Toronto Now

Our home city of Toronto is the 4th largest city in North America and possibly it's most ethnically diverse, with over half of its inhabitants having been born overseas. This manifests itself in the many cultural festivals that the city is famous for, a happening arts scene and a food landscape that's rapidly becoming something to rival what might be found in the current culinary hotspots of Marrakech and Vienna. There's also a wealth of material within easy reach of the city centre area for photographers, from the mirror-walled skyscrapers of downtown to the leafy islands of Lake Ontario to the older more colourful neighbourhoods of Chinatown, Kensington Market and Distillery and considering it's a big city it's generally a very friendly and safe place to explore.

 

If you're limited for time the top five things of interest to the photographer in the city are; The Stephen Bulger Gallery, The Ryerson Image Centre, dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurant or The Sultan's Tent, the view from the observation deck of the CN Tower and finally the Yonge and Dundas intersection and square at night. And if you happen to be around during the time of the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) then do try and take that in - it's a extremely photogenic fairground, series of live concerts and shows, air display, carnival and collection of farm and clothing stalls all wrapped into one.

 

Upcoming Exhibitions

Check back soon, currently updating for the winter season

 

Upcoming Music

Check back soon, currently updating for the winter season

 

Upcoming Theatre

Check back soon, currently updating for the winter season

 

Featured Restaurants

Dhaba Restaurant

One of our favourite restaurants in Toronto is Dhaba, on King St West in the midst of the entertainment district. The head chef, PK, is a real artist serving up contemporary Indian cuisine that's the finest of it's kind we've tasted, anywhere. PK has a pure, honest passion and combined with his hard won experience working around the globe this allows him to process the world before him, interpret it with his chosen edible materials and then deliver his opinion up to you within a sensory carnival of colour, spice, texture and taste. The restaurant itself is cosy and romantic and whilst it isn't that photogenic the food itself is excellently presented and a riot of colour.

The last time we visited, early in 2016, was for the excellent value lunch buffet (under £15 dollars for an all you can eat of exceptional quality). Considering it was a midweek buffet, where sometimes a restaurant will serve up food that was left over from the night before, this buffet tasted incredibly fresh. There was also a great variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, in fact there were only about 4 or 5 meat/fish dishes amongst approx 30 vegan/vegetarian dishes. To give you an idea of what was on offer, there was paneer masala, vegetable jalfrezi, chickpea curry, chana chaat, pakoras, samosas, spring rolls, bean fritters, daals and various salads and rice dishes and there was a chef on hand to cook omelettes by request.

For drinks we had a mango margarita and a Dhaba dirty martini, both very drinkable, very strong and both excellent to ease you from the outside world into the dining experience.

Value 5/5

Atmosphere 3.5/5

Service 4/5

Flavours 4/5

Vegan Friendly? 3/5

Vegetarian Friendly? 5/5

To discover more please see their website at http://www.dhaba.ca/

 

Urban Herbivore Restaurant

Urban Herbivore have three vegan food outlets in downtown Toronto. They don't use food factories or commercial bakeries to prepare their food and they honour a whole-food philosophy so that you receive a quality product without any preservatives, additives, or ingredients you can’t pronounce. Their sandwiches are large and served in delicious toasted bread, their drinks are made from either almond or soy milk and their salad is just amazing. It's big enough for two or three and the idea is that you create your own salad from the array of toppings on display. You pick a leaf base of either spinach, iceberg or a rocket/bistro mix, then a meat substitute such as BBQ tofu, then you finish with six choices of toppings.

I got the spinach with a hint of the bistro style leaf, the sesame tofu and then topped it with bruschetta tomato, chickpeas, snap peas, broccoli and then I ran out of ideas so I asked the server to recommend a final two more toppings and then choose a dressing that’d work well with the whole dish.

He knew what he was doing as it turned out to be the best salad we've had in Toronto. In fact, I might go so far as to say it was the best salad I've ever had, anywhere.

Value 4/5

Atmosphere 3/5

Service 3.5/5

Flavours 4/5

Vegan Friendly? 5/5

Vegetarian Friendly? 5/5

To discover more visit their website at http://www.herbivore.to/

The Magic Oven Restaurant

The Magic Oven has several branches around Toronto. All the furniture and fittings in the restaurant are made from reclaimed materials and they offer award winning pizza made with organic flours, organic mozzarella & raw milk cheddars and organic meats. They also serve a diverse selection of healthy salads, pastas and sandwiches, all made to accommodate a variety of diets – for instance, there are organic spelt pizzas, gluten-free rice flour pizzas and the option of vegan or lactose-free cheese. We loved everything we ate here (the vegan chocolate cake was a dream and the organic beer was very decent indeed), the staff were superb, the restaurants' ethics are spot on and the atmosphere is bistro-style relaxed.

