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A student’s guide to living in Toronto
Toronto is a city full of diversity, energy, young people, and historical sites. It’s a multicultural hub that will have you feel as if you’re traveling the world.
Toronto is an entirely different level of awesome; with bars that are open till 3 AM, never ending festivals to attend all summer, and a community like no other. And on top of all of that there are so many friendly people, this city feel just like home in no time.
Toronto’s top 5 ways of transport
In Toronto, with the heavy rush-hour traffic, the easiest way to get around is public transportation. Here are your options for fairly smooth travels around the city.
1. Drive (taxi, Uber, Lyft)
You can either drive yourself or hop in a taxi (or similar) to get around the city. Be mindful that longer journeys, especially when you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic, mean higher fares.
There are plenty of bike lanes throughout the downtown core. To rent a bike in the city, you can use Bike Share. There’s an option to get a one-year pass and use bikes for unlimited trips. Bike Share stands are all across the city. If you see a stand, you can use the kiosk to rent a bike using your credit card. You’ll get charged for the time you use the bike. You’re charged from the moment you leave one bike stand to when you dock your bike at the bike stand at your next destination.
The one-year pass will make things a lot easier if you’re a frequent cyclist.
Toronto Transit Commission (TTC): The quickest way to get around the city is the TTC. The TTC will be your best friend, especially if you’re living Downtown. The TTC consists of subway, bus and streetcar.
The subway is an underground train that runs through the city of Toronto and even into some of suburbs. It consists of two major lines.
The Bloor-Danforth line (green) takes you all the way from the west end of the city to the east end (Etobicoke to Scarborough). The halfway point of this line is where the University of Toronto is located (St. George Station).
The University line (yellow) covers the downtown core and runs northbound and southbound. It runs up to North York (another suburb) and the last stop on the southbound area of the line is where you’ll get off if you want to check out concerts or a basketball, baseball or hockey game. Scotiabank Arena and Rogers Centre are both at Union Station.
Very recently, the yellow line has extended northbound all the way to the suburb of Vaughan, the location of Canada’s Wonderland.
If you plan to make frequent trips to the airport, there’s also the UP Express, which takes you directly from Union Station to Pearson Airport in Mississauga.
A subway fare is $3.25 CAD and is easily paid with cash, subway tokens or a PRESTO card. This is a card that can be topped up at any subway station. You can also make an account on their website and have it automatically topped up for you every time it gets below a certain amount.
You’ll find buses in almost every area of Toronto you can think of. Wherever it is you need to go, there’s a route that will take you there.
They tend to run every 10 minutes, however in extreme weather conditions this can take a little longer.
An easy way to track your bus’s location is to use an app called Rocketman (Yes, like the song.) Rocketman allows you to track your bus in real time as it moves on its route. You can see the schedule for any route you want to take.
Similar to buses, these run every 10 minutes. However, they are restricted to the downtown core.
The streetcars are much longer and can accommodate more people. This makes it easier to find a seat during peak hours.
You can use your PRESTO card for the subway, buses and streetcars. There’s also the option to buy a one-year PRESTO pass, where you pay a one-time fee for unlimited trips for the year.
A guide to multicultural Toronto
Toronto is divided into many different neighbourhoods. Some suburbs are quiet and residential, with more of a family feel, others are filled with markets, shops, bars, cafes, and hotels. Some people call it a concrete jungle which isn’t a bad thing if you like a quicker pace and lots of options.
The names of neighbourhoods in Downtown Toronto make it easy to know what to expect to see and taste. These neighbourhoods and their names have historical roots. In the 1960s and 1970s, when there were huge waves of immigration to Canada, immigrants settled in areas where there was a dominant presence of people with the same ethnicity.
Immigrants came to these areas and established restaurants with their own authentic cuisine and built language schools, and a sense of community. The neighbourhoods were nicknamed based off the ethnicity that lived there and the names have remained till this day.
