Canada Toronto, ON
Destination: Toronto Chic
A shopping tour of three neighborhoods in Canada's capital of cool
BY HILARY DAVIDSON | PHOTOGRAPHY BY STACEY BRANDFORD
Contemporary art at the Corkin Gallery; Kumari's Indian earrings; cutting-edge footwear at John Fluevog.
Toronto is an intriguing mix of old and new. Stroll through the downtown core of Canada’s largest city and you’ll discover Georgian and Victorian buildings alongside cutting-edge modern design such as the recent Frank Gehry renovation to the Art Gallery of Ontario. The shopping scene reflects this duality: It’s a favorite hunting ground for collectors of antiques and vintage clothes, and it also offers the best of contemporary international and local talent. Here are three great neighborhoods for browsing and buying. Just don’t be surprised if you return with something old and something new.

YORKVILLE
In the 1960s, Neil Young sang in Yorkville coffee shops; today, there’s an elegant hotel (the Hazelton) with a “Neil Young Room.” Toronto’s answer to Haight-Ashbury long ago morphed into the epitome of consumer chic, with romantic alleys, outdoor art and charming bistros.

Your first stop should be Teatro Verde (98 Yorkville Ave.; 416-966-2227; teatroverde.com), in a renovated Georgian mansion. “They have everything from garden accents to perfect hostess gifts to serious furniture pieces,” says Michael Penney, style editor at Canadian House & Home magazine. Besides stationery, wrapping paper and bath products, there’s even a section for pets. “They also do the city’s best floral arrangements,” says Penney.

Another gem is William Ashley (55 Bloor St. W.; 416-964-2900; williamashley.com), which specializes in fine china. Across the street sits Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor St. W.; 416-922-2333; holtrenfrew.com), selling men’s and women’s clothing by Canadian and international designers. The second-floor spa has some of the best masseurs in the city.

Smaller must-see boutiques include Augustina (5 Old York Lane; 416-922-4248; augustinaboutiques.com) for a mix of designer handbags, shoes, lingerie and shiny trinkets. Visit Divine Decadence Originals (128 Cumberland St.; 416-324-9759) for vintage gowns with labels like Lanvin and Chanel, all in mint condition. Kumari’s (94 Cumberland St.; 416-324-9830; kumaris.ca) stocks vibrant pashminas, scarves, jackets and jewelry from Nepal, India and China.

Yorkville also has budget-minded shops. Jeanne Lottie (32 Scollard St.; 416-975-5115; jeannelottie.com) sells stylishly beaded and embroidered bags for $100 or less; Winners (110 Bloor St. W.; 416-920-0193) offers designer clothing at deep discounts.

THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT
The Victorian red-brick buildings of this sprawling pedestrian-only complex just east of downtown (at 55 Mill St.) once housed Canada’s largest distillery. Later, it made a dramatic setting for movies such as Chicago and X-Men. Then, in 2003, the area was reinvented as a destination for fine food and one-of-a-kind boutiques.

Chief among the current attractions is the Corkin Gallery (416-979-1980; corkingallery.com), which showcases photographs and paintings by contemporary artists from around the world, including Irving Penn, William Christenberry and Wang Qingsong. For works by emerging international artists, check out the Gibsone Jessop Gallery (416-360-6800; gibsonejessop.com). Thanks to its curatorial offices in Beijing and Chongqing, it offers works by young artists you won’t find elsewhere. The comparatively tiny RedEye Studio Gallery (416-366-3393; redeyestudiogallery.com) fills its 300-square-foot space with paintings and sculptures by Toronto artists.
 
In fact, every shop in the Distillery District has its own artistic sensibility. Take Corktown Designs (416-861-3020; corktowndesigns.com), a jewelry store where every piece, be it silver, brass or plastic, is handcrafted. Bergo Designs (416-861-1821; bergo.ca) celebrates high-style housewares­—think quirky Alessi egg-timers and Luca Trazzi’s famous espresso machine—as well as watches designed by Frank Gehry. Taste the amazing fleur du sel caramels at Soma Chocolatemaker (416-815-7662; somachocolate.com), where large interior windows let you watch the truffles being made.

Part of the charm of the Distillery District is that there’s an ever-changing list of things to see and do. On warm days, count on outdoor music: perhaps jazz horns one day, fiddlers from the Maritimes the next. For upcoming events, check thedistillerydistrict.com.

WEST QUEEN WEST
As the march of downtown gentrification continues west on Queen Street, this prime strip of real estate has sprouted a growing list of intriguing boutiques. Take a taxi to Queen West and Roncesvalles Avenue, on the area’s western edge, to check out the antiques stores where Toronto’s designers and stylists shop. Arcadia Antiques (1702 Queen St. W.; 416-534-0348; arcadiaantiques.ca) has “everything from Mid-Century Modern to things your grandparents would love,” says Michael Penney. “Check out the basement for well-priced finds; I’ve bought chairs, chandeliers and candlesticks there.”
 
