Downtown Toronto is a shopper’s haven, especially around the holidays when the city’s malls and streets go all out for the occasion.
Start at the Distillery Christmas Market
It’s definitely the most popular Toronto Christmas market, and for good reason. The cobblestone streets and old-school brick buildings provide the perfect Dickensian backdrop, while the Christmas-specific food vendors bring the good cheer in the form of malt wine, big turkey legs and delicious holiday cookies.
Our favourite store in the District is Bergo Design, a 10,000-square-foot gallery that sells everything from cheap dinner party games to expensive watches. It’s one of those stores you think you can peruse for five minutes but wind up walking around in for an hour. And it’s 100% Toronto-owned.
Move West to the Eaton Centre
Every guide book will point you here because it’s in the heart of downtown and the city’s center of retail commerce (although Yorkdale Mall might have something to say about that now). But we suggest a different reason altogether: this year’s tree.
In the past, the Eaton Centre brass experimented with a Swarovski crystal tree, and then in 2011 switched to a modern tree that not everybody “got.” But this year, they’ve gone traditional and a bit outlandish with a 100-foot-tall Christmas tree. It’s magnificent. And while the reindeer that surround the mall are a stylistic throwback to the old decor, they stuck around due to their popularity and their perfection as a photo-op prop.
End With a Bit of Street Shopping
However fabulous the Distillery Christmas market and the Eaton Centre are, they’re all kinds of crowded. For breathing space as you peruse, try a few of downtown Toronto’s charming neighbourhoods, specifically West Queen West, Roncesvalles Village and Yonge and Eglinton.
West Queen West is the hipster bohemian area. The funky clothing shops along the strip reflect that, but our favourite store is The Paper Place across the road from Trinity Bellwoods Park — a great local spot for the artsy people on your list.
Roncesvalles Village is the Slavic/Polish area of town and that strip takes Christmas to a higher level. The street is lined with little boutiques where you can find just about anything, but the most fun comes from the snacks you can pick up along the way at places like Benna’s Bakery. Mmm.
Affectionately known as Yonge and Eligible, the Yonge and Eglinton area is perennially voted the city’s best neighbourhood. Yes, the schools are great, the properties are wide and the people are nice, but one of its bigger selling features is the strip of Yonge Street between Eglinton and Lytton. Featuring a mix of boutiques and household names, the Y&E corridor is one the best places to shop. Our advice: start at the top with a store called Sporting Life. This is their flagship location and for the athlete on your list, you won’t find a better selection of gifts.
In truth, you’re bound to find great shopping in almost any neighbourhood of Toronto. And you’re sure to have great service, too. Because, while the selection far exceeds quintessentially Canadian style, the attitude around here is right on the mark.