Discover more at http://www.magicoven.com

 

The Old Spaghetti Factory

A 10 minute walk from the CN Tower this unique restaurant comes complete with high ceilings, skylights, antique elevator, streetcar, numerous interesting nooks and crannies, original stained glass windows from Europe, gas lamps, a 100 year old carousel and countless other intriguing antiques and artifacts. It serves Italian-Canadian style food and every dish tastes like you think it should do if it were prepared by a caring family member. There are plenty of vegetarian and dietary options, it's good value, extremely child friendly, the atmosphere (added to by the carousel in the middle of the room which can seat several large parties at long tables) is like a fairground, the surroundings colourful and the staff are genuinely friendly. It's a really fun eating experience and the food they offer is well presented and of extremely high quality. If you only eat dinner out once in Toronto try to make it at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

Discover more at http://oldspaghettifactory.net/

 

Fuel Plus

If we worked in the downtown area we’d make Fuel Plus a regular brunch or lunch stop and if you’re in town for a short time and only have chance for only one lunch stop then in our opinion this is the place to come. Their food is tasty, the staff friendly, they source most of their food locally, they sell nutrition products geared towards runners as well as regular food and also there’s a superb lack of marketing nonsense in the air, which we personally love and value. They have a range of filling wraps, paninis, salads, snacks and desserts such as cookies, muffins and brownies and there''s something for everyone regardless of your dietary requirements. After our brunch here we didn’t need to eat until 8 or 9pm that night even though we spent the day walking around the city centre, and I certainly felt that my energy levels were higher than usual thanks to the powerful, delicious fare we ate at Fuel Plus.

Discover more at http://fuelplus.ca/

 

Fresh Restaurant

Fresh aims to offer tasty vegan and vegetarian food and juice to all people, whether they're vegan, vegetarian or not. They try to have something for everyone while still remaining true to their roots and staying on top of food trends and they make the world of vegetarian dining as approachable as possible with a menu ranging from comfort food classics, like burgers, fries & onion rings, to healthy staples like kale & quinoa salads and noodle and rice bowls with steamed greens & grilled tempeh. At the juice bar their menu ranges from fresh carrot and spinach juice and green smoothies to mint chocolate espresso shakes – all made to order. There are 4 Fresh Restaurants in Toronto, including one very near Richmond 401 and another very near to The Stephen Bulger Gallery. We loved the veggie burgers, the felafal platter, the smoothies and healthy but decadent desserts. We also admire the Fresh 'buy local and organic' ethics very much.

Discover more at http://www.freshrestaurants.ca/

 

Kupfert & Kim

This take away outlet serves only vegan, gluten free fare. Their website claims ‘We are a vegan, gluten-free quick service restaurant serving delicious and sustainable fare. Located in the heart of First Canadian Place, our menu features healthy meals, beverages & snacks. FAST FOOD SHOULD NOT MEAN BAD FOOD.' They offer a 30% discount if you bring your own food or drink containers and they're situated in the heart of the financial district, which we find a fascinating area to take photos in. The staff are very knowledgeable and friendly and if you'd like to try vegan food or just tasty food made from healthy (often organic) ingredients but are unsure as if it's worth your time or money, we'd advise you pay these people a visit. We took a meat eating friend here and she found her meal very satisfying indeed. They've substantial salads, wholesome smoothies, organic coffee and scrumptious desserts.

Discover more at http://kupfertandkim.com

 

Galleries

 

The Ryerson Image Centre

The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC), part of Ryerson University and just minutes from Dundas Square and the Eaton Shopping Centre (the center of downtown Toronto) is a series of 5 viewing areas (3 galleries and 2 other un-enclosed spaces) devoted to photography. The Ryerson also holds collections that can be viewed by visiting artists and writers as well as Ryerson university students which contain works by such seminal figures as Francis Frith, Eugène Atget, André Kertész, Brassaï and Edward Weston. When we visited they had some decent analogue work on display which we learnt more about whilst on one of their free tours that last about half hour. They also have regular talks by the artists who are exhibiting - times and dates on the website - and a gallery devoted to work produced by photographic students of Ryerson University. It's a brilliant, free to enter photographic facility and if you're in town and into photography you simply have to pay it a visit.

