The latest, greatest change to Toronto may have been the 1998 amalgamation of six boroughs into one ‘megacity,’ however Canada’s largest city (and the condo capital) has in fact experienced steady growth for thousands of years. First inhabited by Indigenous people 12,500 years ago and now one of the condo capitals of the world, the Toronto known and loved today by millions of residents from all over the globe has received quite the facelift since then.
Funnily enough, the initial stages of development occurred when the city went by a different name altogether. Luitenant-Colenol John Graves Simcoe renamed the city York in the 1790s, shortly after which Yonge Street and Dundas Street were built, as well as the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. Only in 1834 was the name Toronto returned, when York was deemed too similar to New York, and too confusing given many other Yorks had been established in the area.
Fast forward to the close of the 20th century, when Toronto’s current boundaries were solidified. Following the amalgamation of 9 areas — West End, East End, Downtown, Etobicoke, Scarborough, North York, York Crosstown, Midtown, and East York — The City of Toronto suddenly contained the fifth highest population of any city in North America. Only Mexico City, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago were more populous at the time, and the number of residents in Toronto has been growing ever since.
While controversial at the time, Toronto seems to have risen to the occasion of its amalgamation into a ‘megacity.’ Today this very city is considered one of the most multicultural in the world (or the most according to BBC Radio), and while large in size, it still maintains that stereotypically friendly Canadian feel.
Buying a condo in Toronto has never been so accessible to many, thanks to the immense number of units spread throughout the city — however admittedly, we've gone through periods of scarce supply of condo inventory. The soaring towers that comprise the downtown skyline started to go up in the 1960s, and they haven’t seemed to stop appearing since. With single-family homes becoming more and more unaffordable toward the end of the decade, the government had no choice but to subsidize the construction of condos for sale in Toronto, in the form of high-rise buildings and townhouses.
Ironically, so many new buildings were erected then that, starting in 1973, no high-rise towers were to be built for two years. Developers were ready and waiting for the moratorium to end, and the 1980s was marked by a surge of condo developments in Toronto.
Some condos have been around much longer, although the longest standing residences in the city once functioned as something entirely different. Toronto is home to an unprecedented number of hard lofts: existing buildings — typically factories and warehouses — converted into residential homes. Industrial production was once concentrated right in downtown Toronto, yet it began to slowly move away from the core beginning in the early 1900s. This left many historical buildings ready and waiting to be renovated, including churches and practically any industrial structure slated for destruction.
Recognizable because of the massive red sign visible from the Gardiner Expressway, the Tip Top Lofts is one of the most iconic hard lofts in the city. The Art Deco edifice was constructed in 1929, and functioned as a factory, warehouse, office, and retail space for Tip Top Tailors before being converted into residences in the early 2000s. Soft lofts — contemporary condos designed to look and feel like authentic hard loft conversions — also began to appear in Toronto in the 1990s.
Residents who witnessed the addition of 30,000 new condos for sale in Toronto in the 1980s may have been surprised at what they saw, yet that’s nothing compared to the recent rate of condo development in the city. During each of the first two decades of the 21st century, over 100,000 condo units were created.
Some of the most notable recent builds are those recognized as the tallest and most glamorous. Representing the former is the 85-storey mixed-use building known as the One, while the swankiest of them all are associated with Toronto’s most exclusive luxury hotels. The Four Seasons Residences and the Residences of the Ritz Carlton are home to some of the most expensive — and extravagant — Toronto condos on the market.
For such a dense, urban metropolis, it’s pretty impressive how much green space Toronto has to offer. High Park may be less than half the size of New York’s Central Park, but it’s still adored by Torontonians living in condos all over the city. Those looking to buy a condo in Toronto’s west end simply can’t complain about a lack of a backyard when High Park is within walking distance.
Other beloved parks include Riverdale Park, home to a farm, baseball diamonds, cricket pitches, an outdoor pool, and one of the best sunset-viewing spots in the city, as well as Trinity Bellwoods Park, where hipsters gather to picnic and toss frisbees until it’s too cold to feel their toes.
Yet some of the very best green spaces in the city hardly resemble parks. Hikers adore evergreen Brick Works as much as wedding planners seeking a picturesque venue. Then there’s the Scarborough Bluffs: part beach, part hiking trail, and part Instagram backdrop. And hands down, the best retreat from the commotion of the city has to be the Toronto Islands. Visitors can make their way over by sailboat, canoe, kayak, water taxi, or ferry, where they’ll find everything from weekend music festivals to petting zoos and even a nude beach.
Every major city has its share of major events, but the annual festivities found throughout the city are undeniably special. Diehard fans can even choose to bid on condos for sale in Toronto close to their favourite events, such as the Pride Parade or the Canadian National Exhibition. The Ex marks the end of the summer — and welcomes the season of cozy scarves and hot chocolate — by way of rides, games, and ridiculous fair-inspired foods.
Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade has been an annual wintertime event since 1904, and is now considered one of the biggest of its type in North America. Torontonians ready to get into the holiday spirit also look forward to the annual Cavalcade of Lights. Originally an event marking the lighting of Christmas trees outside City Hall, various Toronto neighbourhoods now participate by creating some pretty impressive light shows.
Sporadic cultural events can always be found throughout the city, but the big, annual affairs simply can’t be beat. Comedy fans will want to grab a pass for JFL42, a comedy festival put on by Just for Laughs, while those who prefer film can be found seeing as many movies as possible during the Toronto International Film Festival, which lasts for 10 days each September. During TIFF, King Street West filled with stars and paparazzi, and nearly 500,000 attendees makes it one of the biggest public film festivals worldwide.
While film and comedy festivals may not be unique to Toronto, Nuit Blanche certainly is. For one night each fall, streets in the downtown core go car-free, art installations and exhibits run all night, and attendees wander the street until dusk. Toronto also hosts the Hot Docs Festival, North America’s most significant documentary film festival, as well as musical events like the Beaches Jazz Festival, Canadian Music Week, North by Northeast, and Field Trip Festival.
Other Toronto festivities include Word on the Street, which celebrates Canadian magazines and books, as well as the Fringe Festival, where audiences can experience inexpensive, independent plays all over the city throughout the month of July. And although Luminato is a relative newcomer (it’s only been around since 2007), the arts and cultural programming spread over its 10-day run are always impressive — and often free. Regardless of what event sounds most exciting, buying a condo in Toronto means always being near some sort of cultural action.
Toronto is a city made up of distinct neighbourhoods: some of them boast tons of character, while others are idyllic for families. When it comes to character, there’s nothing like Kensington Market — perhaps in the entire world. While this neighbourhood has few condos for sale, it’s no surprise that it’s also on the top of any tourist’s list. With its boho vibe and eclectic food choices, it’s easy to spend a day wandering the tiny streets of the market. This neighbourhood is also particularly good for shopping, thanks to its specialty food shops — think fish, spices, cheese, and produce — as well as its profusion of vintage boutiques.
Yorkville may have been bohemian back in the 1960s, however today it’s anything but. This neighbourhood is best known for all things luxury, especially hotels, shops, restaurants, and bars. The Mink Mile, which lines the southern border of Yorkville along Bloor, happens to be home to some of the most expensive rental prices for retail spaces in the world. And unsurprisingly, this neighbourhood is also home to some of the most lavish condos for sale in Toronto.
Then there’s the Beaches, which feels like a world away — from both of these neighbourhoods, and from Toronto altogether. One of the most family-friendly and enchanting parts of the city, buying a Toronto condo in the Beaches provides access to a delightful boardwalk along Lake Ontario’s north shore, plus an array of independent businesses along Queen East. Family-oriented neighbourhoods in Toronto’s east end also include Cabbagetown and Leslieville, while Trinity Bellwoods is one of the most sought-after spots west of the downtown core.
As for neighbourhoods that are rich in history, nothing quite compares to St. Lawrence and the Distillery District. Sitting side by side, both were formerly industrial, and both neighbourhoods offer a steady flow of condos for sale throughout the year.
The former was once home to Upper Canada’s first parliament buildings and Toronto’s original City Hall, and today the highlight of the neighbourhood is its namesake market. The latter, on the other hand, went from specialized to diverse: once home to the Gooderham and Worts distillery, the preserved Victorian architecture and cobblestone streets are now filled to the brim with boutiques, galleries, bars, and cafés.
With over 6.5 million residents as of 2016, Toronto is home to more people than any other Canadian city. Not only has it grown considerably since its conception, Toronto is also the fastest growing part of Ontario, with nearly 10 million residents expected by 2041. What makes Toronto truly unique isn’t just its population, though, but the makeup of its inhabitants. Celebrated for its multicultural citizens, over half of Torontonians are visible minorities, and that percentage grows every year.
The cultural makeup of Toronto is particularly visible in a handful of neighbourhoods, where businesses cater to locals as much as to visitors from around the city: Chinatown is concentrated around Spadina and Dundas; Little Italy can be found on College west of Bathurst; Little India is situated on Gerrard East; the Danforth is synonymous with Greektown; Korea Town lines Bloor between Bathurst and Ossington; Little Portugal sits south of Little Italy and east of Parkdale; and a prominent Polish community lives in Roncesvalles. Ultimately, buying a condo in Toronto will offer something entirely different depending on the neighbourhood.
