Toronto seen from CN Tower

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Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from the Mississaugas of the New Credit. The settlement was later established as the Town of York and proclaimed as the new capital of Upper Canada by its lieutenant-governor, John Graves Simcoe. In 1834, York was incorporated as a city and renamed to its present name. The city was ransacked in the Battle of York during the War of 1812 and damaged in two great fires in 1849 and in 1904. Since its incorporation, Toronto has repeatedly expanded its borders through amalgamation with surrounding municipalities, most recently in 1998.
The City of Toronto has over 2.6 million residents, according to the 2011 Census. It is currently the fifth most populous city in North America. Toronto is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and the densely populated region in Southern Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe, which has a population of nearly 9 million people as of 2011. The census metropolitan area (CMA) had a population of 5,583,064, and the Greater Toronto Area had a population of 6,054,191 in the 2011 Census. Its cosmopolitan and international population reflects its role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. Toronto is one of the world's most diverse cities by percentage of non-native-born residents, with about 49% of the population born outside Canada. Toronto is also consistently rated as one of the world's most livable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey.
As Canada's commercial capital and one of the world's top financial centres, Toronto is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group. It is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange, the world's seventh largest in terms of market value. Toronto contains more corporate headquarters than any other Canadian city, including those of Canada's five largest banks. Toronto's leading economic sectors include finance, business services, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, media, arts, film, music, television production, publishing, software production, medical research, education, tourism, engineering, and sports industries. According to Forbes, Toronto is the tenth-most economically powerful city in the world and one of the fastest growing among the G7 nations, whilst PwC ranks the city as the world's second-best "metro powerhouse". Toronto was ranked twelfth in the world and fourth in the Americas in 2010 for economic innovation by 2thinknow. The cost of living in Toronto was ranked highest in Canada in 2011.

Lawrence Richards, a member of the faculty of architecture at the University of Toronto, has said "Toronto is a new, brash, rag-tag place—a big mix of periods and styles." Toronto buildings vary in design and age with many structures dating back to the mid-19th century, while other prominent buildings were just newly built in the first decade of the 21st century.
Defining the Toronto skyline is the CN Tower, completed in 1976. At a height of 553.33 metres (1,815 ft 5 in) it was the world's tallest freestanding structure until 2007 when it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa, but it is still the tallest tower in the western hemisphere surpassing the Willis Tower by 110 metres. It is an important telecommunications hub and a centre of tourism in Toronto.

Toronto is a city of high-rises, having 1,800 buildings over 30 metres (98 ft), second only to New York City (which has over 5,000 such buildings) in North America. Most of these buildings are residential (either rental or condominium), whereas the central business district contains the taller commercial office towers. There has been recent media attention given for the need to retrofit many of these buildings, which were constructed beginning in the 1950s as residential apartment blocks to accommodate a quickly growing population. As of December 2011, Toronto had 132 high-rise buildings under-construction, which was the highest among all cities in North America, significantly beating Mexico City (88), New York City (86), and Chicago (17).
Through the 1960s and 1970s, significant pieces of Toronto's architectural heritage were demolished to make way for redevelopment or, simply, parking. In contrast, since the 2000s, Toronto is experiencing a period of architectural revival, with several buildings by world-renowned architects having opened in the last five years. Daniel Libeskind's Royal Ontario Museum addition, Frank Gehry's remake of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Will Alsop's distinctive Ontario College of Art & Design expansion are among the city's new showpieces. The historic Distillery District, located on the eastern edge of downtown, is North America's largest and best preserved collection of Victorian era industrial architecture. It has been redeveloped into a pedestrian-oriented arts, culture and entertainment neighbourhood. Modern glass and steel highrises have begun to transform the majority of the downtown area as the condominium market has exploded and triggered widespread construction throughout the city's centre. Trump International Hotel and Tower, Ritz-Carlton Toronto, Four Seasons Hotel and Residences, and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts are just some of the many high rise luxury condominium-hotel projects currently under construction in the downtown core.

