I recently flew out to Toronto, Canada with Tourism Toronto to attend Toronto Fashion Week and discover the city. Whenever I make my way to North America, I usually head to New York, Chicago or LA but this year it has been more of Canada. I was in Montreal this Summer for two weeks and a half & wanted to extend and I was just in Toronto and currently experiencing post Toronto depression. As soon as I touched down in Toronto, I fell in love. My first impression was a much cleaner and safer version of New York City, but there was obviously much more than that. People might not really associate Fashion with Toronto but the top fashion website, The Coveteur is based in Canada, Supermodel Daria Werbowy is from Canada and the chic department store Holt Henfrew is from Canada too. They also have the heart throbs Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds and Justin Bieber!They have their own Toronto Fashion Week and a Toronto Fashion Incubator to support their up and coming talent. Planning a trip during Toronto fashion week is highly recommended – you can check out the tents, a few shows as well as discover the city. One of the things I really fell in love with was the character of the city – every restaurant, hair salon, bar, lounge I went to had it’s own character which is difficult to find these days with all the mass brands we have. I loved the city so much, I need to plan my next trip because I’m sure there was a lot more to discover but check out my guide of the city below…
STAY: Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square
I’m a sucker for boutique hôtels. On this trip, I stayed at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in Toronto, owned by Montreal based Hotel group, Germain. The gem is located in the heart of the city – right next to Air Canada centre – there was a Knicks/Raptors and hockey game during my stay. I also didn’t have to leave the hotel if I wanted coffee (Starbucks) or groceries because there was a complex right below the hotel – Perfect in time for when the temperatures were dropping in Toronto. The hotel was comfortable and spacious for a city hotel with super modern designs – from the wood, linen to the natural light. The Hotel has 167 rooms, all with open showers – peekaboo showers? and an athlete canvas board right over the bed to give the hotel a sport element being right next to Air Canada centre.
+Super sweet staff.
+24 hours coffee & hot chocolate at the lounge.
+Green apples and filtered water on every floor.
+The ease of picking up coffee in the mornings.
-The breakfast wasn’t that great – wish there was more variety and fresh food.
FRESH LUNCH: Sassafraz
Located in the heart of Yorkville (a street worth checking out while you’re in town – they have a number of great boutiques as well as a Lululemon!) I headed earlier than my lunch to grab a cup of coffee whilst checking my emails on my iPhone. Sassafraz have a cafe section as well as a section to have a sit down lunch. I have never had a larger, more delicious latte than the one at Sassafraz – there was no better way to start my lunch than sitting in natural light with the view of Yorkville, drinking a delicious cup of coffee and having wifi. Once the rest of my group arrived, we moved to the restaurant section. The menu at Sassafraz isn’t exactly vast but there is definitely something for everyone – interesting salads, chicken, beef, fish… you name it. Knowing I had dinner, I skipped dessert but I must try the Churros that looked very tempting. Service was superb.
TERRACE DINNER: The Fifth Grill
As soon as I arrived to Toronto, I went for a power nap then headed for early dinner at The Fifth Grill. Located on the rooftop of an old warehouse, and taken up to the restaurant reception in a private manual elevator, I was in for a treat. Cosy, feels like a home with tables on the terrace and indoors – it was chilly, but the heaters made sure we weren’t at all uncomfortable. As a French inspired steakhouse, the menu features a range of steaks and seafood with a fabulous view of the skyline.
BISTRO: La Societe
As soon as I arrived to La Societe, I felt like I was at NYC’s famous French Bistro, Balthazars. But no, this was Toronto’s very own chic Bistro, La Societe. Located on Bloor street, this was a restaurant you had to be at for the ultimate wine and dine.
LOUNGE: Amber lounge
I’m not the biggest clubber, so I enjoy going out to lounges at night. For my first night, we headed to Amber Lounge in Yorkville, which was an cozy, all white, dimly lit outdoor terrace lounge with heaters. It was happening, with a range of 20-30 year olds in groups or just as couples for an intimate night out.
Originally from Montreal, another great nightlife option we headed to was Buonanotte. Located in the Entertainment district on Mercer street, this is the place to go for delicious Italian dinner, and then to stay till it turns into a club. Personally, I found it super chic and the music was great.
During my stay, I visited one night club – F-Stop. Located in an alley, the club feels like an underground gem and it really is. If you’re up for a full fledged night out, this is the club to visit. Spacious, great Rnb music, and the sofas have a little compartment for handbags (genius… just make sure you watch over them.)
Every day, I’d visit great restaurants for lunch and great ones for dinner. We went to Lee for dinner as a group on one of the nights. They had luscious cocktails and a vast menu list – just don’t leave without trying their cheese burger spring rolls. They really do taste like cheeseburger bites.
