Hello and welcome to my first full on travel guide in a while!
A couple of weeks ago, Lewis and I hopped on a rather unglamorous Saturday morning Megabus to the bustling city of Toronto for a long weekend. We had such a great - albeit tiring - time and I am so excited to share this guide of how to spend 48 hours in Toronto, including where to stay, eat and shop. If you want to see more of what I wore in Toronto, check out when I matched my outfit to the Distillery District and took some rather raw American street style shots on Queen Street West.
I hope you enjoy it - grab a cup of tea because it's a long one!
WHERE TO STAY
Despite having never done otherwise on my two trips to Toronto, I would definitely recommend staying in the West, more specifically in West Queen West. We stayed in a spacious Airbnb room in a painstakingly cool artsy loft above a vintage shop (more on that later) located right on the bustling Queen Street West on the border of West Queen West and its edgy neighbour, Parkdale. Albeit a little further out than expected from the centre (that resulted in some sore feet by the end of the weekend), it felt that we were in the thick of it and could fully soak up what the neighbourhood Vogue has recently named as the second coolest in the world has to offer. From vintage shops, cute cafes and independent boutiques, Queen Street West has something for everyone and is nicely broken up by the beautiful Trinity Bellwoods park.
WHERE TO EAT
For the first time ever in our nine years travelling together, Lewis and I fully let ourselves loose on eateries - no pasta & butter or packed lunches were in sight and boy was it a treat. We sampled a burrito from Big Fat Burrito and shared a 6" pecan pie from Wanda's Pie In The Sky, both at Kensington Market, which is a joyful mix of vintage/quirky shops and mouthwatering eateries. Nestled one block from Chinatown, Toronto's diverse population is reflected in the variety of food available at Kensington Market, from pizza and tacos to ice cream and sweet pies and even a Italian/Jamaican fusion place called Rasta Pasta (see what I mean?), we really had to restrain ourselves from just eating our way through the afternoon. Luckily we did refrain which meant we enjoyed two delicious evening meals over our long weekend.
On Saturday we opted for pizza, which is always a good, reliable choice for one fussy vegetarian and a vegetarian. We headed for Super Point on Ossington Avenue, a popular spot for eateries, which had been recommended by a lovely girl who stopped me in the street to say she liked my sixties inspired outfit (what a babe). It was just what we needed and after a 20 minute wait we took a seat at the bar and devoured an 18" margarita pizza between us. It was delicious, with a slight spice to the tomato sauce which neither of us are used to but enjoyed nonetheless. Although it was slightly on the pricey side - we paid 25$ for the pizza and skipped on drinks because a glass of wine cost 11$ (plus tax of course) - I would definitely recommend Super Point.
FIND IT: 184 Ossington Avenue
GRAND ELECTRIC TAQUERIA
On Sunday night, we checked out a few places near to our apartment before finally deciding on Grand Electric Taqueria, just a couple of blocks along on Queen Street West in Parkdale. I had been craving tacos ever since our visit to Kensington Market the day before and this place certainly did not disappoint. It was very dark inside so I couldn't take any photos but wow the food was exquisite. We shared a plate of chips and dip as well as ordering two tacos each. I had one with beer battered fish, lime mayonnaise and raw vegetables, which, being very tangy and refreshing, was quite the opposite to the vegetarian option of creamy mushroom. Both were delicious in their own way and the meal was surprisingly filling! Of course, I was happy that I finally managed to get a decent priced drink - a glass of house wine costs just 6$ at Grand Electric. We left feeling extremely satisfied and well fed, which is exactly what we needed after a day trekking around Toronto.
FIND IT: 1330 Queen Street West
For me, any good city break is not complete without sampling at least one brunch spot. After a bit of Googling and discounting all of the ones specialising in meats, I thought The Federal sounded like the perfect place to grab a late brunch before heading to catch our bus home on Monday. Located in Little Portugal on Dundas Street West, The Federal serves brunch everyday between 9am and 3pm so even you late risers won't be missing out.
What particularly drew me to The Federal was their specialty - an interesting take on eggs benedict/florentine, which, let's face it, is always welcome. The 'Eggs Federal' consists of two poached eggs on an English muffin with kale (bacon available for non veggies) and topped with a delicious creamy tarragon mushroom mix. It was one of the best brunches I have ever had and next time I am in Toronto, I will be back in a flash.
FIND IT: 1438 Dundas Street West
WHERE TO SHOP
Whenever I visit a new city I love checking out what the independent and vintage shops have to offer. However, travelling with a shopping-phobic boyfriend means spreading it out over a few days or heading to an area that is not just about shopping. This is why Kensington Market is so great and should be a top destination for any shopaholic or non-shopaholic alike. As I mentioned earlier, the food options are out of this world, but having eateries mixed in with vintage and independent shops makes it somewhere I could easily hang out for a whole day. The vintage shops are mainly located along Kensington Avenue between Dundas Street West and Baldwin Street, a lovely strip that instantly transports you back a few decades. Although I did not shop “ in depth” here, there are definitely some real bargains to be found and if you are lucky, you’ll get to meet the adorable black cat named Catman who frequents many of the shops along the road.
As I mentioned above, we were staying above a vintage shop called Public Butter (love that name, don’t know why!). We had a good rummage on Sunday morning and I was surprised to see that the prices were decent, despite Toronto having a reputation of being cripplingly expensive. For 20$ you could bag yourself a pair of vintage Levi’s or a cute sixties/seventies dress, which is the same price as the vintage shops in Montreal so I was very impressed. Public Butter have a great selection of clothes for men and women as well as some home wear stuff displayed on the pavement outside. I didn’t buy anything but I did try on a cute dress in the changing rooms that were an old church confession booth! How cool!
FIND IT: 1290 Queen Street West
HOUSE OF VINTAGE
Opposite Public Butter – and a shop I could see from our Airbnb bedroom window – is House Of Vintage, a store with serious interior goals and a smaller yet equally good selection of men’s and women’s vintage clothing. Leaving Lewis basking in the morning sun, I popped in on Monday morning to have a good look around. I think I was more in the mood to just admire beautiful clothing than actually shop but I did try on some white vintage Levi’s (priced at 45$) that didn’t end up fitting. House Of Vintage has some really unique items – just look at those amazing silver boots! – and this section of Queen Street West is definitely worth a trip for these two vintage shops alone. And perhaps pop into Grand Electric Taqueria just up the road for some post shopping tacos.
FIND IT: 1239 Queen Street West
Phew you made it to the end of the post! Give yourself a pat on the back if you're still reading and go book a weekend away while you're inspired! I know it's been a long post but it essential to fit a lot in to city breaks and we certainly did in our 48 hours in Toronto. Of course, there are loads more things to see in Toronto - going up the CNN Tower and watching a gig or ball game at the Rogers Centre are a must but we did that on our first visit a few years ago - I cannot wait to be back!