Toronto has a diverse array of public spaces, from city squares to public parks overlooking ravines. A group called the Toronto Public Space Committee was formed to protect the city's public spaces. Nathan Phillips Square is the city's main square in downtown, and forms the entrance to City Hall. Yonge-Dundas Square, a newer, privately owned square near to City Hall, has also gained attention in recent years as one of the busiest gathering spots in the city. Other squares include Harbourfront Square, on the revitalized Toronto waterfront, and the civic squares at the former city halls of the defunct Metropolitan Toronto, most notably Mel Lastman Square in North York.
There are many large downtown parks, which include Grange Park, Moss Park, Allan Gardens, Little Norway Park, Queen's Park, Riverdale Park, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Christie Pits, and the Leslie Street Spit, which mainly consists of Tommy Thompson Park and opens on weekends. The Toronto Islands have several acres of park space, accessible from downtown by ferry. Large parks in the outer areas include High Park, Humber Bay Park, Centennial Park, Downsview Park, Guildwood Park, and Rouge Park. An almost hidden park is the compact Cloud Gardens, which has both open areas and a glassed-in greenhouse in downtown Toronto.
Nathan Phillips Square, Harbourfront Centre, and Mel Lastman Square feature popular rinks for public ice-skating. Etobicoke's Colonel Sam Smith Trail opened in 2011 and is Toronto's first skating trail. Centennial Park and Earl Bales Park offer outdoor skiing and snowboarding slopes with a chair lift, rental facilities, and lessons.
Nathan Phillips Square is undergoing a major redesign by PLANT Architect Inc., Shore Tilbe Irwin + Partners, Peter Lindsay Schaudt Landscape Architecture Inc., and Adrian Blackwell (winners of the international design competition in 2007). West 8, a Dutch architecture firm, won the Central Waterfront Innovative Design Competition in 2006 to redesign the central part of the Toronto waterfront. In 1999, Downsview Park initiated an international design competition to realise its vision of creating Canada's first national urban park. In May 2000, the winning park design was announced: "TREE CITY", by the team of Bruce Mau Design, Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Oleson Worland Architect and Inside/Outside.

Toronto is among the world's top international tourist destinations, ranking at 40th place, according to Euromonitor. The city's most prominent landmark is the CN Tower, which once stood as the tallest free-standing land structure in the world at 553 metres (1,814 ft). To the surprise of its creators, the tower held the world record for over 30 years.
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is a major museum for world culture and natural history. The Toronto Zoo, one of the largest in the world, is home to over 5,000 animals representing over 460 distinct species. The Art Gallery of Ontario contains a large collection of Canadian, European, African and contemporary artwork, and also plays host to exhibits from museums and galleries all over the world. The Gardiner Museum of ceramic art is the only museum in Canada entirely devoted to ceramics, and the Museum's collection contains more than 2,900 ceramic works from Asia, the Americas, and Europe. The Ontario Science Centre always has new hands-on activities and science displays particularly appealing to children, and the Bata Shoe Museum features many unique exhibitions focused on footwear throughout history. The centrally located Textile Museum of Canada possesses another niche collection of great quality and interest. Other prominent art galleries and museums include Design Exchange, Museum of Inuit Art, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Institute for Contemporary Culture, Toronto Sculpture Garden, CBC Museum, Redpath Sugar Museum, University of Toronto Art Centre, Hart House, TD Gallery of Inuit Art and the future Aga Khan Museum. The city also runs its own museums, which includes the Spadina House.
The Don Valley Brick Works is a former industrial site, which opened in 1889, and was partly restored as a park and heritage site in 1996, with further restoration and reuse being completed in stages since then. The Canadian National Exhibition is held annually at Exhibition Place, and it is the oldest annual fair in the world. It is Canada's largest annual fair and the fifth largest in North America, with an average attendance of 1.25 million.
The Yorkville neighbourhood is one of Toronto's most elegant shopping and dining areas. On many occasions, celebrities from all over North America can be spotted in the area, especially during the Toronto International Film Festival. The Distillery District, Queen West, Harbourfront, the Entertainment District, the Financial District, and the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood are also popular areas for tourists. The Eaton Centre is one of North America's top shopping destinations, and Toronto's most popular tourist attraction with over 52 million visitors annually.
Greektown on the Danforth, is another one of the major attractions of Toronto which boasts one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per kilometre in the world. It is also home to the annual "Taste of the Danforth" festival which attracts over one million people in 2½ days. Toronto is also home to Canada's most famous "castle" – Casa Loma, the former estate of Sir Henry Pellatt, a prominent Toronto financier, industrialist and military man. Other notable neighbourhoods and attractions include The Beaches, the Toronto Islands, Kensington Market, Fort York, and the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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