Rhonda Riche’s Guide to Toronto, Presented by Watchonista
Watch collectors collect more than watches. We collect experiences, secret spots, insider info, and we can rattle off expert opinions and insights on our towns like nobody’s business. The next stop on our tour of tastes, sights, and experiences is one of our favorites (or, should we say, favourites): Toronto!
I like to describe my adopted hometown of Toronto as a mixtape. By that, I mean Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world where you can not only sample the food, fashion, music, art, and architecture of cultures from all over the world, but these flavors influence each other to create something new.
On top of which, in the last few decades, Torontonians have elevated everyday life to an art form.
Surrounded by buildings designed by internationally renowned architects and restaurants run by top chefs, there are amazing galleries, theatres, and concert halls celebrating art all over the city. Even jogging past the city’s exceptional outdoor murals and sculptures is an art experience.
Here’s an insider’s guide to some of my favorite places in “The Six.”
If you want to see the widest array of timepieces in Toronto, then, in the immortal words of fictional Canadian icon Robin Sparkles from How I Met Your Mother: “Let’s go to the mall!”
Yorkdale Shopping Centre is home to stand-alone boutiques from Breitling, Cartier, Hublot, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Omega, Panerai, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Tudor, and Vacheron Constantin. All offer a luxe shopping experience plus special in-store events for enthusiasts.
Bulgari, Piaget, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, and Van Cleef & Arpels are also available at Yorkdale, alongside other luxury goods.
Sleep On It
Before making it my new hometown, the best rest I ever had in Toronto was at the Shangri-La.
The rooms are luxurious, the service exemplary and the location, at the intersection of the heart of the financial district and the entertainment district, puts you in walking distance of The Art Gallery of Ontario, The Canadian Opera Company, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and The Air Canada Centre.
Moreover, you don’t even have to leave the hotel to partake in a great Toronto tradition: High Tea. Served every Thursday to Sunday in the Lobby Lounge, between 12 pm and 5 pm, the Lounge is also home to a rotating exhibition of vintage couture fashion from designers such as Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint-Laurent, Chanel, Versace, and others.
Two places that will provide you with the full spectrum of culinary delights on offer in Toronto are Superfresh and the Queen Street West institution Terroni.
Newly opened, Superfresh is a hip recreation of an Asian Night Market food court.
Meanwhile, Terroni is a pan-Italian wonderland, and their Funghi Assoluti is just about my favorite food in the world. In fact, I love Terroni so much, I got married there.
I can’t pick just one fantastic cocktail place because bar hopping is also part of the Toronto culture.
So, I’d say, let’s start with some day drinking at the visually stunning Bar Raval in Little Italy before heading out for tapas and cocktails at Bar Mordecai. This west-end haunt has the ambiance of an old-school hotel lobby bar, plus it has private karaoke rooms.
Then, let’s finish the night by venturing out to Cry Baby Gallery, where a secret cocktail and oyster bar hides behind an art gallery on Dundas West.
Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em
Toronto is a cigar haven for those who partake.
Yes, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act has outlawed most designated smoking rooms and cigar lounges, but there are no restrictions on buying Cubans. And Frank Correnti Cigars on Spadina is a time machine where you can inhale the history of cigars while watching a tobacconist hand roll your bespoke smoke.
Whenever I visit a new city, I always seek out the local independent music stores because the staff are usually hip to the best up-and-coming bands, events, and even cool vintage clothing stores.
When I first came to Toronto, Play De Record was one of my favorite cultural curators, and it’s still going strong. Fun Facts: Drake bought his first turntables here, and Deadmau5 still drops by to dig through the crates.
While I don’t dabble in the beans, my husband is a total coffee snob. His preferred cuppa comes from Sam James Coffee Bar. He says that not only does it serve up a superior product, but all three of the local roaster’s downtown locations are also fun places to hang out.
Sam James Coffee Bar pretty much sums up all of my picks – whether international or familiar, cheap and cheerful or ultra-luxe, Toronto provides moments to savor.
(Photography by Rhonda Riche or provided by the companies)