Dear Toronto: It’s Not You…Well Maybe It Is

Toronto skyline

In recent years I have visited Canada several times, always enjoying my trip and looking forward to further northern explorations. There is one city though that I just can’t seem to crack, no matter how many times I’ve tried and I think I’m frankly done trying. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to like Toronto.

I’ve been to Toronto now three times, each experience more boring than the one previous. Granted, I’ve never visited with the sole intention of being a tourist, and maybe that’s part of the problem. But it definitely isn’t entirely my fault. I’ve visited many cities on business and have managed to leave enjoying my time and looking forward to personal exploration, but that has never happened with Toronto and I seriously doubt that it ever will. So why don’t I like Canada’s largest city? Here are a few reasons.

Lacks personality – Canada’s largest city, Toronto is the center of Canadian business and it looks like it. The city is in a constant state of change and construction, paving over what may have been interesting and unique. In that respect it reminds me of another city I don’t like, London. There’s no intimacy, no electric spark when I drive into town. I get that spark in other cities; I get it in New York, Quebec, Paris; now THESE are cities with personalities. Whenever I make this complaint with native Torontans they always tell me that the beauty of the city is found in its neighborhoods; eclectic communities representing ethnic groups from all over the planet. That’s great, but that’s what makes the city a nice place to live, NOT a nice place to visit. There is a sharp difference between the two. If I’m going to spend my vacation in Toronto I want to do and see things. I want to explore and learn. I don’t want to hang out in a nice park and observe all the cool food trucks. I can frankly do that at home.

Nothing to do – Congested roads, huge skyscrapers and busy people are all normal in Toronto. That’s not a bad thing, you can find the same features in many of the world’s great tourism capitals, so why doesn’t it work for Toronto? Because that’s all there is. In New York there are countless sights to see and things to do, but if you look up the top sights in Toronto here’s what you find: The CN Tower, some parks and neighborhoods and many restaurants. If you start digging deeper you’ll find the Hockey Hall of Fame and some art galleries. That’s the problem, aside from the Tower there’s just nothing unique or distinctive about the city. It doesn’t have the old world charm of Quebec or the views of Vancouver. It’s blah and boring and not much else.

No desire to return – Since I emerged from the womb I have always been fascinated with foreign cultures and travel. There is nothing I enjoy more than visiting a new place and almost everywhere I go, I fall in love. I also almost always want to revisit cities to explore in greater depth. I have never, ever had these feelings for Toronto and for me personally, that’s the greatest indictment against it. The fact that I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything, that there wasn’t enough time in the day to soak up the personality and culture of the city – that’s the issue. Travel is supposed to be fun, educational and selfish. In theory, we are supposed to enjoy going on vacation and seeing new things. If that doesn’t happen, well, then Houston we have a problem. You know what? I’m fully able to admit that Toronto does in fact possess some of these qualities, but if I can’t find them then it doesn’t matter. Toronto needs to find and promote the aspects of the city that make it UNIQUE. Forget about shops and restaurants, the city needs to share its personal story; it needs to convince people that it’s as worthy to visit as Quebec or Vancouver. So far that story has not been told.

So there you go. My PERSONAL opinion on Toronto and why I really don’t care to return, unless I have to. Am I wrong? Please, convince me! I would love nothing else than to be proven wrong and to see what makes Toronto a great place to visit. But if my suspicions are right, I don’t think there’s enough evidence out there to prove the case.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

101 Responses

  1. Coco

    Wow. I could not disagree more. I have always found the people wonderful and warm. There is so much to do and see – it is such a cosmopolitan city. There is absolutely something for everyone. You can eat every cuisine you can think of. I love Toronto and think that many of these comments are simply haters. One thing Toronto does do is bring out the jealousy. There are literally dozens of events and happenings every single night. If you really don’t like it then you don’t. That’s how I feel about many other cities so I respect your opinion. But many of these other commenters really ought to expand their horizons.

