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Living in Toronto
Best Places to Live in Toronto
Dreaming of moving to one of the most diverse, exciting cities in Canada? This guide covers the best areas for expats and will help you decide on the ultimate place to set up your new home. We will help you decide which is the best area to move to in Toronto according to your needs. We discuss the benefits of living in different areas, the cost of living there, and determine if the areas are well-suited to families and couples.
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At a Glance:
The City of Toronto officially recognizes 140 different neighborhoods. In 1998, Toronto changed a lot when, as a municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, it joined with lower-tier constituencies East York, Etobicoke, North York, and York.
This fairly recent amalgamation of different parts of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto and the lower-tier municipalities has helped contribute to the eclectic feeling of the city today. This diversity also means that there is potentially a perfect place for everyone—from lovers of nature and green spaces, to city slickers, artists, and anyone in between.
- Toronto has the largest population in Canada with approximately 2.7 million people. It is also the fifth-largest city in North America.
- Around 140 languages are spoken in Toronto, so finding someone who understands you should not be too hard.
- There are a decent range of public transportation options, including the subway, streetcars, buses, ferries, taxis, and bikeshare systems.
- The city boasts an impressive 1,600 parks.
Toronto’s Most Popular Areas
With 140 neighborhoods to choose from, there should be something for everyone in Toronto. We have chosen three popular Toronto areas that each offer excellent lifestyles, but for different reasons. We cover Cabbagetown, near the center of the city, West Queen West, one of Toronto’s most up-and-coming locations, and Bloor West Village, a leafy neighborhood that is close to the suburb of Etobicoke, but only 20 minutes from downtown.
If you are searching for a more authentic feel, Cabbagetown is one of the best places for expats in Toronto. The neighborhood gets its name due to the Irish settlers who used to grow cabbages in the area. It is an area that has stayed true to itself by forgoing generic gentrification, unlike other parts of the city.
The Benefits of Living in Cabbagetown
Victorian housing helps make Cabbagetown unique. In fact, this neighborhood has the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian buildings in North America. Local antique and interior design stores present the perfect opportunity to keep these properties looking their best.
Another aspect that makes Cabbagetown stand out, or rather, stay out of the spotlight, is its relatively small family-run and independent stores. You could say Cabbagetown has managed to avoid selling its soul so far and it could be the place to live if you want to feel like you are in a real community. And for expats who love the city life, Cabbagetown presents the best of both worlds because downtown Toronto is only 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) away.
Cost of Living
The cost of real estate in Toronto is generally on the rise and between 2014 and 2019, Cabbagetown was among the Canadian areas to see the most condominium sales, with prices ranging between 692,000 and 946,000 CAD (520,000 and 711,000 USD).
Several reasons for the price increase include the close proximity to downtown Toronto and easy access to public transportation. You will be very lucky to find any kind of home here for less than 266,042 CAD (200,000 USD). Most properties now sell for more than 1.3 million CAD (1 million USD).
Good for Families or Couples?
Cabbagetown could be ideal for you if you want to live somewhere laid-back, but still in easy reach of the downtown. The neighborhood has a few highly-regarded schools, such as Sprucecourt Public School. Sprucecourt educates about 330 children, who speak around 15 different languages, making it ideal if your child’s first language is not English. Teachers at the school endeavor to speak to parents in their native language, so they feel connected to everything happening at the school and with their children.
Church Street Junior Public School is another decent school in this area. It has been described as very diverse and very welcoming. Our Lady of Lourdes is a popular catholic school in Cabbagetown, and pupils here come from a mix of university-educated parents (50%) and low-income households (47%).
Cabbagetown is very well-provided by a range of transportation options. You can catch the Sherbourne bus and the Parliament streetcar to subway stations on the Bloor-Danforth line, which is also walkable from Cabbagetown. Otherwise, you can get Wellesley and Carlton Street buses to the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line.
For drivers, the Don Valley Parkway is just five minutes away, and downtown Toronto is only a 10-minute journey.
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West Queen West
If you want to know where to live in Toronto, West Queen West is one of the most popular, up-and-coming neighborhoods in Toronto. This neighborhood is especially popular with expats looking for somewhere modern and fun.
Known now as one of the trendiest places to live in the world, in the 1990s West Queen West was only for those who could not afford to live in the surrounding areas, where rent prices were soaring. Since then, the neighborhood has seen a familiar story of creative people moving in followed by gentrification.
Benefits of Living in West Queen West
The main street hugs Trinity Bellwoods Park, a 38-acre (15.4-hectare) public green space, which also offers a community center with a gym, two indoor swimming pools, a fitness center, and a running track. There is even a volleyball court, tennis court, a large playground, a children’s wading pool, and even an ice-skating rink.
This park hosts all sorts of events, like outdoor cinema shows, performance art, and a weekly farmers’ market.
