When we were in Toronto, Mike and I wanted to explore their different and diverse neighborhoods. So between being shameless tourists at CN Tower and Casa Loma, we biked, walked and took the train around the city. It was probably my favorite part of our time there, getting around and getting a feel for each area. I wish we could have gotten to more of the neighborhoods in Toronto, but I think we were able to see a good amount given the time that we had.
We came to the Bloordale Village neighborhood solely to check out a bookstore called Monkey’s Paw, which I heard was really cool. The store specialized in rare and unusual books and had everything from old medical texts to books of maps to beautiful editions of classic novels. They have a book vending machine that spits out old books for a $2 (CAD) coin. It’s amazing and Mike and I each got one. We were intending to move on to the next neighborhood, but the store next to Monkey’s Paw, Zebuu, drew us in with it’s colorful prints and cozy home goods.
From there, we were hooked by each store we passed. We stopped into a record store that Mike really enjoyed called Dead Dog Records. They had an excellent selection of well-kept albums from all imaginable genres. Next door to this records shop was a heavenly thrift shop called Ransack the Universe. This store had mountains of old books, cameras, records and jewelry that were perfect for rummaging. Once we had our fill of the shops, we stopped into Duffy’s Tavern for a beer and some lunch. The restaurant had an oak bar that ran the length of the wall with plenty of bars on tap and football and soccer games on the TVs behind it. We split and order of poutine (yum!) and BLTs.
The Distillery District is a pedestrian only neighborhood with cobblestone streets and beautiful old brick buildings. Mike and I walked in and out of the stores and galleries, all of which were a little pricey but they had some really cute stuff! There were a few that I really liked, including a clothing boutique called GotStyle and a gift store called Black Bird Vintage Finds. There were quite a few wedding photo shoots happening while we were in the neighborhood, especially by a an iron sign that said LOVE with love locks all over it. It was so dang cute.
After making the rounds, we decided to move back to Spirit of York for a flight of house-distilled vodka, gin and aquafit. The distillery was very chic, all copper, chrome and glass inside. We chose two leather chairs to sink into and taste test our spirits. They were very flavorful and light, but I still had to chug water after each one. I’m not yet sophisticated enough to drink straight gin.
Mike and I biked to Kensington Market from Bloordale Village, along main streets and through a gorgeous neighborhood with tree-lined streets. Originally, I was opposed to this idea, but Mike convinced me that it would be fun to try out Toronto’s bike share (much like Chicago’s Divvy Bikes). I ended up loving it, which made me wonder why I’ve never done it before. Regardless, we were able to return our bikes near Kensington Market, where we were instantly hit by the smell of nagchampa. We turned onto one of the main streets of the neighborhoods and entered a colorful world of thrift stores, head shops and cafes. It was reminiscent of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. We stopped into a cafe there called Fika for some caffeine, and I tried their Canadian Spiced Latte, which was flavored with cardamom and mint. It was delicious, and the cafe was gorgeous. We took our coffees to go and strolled through the crowded streets. I have to say, this neighborhood’s street art was on point. Each alley wall was covered with colorful depictions of people and places
Among the secondhand stores and jewelry stalls (which were fun to browse through, but kind of blended together after a while) were some true gems. There was The Organic Press, a juicery that also sold beautiful potted plants and ceramics, and Paradise Bound, a record store that also sold Japanese art. These among others are a solid reason to visit this neighborhood and immerse yourself in it’s crazy, colorful vibes.
Leslieville was my favorite neighborhood of the trip for good reason. Their cute boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants were a dream to pop in and out of. We started off the day having breakfast at Lady Marmalade’s, a cute, brightly-lit cafe that served breakfast and lunch. I had the bread pudding of the day, which was apple cinnamon (dessert for breakfast, hooray!) and Mike had the huevos migos. The food was excellent and the coffee was served in mismatched cups and saucers. We sat at a table by the window and the sun was nice and warm, creating a cozy, golden atmosphere that was hard to leave. The rest of our time spent in Leslieville had a similar effect. We walked up one side of Queen Street and down the other on orange leaf covered sidewalks. Good Neighbor was the first shop we went into and it set the bar pretty high for all the others. It marketed itself as a general store, selling a little bit of everything (including, but not limited to: clothing, home goods, paper goods and jewelry). I loved their Up North brand, which had the warmest looking knit hats.
We went to Queen books next, which was a beautifully curated and whimsically decorated wonderland. Each display was so thoughtful and the staff picks (something I totally judge bookstores on) were spectacular. I wish I could say we bought something, but we had too many books in our luggage already. There are two Arts Market storefronts in Leslieville, and we went into them both. They are collectives of local art and antiques and they are both amazing. I particularly loved the feminist enamel pins and the plastic dinosaur planters. We went into a few more stores before our parking meter was up, but the standout of the day was Brika. I loved everything they had in their beautiful shop, especially their prints and paper goods (am I the only one who will buy ten planners in a year because they’re each so great??). I left with a cute pair of earrings and the info for their online store, which does indeed ship to the States.
Have you explored the neighborhoods in Toronto? Which is your favorite?
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