If you visit these neighbourhoods in Toronto or choose to live there, you will understand the unique community feel as soon as you start to walk the streets.
Little Italy (College Street West)
The easiest way to get to Little Italy is on the University (yellow) line on the subway.
This neighbourhood is filled with friendly faces and some of the best Italian food you’ll ever eat.
During the World Cup and Euro Cup, this is the place to watch a soccer game, especially if Italy is playing. You’ll get to see passionate fans dancing in the streets while you munch on carbonara and tiramisu.
It’s a very safe area and home to a lot of students because of its proximity to the Eaton Centre, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto.
Little Portugal (Lansdowne, Dufferin and Ossington Station)
Little Portugal is home to the best Portuguese food you can find. On every corner, you can grab mouth-watering chicken, vino and custard tarts.
The summer nights are the best here, because the community is so close and everyone is roaming the streets with their families. Like Little Italy, it’s a favourite spot to hang out during the World Cup and Euro Cup.
This area is also filled with many young people because of the cheaper real estate. It’s not extremely cheap, but it’s better than Downtown , and it’s also very close to University of Toronto.
Chinatown (Dundas Street West to Spadina)
There are many Chinatowns in the Greater Toronto Area (Mississauga, Markham and in Toronto on Gerrard Street), but the oldest one is on Spadina. It’s a popular destination among students and student housing because of its proximity to the University of Toronto.
You also have access to some amazing markets for fresh produce, as well as interesting knick knacks.
If you’re considering the University of Toronto, living on the border of Chinatown is about a 2-minute subway ride or 7-minute walk to the campus.
Koreatown (Bathurst, Christie and Bloor)
Similar to Chinatown, it’s a great spot for some cheap student eats.
While this isn’t as close to University of Toronto, it’s still only about 4 stops away (UofT is at St, George on the Bloor Danforth line, if you go westbound to Bathurst, Christie or Bloor, you’re in Chinatown).
Christie and Bloor stations are huge student hubs, if you’re looking for a place to live with a lot of young neighbours.
Koreatown offers some great grocery stores, Korean BBQ spots and many places serving Ramen (which you’ll need on a cold winter day).
Danforth – Greektown (Broadview to McCowan)
The summertime is when this neighbourhood is in its prime. This is because the community truly comes to life, and you’ll always see families roaming about the streets late on a summer evening. Restaurants start to open their patios, and everyone gets ready for the annual Taste of the Danforth.
This area is very close to Woodbine Beach and is located at Woodbine station (one of the most popular beaches in Toronto).
If you want to try some delicious Greek food and meet some super friendly people that treat you like family, check out the Danforth.
Kensington Market (Dundas Street West to College)
The border of Kensington Market is very close to the University of Toronto, George Brown College and Ryerson University.
Located on the green line from Dundas West station all the way to Bloor station.
It’s a very instagrammable spot and students love to wander the streets of this neighbourhood and grab some vegan eats, a cup of hot tea, a latte, vinyl, cheap clothes or maybe even get a tattoo.
There’s lots to do in this popular spot of Toronto, filled with hipsters and plenty of great graffiti alleyways for photoshoots.
St. Lawrence Market (Jarvis to Front Street East)
This neighbourhood is in walking distance from both the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, located on the yellow line at Dundas station.
You get fresh produce every day and can get your weekly groceries here at an affordable price. The area can give you the feel of a flea market, where you can buy household items, plants and other random things that make for great interior decoration.
The Beaches (Victoria Park Avenue to Kingston Road with an incredible view of Lake Ontario)
This area is home to one of the major beaches in Toronto. Located on the green line from Broadview to Woodbine, it’s a very lavish neighbourhood, so also worthwhile roaming around and hunting for your future home.
Beaches is one of the best places in North America for playing beach volleyball or rollerblading along the boardwalk.
Yorkville (Bay Street)
This suburb is a popular place to students to roam around and go window shopping on the green line at Bay station. If you want to see some luxury cars, check out some cute cafes, spot celebrities or even do a little celebratory splurge shopping when you’re done exams, this posh place is where you should go.
