Exploring The City of Toronto

by : Ann Knapp

Toronto has long been known as a multicultural city, making it an ideal place for student group travel. Its unique neighborhoods and marketplaces provide visitors with a variety of sights, sounds, and experiences. Let's take a look at what Toronto has to offer.

Three of the city's most distinctive areas are Chinatown, Kensington Market and Casa Loma.

Chinatown in Toronto

Chinatown has a population of more than a quarter of a million people, making it one of the largest Asian communities in North America. There are at least five different Chinatowns located in Toronto, but the best known remains downtown at the intersections of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street.

People in this neighborhood come from places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, to name a few. Toronto's original Chinatown had been located around the corner of Queen Street West and Bay Street, but when that area was cleared to build the New City Hall in the early 1960s, the Chinese population moved west into the streets around Dundas and Spadina.

Chinatown continues to grow and prosper, offering a number of authentic indoor and outdoor food markets, clothing stores, herb and medicinal shops, and restaurants.

Toronto's Kensington Market

Just a few blocks from Chinatown is Kensington Market. It was started by British immigrants in the 1790s. It did not become a prominent cultural neighborhood until the 1920s. That's when more than 80% of Toronto's Jewish population settled here.

Today, Kensington Market contains an eclectic mix of outdoor food stands and produce shops, unique restaurants and cafes, vintage clothing boutiques, and much more.

Portuguese, West Indian, and Caribbean immigrants have settled here, making Kensington Market one of Toronto's most culturally diverse neighborhoods.

Casa Loma in Toronto

Sitting high on a hill, overlooking downtown Toronto, stands Casa Loma. This majestic castle was built in the style of European medieval castles. In addition to the 98-room castle, the grounds of Casa Loma include stables, connected to the castle by an 800-foot underground tunnel, and six acres of estate gardens.

Built in the early 1900s, the castle was constructed by Sir Henry Pellatt, a prominent Toronto businessman and industrialist. Pellatt's travels to Europe inspired him to build his "house on the hill."

Work on the castle began in 1911 and the new home was completed three years later. More than 300 men worked on the home and it cost a total of 3.5 million dollars to complete.

Unfortunately, financial difficulties forced him to move from his elegant home less than ten years after its construction. The abandoned castle was left to deteriorate. Toronto took over possession of the property in 1933 and Casa Loma was almost demolished.

Thanks to the efforts of the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto, Casa Loma was saved. The Kiwanis Club spearheaded an extensive restoration of the castle, and in 1937, it opened to the public as a tourist attraction.

Visitors can walk through the decorated rooms, climb the towers, and walk through the gardens.

Toronto's Chinatown, Kensington Market and Casa Loma are all worthy of a visit when planning student group travel in this region.