Canada’s largest city and the provincial capital of Ontario is a diverse and lively metropolis with a population of about 2.8 million. New cultural institutions have proliferated, and various enclaves offer ethnic restaurants, inviting cafés, bars, antique shops and galleries. The Yorkville neighborhood is a focal point for upscale shopping and dining. In the warmer months, visitors enjoy the lakeside boardwalk along the beaches of the East End, and stroll the pedestrian Distillery District.
Art & Culture Museums
Toronto boasts superb museums and galleries, most notably ROM and AGO, as the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park, Tel.  586-8000) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West, Tel.  979-6648) are known locally. ROM displays world culture and natural history exhibits, and AGO houses some 80,000 artworks dating from A.D. 100 to the present.
Those interested in Islamic art shouldn’t miss the Aga Khan Museum (77 Wynford Drive, Tel.  646-4677) in suburban Toronto. The collection is relatively small — only about 1,000 pieces — but the textiles, paintings, manuscripts, musical instruments, sculptures and tiles are expertly curated.
The History of Footwear
For a change of pace, the Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor Street West, Tel.  979-7799) documents the history of footwear with more than 12,000 culturally diverse artifacts from the past 4,500 years. From Queen Victoria’s ballroom slippers to Marilyn Monroe’s red leather stiletto heels, from ancient Egyptian sandals to a 16th-century velvet-covered Venetian platform mule, from Elvis Presley’s blue patent loafers to much more, this surprising collection is informative and charming.
St. Lawrence Market
Set in Toronto’s Old Town, the St. Lawrence Market (92-95 Front Street East) built in the 17th century, has played a key role in the city’s life. Three buildings make up the market of today: St. Lawrence Hall, the South Market and the North Market. In the South Market, you’ll find a lively mix of food and retail shops, as well as ever-changing art exhibits. St. Lawrence Hall is devoted to retail operations. My favorite, the North Market, plays host to a wonderful farmers market every Saturday, as it has since 1803.