Welcome to Downtown Core (Financial District):
The economic and cultural epicenter of Canada’s biggest city, downtown streets pulse with life day and night. Living here puts the best of Toronto right outside your front door: upscale restaurants, art galleries, concert halls, shopping malls, universities, the iconic CN tower and the Hockey Hall of Fame – and all of it just a short walk from Lake Ontario. From skyscrapers to cozy hole-in-the-wall bars, it’s a great neighbourhood to call home. There’s so much to do in downtown Toronto, it’s impossible to pick a single highlight. There’s something for everyone here.
There are no official borders for “downtown,” but most Torontonians would say it runs from Bloor Street to the shoreline, and from Spadina Avenue on the west to Sherbourne Street on the east.. The area draws all kinds of people during the day, but the people who lay their heads here at night are mainly the under-40 crowd with no kids in tow. Most people live in condominiums and enjoy the freedom of minimalist, low-maintenance living, but there are small pockets of historic fixer-uppers for those who prefer a patch of grass to call their own.
Downtown has a work hard, play hard vibe. Many of the young professionals who call this neighborhood home work all day in government or in the financial towers along the Bay Street corridor. At quitting time they flood the restaurants and bars to eat and unwind, rubbing elbows with the tourists, sports fans and concert-goers who are downtown for a visit. Weekends find them shopping at Eaton Centre, strolling at the St. Lawrence Market or heading to the Art Gallery of Ontario for the latest exhibition. This is the part of the city that never sleeps, and locals usually walk, take transit or hail a cab to avoid 24-hour traffic and expensive parking.
What you'll fall in love with:
Young, well-heeled locals love being where the action is, and they know that some of the city’s best gems are hidden at the feet of downtown’s soaring skyscrapers. Take a spot like the York Station Bar, tucked away in the Royal York Hotel across from Union Station – a 24-seat watering hole decorated like a railroad club car, staffed by the same bartender for more than 25 years. Living here means being part of a secret club of locals who know all the good places that commuters and tourists don’t have time to find.
There are more than two dozen elementary and secondary schools schools in the downtown area, including the well-ranked Orde Street Junior Public School near the corner of University Avenue and College Street, which received an 8/10 on the Fraser Institute’s 2015-16 review. Other highly ranked area schools include The Waterfront near Bathurst and Queen’s Quay (7.8/10) and the Island Public School, which also received an 8/10 score. Downtown is also home to a host of private schools, ranging from the Rosedale Day School and Cornerstone Montessori Prep schools for youngsters, to private secondary schools like Braemar College and The Abelard School for gifted teens.
Downtown Toronto is also home to some of Canada’s best post-secondary schools, including the top-ranked University of Toronto, Ryerson University and George Brown College. The concentration of educational institutions brings world-class events, speakers and luminaries to the city on a regular basis, and adds to the incredible array of cultural opportunities on your doorstep.
A little bit of history:
The brochures for Toronto always feature the skyscrapers and the CN Tower, but locals love the area for its rich history. The area around the St. Lawrence market is the oldest part of the city, dating back to the late 1700s. These heritage buildings have been transformed into cozy pubs serving craft beer and adventurous restaurants serving some of the best food in the city. The revived Distillery District is a local hotspot, with a host of restaurants and shops in 40 heritage buildings that were once part of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. It’s the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America. Other lovely examples of 19th century architecture include St. James’ Cathedral and St. Paul’s Basilica.
One of the best parts about living downtown is that there’s virtually no commute to school or work. Most locals walk or bike to the office – it takes about 15 minutes to cycle from Union Station up to Yonge and Bloor, the same length of time it takes to drive in the middle of the day. If you want to visit other parts of the city, Union Station is the hub of the TTC, and it’s right in your neighbourhood.
What you Won't find:
Downtown is for true urbanites who want to be at the cultural and economic nerve centre of the country. You won’t find the big homes, manicured lawns, double garages or backyard swingsets. Instead, visit the local park or take a walk down by the harbour. Most locals prefer walking, biking or hailing a cab; folks who like to drive will find the downtown streets jammed for much of the day.
Downtown Core (Financial District) on a map
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