Toronto’s modern history begins in the 17th century when the area’s indigenous people began trading with the French. By the 18th century the French had established trading posts which it ceded to British control in 1763. At the turn of the century colonial officials built Fort York, a community which soon became the capital of the province of Upper Canada (now Ontario). By 1834, with 9,250 residents, it was incorporated as the 'City of Toronto' and by the time Canada became a country in 1867, the city was home to 50,000 people.
Less than a century later a great shift in the spirit of the community began with an influx of post-war immigrants. By 2001, Toronto had become one of the most multicultural cities on the planet, with its residents speaking 152 languages and dialects.
Today, with more than two and a half million residents, Toronto is Canada's largest city. Situated on the edge of Lake Ontario, and considered the heart of the nation's commercial, financial, industrial, and cultural life, Toronto is one of the world's most liveable urban centres.
Toronto’s most iconic structure is the world famous CN Tower, formerly the highest tower in the world. At its foot is the Rogers Centre, a sporting stadium famous for a retractable roof which protects the Argonauts football team and the Blue Jays baseball team from the city’s harsh winters.
A short distance from here is the Harbourfront Centre. The jewel of the revitalised Lake Ontario waterfront, it is home to art galleries, theatres, craft boutiques, restaurants and marinas, fronted by a waterside promenade. From here you can take a 10-minute ferry ride to Toronto Islands, a popular recreational destination with parkland, beaches, bicycle paths and yacht clubs. The islands offer a panoramic view of the city skyline and are a favourite for visitors.
Back on the mainland, just 200 metres from the ferry terminal, is the start of Yonge Street. The longest street in the world, it runs 1,896km north from the edge of Lake Ontario. The downtown Toronto section can be explored on foot, with a subway day pass to whisk you between highlights. The Distillery District, Queen West, the Entertainment District, and the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood are also popular areas for tourists, while the Eaton Centre is one of North America's top shopping destinations.
As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto has ethnic cuisine like no other. Start your dining tour in the western Mediterranean: Little Italy and Portugal Village are centred at College and Grace. Move east to Little India on Gerrard Street between Greenwood and Coxwell, the heart of Toronto's vibrant South Asian community. Progress further around the world with a visit to Chinatown - an ethnic enclave extending along Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue, said to be one of the largest Chinatowns in North America. It also has a number of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. Finally, visit Koreatown; most restaurants can be found along Bloor Street between Christie and Bathurst Street.
Diners can also visit Cabbagetown. Ignore the amusing moniker; this historic district in the eastern half of downtown is actually home to a number of extremely nice (and relatively cabbage-free) restaurants. Other recommended areas include Greektown and Yorkville.
The majority of Toronto’s nightlife in is centred on the appropriately named Clubland which is rumoured to feature North America’s highest density of clubs and bars. The fashion district of Queen Street West is also packed with pubs and bars, especially Adelaide and Queen Street. Consult an up-to-date listings magazine or a Torontonian for the best suggestions; club names change frequently but the area remains popular.
Ninety minutes drive south of Toronto is the world-famous Niagara Falls. Just 67km away as the crow flies, the falls are situated on the Niagara River which straddles the Canadian-US border. Niagara Falls is split in two by Goat Island: American Falls on the US side, and the much wider (and more spectacular) Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. Nearly 30 million people visit Niagara Falls every year, and during the summer months floodlights illuminate both sides of the Falls every evening.