To discover more about the Ryerson Image Centre please see http://www.ryerson.ca/ric

 

The Stephen Bulger Gallery

Stephen Bulger founded his gallery - devoted to showing the world's finest photography (a Kertész exhibition had just ended when we visited) - in 1994 and the Toronto Contact Festival (which is now the world's largest photography festival) a couple of years later. As well as presenting monthly exhibitions the gallery maintains an inventory of approximately 15,000 photographs with a special emphasis on works that define the documentary tradition.

They also have a bookstore with a title list of over 3,000 books on photography and a theatre, CAMERA, which hosts free Saturday afternoon film screenings. In our opinion if you want to dip your toe into the contemporary photography scene in Toronto, catch a well curated exhibition, enjoy a free film showing, mix with the cities' photographic crowd or just need a good excuse to visit this part of Queen Street (it's an old, very interesting, picturesque part of the city), then Stephen Bulgers' gallery is the place to come.

To discover more about the Bulger Gallery visit http://www.bulgergallery.com/

 

401 Richmond Galleries

This is a restored, industrial building in downtown Toronto that's home to over 140 artists and several galleries, festival organisers and shops. It's a thriving arts hub where you can find the photography focused 'Gallery 44'. The gallery space is extensive and well lit with natural light although we arrived between major exhibitions and the work on show was rather studenty, so do check their website schedule before visiting if you want to view more accomplished work. If you're in town for a while they've got a darkroom for hire and they also offer courses in such techniques as Wet Plate Collodion. For more info check their website out at http://www.gallery44.org/. As well as Gallery 44 there are 2 or 3 other exhibition spaces and a music shop where the owner welcomes you to play hand crafted instruments such as sitar and harp. An added bonus is that the building is a 5 minute walk from a branch of Fresh Restaurant and also Chinatown and Kensington Market.

To discover more about 401 Richmond visit http://www.401richmond.net/

 

More In Depth Information

 

Our favourite locations for capturing the city are;

1/ Anywhere in the area between Nathan Phillips Square, Yonge and Dundas and the Financial District mid to late afternoon on a sunny day, when the sun is reflected down onto shady streets from the acres of glass that covers the buildings here, sometimes from many directions at once throwing shadows all ways (this is something unique to the city, in our opinion).

 

2/ Kensington Market. very near to Spadina Avenue and Chintown, is home to plenty of street art, artists, a wide variety of bars and restaurants including a couple of vegetarian options worth a look (Urban Herbivore - http://www.herbivore.to/ - and Hibiscus - http://hibiscuscafe.ca/), hippy-style shops, fresh organic produce stalls, cannabis cafes and much more. It's said to be the most photographed area of Toronto and if you go there you'll see why. Think Camden Town in London or the Latin Quarter in Paris before both lost their style and innocence and then regained something of their style and you have Kensington. It's still hanging onto what it was, just (there's talk of a large supermarket opening in the area which will pretty much kill most of the fresh produce outlets off but for now the area retains it's quality). Our favourite shop is the Tribal Eye body oil shop just up from the Rasta Pasta restaurant (follow your nose, they BBQ jerk chicken on the street outside) although since most of the shops are privately owned they're all worth a look as they have some varied and interesting stock, some of which is second hand and very well priced.. The market doesn't have a website but you can read more here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Market

 

3/ The Distillery District may be a little too pristine and twee for our liking but we can't deny that if you're looking to create images of old-time Toronto, it's a good place to start. Check their website out here - http://www3.thedistillerydistrict.com/

 

4/ St Lawrence Market is touted by National Geographic as the best market in the world. Ok, so they're wrong (their list of the top ten world markets reeks of inexperience and a desire to feature certain key areas, which are probably areas from which they're looking to maximise advertising income; the Great Market Hall in Budapest doesn't even make their top ten?! Clearly they need to get out more/take less notice of their advertisers needs...) but don't hold that against the market; it's still a great place to spend an hour. There's lot of photo opportunties both inside and out; just five minutes walk away is a brilliant view of the Flatiron building with the city skyscrapers as a backdrop). And if you're heading out to the islands by public ferry (which we recommend you do if your visit coincides with warm weather and you want to experience Lake Ontario close up), perhaps buy your picnic items at the market. There's a full range of fruits, breads, cheeses, cold meats and ready made meals here and much of it is organic and as fresh as it can be. Check their website out to discover more - http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/

 