Distillery District isn’t a huge spot for student housing, but you’ll find many students roaming about this neighbourhood. It’s a great place to stroll. During the winter holiday period it comes alive with decorations and the Christmas market helps develop a festive spirit.
During the year you can check out their markets, a bunch of restaurants, as well as take some Insta-worthy posts capturing the beauty of this neighbourhood.
Toronto’s cultural scene
With all the different neighbourhoods and diversity that Toronto has to offer, you will never have to worry about being bored (or hungry!!).
There are plenty of activities that occur in these neighbourhoods that make the summer season in particular loads of fun.
This happens every August in the Danforth (Greek) community. There are vendors set up and the streets are blocked off.
Taste of the Danforth is filled with lots of music, tasty Greek food and a great opportunity for everyone in the city to celebrate Greek culture on a summer night.
Toronto’s Caribbean Festival, known as ‘Caribana’ is a chance to see the city of Toronto truly come to life. It happens every year during the August long weekend (first weekend of August) and is the largest street festival in the entire city.
Caribana is filled with performances, visitors from all around the world, bright costumes, food vendors, parades with floats and dancers, as well as non-stop music.
This festival is held at Ontario Place, located downtown right by the water, and happens in the second week of June.
Some of the best chefs in the city set up vendor stalls and sell some classic dishes with special tastes including guacamole, hot sauce, churros and even some tequila! Tons of students go to the event because you pay a cover charge and get access to some of the best food!
It’s a great opportunity to hang out with your friends from school (since you’ll be on summer break and may not see them as often), as well as meet people from different neighbourhoods across the city.
You can spend one day at the end of July to enjoy some of the finest cuisine Middle Eastern culture has to offer.
Taste of Middle East happens at the core of downtown (Yonge and Dundas) and it’s free. You can taste some middle eastern classic dishes, and even learn cool new things like how Turkish coffee is made. You can get your fortune read, check out some unique art work, listen to music, dance and taste over 1001 flavours that the Middle Eastern culture has to offer.
All the proceeds raised go to charity which is another added bonus.
The city’s must-see attractions
The diversity and culture that Toronto has to offer is only the starting point of what makes this city awesome.
But there are a lot of attractions and historical sites that everyone staying in the city must check out during their time here.
This happens every year for two weeks in August. The perfect way to end of the summer with rides, a giant food terminal with all kinds of unique snacks and a bunch of arcade games.
A chain of 15 small islands located in Lake Ontario. You can take the subway to Harbourfront (Union station) and take the ferry to visit the islands.
The islands have a ton of activities including: an amusement park, lighthouse, beaches and farms!
Located in mid-town Toronto, this Gothic style mansion is a must-see attraction. Many films and shows are filmed at this location, and it’s also a great place to stop by for a tour and walk around the outside premises.
Casa Loma also makes for a great place for a spontaneous photo shoot with some friends.
An art gallery in the downtown core, AGO always has new and exciting exhibits being showcased throughout the year. The gallery is home to 95,000 works of art and is one of the largest galleries in North America.
If you’re in the area on a Wednesday night (between 6-9) you can visit for free! Or if you’re between the ages of 14-25 you can get into the AGO for free any day after 3 PM.
Most Torontonians will recognize this spot as the place where most field trips took place. It’s located in North East Toronto (Don Mills in North York), and is home to several shows, exhibitions, cool gadgets and an excessive amount of information.
Saving the best for last, this landmark is what defines this city on an international level. Wherever you go in Toronto, you can always spot the beautiful CN Tower.
There are tours that take you up to the top of the structure. You can walk on the glass floor and look down at the buildings below you, you can eat at the infamous 360 restaurants at the top of the building and get this, you can walk on the outside of the CN Tower (Edge Walk)!!! Sounds crazy, but it’s actually a lot of fun.