SANDWICH SHOP: Banh Mi Boys
If this wasn’t recommended by a friend, I probably wouldn’t have gone inside for quick lunch. Vietnamese sub sandwiches and tacos with asian tastes – different to anything I’ve ever tried but worth going if you’re in Toronto. They also serve Cherry and Vanilla Coca colas and Go for the Kalbi beef.
BURGER: The Burger’s Priest
For my readers who love burgers – this is a place to keep at the top of your burger restaurant list. They call themselves Toronto’s American Burger Joint. They have the freshest meat, a secret menu, and a burger that tastes even better than the big mac. Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe calls their burgers the best burger he’s ever had, and it was definitely one of the best I’ve ever had.
VISIT: The Distillery Historic District
Whilst I was in Toronto, I went for a Distillery District tour – which is both a historic and entertainment place to visit in Toronto. We did a historic tour of the site learning about the district which opened in the 1830’s, and played a large role in the city’s history. There was an explosion and it was reborn a few years ago. Now, they have cafes, boutiques, restaurants, and pubs to name a few. During the tour, we got to experience a beer and chocolate tasting. If you’re planning on doing some culture whilst you’re in town, this is one to sign up for.
LUNCH WITH A VIEW: 360 restaurant at the CN Tower
Did you know that before the Burj Khalifa, the CN tower was the tallest free standing building? There was no way I was going to go to Toronto, and not check it out. Even better, I booked in for lunch at the revolving restaurant at the top. The food isn’t exactly that great, but it was definitely an experience and there isn’t anything better than having lunch with a great view. PS beware, you’re also paying for that experience.
TOUR: Lake Ontario Harbour tour
If you’re around the CN tower area, you must also book in for an hour long Harbour tour. It’s beautiful and a lovely way to spend your morning with a friend or two. Learn more about the city, and check out what’s around Lake Ontario.
BLOWDRY BAR: Blo Yorkville
I mean blow dry bars originated from North America so I had to check out an original blow-dry bar whilst I was in town. Blo has got to be one of the largest – it’s all over North America right now and started off in Canada. Hair on the go, you choose from a menu of 7 hairstyles and get a wash and blow-dry service. The products they use range from Unite and moroccan oil hair products. I loved my hair, I was done in 45 minutes, the service is fab and the concept & colours are great. All you do is book, and go for that blo. You even get an email confirmation and reminder. PS I visited the one in Yorkville, but they are all around the city.
BEAUTY: Hair on the Avenue
Beauty treatments under one roof? You must check out Hair on the avenue. One of the most beautiful salons I’ve ever been to… They have a ton of beauty services with a bunch of talented staff. Art deco, cool wall papers, 1930’s inspired, the salon use Kerastase and Kevin Murphy products. I got a wavy blow out done, and left feeling fresh with voluminous big hair. Hair on the Avenue is also the top place celebrities visit to get their hair done.
QUICK EAT: Al Haddad Bakery
Just incase you were craving good Arabic Manaeesh. Living in Dubai with the traditional Lebanese bakeries or in London, where there’s an Arabic restaurant on every corner – I must say this has got to be the best Lebanese bakery (which is actually a factory that distributes across the city.) I’ve been to so far. On the way to the falls, we picked up some breakfast for the Niagra Road trip.
ATTRACTION: Ripley’s Aquarium
If you have kids with you, you’re an underwater lover, or just up for an exciting attraction – Ripley’s Aquarium is one to check out. You get to view sharks as if you were on a boat seeing sharks over the water, you get to touch sharks and see the most beautiful jelly fish, and other sea creatures you’ve probably never heard of.
SUGAR RUSH: Momofuku Milk Bar from NYC
When I found out Momofuku Milk Bar from NYC opened in Toronto, their first branch outside the US – I made sure it was one of the first places I headed to. Right above the Momofuku noodle bar at the Shangri-La hotel, this is your pit stop for the best desserts. I would do anything for those Birthday Cake truffles.
ROAD TRIP: Niagra Falls
If you have a free full day, use it for a road trip to Niagra Falls. Around an hour and a half away from the city, There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing the three waterfalls and mist between the borders of the United States and Canada. If you have extra time, make sure to pop by the Hot sauce shop, the casinos, and even grab lunch or dinner around at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse.
BEEF BRISKET: Black Camel
I’ve never had a Beef Brisket sandwich before, but this was possibly one of the best things I had during my trip. Nothing special about the place, but the sweetest staff and the best sandwich bar you could image… Located on Crescent road, make sure to order the Beef Brisket with Charamoula Mayo & Arugula.
VINTAGE STOP: The Cat’s Meow & I miss you
Little did I know Toronto was filled with Vintage boutiques with rare finds. You can find stores with high end rare Chanel and Hermes pieces to chic thrift shop finds. I went on a vintage tour with a personal shopper during my stay to view several vintage stores across the city – I fell in love with two, that are definitely worth visiting if you appreciate vintage pieces. The Cat’s Meow & I miss you on Ossington.