The Distillery District is one of Toronto’s most unique attractions. Originally a mid-19th-century distilling complex for Gooderham and Worts, the neighborhood has stayed true to its roots, keeping its brick buildings and cobblestone streets in beautiful condition. To really do this old school spot justice, we suggest you dedicate a whole day to exploring its fashion boutiques, specialty stores, and delicious restaurants. And who knows — your trip might line up with one of the many events hosted here throughout the year!
Wondering where to start? You’ll want to grab breakfast at Brick Street Bakery, as their coffee and artisan pastries such as pies, danishes, and lemon loaves will be sure to start your day off on the right footing. Another option for an early cup of joe is Balzac’s — a two-story café whose vintage aesthetic, complete with exposed brick and a swanky chandelier, would feel right at home in Paris. After that, though, it’s time to get shopping!
Pop into arts and crafts stores like Corktown Designs, Blackbird Vintage Finds, and City of Angels. These stores showcase the scope of Toronto’s entrepreneurial spirit, and will come in handy if you’re looking for the perfect gift to bring home to someone special. For sports fans, there’s the SPORT Gallery, where you’ll find one of the coolest collections of both modern and vintage athletic souvenirs, including old school prints, apparel, and even some signed memorabilia. This portion of your day is also an ideal opportunity to grab a picture picture in front of the ”Love Lock” installation (located just outside the SPORT Gallery), as mornings are usually less busy.
You’ll be able to spend your afternoon poking in and out of cafés, snooping through art galleries, and indulging your sweet tooth. But first, lunch! Luckily, the Distillery District caters to every type of eater, so whether you’re looking for a full meal, or are in the mood for a simple snack, you’ll be able to find something without walking too far. A few of our favorites include Archeo (an Italian-inspired venue with a great wine list), Madrina Bar y Tapas (where you’ll find seasonal Mexican dishes served all day long), and Mill Street Brewing (the perfect place for a local pint). If your full stomach leaves you in need of an afternoon pick-me-up, we suggest stopping by Arvo, a cool and caffeinated hangout to relax and get off your feet for a while. But if you’d rather take your sweet tooth out on the town instead, there’s Greg’s Ice Cream, SOMA Chocolate, or the Sweet Escape — ensuring a sugar high for when you start strolling through district’s art exhibits.
For outdoor enthusiasts, seeing Jason Leo Bantle’s “All in the Wild” photo collection at 17 Gristmill Lane is a must. Then there’s Arta, a modern gallery that showcases some of Canada’s best contemporary creations, while Beauchamp Art Gallery and Thompson Landry Gallery round out the solid crop of galleries that attract art lovers from all over. Lastly, no trip to the Distillery District would be complete without a tasting. Most distilleries tend to close around supper, so it’s best to squeeze this visit in before they start shutting down for the day. Stop by Spirit of York for some spicy vodka or berry-flavored gin, or sample a tasting tray from Ontario Spring Water Sake — the first sake brewery in eastern North America. Cheers!
As the sun and moon prepare to trade places, you’ll want to turn your attention to the district’s delicious eateries. Cluny Bistro offers a classic French dining experience with everything from steak frites to fondue. Another option is El Catrin, which serves up small Mexican dishes along with an impressive tequila shelf. You may also want to consider Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill, especially if you’re in the mood for seafood. No choice is a bad choice in the Distillery District!
Once the dishes have been cleared, it’s time for the night’s entertainment — something that this neighborhood has no shortage of. Not only will you find the annual Christmas Market and other events such as Artfest and Toronto’s Music City Summer Series hosted here each year, but the Young Centre adds another element of action with some of the best theatre in the city. Additionally, Tapestry — a professional opera company — may be performing while you’re in town, and don’t overlook Dancemakers, either, as they’re known for they’re unforgettable contemporary choreography. And after the curtains close, you’ll be ready for a good night’s sleep!
Though the Distillery District may look small on a map, there’s a whole world to explore within these quarters — we just hope you take the time to see it all! If you want to learn more about Toronto’s coolest neighborhoods, click here!
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