Around the World Walking Tour
How fast can you circumnavigate the globe? Forget 80 days—in Toronto you can do it in a mere 80 minutes (give or take). These neighborhoods are food-centric, so start out hungry.
Start on Chinatown's periphery with a photo op. Three of the city's most recognizable buildings are visible here: the whimsically modernist Sharp Centre for Design, the CN Tower in the distance, and the Frank Gehry–designed Art Gallery of Ontario. Move west to the Chinese Bakery and fuel up with sticky rice cakes and salty pork cookies. Ten Ren Tea is a favorite for bubble tea, milk tea, and traditional green tea. The intersection of Dundas and Spadina is one of the busiest in the city. The Royal Bank of Canada building here has a colorful history. Opened as a Yiddish theater in 1921, it became a burlesque theater and then a Chinese-language cinema before closing in the 1990s. All along Spadina, sidewalks spill over with bins of exotic fruit and dried fish, stacks of rattan baskets, and racks of inexpensive clothing. Slip into Tap Phong Tranding Co. Inc. where you’ll find aisles of rice bowls and bamboo steamers; it supplies dining ware to many of the area’s restaurants. Chinese restaurants are plentiful, but Thailand, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam are also represented. For a full meal of noodles, try Swatow, and for inexpensive dim sum at any time of day (or night), drop into Rol San.
Cross Spadina to the global marketplace of Kensington Market, via St. Andrew Street. In the early 20th century this was an overwhelmingly Jewish neighborhood; one of the few remnants is the 1930 Minsk Synagogue. Over half the shops on Kensington Avenue are vintage—take your pick, but the mother of them all is the 38-year-old Courage My Love. Then plunk yourself down on Fika’s perfect patio for a coffee. Deeper into the market you’ll find the choice of eatables overwhelming—how about a roast beef dinner between two slices of bread from Sanagan’s Meat Locker or a "double" (chickpea sandwich) from Caribbean Patty King? An empanada from Jumbo Empenada will let you on to their patio, which is a great place to watch the carnival go round on the market’s busiest block. Up the street there are unique gifts at Good Egg and the Blue Banana; wood-fired bagels at Nu Bügel; and fresh-squeezed juice at Urban Herbivore.
On the Continent
Along College Street, the freneticism peters out. Pop into She Said Boom to browse the collection of second-hand fiction, philosophy and vinyl, then head to the deliberately disheveled Manic Coffee to review your finds. Head farther west past Bathurst along College and you'll hit Little Italy. At Clinton, you'll find Café Diplomatico, a Little Italy institution since 1968: its sidewalk patio is a great place to chill with a Peroni or granita. Sadly, espresso isn't its forte. The Italian bakeries, restaurants, and gelato shops multiply closer to the heart of Little Italy, around College and Grace streets. End your cultural tour with a taste of Portugal: a traditional pastel de nata (custard pastry) at Nova Era.