24 Hours in Toronto

Toronto is Canada’s largest and busiest city, the 7th most populated city in North America, one of the world’s most liveable, multicultural, cosmopolitan, diverse, and accepting cities, and the place I’m proud to call home. This itinerary is perfect for you if you’re in Toronto for 24 hours or less, as it hits a mix of major tourist attractions and local hideouts for a comprehensive experience.

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Toronto is Canada’s largest and busiest city, the 7th most populated city in North America, after Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston (man, those Americans know how to multiply!), one of the world’s most liveable, multicultural, cosmopolitan, diverse, and accepting cities, and the place I’m proud to call my home. It’s also the city that most other Canadians love to hate, but we’re not going to go into that here!

If you’re flying into other parts of Canada or the USA, I highly recommend that you take a few hours or even days in Toronto to go exploring. This itinerary is perfect for you if you’re in Toronto for 24 hours or less, as it hits a mix of major tourist attractions and local hideouts for a comprehensive experience.

When to Visit

Foliage in the autumn, turning orange-gold
In Ontario, autumn is the best time for viewing foliage in all colours of red, gold, and orange.

In my opinion, the best time to visit Toronto is late spring (April-May) or mid-fall (October). The summers here are quite hot and the winters can be frigid (my cousin calls our weather inhuman). In April and May, the weather tends on the warmer side of comfortable and the city is gearing up for the summer, which includes a bunch of food, music, and pride festivals. However, October comes with many advantages as well; the weather is cooler, the air smells beautiful, the leaves turn beautiful colours of red and gold, and there’ll be a bunch of Christmas fanatics excited about the holidays already. TIFF happens in September, so that’s the perfect time to visit if you’re a film buff, though flights and accommodations may be more expensive. Nuit Blanche happens on one night in early October so if you’re up for an incredibly exhausting intense 24 hour experience, this is your time. Pride, Caribana, and Taste of the Danforth, as well as numerous other festivals happen in the summer, so if food, music, pride, and fun are your thing, I would advise you to go then.

Related: How to save more, so you can travel more

Getting Around

Toronto commuters boarding a streetcar downtown
Toronto has a deep love-hate relationship with its transit system. Source: http://www.cp24.com/polopoly_fs/1.1212417.1420668025!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_960/image.jpg

Taking the TTC in Toronto is your best bet for getting around. It’s convenient and easy to learn, especially in the downtown core, where most of the exciting stuff happens. A day pass costs $12 but is only available on weekends and holidays. Single fares cost $3.25 for adults, $2 for students, and nothing for children 12 and under (I’m just gonna take a moment and express the collective displeasure of Toronto’s residents that free rides weren’t available when we were younger).

The city also offers an express train running between Pearson International Airport and Union Station (in the heart of downtown). It’s convenient but the price can be quite steep ($24 for an adult return ticket). If you want to do as the locals, take a TTC or GO bus from the airport to the subway. It’ll give you the genuine local experience of anger, frustration, and overall displeasure at the transit system.

The Itinerary

Morning

Rise and shine, wanderers! I love to get up bright and early, so that I have a head start on exploring. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, make sure to avoid setting out on the TTC between 8-9 in the morning on workdays. This is often when the subway and buses are clogged with people and backlogged with delays.

The interior of the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, filled with any food vendors
The St. Lawrence Market is a Toronto institution, and many still come here for its farmer’s market. Source: http://wpmedia.news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/st-lawrence-market4.jpg

Head to the St. Lawrence Market to grab breakfast. The building is gorgeous, both inside and out. The building was constructed in 1820, on the site of Market Square, where public markets were held since 1803. In 1831, the original wood building was torn down, and a brick building was constructed. That building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1849. The market was rebuilt two more times, in 1904 and 1968, so the moral of this story is that you should probably go see the market before it’s torn down and rebuilt again.

The Toronto Distillery District on a cloudy day, with buildings in the background and busy shoppers in the foreground
The Distillery District houses an incredible collection of Victorian style architecture. Source: http://cdn.narcity.com/toronto/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/07/distillme.jpg

Next, take a walk to the Distillery District. The Distillery District is home to the former Gooderham & Worts Distillery, once the largest distillery in the world, providing millions of gallons of whisky. Today, the booze is gone (darn!) but the Victorian architecture still remains. Many of the tenants in the distillery buildings are studios, art galleries, restaurants, and boutique shops, but there are also numerous events and festivals that happen almost every day in the area. The most well known of these is the Toronto Christmas Market. Don’t forget to snap a photo with your sweetheart under the heart-shaped arch!

