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4 Hours in Toronto

Art Gallery of Ontario 

Toronto has some seriously long roads (Yonge Street is over 50 miles), but with focus you’ll find it walkable. Begin your tour at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which was revamped ten years ago. It has a permanent collection of more than 95,000 works, with exhibitions spanning European masters from the 1600s to 20th-century North American painters. Head for the section on the Group of Seven, a collective of artists from the 1920s to 30s who depicted the country’s landscapes in beautiful colors. Look out for Above Lake Superior by Lawren S Harris, The Cloud, Red Mountain by Frederick H Varley, and Falls, Montreal River by J E H MacDonald. The gallery describes them as giving a “unique artistic voice” to Canada.

Kensington Market

About a ten-minute walk from the gallery is the multicultural low-rise district of Kensington Market, which is made up of Jamaican patty shops, taco bars, wholefood stores, quirky homeware outlets, cheese shops and pizzerias. It’s got a counter-cultural feel that makes it distinct from the rest of the city, and is closed off from traffic on Sundays. Don’t be put off by the slightly gritty, hippy vibe – there are some good dining restuarants here too. Grey Gardens is a chic wine bar and restaurant serving the likes of sweet potato ravioli with black truffle, and stuffed chicken with mustard greens. The Kensington Brewing Company is worth a visit if you’re into craft beer – its new brewery opened recently at 299 Augusta Avenue.


Top off your art and counter-culture tour by heading down Spadina Avenue through Chinatown to the LCBO liquor store about 20 minutes away on foot. LCBO stands for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and these government-run outlets, dotted all over the city, are pretty much the only places where you can buy some good booze to take home. You could buy a bottle or two in duty-free, but there is a far greater choice in these LCBO shops. Your laundry list might include ice wine made from grapes frozen on the vine near Niagara Falls, as well as classic whiskies such as Canadian Club, Crown Royal, Lot No 40 rye and former professional ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky’s No 99 Red Cask.

Bar Buca

Since the late 1800s, thousands of Italians have immigrated to Canada, with recent estimates putting their descendants in Toronto at almost 500,000. Nearby, don’t miss this Italian hangout with sit-up stools, tasty brunch dishes, filled focaccia, cured meats, pastries, wine, classic cocktails and great takeaway coffee. From your perch at one of the high tables you will get a view into the open kitchen and there is always a welcoming, convivial buzz here. Aperitivo is served daily between 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM and in the evening, you can stop by for beef short rib skewers, steelhead trout served crudo and cauliflower carbonara with pancetta, Pecorino Romano and duck egg. No reservations, but you’ll be fine as a walk-in unless it’s packed.

Bisha Hotel

A ten-minute walk from Bar Buca, this swank new hotel opened in the Entertainment District at the end of last year. It was a new endeavor for Charles Khabouth, CEO of Toronto’s Ink Entertainment empire, who has a portfolio of dozens of restaurants and clubs both here and in Montreal, near Niagara Falls, and in Miami. This was his first hotel, however. The 44-floor tower has 96 rooms managed by Loews Hotels & Co, as well as 355 private residences. In February, a new hotel floor designed by pop singer Lenny Kravitz was unveiled. Go for a drink in the sultry ground-floor Mr C bar or head up to Kost restaurant at the top, which offers great views of the CN Tower. Visit