The ultimate fashion high in Toronto has to be Toronto Fashion Week when local designers—everyone from international celebrity-favourite David Dixon to charming new-girl-on-the-block Ellie Mae—showcase their next season's collection. But if you can't make it to front row, go shopping. Skip Yorkville, which can be replicated in any high-fashion capital. For a glimpse into Toronto's sartorial soul, go to West Queen West.
Yes, that's west of Queen West Street. This is where you'll find stores operated by real designers. At The Siista'r (919 Queen Street West), sisters Gloria and Jaine bring in interesting clothes and ridiculously cute accessories from Korea and Taiwan and are about to launch their own in-store label.
At the very splendid Gaspard (913 Queen Street West), Jennifer Halchuk and Richard Lyle have been designing women's clothes under the Mercy label for over 20 years. They also import a sumptuous array of dreamy, lust-worthy clothing, shoes and accessories from France and the U.K. This is a small store, but so expertly curated you'll want to buy it all.
West Queen West spans about 15 short blocks between Bathurst Street and Gladstone Avenue
Dinner with a view
If you prefer to enjoy your sweeping vistas while lingering over a drink or meal, Canoe is perched on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower. Grab a window seat at the bar and you could happily be sipping pints of Steam Whistle IPA for hours while the city hums below.
Better yet, make reservations (you need them) for dinner and have a meal that's worthy of this panorama. Unlike a lot of other restaurants that coast on the glory of their views, the food here is magnificent. Servers are extremely knowledgeable and approachable too, so don't hesitate to ask for recommendations.
They had B.C. salmon on the menu during my visit so of course I had to see how they prepared it. I eat B.C. salmon all the time and was thoroughly impressed with their interpretation. It was ambitious but masterfully executed—perfectly cooked and artfully plated, complete with a playful dusting of seagrass ash.
54th Floor, TD Bank Tower, 66 Wellington Street West, Toronto
The first Spa My Blend concept spa by Clarins was opened in Paris, and the only other one in the world is here in Toronto's The Ritz-Carlton Hotel. With 16 individual treatment rooms and a beautifully appointed couples room, this is a truly grand day spa on all levels.
Whatever your treatment, make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the lounges afterwards. Yes, multiple lounges. There's the main, spacious, sun-drenched lounge that's available to both men and women (don't forget to look up at the spectacular Chihuly-esque ceiling glass art installation). But if you need a little bit more privacy, maybe a gentler transition post-treatment, there's a women's-only lounge filled with individual reclining chaises where your therapist can gently swaddle you into a plush cocoon until you're ready to emerge.
Sightseeing in a helicopter is mesmerising and Toronto's skyscrapers and iconic CN Tower are even more spectacular when you're swooping in between them.
At an altitude of 2,000 feet and a speed of 100 miles per hour, you're going to cover a lot of sky and see city landmarks like the Casa Loma castle and the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) from magnificent vantage points (though the most satisfying view might simply be soaring past Toronto's traffic-paralysed streets).
To bump up the wow factor even more, schedule a sunset flight and watch the city skyline melt into a golden puddle while night lights begin to twinkle hello.
Ensconced amongst a row of charming Victorian houses, Sassafraz is a lemon-yellow beacon that has been luring diners in for decades. Nestled in the heart of historic Yorkville, this restaurant is all modern inside, with a fantastic green living wall in the main dining room that's punctuated by a towering water feature, showcased even further by the natural light pouring in from the immense swath of skylights above.
The food is Canadian-continental, with the emphasis on continental, so don't be surprised by the lack of local Ontario wines on the menu. Ontario proteins, however, are highly celebrated here with options for lamb, beef or hen. A nod to B.C., I had the Fraser River sturgeon, which was beautifully prepared and offset perfectly with saffron baby turnips and delicately shaved fennel.
And if celeb-gazing is your thing, perch yourself at the bar and simply wait, especially if you're in Toronto during the film festival.
Where to eat, drink, stay, shop and spa if you're looking for luxury in Toronto
Toronto makes it easy to cosy up to indulgence—a spectacular meal here, a shopping spree there and a couple of spa treatments for good measure. Yes, please. Satisfy your need for lavish creature comforts with a few well-chosen appointments.
Read on for five of my recommendations to discover the indulgent side of Toronto.
Catherine is a lifestyle writer, specializing in travel, style, food and beauty. You can read more of her work in WestWorld, Real Weddings, AsiaSpa, Darpan, Wine Enthusiast and others. Follow her on social (Instagram, Snapchat & Twitter) @TSEwords.