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Toronto’s neighbourhoods

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One of Toronto’s most striking features is its division into distinct neighbourhoods, many of them based on ethnic origin, others defined by sexual preference or indeed income. Bilingual street signs identify some of these neighbourhoods, but architecturally they are often indistinguishable from their surroundings. The following rundown will help you get the most from the city’s demographic mosaic, whether you want to shop, eat or just take in the atmosphere. But bear in mind that there is a certain artificiality in the nomenclature: Chinatown, for instance, has hundreds of Vietnamese residents, Little Italy many Portuguese.

The Beaches

South of Queen Street East between Woodbine and Victoria Park Ave. A prosperous and particularly appealing district with chic boutiques, leafy streets and a sandy beach trimmed by a popular boardwalk.

Cabbagetown

East of Jarvis and roughly bounded by Gerrard Street East on its south side, Wellesley to the north and the Don River to the east. Noted for its trim Victorian housing, the name comes from the district’s nineteenth-century immigrants, whose tiny front gardens were filled with cabbages. Locals even cultivate their own community flag.

Chinatown

Spreads west along Dundas Street West from Beverley and then north up Spadina to College. This is one of Toronto’s most distinctive neighbourhoods, crowded with busy restaurants and stores selling anything from porcelain and jade to herbs and pickled seaweed.

The Gay Village

The Village’s plethora of bars, restaurants and bookshops zero in on the intersection of Church and Wellesley streets. Jammed to the gunnels during Toronto Pride held in the last week of June.

Kensington Market

Just north of Dundas between Spadina and Augusta. Perhaps the most ethnically diverse part of town, combining Portuguese, West Indian and Jewish Canadians, who pack the streets with a plethora of tiny shops and open-air stalls.

Little Italy

The so-called Corso Italia, which runs along College between Bathurst and Ossington, is one of Toronto’s liveliest neighbourhoods, with a gaggle of good restaurants and bars.

Little Portugal

A crowded, vital area packed with shops and neighbourhood food joints, focused on Dundas Street West from Ossington to Lansdowne Ave.

Queen West

Queen Street West, between University and Spadina, was once the grooviest part of town, but rising rents have long since pushed its crew of uber-cool Torontonians further west to what is often called “West Queen West”, running west from Strachan Street to Dufferin. West Queen West is the city’s star turn, with great bars, restaurants and shops.

Yorkville

Just above Bloor between Bay Street and Avenue Road, Yorkville was “alternative” in the 1960s, with regular appearances by the leading lights of the counterculture like Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell. Today, the alternative jive is long gone, and the district holds some of Toronto’s most chi-chi clothing shops and art galleries.

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