5/ Allan Gardens Conservatory, Riverdale Farm and Cabbagetown. Established in 1858 in the downtown area of Toronto (a 10 minute walk from College Subway Station or Riverdale Farm and Fuel Plus Cafe/snack bar, and 15 minutes walk from Ryerson Image Gallery), Allan Gardens is a public botanical garden and features six greenhouses with permanent plant collection (sub-tropical garden, Palm House and cacti) and seasonal plants. It's free to visit and open between 10am and 5pm every day. It's a real treat to be there in winter as it's always warm inside (probably not a feature you'll appreciate until you spend a few hours trying to take photos in a regular Toronto minus-10 winter!). The humid heat does mean, however, that your camera will almost certainly steam up the moment it passes from cold outer air to warm inner (as you can see in some of the photos below, though, you can make this work to your advantage and get a nice, natural soft focus effect). There are a few staff there but they keep to themselves; go during a weekday and it's likely you'll have the place ot yourself. No crowds, no noise, no money involved and a great location for photography whatever the weather = luxury! It's worth noting that the surrounding parkland is fine in daylight but not after dark.

 

Riverdale Farm, within an easy 25 minute walk of downtown Toronto, is set among 7.5 acres that features plenty of animals that you would've been able to see on a typlical 19th century Ontario farm and also pathways through wooded areas, around ponds and into butterfly-herb-flower-vegetable gardens. Entry is free and you're able to get close to the farm animals (no touching though) and chat with the farm assistants whilst they're doing their daily chores. If you're looking to learn more about where you food comes from, then Riverdale is worth a few hours. The farm is located iin the heart of the community of Cabbagetown, a district that oozes history and has a lot to point your camera at, as does Gerrard India Bazaar, which is about a 30 minute walk east of Riverdale. Go there on any Hindu or Islamic Festival and you'll think you're in the heart of Asia; at other times it's a colourful street and not a bad place for lunch. Discover Riverdale's website here

 

6/ If the city starts to close in take the TTC public transport out to the Toronto Botanical Gardens. Leading off of them are Edwards Gardens and Wilket Creek. It's a great area to go for a walk, a run or have a picnic in and on Thursdays there is a good farmers market going on just next to the car park (which is also where the bus leaves you). Find out more at this website - Toronto Botanial Gardens

 

The galleries dealing with photography are generally of a very high standard - if you like outsider/non-commerical, authentic avant garde art you might have to dig a while to find it though - and there are at least two large festivals per year devoted to photography.

 

Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival

The Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival is an annual event in May with well over 1500 Canadian and international artists and photographers exhibiting at more than 175 venues throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Most of the exhibitions are free to attend and it's said to be the largest festival of photography in the world. We haven't attended it but by the looks of itheir website if you're in Toronto in May it might be worth planning your visit around exhibition opening nights so that you can meet the artists and get the most out of the events. To discover more about Contact visit their website at http://scotiabankcontactphoto.com/

Toronto Urban Photography Festival

The Toronto Urban Photography Festival (TUPF) is Toronto’s first and only Urban photography festival. The festival’s second year will run from June 27th 2014 to July 12th 2014, and seeks to inspire, engage, and educate both photographers and urbanists alike. Across multiple venues and galleries downtown, TUPF showcases up-and-coming photographers, hosts engaging, challenging and insightful talks, and invites guests on photo walks and photography workshops. To discover more about the Toronto Urban Photography Festival vist their website at http://tupf.ca/about-tupf/

SNAP

SNAP! is ACT’s (Aids Council of Toronto) annual photographic fundraiser featuring a live auction of art, a silent auction, and the Digital Photo Competition. In previous years, the event has drawn over 700 guests, providing patrons with an opportunity to support ACT’s programs and services, increase their awareness of HIV/AIDS, and add to their art collections. The event provides a great opportunity for both established and emerging artists to showcase their work. In 2014 the work on show and sale included examples of Tintype, 35mm, Gelatin Silver Printing and Wetplate Collodion Ambrotype as well as more usual Digital work. The 2014 catalogue was a work of art in itself. http://snap-toronto.com/

Toronto Events Calender

The Toronto City website has an events calender thats invaluable to the visiting photographer. It'll give you details of the many festivals they have going on (and with such a diverse population there are a multitude of interesting portriat opportunities on offer). Examples of what you might see in the spring and summer are Live Green Toronto, Nuit Blanche, Brazil Fest, Japanese Fest, The Danforth Greek Festival and several happenings in Chinatown and Kensington. See the website at http://www1.toronto.ca/

The Power Plant Gallery

The Power Plant is a free to enter public art gallery situated by the Habourfront Centre, on the banks of Lake Ontario. When we visited there was a permanent looking photographic exhibition on the lawn outside (the photos were placed in all-weather framing) and a superb contemporary art exhibition inside. On top of this the staff were very friendly and informative too. The whole Harbourfront area has so much to see and photograph, it's well worth half a day or more. See their website for more details - http://www.thepowerplant.org

