Toronto is a thriving, exciting, multi-cultural city. As with many major metropolises, the city also has a rich history to explore. If you should find yourself in Ontario’s capital city, I highly recommend visiting the following four sites.

  1. As regular readers know, there is nothing I love more than to combine food and history. And the Lawrence Market is the perfect site to do so. The site has held a market since 1803; it also served as a meeting place for abolitionists. The location of Toronto’s first city hall, it housed the city’s prisoners in the basement. The present red-brick building (1850) hosts over 100 artisans, butchers, grocers, bakers, fish mongers, and restaurateurs. Its rich history (exhibits on second floor) and tasty treats makes St. Lawrence Market a delight. Make sure you try the “Peameal Bacon Sandwich” at the world-famous Carousel Bakery. The quintessentially Torontonian sandwich came to be when Englishman William Davies created it using lean back bacon rolled in cornmeal. In the late 1800s, Davies became the largest pork packer in the British Empire earning Toronto the nickname “Hogtown.” Torontonians may eat the sandwich at any time of the day, including for breakfast. Served on a soft roll, the tender pork with tangy mustard tantalizes the taste buds and is a perfect treat for any meal.
  2. Toronto’s old town area boasts the delightful Distillery District. A well-preserved collection of Victorian industrial buildings (1859 on), I loved walking the brick lanes by places where whiskey was made and distributed (until Prohibition in 1916). Red brick buildings with green trim provide a beautiful exterior for the cafes, boutiques, and galleries within. White lights strung between the buildings twinkled in the early evening light. In walking distance is the former Irish enclave of Corktown where you can visit the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse (1849) and Little Trinity Church (1843). The Distillery District is a beautiful neighborhood to grab a drink, have dinner, or shop while enjoying historical ambience.
  3. I was quite young when Casa Loma (1914) first enchanted me. But fond childhood memories are not why this majestic castle on a hill is included in this post, Casa Loma is simply a cool place to experience. Sir Henry Pellatt’s former home is 200,000 square feet of stunning architecture and décor. From the stately library to the elegant dining room, opulence is seen throughout. We went on an evening when the building was hope late, which turned out to be a great time to visit as the crowds were few. I could roam throughout the mansion imagining it was my own estate. I would happily settle for just a tenth of it though. J It was fun climbing the tower’s winding staircase and taking secret passages from floor to floor. A tunnel led us to stables, a garage, and a potting shed. The castle’s terrace (and tower) provides a great view of the city. When we were there, we stood on the terrace watching the sun set while listening to a symphony play in the garden. It was a luxurious ending to the day.
  4. There are many historic homes in Toronto, so it can be difficult for those short on time to choose just one, but we visited the Mackenzie House and were not disappointed. The home of William Mackenzie—Toronto’s first mayor, radical political journalist, newspaper printer, and leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion—is a modest Greek-Revival row house. Docents dressed as 19th century printers took us through Mackenzie’s life and times. Touring the house, our guide demonstrated everyday tasks and told interesting stories about the home’s inhabitants. Another guide took us into the recreated 1850s print shop where we learned about Mackenzie’s radical politics and were shown how the machines operated.

Toronto hosts many more historic hotspots and if you have the time I highly recommend stopping as many as possible. We had a great walking tour from Jane of “On the Town” tours that revealed to us many of Toronto’s architectural charms. Food lovers will undoubtedly love the ethnic variety of restaurants available. We had dinner at Terroni—an Italian restaurant housed in the former courthouse (1853).  After a lovely pasta dish, an employee took me on a tour of the building showing me the basement jail cells (now storage), the second-floor courtroom, and the public square out back where hangings occurred. As I said earlier, I love combining history and food! I hope you enjoy your time in Toronto—it is truly a special city.

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