm sending them your way...

    1. Here's hoping it's relevant for at least a year...!

  3. Awesome list! I can vouch for the Bickford Flexitarian. Since it opened up in my hood I've gone there at least once a week. They have scrumptious breakfasts, yummy sammiches and friendly staff. It's also the perfect place for vegans and non-vegans to go together!

    1. Thanks! I can't wait to try it. It's such a nice building, I love how pretty they made it.

  4. If I ever visit Toronto (and I will, someday :) ) I''l make sure I take a look at this list!

  5. Great guide! I am from Winnipeg but spent a lot of time in Toronto while my boyfriend was going to university there. I haven't been back to TO for over a year and I kind of miss my favourite haunts there. Good Egg is one of my fave TO shops so was glad to see it on your list! Will defintely refer to this next time I get back to Toronto!

  6. i've only visited twice but i miss toronto so much. your original recommendations post (that came recommended by geoff!) was so helpful for my first visit. hopefully we'll be back again soon!

  7. can i come visit you?!

  8. What a fabulous little guide! Your Toronto sounds strikingly similar to my Toronto! Although I would add DT Bistro on Harbord to your desserts list. They are just immaculately pretty and tasty.

    1. Oh, thanks! I haven't been there but I ride past it every single day.

  9. WHOA good job lady! this is fantastic and what hard work putting it all together. i really do believe toronto's the best city - even still as an expat. x

  10. You're the best, dearest A!

    :) xoxo

    1. Thank you! And thanks for the Sud Forno tip, sounds amazing!

  11. p.s. Sud Forno (Terroni's newish sister bakery) is pretty decent as well! ;)

  12. Great list! As a fellow west-ender you've hit on a lot of my faves. Also I can 100% confirm that we're getting a Milkbar, so get ready for corn cookies!

    1. Sweet! I can't wait. Although yikes, it's going to be nothing but trouble for me.

  13. Let's go to Elora!!

    1. Terrible news: Jane from White Elephant said this: "Went to the Elora Quarry last summer and found out it's full of giant weeds that are literally everywhere and wrap around your ankles while you swim." Eww nightmares. No thanks, Elora Quarry swimming hole.

  14. Em K G17.7.13

    What an amazing and detailed guide - love the shot of the flowers.


  15. also Delight Chocolate Shop for chocolate or their amazing ice cream! (Queen West/Junction)

    1. Oh yes! That's a good one. I try not to be tooooo much of a sweets-expert!

  16. Ok, I officially miss Toronto now. Lived there only a few months. LOVED every minute!

  17. This is SO great. I nodded my head along to each and every one (a girl after my own heart) and even found a few I'd never been to yet. Thanks for the recommendations! I'm totally off to get one of those ice cream sandwiches. xx

  18. This is an amazing list! So many of my favourites, gotta love this city!

  19. I've lived in Toronto nearly my entire life and haven't experienced most of these things !! What have I been doing with my life? Great post :)


  20. What a guide and what a city!

    I feel lucky to call Toronto my hometown, even though I haven't lived there for years. The next time I'm home to visit, I'll certainly make sure to have this guide on hand. Thanks for sharing. And in such detail!

  21. What a great guide! I love exploring new neighborhoods and finding hidden gems. I'm glad to see that some of my favorites made this list although there are so many others I have yet to try.

    Thanks for compiling such a comprehensive list. Next time someone from out-of-town asks me for recommendations I will definitely be sending them this link!

  22. i've been intrigued by toronto both due to your blog and after watching the movie, Take This Waltz. I'd love to visit one day and if I do, I'll be sure to use this guide. thanks!

  23. Wow! Thanks for this huge guide! I am planning to go to Toronto the second week of September and this is helping me a lot!! I know I am not that far (Montreal) but my last visit is 6-7 years ago... So I was kind of lost with all the new spots and things to do! Thanks again! Have a nice day.

  24. Perfect timing! My husband and I will be relocating from Brooklyn, NY to TO sometime in the next few months (for his job). We're doing a check-out-the-city visit in a few weeks, so I will definitely use your guide as a starting point. I'm very excited about getting to know Toronto. Thanks!

  25. Great list and great pics...thanks for sharing your Toronto tips! Would have loved this list for a recent trip to the city - will save for the next one!

  26. the nicest thing about toronto is that you can find something interesting pretty much everywhere. but this can also be frustrating if you're visiting and find yourself going crisscrossing the city in search of specific things. i find it's a bit like LA, hard to love if you're a tourist, easy to love if you're a resident.

  27. Wow, what a great list! Lots of things to do and see. I live just outside of Toronto, and find it hard to hear about these little gems, so thanks for sharing!

  28. I've just discovered your charming blog and am so excited for this post. I lived in Toronto years ago and love to visit, trying (sometimes successfully) to arrive when the maples are in peak color. This list gives me a reason to come back soon.

  29. Just moved to Toronto, so I'm really psyched that I found this blog post! I can't wait to venture around th city to make memories of my own.

  30. Hey, lovely! Just wanted to say thanks for the mention and that this guide is fantastic! xo

  31. Anonymous11.10.13

    Lots of great places, I always refer to this thank you! But most of these are on the West side of the city. There are tons of good restaurants, coffee shops and stores in the East end as well.

    1. I know, but I'm not very familiar with the east end, as I mentioned above, and a lot of the places I used to know in the east end have closed. BlogTO has neighbourhood guides for other areas but the west end is what I know best.

  32. I was in Toronto at the end of September, and came across your blog in search of things to do. Just wanted to say thank you for the great guide, and I feel lucky to have been introduced to your lovely blog & imagery. Can't wait to visit again soon!