Afternoon

A street corner in Kensington market, with a fruit stall in the foreground
Kensington Market is a quintessential hippie neighbourhood for Torontonians. Source: http://wvs.topleftpixel.com/photos/2006/01/kensington_market_st-andrew_corner_01.jpg

If you’re looking for a place to have lunch, check out Chinatown. Located along Spadina Avenue, a bit farther west than the downtown core, there’s a bunch of delicious ethnic restaurants for hungry travellers looking to relax and enjoy their meals. After lunch, consider checking out Kensington Market, just west of Spadina. It’s known (and sometimes bashed) for its hippy-dippy feel, but is also a favourite among locals. Food, postcards, potted plants, and healing crystals can all be found within the small stores that make up Kensington. If hippy-dippy doesn’t sound like your thing, why not check out a museum or art gallery (but not both at once!) You could easily spend whole months immersed in the art galleries and museums in Toronto, but for a visit of a few hours, I recommend heading further uptown to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). There’s nowhere better to spend a rainy afternoon, with some ancient Chinese pottery or Egyptian mummies. On a separate note, it’s really kind of cool (or depressing, depending on your point of view), knowing that your body just might become part of a museum exhibit in a couple thousand years.

The modern portion of the Royal Ontario Museum architecture
The ROM: quirky or eyesore? We’ll let you decide. Source: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/images/jpgs/toronto/royal_ontario_museum_daniellibeskind010507_7.jpg

For an afternoon snack, why not try eating at Tim Horton’s, the fast food chain synonymous with Canada? If it’s cold out, try out our local slang by asking for a double-double coffee, a coffee with two creams and two sugars. Alternately, if it’s warm out, get an ice capp (or iced cappucino, for you non-Canadians out there), so that you can drink a day’s worth of calories in 15 minutes! Timbits (donut holes) are another quintessential treat at Tim Horton’s.

The Toronto skyline as viewed from the ferry terminal on Centre Island
Centre Island is a great place to have some fun and have a gander at the Toronto skyline. Source: http://www.torontosnaps.com/p3/m/Toronto-Island-Park/Centre-Island-a-view-10011.jpg

In the late afternoon, go to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal downtown (a five minute walk from Union Station) and catch a ferry to Ward’s Island or Centre Island. You’ll notice that the CN Tower is conspicuously absent from this itinerary, and it’s because I just don’t think the tower is worth going up. You don’t get a sense of how beautiful the city is from the tower, the wait times are long, and it’s just a tourist trap. However, from the Islands, you get a great view of the Toronto skyline as the sun is setting, plus, who doesn’t like water and beaches? Make sure to check the ferry schedule so that you can pick the optimal time to go.

Evening

Two houses in the Annex, Toronto's historic neighbourhood
The Annex, one of Toronto’s historic neighbourhoods. Just look at those houses! Source: https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/bd/7f/a8/the-annex.jpg

Get your dinner in a mom and pop shop in one of TO’s neighbourhoods. My favourites are the Annex, perfect for people more interested in trendy food, and Koreatown, located around Bloor and Bathurst.

People clubbing at a live music event
Toronto has many different options for party animals. Source: https://studentwire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Clubbing-Anna-Omelchenko.jpg

Queen St. W. and Ossington are some of the currently hip places to go dancing or have a drink in the city. Though Toronto is a bastion of diversity, you can head to Church and Wellesley for a more historically LGBTQ+ experience. If partying isn’t your thing, try out a board game cafe. There are a bunch in the city, and they’re open pretty late.

Hopefully, with all these tips, you’ll be all set to have the best of times in Toronto! Let us know where you want to visit in Toronto in the comments below. Happy travels!

 

German Language Guide for Travelers + Free Download!

English is a Germanic language, but that doesn’t mean that German is intuitive at all for English speakers. Because English also draws heavily on many other languages, especially romance languages such as French, German vocabulary looks almost unrecognizable to any English speaker!