    Reply
  2. O

    EXACT. After 40 years would love to exit this city. It’s BORING. It is not distinctive, unique. Transit is POOR. Other than (maybe) Kensington Mkt most ‘hoods are mediocre at best.
    And the WORLD CLASS ‘debate’ is ridiculous, nowhere near NYC, Paris, London, Philly, Chicago, and the list goes on… but it could NEVER include Toronto.

    Reply
  3. Robert Carr

    When you arrive in Toronto as a visitor, what you witness is actually the city’s social LETHARGY, which you might interpret as boredom.

    The Government propaganda works here at all levels. You pass by the Cardiac Hospital centre in downtown Toronto and see a huge poster with a picture of a heart and a big slogan: “The Heart of Innovation.” Then, approaching the University of Toronto another “pearls” appears (there is a poster attached to each of the consecutive light poles): “Boundless Dedication”, and “Boundless Devotion”, “Boundless Innovation”… and so on.

    The locals are so amazingly disconnected from the reality of life! People are constantly brainwashed here, and some of them probably really believe in “Boundless Dedication, Devotion and Innovation”. Why ask any questions?

    Torontonians are pre-occupied with doing “good behavior” and everything being “safe”. While the city is actually very safe, the idea of “safety” has long extended into every aspect of life, successfully incapacitating anything and anyone who could still have any aliveness in them.

    Who makes this city relatively alive are immigrants, as they bring here human emotions and feelings. Sooner or later, however, they will lose any aliveness and become a particle of the typical Toronto homogeneous masses, devoid of anything unique or real.

    There are hardly any books, movies or plays about Toronto.
    The best thing that has ever been filmed about Toronto is the cartoon called “Bob and Margaret”. It carefully depicts Toronto’s reality and its empty, boring and lonely culture.

    Have you ever heard any song about Toronto? I hear you – me neither!

    Reply
  4. xue

    thank you for saying so. I couldn’t agree more. It’s boring as hell.

    Reply
  5. AR

    I agree 200%. I lived in Toronto for 9 years, then travelled and lived around the world – Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Havana, Barcelona, Bangkok – I can fall in love with these cities – I spent months in each of them. You discover them layer by layer week after week, month after month. They have their own charm, style, music (Rio and Havana, Spanish Flamenco)

    Personal life “flourishes” in these cities as well – they are fun to go on dates in. Here I am back in Toronto for a few business meetings – friday night. Do you think I can go mingle in an exotic crowd dancing salsa and reggaeton like i can in “Diablo Tun Tun” In Havana. Do you think I can find by chance a cool party where people dress in 40’s style, like I did on Soi 11 in Bangkok ? Would you pick up a stranger in this city, invite her / him to a cool club / romantic place and take her home the same day? Just because it happened spontaneously. Probably not – people date “online” here. Because there is almost not “street life” here where people socialize (for hours and hours) outside in narrow streets of Malaga, Spain, drinking, having fun. A romantic riverside with alleys and benches where you do that first kiss, is missing… Milan, Paris, Moscow – they all have it.

    Some people call Toronto the “New Babylon” It is arguably the most culturally diverse city in the world. And yet this diversity is not showing its potential yet. Cubans (there are probably dozens of thousands of them here) for whom dance is part of their lives – do not really have a place to hang out – Lula Lounge does not count – it is not a real Cuban place in essence. In other words there are a lot of mini communities here that unfortunately are not showing others what their culture could offer. Try to find, say, a Brazilian Samba place here – good luck ! But in New York you can listen to great live samba every week in SOB’s club

    I would rather stay home and read a book than try to find this excitement in Toronto… Besides it is already end of April and is really chilly outside. Time to get out and “resume” a real life. 3 hours on a plane to Cuba from here and surprisingly many Canadians have never even been there. I have even met some locals who have never been to New York! Does this city kill people’s curiosity in the world ? Also, have you seen local art shows and fairs? Art Gallery of Ontario? – pathetic…

    What is really good here in my option is education – especially in universities – but this is another topic. Favourite spots in the city are Distillery District and Toronto Islands.

    Reply

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