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Founded in 1827 and now home to over 75,000 students, this is Canada's largest and arguably most famous university. Some of the more interesting sites to visit are the main room of the University of Toronto Bookstore, the chapel and the dining hall at Trinity College, the great rooms on the second floor of the University College, Hart House and its art gallery, and the Sydney Fisher Rare Book Library. The university offers daily tours during the summer, starting at Hart House. The campus is right in the heart of the downtown core.
With its traditional Neo-Gothic style, exquisite stained glass windows and impressive steeples and spires, St. Michael's Catholic Cathedral resonates as one of Toronto's architectural and spiritual landmarks. St. Michael's Catholic Cathedral is also well-known for its choirs, junior and senior, which perform at various services on Sunday morning. Extremely active in the community, the church has a strong Catholic Women's League and opens its doors for weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Opening in 1965, New City Hall structure complements the Old City Hall and has been home to the Toronto City Council ever since its inception. It sports a modernist design with two half-circle towers created by Viljo Revell, a Finnish architect chosen following a worldwide competition. The site is enhanced by a free-form bronze statue by Henry Moore, a peace garden with Japanese motifs and an eternal flame.
Named after the late Nathan Phillips, Toronto's "Mayor to all the people," this architectural delight is located at the foot of City Hall. It is the focal point for many events throughout the year, including the First Night Toronto festival every New Year's Eve. During the summer it is home to many outdoor entertainers and live bands.
Built over three years beginning in 1911, Casa Loma was born of the lofty ambitions of the Canadian financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt. Inspired by the castles of Europe, Pellatt sought to employ the formidable resources at his disposal to build for himself a grand chateau in the heart of Toronto; an abode truly befitting the aspirations of the magnate. Built in the Gothic Revival style, Casa Loma appears to have sprung from the pages of a fairy tale, replete with hidden passages and generously adorned with exquisite art. The castle features 98 lavishly decorated rooms and is surrounded by a beautiful estate complete with its own conservatory, gardens, and stables. The Great Hall's sculptured pillars, the Conservatory's stained glass ceiling, the Library's impressive cache of books, and the subterranean tunnel to the stables outside are just a few of the many treasures that define the estate. Pellatt's triumph was short-lived, however, his businesses buckling in the aftermath of World War I, forcing him to sell his home. Today, Casa Loma is a museum and popular event venue.
Although there are several Chinese districts in the Greater Toronto area, including the Don Valley Chinatown East, purists still refer to this one as the main Chinatown. On wide streets lined with bright lights, shops sell everything from medicinal herbs to take-out kung po gai ding. While some of the small shops hold form to more traditional ways, the Dragon City Shopping Mall at Dundas and Spadina is the ultimate East meets West shopping experience. The district is also restaurant rich and although some of them may look daunting to the uninitiated, the food is invariably excellent.
Unlike much of the city, Toronto's financial district is compressed into a conveniently walkable area even in bad weather. That's thanks to the PATH, the "underground city" covering 28-kilometer (17-mile) of adjoining passageways under the streets and connecting to more than 1200 retail stores and services. If you are a little nervous about doing the trek alone, join one of the organized tours by private tour companies.
At a dizzying height of 553.3 meters (1,815.3 feet), the slender form of the CN Tower rises high above the city skyline. One of the world's tallest towers, unmatched by any freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere, this stunning landmark was built in 1967 by the Canadian National Railway to serve as a communications and observation facility. At that time, this man-made pinnacle was unsurpassed by any other across the world and remained as such until 2007. The Look Out Level of CN Tower grants spectacular view of the city for miles around from a height of 346 meters (1,136 feet), while the SkyPod sits an additional 33 storeys above for a unique perspective of the world. The EdgeWalk, another of the tower's attractions, is the world's highest hands-free walkway. Not for the faint hearted, walking along the open-air walkway is an experience like none other. The EdgeWalk is perched on the roof of the 360 Restaurant where dinner is served in full view of Toronto's twinkling skyline.
Located near the city center in Toronto, the Distillery Historic District is a prominent area of the city where the Gooderham and Worts Distillery used to operate until 1990 CE. The distillery was touted as one of the biggest facilities in the world. After its closure, the Victorian-era buildings of the property became the Distillery District of today. Today, it houses many shops, restaurants and commercial complexes. However, the historic facade of the distillery is still intact and can be seen.
Built in 1793, Fort York National Historic Site was established to protect Toronto Bay from American invasion. It lies just east of Exhibition Place and represents Canada's largest concentration of original War of 1812 buildings. Period-costumed staff provide guided tours highlighting the blockhouses, barracks and officers' quarters. The staff give demonstrations of what military life was like in the early 18th Century. Special events throughout the year include a Battle of York Commemoration, Victoria Day Celebration and Canada Day at Fort York.
Not only does this street designate Toronto's east-west split, it is also the city's longest thoroughfare. In fact, Yonge is known as the world's longest street, stretching from Lake Ontario to the town of Rainy River, more than 1900 kilometers (1180 miles) away. Originally used as a trail by the Hurons, the road became an official passage in the 1790s. Today, it is a burgeoning commercial district and a beehive of activity, especially in the section between Front and Lawrence. One of Toronto's three subway lines operates along this route.
A recreational wonderland that sits a mere 10-minute ferry ride away from Toronto Harbor, the Toronto Islands constitute a set of 15 small isles in the midst of Lake Ontario. The islands are connected to one another by pathways and bridges that can be traversed on foot. Sprawled across 820 acres (330 hectares) of the lake's expanse, the Toronto Islands are home to the Snake Island, the South Chippewa Island, Mugg's Island, and Forestry Island, with the Centre Island emerging as the biggest of the group. Away from the city's furious bustle, the islands offer a serene retreat with their car-free stretches, and are home to a plethora of landmarks including the Centreville Amusement Park, the clothing-optional Hanlan's Beach, a Frisbee golf course, and the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.