The city of Toronto sits on the north shore of Lake Ontario, almost directly across the lake from Niagara Falls, New York. With a metropolitan population nearing six million, Toronto is the fifth-largest city in North America. Most visitors will have no need to venture out of a small and easily navigated downtown core bounded by Eglinton Avenue to the north, Dufferin and Parliament streets to the west and east, and the lakeshore to the south. The city's financial district, a forest of office towers centered around Bay Street near the waterfront, is home to the third-largest financial services sector in North America and the buildings that shape the city's iconic skyline, along with the CN Tower. The best hotels tend to be located further north, in Yorkville, which is a playground of high-end restaurants and fashion boutiques. The vibe is considerably more bohemian on Queen and Queen West. Above all, Toronto is a city of neighborhoods, every one of them green, friendly, and safe. Visitors can stroll in any direction and eventually happen upon some charming streets filled with bakeries, shops, and restaurants.
WHEN TO GO
Spring is often slow out of the starting gate, so the best time to visit Toronto is in summer, when locals crowd outdoor patios long into the night, and fall, when the city's film festival takes place and theaters kick off their new seasons. However, for the record, the city's reputation for long, savage winters is somewhat exaggerated. Yes, it does get cold—a 10°F January day is not unusual—but if anything, most wintertime visitors find themselves wishing there were more snow.
HOW TO GET THERE
Toronto is served by two airports. Lester B. Pearson International Airport is the largest airport in Canada and is serviced by the larger American carriers as well as international airlines. Located in the west end of the city, it's notable for the recent opening of the new Terminal 1, an airy, well-lit edifice that handles the majority of domestic and international flights. Transit links to downtown are woefully insufficient, and there is no rail link or taxi service. However, the Toronto Airport Express shuttles passengers to and from downtown for less than $20 (www.torontoairportexpress.com). A private car or limousine ride costs about $40 and takes about 20 to 30 minutes when the traffic isn't bad.
Toronto City Centre Airport is a regional airport situated on the Toronto Islands at the foot of the city's downtown. It is serviced primarily by Porter Airlines, which flies to Montreal, Ottawa, and Halifax, and is planning to expand to Newark's Liberty International Airport (www.flyporter.com). VIA Rail trains arrive at Union Station, in the heart of downtown, with service to and from New York City and throughout Canada (www.viarail.ca).
Toronto's subway system is clean, reliable, and comfortable; the only major shortcoming (a big one, admittedly) is that the network is too small. There are three lines, but most visitors will have use chiefly for the main two: the Bloor–Danforth line, which travels east to west, and the Yonge–University line, which travels north to south then north again, forming a large U. The transit scene is decidedly better above ground, thanks to the tram system. The iconic streetcars zoom up and down major arteries on a 190-mile network. Locations unreachable by subway or streetcar can usually be reached by bus. The entire network is operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (www.ttc.ca), and a single ticket fare of $2.75 is interchangeable among modes of transport, though a transfer must be obtained from conductors or from machines inside the subway stations. There is also a $9 unlimited one-day travel pass.
Taxis are plentiful, but drivers often lack knowledge of smaller streets and obscure destinations. Taking a cab during afternoon rush hour can be particularly frustrating, so visitors should consider the next best option: walking. Toronto's urban core is compact, safe, and perfect for a stroll.
Toronto drivers are surprisingly laid-back, so driving here is more approachable than in other big cities. Cars can be rented at the airport, train station, or from a variety of locations throughout the city. Overnight street parking can be difficult to find, so opt for underground lots.
Tourism Toronto operates a single tourism information center at 207 Queens Quay West on the Harbourfront (800-499-2514; www.torontotourism.com; open Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 5 pm).
Canada used to be a bargain thanks to an exchange rate that favored the U.S. dollar, but at the time of publication the currencies were nearly equivalent in value. Prices in this guide are quoted in Canadian dollars.View Canada Factsheet