You’d be forgiven if Toronto, Canada, was not at the top of your bucket-list destinations to visit. Averaging a 16h30m flight from South Africa, it’s not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump away. But Ontario’s capital city is one of, if not the most, multicultural cities in the world – with half of its population being born outside of Canada. It’s also host to one of the most anticipated events on the social calendar, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) – and during that September month, celebrities flock to ‘The 6ix’, draped in designer, to debut their latest cinematographic works and enjoy the city that has become known as ‘Hollywood North’ (in fact, SA’s very own rising star, Thuso Mbedu, was here debuting The Woman King just this past week).
It’s got culture, character, grit – and a multi-fusion of cuisines. And while Toronto doesn’t shout about its tourist attractions, it can be overwhelming to navigate this small-big eclectic city, as I found when I first relocated here a year ago – there is simply so much choice. Here, I’ll do my best to highlight the most exclusive and luxurious things to see and do should you find yourself in first-class eon route to Toronto Pearson Airport.
It will seriously be worth it.
Admittedly, this one is difficult. Toronto has one of the highest immigrant populations, and with it, a melting pot of delicious and diverse options to choose from. Thankfully, the Michelin Guide just added Toronto to its inaugural list this past week to help narrow things down.
Receiving two stars on the Michelin Guide Toronto, this is the best Japanese sushi joint in town. Situated in the affluent Yorkville neighbourhood, owner and chef Masaki Saito – who also garnered two Michelin stars during his time in New York – continues to wow with his seasonally curated omakase menu.
Coming in with one star on the Michelin Guide Toronto, this cosy locale is tucked away on Niagara Street in King West. With ever-changing, seasonal dishes that highlight local forage, the set multi-course menu is inspired by the Mediterranean – and a firm favourite to those in the city.
Also receiving its first Michelin star, Shoushin is the place where ‘simple’ sushi shines. Here, owner and head chef Jackie Lin continues his lifelong pursuit of authentic Japanese Edomae-style sushi, serving omakase set menus with products sourced almost exclusively from Japan.
Hollywood glamour oozes out of this Italian restaurant nestled off-street in Yorkville. With its fine-dining flair and understated luxury – it’s not surprising that the restaurant is frequented by celebrities. Having experienced the space myself, I attest – it’s worth every loonie spent.
Hungry for an authentic Egyptian fair? Head to Leslieville to try Maha’s breakfast and lunch options. While it didn’t receive any stars, it did feature on the Michelin Guide Toronto list. Having heard first-hand from Toronto locals, waiting in the long queue outside is worth it – go early.
Toronto has come out and said it, Khao San Road deserved a spot on the Michelin Guide. This affordable Thai favourite in the Entertainment District is worth shouting about – even Simu Liu gave it his nod of approval.
Notable mention: If you find yourself in the vibrant and trendy Queen West – and I hope you do – make sure you head down Ossington Avenue. Along the 3.5km strip, you’ll find a selection of fabulous spots loved by locals.
To see the full list of Michelin Starred restaurants in Toronto, click here.
Looking for adventure, or to immerse yourself in the city’s history, get busy with these.
- For the aesthete: The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), and the Art Gallery of Toronto (AGO), are must-visits for those looking to indulge in art and culture in the city.
- For shopping: Compared to Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive or New York’s Fifth Avenue, Bloor Street West’s ‘Mink Mile’ in Yorkville is where you’ll find some of the best shopping in the city. Think Gucci, Chanel, Hermés, and more.
- Go on a Cruise: During the summer, there is nothing better than to be out on the water. Charter a private yacht, and cruise along the waterfront while taking in the Toronto skyline from Lake Ontario.
- For the Adventurous: The CN Tower is Toronto’s most iconic landmark. At just over 550 metres tall, it’s not for the faint -hearted. The EdgeWalk is an exhilarating way to experience the Tower and its views – but if you’re not feeling so brave, take the high-speed elevator and fine dine at 360 Restaurant. You’ll also want to make sure you visit Canada’s most famous waterfall, Niagara Falls. Take an exclusive helicopter tour, and end your trip with a wine-tasting tour at one of the world-renowned Niagara vineyards.
- Walk: While there are many beautiful and lush gardens around Toronto, the enchanting Music Garden in Queens Quay – designed in collaboration with celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma and inspired by Bach – is one of the most special strolls in the city. With its live, free classical concerts in the summer, it’s the type of soulful luxury that money can’t buy.
Toronto is not short on luxurious spots to rest your head, here are some of the best.
- The Four Seasons: You know the name already, and its Toronto five-star flagship in Yorkville does not disappoint.
- The Ritz-Carlton Toronto: A stay at The Ritz? Say no more.
- Shangri-La Hotel: This five-star hotel, in one of Toronto’s tallest buildings, is a luxurious urban escape in the city.
- The Hazelton Hotel: Toronto’s first luxury boutique hotel in Yorkville with all the five-star finishings you desire.
- Fairmont Royal York: Located in the downtown core, the Royal York is a historic hotel boasting quintessential luxury. The Queen used to stay here, need we say more?
- Bisha Hotel: While this is a 4-star hotel, it’s a popular choice among celebrities. With an entire floor, The Yves, designed by Lenny Kravitz’s design studio – it is, quite literally, fit for a rockstar.
Make note: Nobu Hotels has set its sights on Toronto, with Nobu Residences, Hotel, and Restaurant expected to open in the summer of 2023 – this will mark the group’s first foray into Canada.