The best way to explore Toronto

Toronto has a cluster of very cool neighbourhoods that are all within walking distance of each other and linked by public transport, but the best way to get to know the area is on a bike tour.

Led by my Fitz & Follwell Essentials Bike Tour guide Victoria, I see Toronto from the inside: the hidden alleys and beautiful, quiet tree-lined lanes that run behind the vibrant city streets.

 

It’s an easy ride through town as Victoria shares her favourite food and coffee spots and explains the history behind such landmarks as Grange Park, the waterfront, Toronto Islands, Ireland Park, the Toronto Music Garden and, my favourite, Kensington Market.

 

Kensington Market was originally started by Jewish immigrants who had no one else to trade with due to persecution, which was once quite rife right throughout North America. As a result, they set up shop in front of their homes.

Fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, seeds, clothes, goods and other services were all marketed from the front porches or yards of houses on a few community blocks.

The area became well known among the locals, who flocked to buy quality food and goods at lower prices than what was offered at chain stores.

During and after the Vietnam War, the area became a hippy hangout and a refuge for US men trying to evade conscription. Kensington Market became the counterculture capital of Toronto.

 

These days, cannabis is legal in Canada, so the smell of ‘spliffs’, along with the multitude of vintage clothes shops, bookshops, cafés, restaurants, record bars and craft beer bars reminds one of what it would have been like in the 1970s. Really, not much has changed. Many of the boomers who moved in back then are still hanging about today.

 

Other highlights of the tour include visiting Roundhouse Park, where you’ll find the John Street Roundhouse, a preserved locomotive roundhouse which is home to the Toronto Railway Museum and Steam Whistle Brewing and postcard photo ops.

 

Our stop at SOMA Chocolatemaker was also special. Be sure to try the Spicy Mayan chocolate shot or any of the myriad mouth-watering selections.

If you’re heading to Toronto, call Fitz & Follwell and ask Victoria (or one of the other guides) to take you on the Essential Bike Tour. It’s so much better than a hop-on, hop-off bus because you have a local showing you the true face of Toronto.

Fitz & Follwell also do tours throughout Canada. Check out the website to book your tour.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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