Regardless of which Toronto condo for sale a prospective buyer is interested in, there’s sure to be a variety of schools in the surrounding neighbourhood. Those interested in sending their children to private schools might want to start their condo search in Forest Hill, where Upper Canada College and the Bishop Strachan School are situated. Parents of budding athletes can look for condos in St. Andrew/Windfields in order to be near to St. Andrew’s Junior High School, while those with artistically-minded offspring can search for a condo in Willowdale to be close to Claude Watson School for the Arts.
The largest public schools in the city can be found north of the downtown core, but thankfully for buyers they’re still surrounded by an abundance of condo options: nearly 2,000 students are enrolled at Northern Secondary in the Yonge/Eglinton/Mount Pleasant West neighbourhood, while Earl Haig Secondary School in Willowdale has almost 3,000 students enrolled at any given time.
While some parents hope for their children to leave the house by the time university or college rolls around, others might consider post-secondary institutions when buying a condo in Toronto.
Toronto is home to prominent universities like York University, Ryerson University, and the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Art and Design, as well as numerous colleges including George Brown and Seneca. And for high school students who want to get a jump start on their university careers, there’s always the highly competitive University of Toronto Schools, affiliated with the university and located right on its campus.
Toronto is home to a number of notable structures, some of which are much newer than others. The Ripley’s Aquarium, for one, is proof that an attraction doesn’t have to be prehistoric in order to be celebrated. Constructed in 2013, the 135,000 square foot space is home to approximately 20,000 sea creatures, and attracts boatloads of tourists every year.
Prospective buyers hoping to live close to all the action should look no further than the Entertainment District. Home to plenty of Toronto condos for sale, living in this neighbourhood also means being within close reach of the CN Tower, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the Roger’s Centre, and the Air Canada Centre.
Those looking to connect with Toronto’s rich history, on the other hand, can visit Casa Loma: an early 20th century castle that now serves as an event venue, and contains a posh steakhouse, an escape room, and an annual haunted house. Last but not least, there’s no better way to shop for groceries than at the St. Lawrence Market, which has been operating on the same site (albeit not in the same building) since 1803. Here visitors can gather produce, sample imported cheeses, grab a fresh Montreal-style bagel or peameal bacon sandwich, and visit the gallery in the south building, among other things.
Getting cultured is easy when living in a Toronto. Museums like the Bata Shoe Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Royal Ontario Museum are located in the heart of the city, those living in the west end will likely frequent MOCA, and residents of the east end and North York can reach the Ontario Science Centre and the Aga Khan Museum with ease.
Additionally, many condos for sale in Toronto are within close proximity of renowned concert venues like the Phoenix Concert Theatre, the Cameron House, the Horseshoe Tavern, and the Danforth Music Hall. Theatres are aplenty too, with audiences having their pick between the Mirvish Theatre, the Princess of Wales, and Royal Alexandra, to name a few.
Although Toronto has no shortage of cinemas, there are a few venues that make watching films an extra special experience: the Cinesphere, built in 1971, was the first permanent IMAX theatre in the world; built in 1911, the Revue Cinema is the oldest movie house still in operation in Toronto; the Fox Theatre in the Beaches has been screening films since 1914; and as the name suggests, the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema specializes in documentary movies.
The development of Toronto’s transportation infrastructure has everything to do with its ever-growing population. By 1891 the number of Torontonians reached 181,000, and at this point the city had no choice but to step up its transit game. While the streetcar system dates back to the late 19th century, the first subway line in Toronto wouldn’t be completed until 1954, at which point riders could travel along the Yonge line from Eglinton to Union Station.
From Union Station, passengers can now travel as far north as Finch and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Stations. Yet Union Station is used by more than just subway riders: VIA Rail trains, GO buses and trains, and the UP service to Pearson International Airport can all be accessed from within Toronto’s foremost transportation hub.
At present, four subway lines cut across the city: the Yonge-University-Spadina line, the Bloor-Danforth line, the Scarborough line, and the Sheppard line. Line 5, the Eglinton Crosstown line, is also in the works, which will supply those living in midtown condos with 25 new stations by 2021. As for drivers, major highways in the city include the Don Valley Parkway, the 401, the 427, and the Gardiner Expressway.
The Locals: They thrive in a big city setting, and they’re perfectly comfortable being considered America’s hat.
Code of Conduct: A long line is the surefire sign of any good restaurant — and Torontonians are prepared to wait.
What You’ll Find: Less snow than in Montreal, and none of the coastal storms New Yorkers have to deal with.
What You Won’t Find: A homogenous-looking bunch of locals.
The Homes: Buyers will be hard-pressed to find a condo built before the 1960’s — unless it’s an industrial hard loft conversion.
Sealing the Deal: The choice between distinctive neighbourhoods, the ability to engage with different microcultures, and most importantly, the eclectic, authentic food options.