Going back in time: Toronto’s Historic Distillery District
By Cristina Cantarelli
As a blogger on travels to Europe, my fascination has always lied in discovering the historic villages and quintessential romantic charm of age-old cities from centuries past. In Toronto, that romantic charm lies within the Distillery District, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods with an incredibly rich history, an aura of elegance and an escape from the hustle of the city.
Built in the 1830s, the Distillery District has the most well-preserved collection of Victorian architecture in North America. It’s surrounded by heritage brick buildings of local artisan shops, inspired cafes, and handcrafted boutiques unique to Toronto. It might be simplistic, but my favourite part of this area is that it is Toronto’s only pedestrian neighbourhood where you can walk on cobblestone streets.
Brick Street Bakery – Just past the entrance gates is the local lunch stop. This artisan bakery has some of the freshest organic whole-grain breads, hearty soups and sandwiches, and European-style sweets like lemon tarts and macarons in a cozy little shop. Their croissants are made with locally-produced Ontario ingredients and their olive fougasse is a nice specialty.
Soma Chocolatemaker – No other shop will greet you with such a rich aroma of chocolate from around the world as soon as you open the shop door. Soma is an organic and fair trade micro-chocolate factory that produces its own chocolate using cacao beans from plantations in Costa Rica, Panama, Dominican Republic, Madagascar and Ghana. Don’t leave without trying one of their luxuriant chocolate drinks. You can also grab a seat by the window and watch the chocolatier whip up truffle creations right in front of you.
Distill – The indoor gallery features Canadian art, fashion designs, and handcrafted jewelry from emerging local artists. It’s a great place to immerse in Toronto’s art culture and discover local craftsmanship.
A Taste of Quebec – The gallery celebrates the best of French Canada. Their walls are lined with made-in-Quebec ceramics, wood, hand-sculpted glass, unique paintings and canvases from local artists but in the summer the patio is worth a stop to taste artisan cheese platters, crepes and pâté.
Mill Street Brewery – The Mill Street brand has become a Canadian household name. They have more than a dozen craft beers on tap for plenty of different palates including the local favourite, Ontario’s first certified organic lager. In April, the micro-brewery is expanding with the Mill Street Hall, a 200-seat patio and no taps! It will be the first brewery in North America to pour your beer right from the brewery. Now, how’s that for freshness!
Ontario Spring Water Sake – A different kind of brewery, Japanese craftsmen use fermented rice and spring water from Northern Ontario to produce the famous East Asian liquor. You can sample a cup or take a tour of the brewery.
Balzac’s – Walking into this coffeehouse, it feels like you’re missing a top hat, corset and crinoline. Inspired by 19th century France, the owner brought Europe’s sophistication back to Canada. This is the place to people-watch in the summer sipping on organically roasted and fair trade coffee. The top floor adds a touch of contemporary with a gallery of portraits and paintings by present-day artists.
A journalist by trade and addict of food, Cristina traded in the conventional 9-5 to experience the world. Her passion for Europe has taken her to more than 25 countries and 45 different cities. When she’s not eating, travelling or writing about it, she works as a social media and PR freelancer based in Toronto.