While I have some gripes about my city (transit/politics/real estate), I love my hood! We’ve lived in the St. Lawrence market area for the last 7 years. It’s one of the most historic, diverse and walkable neighbourhoods in Toronto. The St. Lawrence Market is definitely the hub, but there’s no shortage of other great spots—some completely under the radar.
So if you’re visiting Toronto, or traveling within your own city, here are my favourite haunts in and around the neighbourhood:
- I will do a separate ode to custard tarts, farm fresh eggs and vintage scarves. But for now, here are the quick facts: St. Lawrence Market was voted #1 in the world by National Geographic (woot!). You can pretty much find anything at the South Market if you look hard enough—from Spanish saffron to Tasmanian honey. On Saturdays the North Building is a farmers market and on Sundays it overflows with antiques.
PARKS & GARDENS
- Max Tanenbaum Courtyard: A secret garden. Shhhh.
- Sugar Beach: Mornings are peaceful at this white sand beach dotted with pink umbrellas; evenings bring crowds and in the summer, a sail-in theatre.
- St. James Park: A great people (and dog) watching park in the shade of the Cathedral. Slip inside if you’re feeling curious and you might just catch a pipe organ concert.
- Berkley Castle Courtyard: A quiet spot to read nestled between historic buildings.
- Cherry Beach: Off-leash dog oasis that feels completely removed from the city even though it’s a 10min drive or 20min bike ride away. Also popular with acrobatic kite-surfers.
- Black Canary: I love the big communal table and living room decor and the coffee is a serious step up from my home brew. A freelancer’s paradise.
- Rooster: Perfect lattes and salted brownies.
- The Academy: Tiny place, big flavour on the leafy Esplanade. This is also the place to get certified as a barista.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
- Mangia & Bevi (Italian): Unpretentious and deliciously Italian, right down to the soundtrack.
- East Thirty Six (French): Stiff drinks backed up by sophisticated small plates.
- Cluny (French): A great bistro with a patio for a fancy lunch.
- Sukho Thai (Thai): A busy, laid-back spot for authentic Thai.
- Origin (International): Dressed-up tapas, dressed-up crowd.
- Terroni Adelaide (Italian): The trusted Italian spot in a charming (but cavernous) historic courthouse.
- Morning Glory (breakfast): Nothing fancy here, but sometimes you just want a cup of coffee and a reliable breakfast sandwich to start the day right. Cute patio in the back, but watch out for an aggressive squirel—she’s a regular.
- Open Air Books & Maps Indie bookstores are disappearing with alarming speed, but this gem is cleverly hidden, so I think it will stick-around. They’ve been underground (in a tucked-away basement) for the last 38 years and specialize in travel and nature guides & maps.
- Blackbird Vintage A great place to dig for vintage treasures and curiosities.
- Soma Chocolate Artisanal chocolate factory cranks oout cocoa in every form—from truffles to shots.
- Artscape Studios: The place to buy art, accessories and house wares directly from artists, and get a glimpse at the creative process too.
- Sculpture Garden: Programming resumes this fall with rotating public art at this mini-park.
- Allen Lambert Galleria: Stunning architecture & rotating art exhibits tucked inside Brookfield place.
- Soulpepper: An inventive artist-run theatre company. Rush tickets are a steal.
- Rainbow Cinemas: The extension of our living room, with slightly bizarre murals and a grand piano in the lobby.
- Yoga Lounge: A bright studio full of tropical plants and happy yogis (plus a kooky shaved cat).
- Community Playground: This fun and always busy spot recently unvelied a new mural and often hosts basketball tournaments and dance parties for neighbourhood teens.
- Ferry Docks: When you’re done in the area make a quick escape to Toronto Island, an oasis across the water. And bring your bike!
Additional photography by Aleksandar Janicijevic.