From the trendiest restaurants and Instagram spots to the best shopping destinations, here’s where to eat, shop, stay and play in Toronto and Vancouver.
Girls, you have just unwittingly landed in the most amazing shopping destination, so let us break it down for you. Queen West, with its iconic graffitied walls, is where the cool kids hang (it also happens to be an Instagrammer’s heaven). Plus, Vogue named it one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, so you know it must have the goods. From Queen West, head to the King West Fashion District which was once the centre of Toronto’s textile industry. Now, the former factories with their soaring ceilings and white-washed walls play home to outlets and retailers. Word to the wise: if you want leather goods, this is the place to be. Bloor-Yorkville or “Mink Mile,” as it’s fondly known, is Toronto’s Rodeo Drive. This is where your credit card will get a real workout. Think Prada, Tiffany & Co., Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, and Hermès.
After you’re done scouring the stores, sit down for a well-earned drink and a bite to eat at Bar Raval. A sunset spritz at Drake Hotel’s Sky Yard rooftop and a look at the ever-revolving art exhibition is the best way to end the day. You can stay here, too. The Drake’s stylish little rooms are filled with bohemians, artists and indie musicians. Other notable mentions include bohemian luxe Grey Gardens (the type of place where you get buttery black truffle sauce), Chubby's, a colourful fish shack touted as the best Jamaican joint, and the no-frills Tennessee Tavern where you’ll be treated to the best Eastern European food in Toronto. Gusto 101, located in a former auto body shop, is a cosy neighbourhood stalwart rumoured to have the cheapest (and most delicious) house wine you’re likely to find.
Art & Culture
If museums get you excited you have the biggest one in Canada on your doorstep. The Royal Ontario Museum has everything from art to history, to all the -ology’s; archaeology, mineralogy, geology, palaeontology, zoology – I’m sure there’s more but you get the picture. There is also the Museum of Contemporary Art, better known as MoCA. This is not your average museum – think less quiet spaces of contemplation and more large and lively art haven. Then of course there is the Art Gallery of Ontario, one of the biggest art museums in North America. It’s where you’ll find one of the largest collections of Canadian art in the world as well as works from legendary artists like Rubens, Goya, Picasso, and Rembrandt.
We’re willing to bet that most yoga lovers would own activewear made right here in Vancouver. Activewear stalwart Lululemon was created in Vancouver in 1998. The empire started as a design studio by day and yoga studio by night and quickly grew a cult following. Eventually the premiere activewear brand became a standalone on West 4th Avenue in Vancouver’s trendy Kitsilano neighbourhood. What better place to stock-up on your athleisure wear than the place where it all began? After you’ve purchased at least six pairs of leggings, head to Reigning Champ for style-driven streetwear (in case you haven’t noticed, Vancouver is the capital of laid-back cool).
If you want to indulge in a little bit of luxury, Vancouver accom has you covered. Let’s start with the ultra-luxe L’Hermitage. Nestled in the heart of Vancouver, this Euro-chic, boutique hotel is not your average digs. We’re talking lavish guest homes, fully-equipped with high-end appliances and luxe comforts (Italian marble baths, anyone?) Then, you’ve got The Fairmont Pacific Rim which looks out over the Vancouver harbourfront. We recommend booking the Gold Harbour Mountain View room – you’ll wake up to an incredible view of Coal Harbour, Stanley Park and the snow-capped North Shore Mountains. Other notables include Skwachays Lodge, Canada’s first Indigenous arts hotel, the very fancy Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, and for something with a bit of heritage charm, the ivy-covered Sylvia Hotel with beachfront views. Of course, there are always some pretty epic, albeit less luxurious, Airbnb options, too.
Meat, wine and cheese – is there anything better? Salt Tasting Room specialises in artisan cheese, cured meats, and top-notch wines. The concept is simple – you pick from a rotating list of artisanal cheeses, cured meats and accompaniments, drink wine and enjoy. If you really want to eat local, head to paddock-to-plate restaurant Wildebeest. This is deliciously decadent yet simple country cooking at its finest. The menu focuses on local ingredients and the chefs work closely with surrounding farmers. Some of the newer kids on the block that offer a more relaxed vibe are Tocador – a fun, vibrant place for cocktails and Cuban eats - DD Mau in Chinatown, a local favourite dishing out delicious Vietnamese food, and Pepino's Spaghetti House, a creative reimagining of an old American-Italian spaghetti house.