Got 24 hours in Toronto? Delight in fresh food and chilled out walks

While Toronto might draw a blank on some faces, as the capital of eastern province Ontario, for Canadian’s it’s a big deal

Georgina Wilson-Powell

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Canada’s biggest city hasn’t always been its biggest draw, but with cool markets, urban beaches and huge new creative spaces within a small distance, it’s the perfect stopover.

While Toronto might draw a blank on some faces, as the capital of eastern province Ontario, for Canadian’s it’s a big deal. And it should be for you too. The city is clean, welcoming and laidback – it makes it easy to hit the ground running. Start at the central Union Station and discover a truly cosmopolitan city.

The first stop is St Lawrence Market on Front Street East, a short walk from the station. It’s a gorgeous warm brick building that you can’t miss and one of the world’s most loved markets. Over 120 food and gift stalls and cafes sit inside the South Market building (with an additional farmers market on a Saturday and antiques on a Sunday), so it’s the perfect place to start your day in Toronto. Stop by Churrasco of St. Lawrence for yummy Portuguese tarts or Cruda Café for raw and vegan delights.

From here it’s only a short walk to King Station and the number 1 Metro over to St George Station and the Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor Street West). This quirky museum has over 10,000 pairs in stock that go follow over 4,500 footsteps of history. From Chinese binding shoes to 70s glam platforms, take a step back in time.

If it’s a nice day walk through the University of Toronto campus through to one of the city’s coolest neighborhoods, Kensington Market. You’ll find everything from a Swedish inspired cafe, Fika (28 Kensington Avenue) to cute upcycled and boutique jewelry store like Anice (167 Augusta Ave).

There is no shortage of places for lunch around here, the difficult part is choosing where to go. For hip Baja-like tacos head to Seven Lives (69 Kensington Ave) for Mexican eats or try Hibiscus down the road from Anice (238 Augusta Ave) for veggie crepes and non-dairy ice cream.

Walk off lunch heading down Spadina Avenue and if you’re into street art, pop down Graffiti Alley (Rush Lane). It’s a colorful attack on your eyes, every inch of this backstreet has morphed into some piece of art or other, and it regularly changes. After seeing Toronto’s streets up close, it’s time to get a different perspective.

While most tourists head up the famous CN Tower, those in the know, head away not up. Take the ferry from Jack Layton Ferry Terminal at Queens Quay, Toronto Islands are just 15 minutes away from the city but they feel like another world (you can also get there via speedboat for $10). Center Island is a family friendly beach but Ward’s is slightly closer to the mainland, but both give you that gorgeous skyline for Instagram ready photos.

Once you’re back on the mainland (doing the ferry ride back at sunset is a good idea), stroll along the newly renovated Queen’s Quay towards the Distillery District. Another recent renovation project, this former warehouse district has been turned into a pedestrianized arts and brewing center, complete with microbreweries, artisan cafes and restaurants and designer shops, with plenty of al fresco spaces to enjoy the summer sun.

The Victorian brick buildings have been given a creative make over and are strung with pretty lights and there’s often entertainment and music on here, it’s a bustling cool place for an evening wander. For fine French food, Cluny Bistro (35 Tank House Lane) serves up light tartines, asparagus ‘frites’ and seafood stews, while over at Archeo (31 Trinity Street), diners will feel like they’re in an urban loft while polishing off delicious Italian pastas (lemon linguine with clams anyone?).

If you feel like going on, then take the 501 tram from Queen Street East to Logan Avenue, for the city’s best loved ice cream at Ed’s Real Scoop (920 Queen St E) or walk Queen Street, past the Opera House and take in some cool retro bars in this buzzy neighborhood on the way.