By Alan Young
From Little Italy to Chinatown, there’s something for everyone in this global, culture-rich host city
In case you missed it – the countdown to HITEC 2023 has officially begun. From June 26th to 29th, hospitality technology vendors and industry leaders will descend upon the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to explore the latest and greatest in hospitality technology and new, innovative ideas to transform the industry. As the highly-anticipated event inches closer in our calendars, attendees will begin to solidify their plans for the time they will spend at HITEC, not only within the walls of the conference but in the city of Toronto.
For those unfamiliar with Toronto (better known as ‘The Six’), it’s important to note that the northern city is not only a technology hub but is also popularly described as a “benchmark of multiculturalism.” In fact, Toronto was recently named the most diverse city in the world by BBC Radio, with over 230 different nationalities within Ontario’s capital city, over 180 different dialects spoken, and a population largely comprised of residents born outside of Canada (more than 50%). The best part? Nearly every nationality represented in Toronto has a corresponding neighborhood waiting to be explored by tourists and residents alike. With this in mind, we’ve rounded up a list of some of Toronto’s most famous neighborhoods and cultural centers.
Kensington Market represents a beloved and eccentric corner of Toronto and is known to be the best place in the city for residents and visitors to shop vintage clothing and unique goods, indulge in the comforts of hole-in-the-wall food spots, take in incredible street art, and shop at open-air grocery markets. From fresh, affordable fruit to live music, charming street vendors, popular bars tucked away in alleys, and events like Pedestrian Sundays (which happen on the last Sunday of each summer month), Kensington Market has a little something for everyone. This is also a great destination for foodies, with restaurants, cafes, and food stalls selling delicious and diverse cuisine (Portuguese, Caribbean, Jewish, Chinese, and more). Visitors can find everything from tacos (make sure to check out Seven Lives) to jerk chicken (Rasta Pasta), to-die-for egg sandwiches (Egg Bae), vegan delights, and more.
Little Italy is one of the most well-known neighborhoods in the city of Toronto, which is packed with trattorias, trendy restaurants, cafés, shops, pool halls, and vibrant nightlife. As you might have guessed, this neighborhood has no shortage of gelato shops, in addition to delicious Italian food, festivals, and events. A notably lively and vibrant neighborhood, Little Italy is nestled between Trinity Bellwoods and Palmerston Avenue. It offers visitors an influx of patios, cocktail bars, and espresso bars brimming with activity and energy all summer.
Little Portugal, which stretches along Dundas Street West, is filled with street art, colorful murals, art galleries, quirky bars, renowned tattoo parlors, top-rated restaurants, and traditional family-style Portuguese bakeries. True to its name, Little Portugal is a beloved hub of Portuguese culture, with a history dating back to the 1950s when Portuguese immigrants first made this strip of the city their home. This neighborhood also hosts a variety of events and festivals, including the annual Portugal Day Festival each year and the Do West Festival, which is described as “a celebration of music, arts, food, fun, and community designed to bring the neighborhood together to explore shops, food, and rich cultural diversity.”
Little Portugal is also home to the oldest boxing gym in Canada, Sully’s Boxing Gym, a cherished (and historical) community institution for all ages and demographics located at Dundas and Sheridan Ave.
Greektown, better known as “The Danforth,” is a Toronto neighborhood staple and a diverse community hub of Greek culture. From delicious Greek cuisine to unique shops, independent grocers, and Greek bakeries, Greektown has plenty to offer visitors and residents alike.
Dating back to the 20th century when Greek immigrants first settled in the area, Greektown is full of character, history, charm, and seasonal festivals and cultural events throughout the year. Most notable is the Taste of the Danforth street festival, which happens each summer and invites visitors to completely immerse themselves in Greek culture – from traditional plate-breaking to the city’s best Greek food, dance lessons, live musical performances, carnival rides, and so much more.
Chinatown is a well-known destination in Toronto, but did you know that Toronto has one of the largest Chinatowns in North America? In addition to the downtown core, there are five other primarily Chinese neighborhoods in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including Markham and Mississauga. Toronto’s Chinatown neighborhood offers an undeniably vibrant atmosphere teeming with rich Chinese culture, a variety of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese restaurants, beloved small businesses, historical monuments, and seasonal cultural festivals.
Location-wise, Chinatown is about as central as you can get in downtown Toronto and within walking distance of other popular Toronto neighborhoods and attractions, including the Art Gallery of Ontario and Kensington Market. During the summer months, Spadina Avenue comes alive in this neighborhood with Asian open-air markets and shops that offer fresh fruits and vegetables, along with herbal medicine, souvenirs, and so much more.
Toronto Realty Boutique describes Toronto’s Annex neighborhood as “one of the most diverse communities in Toronto, its residents including successful business people, prominent artists, writers, academics, University of Toronto students and faculty, and people from all walks of life.” If you walk along its tree-lined street, you’ll notice the presence of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian homes and unique architecture, from Romanesque to Gothic Revival. Dating back to the 19th century, at which point the area was known to attract Toronto’s elite, the Annex neighborhood offers a wide variety of independent shops, trendy bars, restaurants, cafes, and indie/hipster favorites. The Annex is also home to the Royal Ontario Museum (the ROM), a popular destination for tourists and art-loving residents.
Located on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, the Harbourfront encompasses much of Toronto’s waterfront (from Bathurst Street, running along Queens Quay to Yonge Street). As you might have guessed based on its waterfront real estate, the Harbourfront is known for its stunning views of Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline, offering visitors the chance to indulge in these views from the vantage point of a waterfront stroll, a boat tour, or a kayak or paddleboard outing.
The Harbourfront is home to many festivals and events, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, and the Harbourfront Centre’s Summer Festival. It is also home to cultural centers, including the Harbourfront Centre, which showcases art, music, and theatre from around the world. If you work up an appetite for partaking in one of the many outdoor activities this area offers, you can rest assured there are plenty of trendy shops, farmers markets, and restaurants offering a variety of cuisine offerings.
Last but certainly not least, Koreatown is a vibrant and bustling neighborhood located along Bloor Street between Christie Street and Bathurst Street. Dating back to the 1960s, this area is a hotspot for foodies while also offering a variety of K-beauty, K-fashion, K-spas, and K-stationary shops and boutiques. Visitors can expect to indulge in a variety of Korean cuisine offerings (think: barbecue, bibimbap, and kimchi), in addition to other ethnic fares, including Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Koreatown also hosts many festivals and events throughout the year, including the Toronto Korean Harvest Festival and the Bloor West Street Fest.
HITEC 2023 attendees are encouraged to get up to speed on future technological trends this June and take time to experience all the amazing, memorable pockets of the city while they’re here. See you all in June!