As a Toronto local, neighborhood hopping is one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday afternoon in the city. In this Toronto guide, I’m covering the best neighborhoods in Toronto to visit as a local, or as a tourist!
If you’re spending just a weekend in Toronto, or have more time to explore, experiencing a few of the best neighborhoods in Toronto is a must.
Most of them have a distinct vibe and claim to fame. Because the city is so well connected by public transport, you can easily hop by streetcar or subway from one neighborhood to another, and explore each one on foot.
Table of contents: ()
- 10 of the Best Neighborhoods in Toronto
- Why is Toronto Called “The Six”?
- Getting Around Toronto
- Explore the Best Neighborhoods in Toronto
10 of the Best Neighborhoods in Toronto
Below, I’ve highlighted 10 of the best neighborhoods in Toronto and included some of the spots you must check out when you visit them.
This famous Toronto neighborhood is known for its laid-back, artsy vibe. It’s long been one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto! And, it’s a designated National Historic Site of Canada. In Kensington Market, you’ll find eclectic shops, vintage clothing stores, ethnic restaurants, bars, street food, artisan markets, street performers, and street art.
At the north end of Augusta Avenue in Kensington is an oddity that’s been an icon of the neighborhood for years: the garden car. This repurposed car can be seen in the summer bursting with foliage.
Plants grow out through the roof, doors, windows, and trunk. The garden car is a piece of public art and is considered a statement of protest against the damage that cars cause to the environment.
Spots to check out in Kensington Market:
- Wanda’s Pie in the Sky for pies and other delicious sweets.
- Rasta Pasta for Jamaican-Italian fusion fare.
- Pow Wow Cafe for Indigenous Canadian cuisine.
- Ronnie’s Local 069 or Thirsty and Miserable for a craft beer.
- Cafe Pamenar for a cup of coffee or tea.
- Golden Patty for delicious Jamaican patties.
Harbourfront is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the most southern neighborhood of Toronto, a long stretch of urban lakefront at the edge of Toronto’s downtown core. It’s known as a particularly touristy neighborhood but for good reason. Walking along the waterfront you’ll have beautiful views of Lake Ontario.
From the Harbourfront, you can catch ferry connections to the Toronto Islands. And in the summer months, Harbourfront has many community activities and free concerts. You’ll also find urban parks, trails, and restaurants. This is one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto for watching the sunset over the lake!
Spots to check out at Toronto’s Harbourfront:
- Amsterdam Brewery for some local craft beers. Sit on their waterfront patio for views of the lake.
- HTO park for sunbathing and people watching, and the famous waterfront wave decks, a collection of curvy docks.
- Harbourfront Centre is the neighborhood’s arts and culture hub.
- Jack Layton Ferry Terminal is where you can catch the ferry to the Toronto Islands. You’ll have incredible views of the cityscape from the ferry deck.
Chinatown has historically been home to immigrants from Hong Kong and China. It’s one of the largest Chinatowns in North America, with a history dating back to the late 1870s, when the first Chinese business opened there. It’s one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto to explore on foot because you can pop into various shops and wander by street vendors. This is also the best area for Asian cuisine! You’ll find Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese food, and more.
Most businesses in the neighborhood, including medical centers and banks, offer services in Chinese languages, and you’ll notice that street signs in Chinatown include Cantonese. The stretch of Spadina Street at the core of Chinatown is typically busy during the day with local shoppers visiting street markets.
Spots to check out in Chinatown:
- Art Gallery of Ontario is on the edge of Chinatown and displays a variety of genres, including the works of emerging First Nations artists.
- Bau-Xi Gallery is one of Canada’s top commercial art galleries featuring Canadian and international artists.
- Tap Phong Trading Company is actually a cookware and dinnerware supplier, they provide many of Toronto’s restaurants with their wares. But, I love browsing this shop for little gems like unique water jugs and gorgeous pots for my house plants.
The Village (Church and Wellesley)
Toronto’s Gay Village, known by Torontonians as The Village is the historic home of the city’s LGBTQ+ community. Every July, the neighborhood comes alive in celebration of Toronto Pride. Throughout the month there are pride parties as well as important activist-oriented events.