Close to Downtown
Another plus point of living in West Queen West is that you are in walking distance of the city center and many major companies. As an expat, there is a good chance you will be working in the Toronto Central. By living in West Queen West, you could save around 150 CAD (113 USD) per month that would have gone towards a monthly public transit pass.
Art and Culture
West Queen West is home to numerous art galleries, museums, fashion outlets, and beautiful hotels.
Some of the galleries worth a visit are:
- The Zwig Collection;
- Propeller Art Gallery;
- The Freedom Factory;
- Paul Petro;
- Critical Distance.
There are often community-wide art events, including the West Queen West Art Gallery Crawl, where participants can complete a walking tour of art galleries in the neighborhood, including the ones mentioned above. The galleries in the area plan several events every year, which also include performance art, appearances from singers, DJs, and bands.
The 501 Queen streetcar’s route follows Queen Street and will drop you conveniently by the galleries mentioned. Alternatively, you can get a Go train to Exhibition station and start your leisurely walk from there. There is also adequate parking available.
Cost of Living
Rentals do not come cheap in West Queen West, and most of them are apartments and condominiums. In fact, rent here is 26% higher than the average for the rest of Toronto.
- Studio apartments are about 1,500 CAD (1,130 USD)
- One-bedroom homes are about 2,100 CAD (1,580 USD)
- Two-bedroom homes are about 2,320 CAD (1,740 USD)
- Three-bedroom homes are about 3,040 CAD (2,290 USD)
To buy real estate in the neighborhood, expect to pay around 2.1 million CAD (1.6 million USD) for a house, which are in short supply, and around 540,000 CAD (406,000 USD) if you buy a condo.
Good for Families or Couples?
Vogue Magazine voted West Queen West the second “Coolest Neighborhood” in the world, due to its vibrant art, culture, social and restaurant scene, making it an area that could suit a couple or a family with young children. However, due to the lack of available houses to purchase, rentals are the most realistic option, and thus might suit slightly younger expats.
In addition, there is a good range of schooling options in the area for all age groups. Montessori Preschool, St. Mary Catholic School, and Niagara Street Junior Public School are a few examples.
There is the 501 Queen streetcar, which goes in an east to west direction. It goes from Neville Park Loop in the east to Long Branch Loop in the west of Toronto. At 15.4 miles (24.8 kilometers), it is one of the longest streetcar routes in the world. You can use it to go downtown in less than 25 minutes. If you drive, you can get to Downtown Toronto in around 15 minutes.
Bloor West Village
Bloor West Village developed into the popular neighborhood it is now thanks in part to the expats who settled in the area in the early 1900s. These expats established the Bloor West Village Business Improvement Area (shopping district), which was the first of its kind in the country.
Bloor West Village is approximately five miles (eight kilometers) from downtown Toronto, and around 25 minutes on the subway, and 20 minutes by car.
The Benefits of Living in Bloor West Village
This neighborhood is admired for its mix of city benefits (boasting more than 400 shops), whilst still being far enough away from the city center to have a more relaxed atmosphere.
Toronto Life named Bloor West Village the city’s ultimate neighborhood. The neighborhood scored 100/100 for employment, 97.1/100 for housing, and 95/100 for safety. It also performed well on health (88.6) and shopping (87.9) standards.
If you enjoy spending time in nature, going for a run in the park, or taking the dog for a walk, High Park, Toronto’s biggest park, is nearby. The park is 398 acres large (161 hectares), with spaces for sports, playgrounds, and even a zoo. At the zoo, you can spot bison, emu, goats, and reindeer.
You will find traditional-style houses in Bloor West Village, many from around 1910 to 1920. A number of them have generous porches to sit out on and watch the world go by, as well as oak and maple trees providing shade on hot summer days.
Cost of Living
You can expect to pay between 300,000 CAD (226,000 USD) and 900,000 CAD (677,000 USD) for a house in Bloor West Village.
If you are looking to rent, most properties consist of two or three bedrooms. A two-bedroom home will cost around 1,875 CAD (1,410 USD) per month to rent, while a three-bedroom home will be approximately 3,350 CAD (2,520 USD). These prices are 26% higher than the Toronto averages.
Good for Families or Couples?
This area is ideally-suited to families due to the supply of larger homes and lack of apartments. It is also safer than other parts of Toronto, and the city center is still within easy reach if you want to find more entertainment options.
Bloor West Village also has several wonderful schools, which could make it more ideal for families with children. You can find private schools in this area, including Tamarack West Outdoor School, Erudite School, and Blyth Academy Etobicoke. Summit Micro School (elementary), and High Park Day School. There are many public schools nearby too, such as Runnymede Junior and Senior Public School, Swansea Junior and Senior Public School, and Garden Avenue Junior Public School. There are also Catholic schools, such as Saint Pius X, and there is Humberside Montessori School.
The Jane and Runnymede subway stations are within easy walking distance, while the Annette Street bus connects passengers to the Dupont subway station on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. You can find more bus routes on Jane Street and Runnymede Road.