German is spoken mainly in Central Europe, in the countries of Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. It’s one of the most widely spoken languages in the European Union and in the world, so as you can see, it’s pretty useful to know German!

Pronunciation

If you come across these letters in German, pronounce them this way:

ä as in let

äu or eu as in toy

ei as in fine

ie as in green

ö as in worm (without the r sound afterwards)

sch as in shop

sp as in spiel

st as in sht

ü as in tea (while rounding the lower lip

z as in mats (ts sound)

ß as in moss (double s sound)

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Or, if you prefer it in PDF form for printing, click here.

Until next time, happy travels!

Guide: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

The City of Luxembourg is the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a teeny tiny landlocked country in Western Europe. Built on beautiful steep hills and precipitous valleys, the city occupies several levels. The city itself is a UNESCO world heritage site because of its fortifications, and houses many historical and cultural landmarks.

Le Chemin de la Corniche is an attraction that you cannot miss. A promenade that runs along the ramparts, just beside the Alzette Valley, it offers unrivalled views of the city. The Bock Casemates were built in 1644, during the Spanish rule, and later dismantled in 1867. However, some tunnels were left untouched and are open to the public between the months of March and November. The Palace of the Grand Dukes can be visited during the summer. It used to be the town residence of the Grand Dukes, and has an incredible Flemish Renaissance facade.

The Philharmonie Luxembourg is a concert hall, not only known for its orchestra, but also for its unique architecture, that the architect de Portzamparc envisioned as a natural filter for the music. Outdoors, the Passerelle, also known as the Luxembourg viaduct, stands picturesquely bridging the chasm of a valley. You can enjoy the view from the viaduct, or climb down into the lush green Petrusse valley below.

Le Monument de la Solidarite Nationale stands as a tribute to those who fought in the two world wars. It was erected in 1923, only to be taken down during German occupation in 1940. It was restored later on, and the golden lady on top found, after being hidden from the Nazis. Entrance is free at the National Museum of Art and History, where there are a wide range of collections.

There are many annual events too, one of the most notable being the Dancing Procession of Echternach, on Whit Tuesday in May, that sees thousands of pilgrims and spectators come together to dance.

Hotels in Luxembourg can generally be booked for around 100 to 200 CAD a night during busy season, and may drop to two thirds that during off season. You can choose to stay in a cheaper family hotel, or a fancier boutique hotel in a historical building. There are also many bistros and brasseries in the city to dine in within a wide price range.

Ultimately, what makes Luxembourg City worth visiting is its mix of history, culture, and rugged nature. Its eclectic beauty is what will make you fall in love.

Happy travelling!

-Chelsea

Guide: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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Victoria Falls is the world’s largest waterfall by volume, 108 meters high and 1708 meters wide, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It sits on the Zambezi River, straddling the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. On the northern side is the Zambian town of Livingstone, on the southern side, the Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls.

David Livingstone is believed to be the first European that viewed Victoria Falls in 1855. He named the falls in honour of the Queen Victoria. However, the indigenous name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders” is also commonly used.

The Falls are a short distance north of the town of Victoria Falls. The best (and only) way to get close to the Falls from the Zimbabwean side is through the Victoria Falls National Park. Make sure to rent a poncho (just outside the entrance to the park) and bring a change of clothes! At certain parts of the national park, the mist will leave you as drenched as if you had been in a torrential rainstorm. You can also fly over Victoria Falls in a helicopter or a microlight, if you prefer not to get up close and personal with the mist.

Victoria Falls is not the only place you can visit in Victoria Falls. There are Boma Dinners where you can learn about the local indigenous cuisine and culture. River cruises take you down the Zambezi river, and usually you can catch a glimpse of various animals like elephants, hippos, and crocodiles. A wide range of safaris and game drives exist early in the morning and late at night. These are superb and well worth the money for the amount of wildlife they take you to see. Many other activities exist for a wide range of travellers, such as riding and fishing.

You can fly into Victoria Falls Airport, or take a bus or train in from larger cities. If you want to see Victoria Falls from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides, the combined cost of visas will be less than 100 USD. It is best to visit during rainy season, December to March, when there will be more water in the Falls. However, visiting in the dry season is also fine, as there is usually more than enough water in the Falls until October, when the water may dry to a trickle.

Happy travelling!