The Art Gallery of Ontario

The AGO has an extensive photography collection and is free to visit on Wednesdays from 6-8.30pm. See their website for more details on what is certainly a first rate collection - http://www.ago.net/

The Royal Ontario Museum

Another good photography collection - http://www.rom.on.ca/en

The Japan Foundation

A cultural foundation that introduces Japan through the art exhibitions, films screenings, lectures and readings. We've seen several great photo exhibitions here - http://www.jftor.org

The Liss Gallery

This gallery is downtown, free to visit, has some very interesting shows (we saw 'The Art of John Lennon' here) and holds an impressive photographic collection - http://www.lissgallery.com

The Bau Xi Photo Gallery

This gallery is opposite the Art Gallery of Ontario and has 2 floors filled with varied styles of photography. There was some excellent work by Joshua Jensen-Nagle on view when we visited. As with the other commercial galleries in town the work here is produced to be hung on big walls in big houses so if you're after something edgy chances are you won't find it although we did enjoy seeing photos displayed behind perspex which gives an interesting depth to certain images. The gallery is worth a visit in our opinion and a few doors up the road they have another gallery devoted to painting that has a lovely, airey upstairs space - http://bau-xiphoto.com/

The Ed Mirvish Theatre

We saw shows at 2 of the 4 Ed Mirvish venues. The production was superb and the facades and foyers of the buildings were picturesque. If you fancy taking in a show, you can be assured that their productions are top class. Check their schedule out here - http://mirvish.com/

The Toronto Photo Club

Their website is a great resource for learning about Toronto photographers; the front page also has an extensive list of other photography clubs in Toronto - http://torontophotoclub.ca/

The Toronto Camera Club

Another great resource for learning about Toronto based photographers. The Toronto Camera club was the first of it's kind in Canada and today has approx. 350 members. Regular club meetings are held on Monday nights from September to May and they have regular lectures by top pro photographers. https://www.torontocameraclub.com/

Downtown Cameras

In our opinion, if you're in Toronto and need photographic equipment then Downtown Cameras is the best place to go. They're as cheap as anywhere else, friendly, hold extensive stock and second hand kit and they even have their own darkroom so can develop your prints on site, usually with a 5 day turnaround - http://downtowncamera.com/

Aden Cameras

Another city centre photographic store, usually the same price as Downtown Cameras but less friendly and with a far more pushy sales technique - www.adencamera.com

Vistek

Slightly out of the city centre on Queen Street, about 15 minutes walk from Downtown Cameras. They have 3 floors of pro and amateur camera kit, printers, papers, inks, etc and a comprehensive program of imaging workshops, seminars and events - www.vistek.ca

Henrys

A friendly shop that holds a lot of good stock. More expensive than Downtown or Aden Cameras though - www.henrys.com

Blacks

Blacks have several branches in Toronto, the Yonge and Dundas store being In the shopping centre alongside Spring Rolls restaurant (which we recommend for great Pan-Asian food). This place sells photo hardwear but it's expensive and the shop is more useful for developing your photos - www.blacks.ca

Toronto Photo Walks

Monthly walks geared around photography led by locals - http://www.meetup.com/torontophotographic/

Heritage Toronto

Heritage Toronto offer free walks that aren't photography based but which will take you to many old parts of the city where you'll have time to take a few snaps and recce the area so you can return at leisure to your favourite spots - http://heritagetoronto.org

Free Walking Tours

Heres another tour company that offers a free 2 hour guided walk around downtown Toronto, great for getting to know the area - http://www.adventurists.ca/our-adventures/

Toronto Vegetarian Directory

If you're looking to learn more about local vegetarian restaurants, store outlets and initiatives then this is a good website. http://veg.ca/

Currency Exchange

Interchange are money changers located in the Ontario Tourism Office at 20 Dundas St West. They often offer the best rates in the city for tourists, as long as you call first and ask what the rate is (if you just walk in, their rates aren't as good). If you can't call then check out Guardian exchange on Yonge St instead, they're always pretty good (just two or three shops down from Guardian are another business who often offer still better rates). If you come from the UK you'll probably get a better rate online for bulk orders before you leave but if you don't want to do that then Interchange or Guardian are you best option. Whatever you do, don't use the place in the Eaton Centre, near Lush. Their rates are terrible and they have a reputation for taking advantage of tourists.

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