Two more of Penney’s hunting grounds: Queen West Antique Centre (1605 Queen St. W.; 416-588-2212) for Mid-Century and industrial pieces, old leather sofas and quirky maps; and tiny Era (1629 Queen St. W.; 416-535-3305) for refined, feminine pieces.

Head a few blocks east for fashion finds. Thieves Boutique (1156 Queen St. W.; 647-435-4880; thieves.ca) is a loft-like space filled with Canadian-designed suits and casual wear for women and men. A veteran Canadian designer sells his femme fatale evening wear at Brian Bailey (875 Queen St. W.; 416-516-7188; brianbaileydesign.com). Gorgeous vintage clothing, mostly for women, can be had at Cabaret (672 Queen St. W.; 416-504-7126; cabaretvintage.com). Preloved (881 Queen St. W.; 416-504-8704; preloved.ca) is known for its environmentally conscious fashion: Vintage fabrics are reclaimed, restyled and reinvented into special pieces (Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson have been spotted here).

A long walk (or short cab ride) east is John Fluevog (242 Queen St. W.; 416-581-1420; fluevog.com), famous for designing footwear for Madonna. His stylish shoes are surprisingly comfortable—so you might make this your first stop on your Toronto shopping spree.


EAT

GILEAD CAFÉ & BISTRO
Close to the Distillery District and open for
breakfast, lunch and dinner. Jamie Kennedy,
one of Toronto’s best chefs, prepares dishes
made from whatever was fresh at the market
that day. 4 Gilead Pl.; 647-288-0680; lunch
for two, $75*


MADELINE'S
Chef Susur Lee is considered a Toronto treasure.
At his elegant restaurant, named for Lee’s mother,
main courses are priced at $17–$26, making this
an affordable indulgence. 601 King St. W. (just
south of Queen St. W.);
416-603-2205; lunch for
two, $70


PURE SPIRITS OYSTER BAR & GRILL
Unfussy yet elegant, this Distillery District spot
serves salads, sandwiches, pasta and fish & chips,
as well as fresh seafood. In warm weather, sit on
the patio to hear the street musicians. 55 Mill St.;
416-361-5859; lunch for two, $55


SWAN
It may remind you of a retro soda fountain—
there’s even a vintage Coke cooler—but the
menu offers martinis and oysters. 892 Queen
St. W.; 416-532-0452; lunch for two, $50


TRATTORIA NERVOSA
The Southern Italian menu is hearty. Pizzas,
made in true Neapolitan style, are a particular
draw. 75 Yorkville Ave.; 416-961-4642; lunch
for two, $55



STAY

RCI-affiliated resorts near Toronto include:

CARRIAGE HILLS RESORT
An hour north of Toronto in the scenic Horseshoe
Valley, this is a great spot to hike, golf or play in
the pool. 90 Highland Dr., Oro-Medonte

Member Reviews:
“The location is great during all four seasons.”
“The large Jacuzzi tub was a hit with kids and
parents alike.”

CARRIAGE RIDGE RESORT
This retreat shares the amenities at Carriage Hills
(above). 90 Highland Dr., Oro-Medonte

Member Review:
“We enjoyed the Miss Midland boat trip around
the 30,000 islands [in Georgian Bay].”

THE GEORGIAN MANOR
RESORT & COUNTRY CLUB

Conveniently located between Wasaga Beach and
the Blue Mountain Ski Resort, this resort is minutes
from the heritage town of Collingwood. 10 Vacation
Inn Dr., Collingwood


Member Reviews:
“The area is quiet, peaceful and beautiful.”
“Jaffa’s Java Hut in Sauble Beach was great.”

CLUB INTRAWEST—
BLUE MOUNTAIN

Set in cottage country surrounded by forests
on Georgian Bay. In summer, come to bike,
hike, golf, sail or shop in nearby villages.
276 Jozo Weider Blvd., Collingwood

Member Reviews:
“The resort has its own private beach.”
“Adults have their own workout facilities,
hot tub, pool and lounge.”

For more information, including more
member reviews, visit RCI.com or call

Weeks: 800-338-7777

Points: 877-968-7476

Club Members, please call your specific
Club or RCI telephone number.


NON-RCI AFFILIATED RESORTS IN
TORONTO:

THE DRAKE
1150 Queen St. W.; 866-372-5386;
thedrakehotel.ca; doubles from $179
USD per night

THE GLADSTONE
1214 Queen St. W.; 416-531-4635;
gladstonehotel.com; doubles from
$156 USD per night

HÔTEL LE GERMAIN
30 Mercer St. (just south of Queen
St. W.); 866-345-9501;
germaintoronto.com; doubles from
$270 USD per night

PARK HYATT TORONTO
4 Avenue Rd. (at Bloor St. W.);
800-233-1234; parktoronto.hyatt.com;
doubles from $312 USD per night


*Prices have been converted to USD,
and cover a meal for two without drinks,
tax or tip.



NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
Published: Summer 2010 
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