Aside from being an inclusive neighborhood, The Village is one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto to explore on foot. Drop by The Village to sit in cafes, enjoy the area’s many restaurants, pop into local shops, and enjoy evening entertainment, and nightlife.
Spots to check out in The Village:
- Buddies in Bad Times Theatre has a year-round program that includes a full season of queer theatre, festivals, artist residencies, and intergenerational training and education initiatives.
- Crews & Tangos nightclub is a safe and inclusive spot for drag shows.
- Pegasus Comedy is your spot for queer-friendly comedy nights.
- Hair of the Dog Pub is a good spot for craft beer and pub fare, or visit Smith for French fare.
Queen Street West
Queen West is known for being a trendy and hip enclave of Toronto, and many people think of it as one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto. It’s a popular shopping district, so you’ll find many boutiques, as well as tattoo shops, restaurants, and bars. This is the perfect neighborhood for an afternoon walk.
Pop into some shops, enjoy a cocktail or a coffee, and swing by Trinity Bellwoods Park to hang out in the grass. To snap some Instagram-worthy pictures, take a stroll through the famous graffiti alley.
Spots to check out on Queen Street West:
- The Cure Apothecary specializes in all-natural beauty products.
- Drake General Store sells Canadiana-themed artisanal products and gifts.
- At Le Labo, you can create personalized fragrances for candles, lotions, and more.
- Grab a coffee from Early Bird Espresso.
- Drom Taberna for a drink and Eastern European fare.
- On Third Thought for gelato and wine.
King West Village
King West used to be an industrial neighborhood, but now it’s known as the trendy, upscale spot to go for rooftop patio drinks, a fancy dinner, or an evening of drinking. In fact, it’s sometimes called the SoHo of Toronto. This is one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto for a night out!
King West is always bustling with activity, and it’s well located within the city. On King West, you have access to streetcars, and you’re close to lovely Toronto spots like Trinity Bellwoods Park, and Toronto’s waterfront.
Spots to check out in King West Village:
- Cibo Wine Bar and Portland Variety are both good choices for dinner.
- Bar Hop is a lively spot where you can try various craft beers.
- The Citizen is a good spot for dancing.
The Distillery District
The Distillery District is a historic neighborhood that was once home to a large whiskey distillery called the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. The distillery was founded in 1832 and by 1860 was the world’s largest whiskey distillery. But by 1990, the distillery had shut down and the area was just empty lots until it was revitalized in the early 2000s.
Today, the Distillery District is one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto because it’s gorgeous. The neighborhood has industrial 19th-century architecture, cobblestone streets, and St. Lawrence Market, an indoor public market that has artisanal shops and plenty of food stalls.
The Distillery District is pedestrian-only, which makes it the perfect area to wander on foot. You’ll find hip indie restaurants, boutiques, galleries, and public art. If you are in Toronto during December, check out the Distillery District’s famous Christmas Market.
Spots to check out in the Distillery District:
- Ontario Spring Water Sake Company is eastern North America’s first sake brewery.
- The Gooderham Building is known as Toronto’s “Flatiron” building.
Yorkville and The Annex
Yorkville and The Annex are adjacent neighborhoods, and the best neighborhoods in Toronto to go to for high-end shopping. On Bloor Street in Yorkville, there’s a stretch of shopping where you’ll find international luxury stores like Louis Vuitton and Hermès, some department stores, and many boutiques. Yorkville and The Annex are also home to the University of Toronto.
Although this area of Toronto has a chic reputation, it makes this list of best Toronto neighborhoods because there’s plenty to do in the area. The Bata Shoe Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum are there. And, its proximity to the University of Toronto means there are many coffee shops, galleries, and bookstores to look through, in fact, Toronto’s favorite bookstore, the BMV Toronto, is nearby.
Spots to visit in Yorkville and The Annex:
- Hemingways’s Restaurant and Bar has great food, drinks, and a patio.
- Sorry Coffee Co. for specialty drinks and fancy latte art.
- Bloor Hot Docs Cinema to catch a documentary film.
The Entertainment District
The Entertainment District is the core of Toronto and one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto for tourists. This area of the city is a hub of activities and experiences.
You’ll find the famous CN Tower in the Entertainment District. It’s a freestanding building that functions as a communications and observation tower. But it actually also held the record for the tallest building in the world from 1975 to 2009. The tower has a couple of different viewing decks, including a glass floor so you can look straight down!
