Toronto Long Weekend

Look Past the CN Tower in Toronto

Photo by rgs6

Until recently, Toronto wasn't much to look at, but a host of new buildings by celebrity architects like Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, and Norman Foster have given the T Dot a bold 21st-century cityscape. Add on older, equally impressive commissions by the likes of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Santiago Calatrava, and Viljo Revell, and architourists can now find some serious eye candy north of the border. A weekend is the best way to appreciate the new ballyhoo. Definitely request a room with a view.

What to Do

Photo by Mr. Mark

Royal Ontario Museum

100 Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON; (416) 586-8000; www.rom.on.ca; C$22

Daniel Libeskind’s long-awaited crystal addition to the staid Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) made its debut in 2007, and still reigns as the city’s most controversial newcomer. It’s not hard to see why, given it cantilevers over Bloor Street like some kind of futuristic headband. Despite outward appearances, the skylit inner galleries are a huge step up from the dark and fusty quarters they once were, especially so the new halls devoted to the museum’s permanent dinosaur exhibit, a perennial family favorite.

Photo by Bobcatnorth

Art Gallery of Ontario

317 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON; (877) 225-4246; www.ago.net; C$18

Toronto’s biggest bragging rights these days invoke Frank Gehry’s name, after the Toronto-born architect’s smashing new Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)—his first Canadian commission—opened in November 2008. It’s an astonishing structure that marries a glass hull-like roof with a sinuous inner staircase concocted of Canadian fir. The art inside is first rate, too, so be prepared to stay awhile.

Photo by dunescape

Brookfield Place

30 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON; (416) 360-7765; www.brookfieldproperties.com; Free

Most Toronto tourists come to Brookfield Place to find the Hockey Hall of Fame (which is actually quite an awesome homage to the country’s national obsession). But the vaulted indoor courtyard beyond its doors is an attraction in its own right: Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava in the early 1990s, the six-story-high Allen Lambert Galleria connects several intact heritage buildings and remains one of the city’s great architectural highlights (especially when the weather is miserable outside).

Photo by Waterfront Toronto

Harbourfront

Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON; (416) 973-4000; www.harbourfrontcentre.com; Free

Toronto’s much-beleaguered waterfront has recently begun a long-overdue update at the hands of West 8, the same urban-landscaping team that's been tapped to refurbish New York City’s Governor’s Island. The Dutch group just unveiled these cool wooden WaveDecks that evoke Frank Gehry’s iconic cardboard Wiggle Chair along the shores of Lake Ontario. Walk along them to reach the city’s newest beach, HtO Park, then park yourself in a classic Muskoka chair and gaze up at the CN Tower.

Photo courtesy of BUILT

BUILT Books on Architecture

401 Richmond Street West, Toronto, ON; (800) 567-9473; www.swipe.com

While independent bookstores are being shuttered elsewhere, this savvy architecture bookshop opened in spring 2009 in a converted century-old tin factory. The discerning collection includes local gems like Do Good Design by David Berman, ethics chair of the Graphic Designers of Canada, and TSA Guide Map: Toronto Architecture 1953-2003, by the Toronto Society of Architects. The same team also run Swipe, a fab graphic-design and advertising bookstore in the same building.

Where to Eat

Photo by snowpea&bokchoi

C5

100 Queen’s Park, Toronto; (416) 586-7928; www.c5restaurant.ca; Tea Menu: C$35 with sparkling wine; C$25 without

Libeskind’s ROM design may have been panned from the outside, but C5, the restaurant nestled in a fifth-floor crystal peak, is now one of Toronto’s top tables. Embrace the city’s British heritage by ordering the sweet-and-savory Afternoon Tea and nibble on dainty dishes like Earl Grey–cured salmon and pink-peppercorn Madeleines served on a tiered serving tray.

Photo by neilta

Nathan Phillips Square

100 Queen Street West, Toronto; www.toronto.ca; From C$3

Toronto’s striking twin-crescent City Hall, designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell in the early sixties, still shows well almost 50 years later. Admire its longevity while chowing down on souvlaki or biryani furnished by street carts that recently rolled into Nathan Phillips Square as part of the new Toronto a la Cart street-food initiative, or order a hotdog from one of the nearby carts, add your own fixings, and marvel at how superior these city’s franks are to New York’s.

Photo by Mica_R

Bymark

66 Wellington Street West, Toronto; (416) 777-1144; www.bymark.ca; Entrées from C$16.95

Celebrity-chef Mark McEwan’s superb namesake restaurant, Bymark, looks onto Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s black-clad Toronto Dominion Bank buildings, built here a decade after New York’s Seagram Building. The main room ranks among the city’s top power-dining spots, but the courtyard bar actually has the better views and gourmet pub grub that leans towards ocean-trout carpaccio and lobster grilled-cheese sandwiches.

Photo by rowdyfood

Canoe

66 Wellington St West, 54th Floor, Toronto; 416/364-0054; www.oliverbonacini.com; Tasting Menu: C$140 with wine pairings; C$100 without

You can gaze at Mies from Bymark, but actually dine in one of his legendary towers at this acclaimed restaurant on the 54th-floor of the Toronto Dominion Bank building. The views alone are worth the elevator ride up, but the eclectic Canadian menu may be what you remember most: Chef Anthony Walsh sources exceptional local ingredients (think Yukon caribou, Ontario rhubarb) and matches them with interesting homegrown wines from Niagara and British Columbia. Splurge on the remarkable four-course tasting menu to experience the highlights.

Where to Stay

Photo by Seekdes (Mike in TO)

Hazelton Hotel

118 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto; (866) 473-6301; www.thehazeltonhotel.com; From C$350/night in high-season

You can sleepwalk to Daniel Libeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum addition from this posh Yorkville-area newcomer. It’s the city’s first (and so far, only) five-star hotel, and its 77 luxe rooms and suites are dressed up with private balconies, zebrawood dressing rooms, rainfall showers, and deep soaking tubs. Additional onsite perks like a private screening room, spa, and mosaic-tiled lap pool supply additional exclusivity.

Photo by garybembridge

One King West

1 King Street West, Toronto; (866) 470-5464; www.onekingwest.com; From C$179/night in high-season

Work out with a view at the rooftop gym at this slick new downtown hotel and residence in a converted 1914 Beaux Art bank building. Its contemporary suites are tricked out with extended stays in mind (to wit, you’ll find kitchenettes, sitting areas, washer and dryer) and showcase impressive lake or city views.

Photo by jab7

Cosmopolitan Hotel

8 Colborne Street, Toronto; (800) 958-3488; www.cosmotoronto.com; From C$149/night year-round

Admire the evolving skyline from your en-suite balcony at this Zen-like retreat whose 94 generously proportioned rooms include yoga mats, bamboo slippers, and even a water fountain (that you can turn off). Like One King West, above, this hotel also caters to longer-term stays, with full kitchen and washing machines also coming standard in all rooms.

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