Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in the world reflected in some of it’s unique neighbourhoods. With more than half of its population being born outside of Canada, there are not many ethnicities you won’t find in Toronto. Unsurprisingly, there are ethnic enclaves around the city where Canadians of a certain descent more commonly reside. Many of these neighbourhoods have rich histories, and over time some of them earned nicknames. Toronto has it all, from familiar cultural districts like Chinatown and Little Italy to the more unique ones such as Little Jamaica and Greektown. As a newcomer, Toronto is a great city because you will feel at home. Here are some of the Toronto neighbourhoods that are just as good a tourist destination as a place to live.
Chinatowns are not an unfamiliar concept in North America. Almost every large city in Canada and the United States has a neighbourhood they can call Chinatown. No city, however, does it as well Toronto. Toronto has not one, but three Chinatowns, with many other neighbourhoods that people commonly refer to as Chinatowns.
The main Chinatown and the one Toronto is known for is located around the Dundas St West and Spadina Avenue intersection. This Toronto neighbourhood is the largest Chinatown in North America and one of the oldest in Canada, dating back to the 1870s. Toronto’s Chinatown is famous for its bustling streets and mouth-watering food. Restaurants like Mother’s Dumpling, Dim Sum King, and Mongolian hotpot have been attracting customers for now decades now. At the heart of the bustling neighbourhood lies Chinatown Center, which is a shopping mall containing hundreds of shops.
Even though the biggest Chinatown get most of the attention, there are smaller Toronto neighbourhoods that many classify as Chinatowns. East Chinatown is another Chinatown in Toronto, centred on Gerrard Street East and Broadview Avenue. The Greater Toronto Area also has sizeable Chinatowns in Scarborough, Markham, Mississauga, North York, and Richmond Hill.
Little Italy Neighbourhood
Little Italy is another cliche ethnic neighbourhood that is present in many North American cities. Of course, that means Toronto has one as well. The Toronto neighbourhood of Little Italy, which many refer to as College Street West is famous for its overwhelmingly Italian atmosphere. This Toronto neighbourhood has a significant Portugese-Canadian population as well.
Little Italy is centred on College Street, lying between Harbord Street to the North and Dundas Street to the south. The most iconic part of Toronto’s Little Italy lies on the strip of shops and restaurants along College Street. There, you will find everything from modern game board cafes to traditional Italian dine-in restaurants, as well as a ton of Italian shops. Whether you are looking for a bar or a typical Italian cafe, Little Italy will not disappoint.
Toronto’s Little India Neighbourhood
Little India is a newer Toronto neighbourhood with a very unique origin story behind it. Toronto’s Little India found its origins in 1972 when Gian Naaz purchased a theatre on Gerrard Street and began to screen Indian and Pakistani films. Despite the area not originally having a significant South Asian population, South Asian shops and restaurants quickly began sprouting up near Gerrard Street. This, in turn, drew the community to the Toronto neighbourhood, resulting in a big South Asian population.
Today, Little India, also known as Gerrard India Bazaar, is situated between Greenwood and Coxwell, on Gerrard Street East. Since its humble beginnings 50 years ago, the neighbourhood has turned into a vibrant center of South Asian culture. From Indian restaurants to South Asian superstores, this Toronto neighbourhood can make anyone feel like they are in India.
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Greektown on the Danforth
The Danforth and Greektown have become two synonymous words to describe the same Toronto neighbourhood. Toronto is home to one of the largest Greek populations outside Greece, and a majority of that population resides in this Toronto neighbourhood. Located on Danforth Avenue in East Toronto, Greektown on the Danforth is known for featuring traditional Greek cuisine through its many restaurants, cafes, and bakeries.
Taste Of Danforth
Toronto’s Greektown is famous for having one of the largest street food festivals in Toronto. In August, the Toronto neighbourhood hosts The Taste of Danforth. This food festival has become an icon of Greek-Canadian culture and gives Canadians a chance to try out some of the best Greek flavours. Of course, you don’t have to wait till August to try them out. The Danforth is lined with Greek restaurants and shops, ranging from traditional Greek restaurants to modern vegan cafes.
Little Jamaica Neighbourhood
Another ethnic neighbourhood in Toronto is Little Jamaica. Located on Eglinton Avenue West, Little Jamaica is a center of Jamaican and Caribbean culture in the Greater Toronto Area. The ethnic enclave is bustling with Jamaican and Caribbean-owned businesses. From Jamaican hair salons to restaurants serving a range of Caribbean foods, Little Jamaica is definitely worth the visit.
If you live in Toronto, there is a good chance you have been to the Caribana festival, which is the largest street festival in North America. Caribana, the annual festival of all things Caribbean, now takes place at Lakeshore Boulevard. What most people don’t know, however, is that the festival finds its origins in Little Jamaica. Caribana took place on Eglinton Avenue West before it got too big and relocated. At the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood lies Reggae Lane. Reggae Lane has become a symbol of Jamaica in Toronto and presents a mural featuring Jamaican musicians from the neighbourhood.
Located not far from Little Italy, Portugal Village recreates many aspects of Portuguese and Brazillian culture right here in Toronto. To many, Little Italy and Portugal Village are the same neighbourhood due to their close proximity and undefined boundaries. As a result, Portugal Village, also known as Little Portugal, has a significant Italian population. Portugal Village is always vibrant and busy, having something for everyone. Whether you want to indulge in delicious Portuguese cuisine or just enjoy the unique atmosphere of Portugal Village, this Toronto neighbourhood will not let you down. Portugal Village is brimming with numerous eating options, Portuguese art in every corner, and loads of Portuguese items.
There are countless ethnic enclaves in Toronto, even if many of them are not commonly recognized. In this article, we only discussed some of the most popular ethnic Toronto neighbourhoods. Toronto prides itself on being a home to people from over 250 ethnicities. No matter where you are from as a newcomer, you will never feel out of place in the most culturally diverse city in the world.
My name is Zain Usmani and I am a freelance content writer who currently resides in Mississauga, Ontario. I immigrated from Pakistan to Canada 5 years ago and have lived in many cities ever since. I have lived in Calgary AB, Edmonton AB, Regina SK, London ON, and Mississauga ON, while visiting over 40 Canadian cities and towns. I have a great passion for writing and I love helping people through it.