The CN Tower also has a high-altitude restaurant. Or do the “Edge Walk,” where you’ll be suited up in gear and a harness so you can circle the exposed top of the 1167-foot-high building.
While in the Entertainment District, it’s also worth popping into Union Station to admire the architecture and beautiful interiors. In 1975, Union Station was designated a National Historic Site of Canada because it’s a beautiful example of the classical Beaux-Arts style.
Spots to check out in the Entertainment District:
- Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club for some laughs.
- Steamwhistle Brewery to tour the brewery and taste some beers.
- Toronto International Film Festival for daily film screenings.
- Ripley’s Aquarium to see underwater creatures.
This east Toronto neighborhood is named for the cabbages that were grown in the area when Irish immigrants first arrived in the city. Today, the neighborhood is famous for being the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in all of North America, which makes it one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto to explore!
When wandering Cabbagetown, keep an eye out for original buildings. Many of them have been well-preserved, which makes for a beautiful streetscape that has tons of large old trees, gated yards, and Victorian architecture. You’ll notice that Victorian homes in Cabbagetown are incredibly narrow!
Aside from enjoying the architecture of Cabbagetown, you can head to Riverdale Farm, which is open every day, and totally free to visit. The farm also connects to the trails of Toronto’s beautiful ravine system.
Spots to check out in Cabbagetown:
- Sukhotai for delicious Thai food.
- Jet Fuel, one of Toronto’s oldest independent coffee shops.
- Grinning Face Gelato for dairy-free gelato.
- Catch live music or a show at The Phoenix.
Why is Toronto Called “The Six”?
You’ve probably heard Toronto referenced as “the six” or “the 6ix.” This name for the city refers to the six municipalities that made up Metro Toronto before it was amalgamated in 1998. The name also references Toronto’s first official area code, which was 416.
The 6ix was popularized in 2015 by Toronto-born artist Drake, who referred to the city as The 6ix in one of his songs. But actually, Drake didn’t come up with this name. Local Toronto rappers, Jimmy Prime and Oliver North were the actual creators of the term.
Getting Around Toronto
If you’re doing some neighborhood hopping in Toronto, you’ll probably need some help getting around! While a lot of the city is walkable, some of the best neighborhoods in Toronto that are covered in this guide are a fair distance away from each other. Here’s how you can get around the city.
Take the TTC
Torontonians (and visitors!) mostly use the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to get around the city. The TTC includes subway trains, streetcars, and buses, all of which connect riders quickly to all of Toronto’s downtown neighborhoods. To use the TTC head to any station to buy a day pass, weekend pass, or weekly pass to use. And, be sure to download a TTC app to your phone for schedules and trip planning.
Cycle around Toronto
Cycling is a great way to explore the best neighborhoods in Toronto! Bike Share Toronto provides rentable bikes that you can grab from outdoor stations that are all over the city. You can use your credit card to rent bicycles from these stations for unlimited 30-minute trips. Download the bike share app for a map of all the stations where you can grab and drop of a bike.
Grab a taxi, Uber, or Lyft
Taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts are always available in Toronto. I find that Uber and Lyft are usually cheaper than cabs, but cabs are reliable and safe too, and sometimes it’s faster to get picked up if you flag a taxi in the street. The main taxi companies in Toronto are City Taxi, Beck Taxi, and Co-op Cabs. Most taxis take payment by credit card as well as cash.
Rent a car
For total independence, rent a car to get you to the best neighborhoods in Toronto. One thing to note is that Toronto has lots of traffic, and parking can be expensive. If that’s ok with you, a rented car is very convenient and also makes it possible for you to go on an Ontario road trip from Toronto.
Explore the Best Neighborhoods in Toronto
You can really feel the differences between Toronto’s neighborhoods, which gives you a sense of the diversity of the city. Whether you swing by Queen West to relax in the famous Trinity Bellwoods Park, or head to the east end to see Cabbagetown’s Victorian architecture, you’ll have a wonderful time.
While exploring Toronto’s neighborhoods, just be sure to be a responsible tourist. Do your best to support local businesses, engage with local people, and choose sustainable options whenever they’re available.