Once the site of the Gooderham and Worts Whiskey distillery, Toronto’s restored Distillery District is now one of the top tourist and wedding destinations in the city. The neighbourhood reopened in 2003 as a pedestrian-only warren of cobblestone streets with restaurants, coffee shops, and retail nestled into the Victorian Industrial architecture. Though it’s taken a few years to fill up each location with a tenant, the Distillery is now one of the best spots in the city for a day out.
Start the morning with a coffee and muffin at Balzac’s Coffee. This former Pump House has been transformed into a soaring two-floor Parisian-style café. The patio is open year-round, making it a great spot for people-watching.
Brick Street Bakery
One word: mouthwatering. This is the only way to describe the warm croissants coming out of the oven at Brick Street Bakery. Breakfast is covered here – baked goods and egg sandwiches – and so is lunch. Try the hot BLT.
With a sated stomach, it’s time for strolling. Gawk at the art at any of the beautiful galleries in the district. For something a little different check out the Julie M. Gallery for contemporary Israeli art. Arta Gallery has been in the area since the Distillery reopened showing both Canadian and international artists’ work.
If you like history, sign up for a speedy Segway tour of the Distillery. Some tours include tastings at some of the yummy restaurants/cafes in the hood, so it’s a chance to stuff your brain and your face. Spook things up a bit with the Segway ghost tour – these buildings have stood since the 19th century, so there’s bound to be some history behind the walls!
If you prefer a drink with your touring, join up with a Ontario Spring Water Sake Company tour (it includes tastings!). Because at this point, we all know how wine is made, now don’t we?
Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie
For lunch, grab a table at Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie – a beautiful high-end Parisian-style restaurant. You could go all-out and indulge over dinner, but try the lunch menu for a more affordable and just as delicious meal. Be ballsy and try the frog legs or play it safe with a delicious Croque Madame sandwich filled with salty ham and oozing melted cheese.
Shopping in the Distillery may break the bank, but many of the stores feature cutting-edge design and beautiful craftsmanship. Check out Hoi Bo for Toronto-made leather and canvas purses by Sarra Tang. Bero Designs is chock-full of houseware odds and ends. From kids toys to candlesticks, this is possibly one of the most inventive gift stores in the city. A Taste of Quebec is exactly what it sounds like – bring home French cheeses, clay housewares, and preserves from the province with a certain je ne sais quoi. Finally, take a stroll through the Artscape building and peek in on artists at work in their studios.
The Beer Hall
The Distillery is home to the famous craft brewery, Mill Street. The newest restaurant in their arsenal is the Beer Hall, an enormous space with an impressive menu. Beer Hall favourites like fondue and pretzels are cheesy, salty goodness, washed down with one of Mill Street’s various brews. The patio is almost as large as the indoor space and with industrial-size heaters, this place is sure to be bumping all year round.
Wild Apple, Hibiscus Jelly and Rum truffle….fresh batch for you lovers out there pic.twitter.com/st1ysCSuee
— Somachocolate (@somachocolate) February 14, 2014
How could you resist? If you have willpower, maybe you’ll just get one chocolate truffle to go. We recommend buying them by the handful, though. The Mayan hot chocolate is a spicy, chocolately drink that’s a great treat as the weather starts to cool. Soulpepper Theatre
If you’re not ready to go home, head to the Soulpepper Theatre for a show to end the night. The Young Centre that the theatre calls home has won numerous design awards and is home to four indoor performance venues, four studios, a wardrobe production facility, and an artist garden.
Bonus: Farmers Market
This Sunday might be the last Distillery District Farmers Market of the year, but they start back up again in June! Every summer Sunday between June and the end of September, the neighbourhood’s farmers market spreads out through the streets from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.