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Toronto City Guide

Relaxing & Unwinding in Toronto

©2006 Tourism Toronto Toronto's Cabbagetown neighborhood boasts Victorian architecture, quiet streets, and even a working farm.

From 9 am to 5 pm, Toronto's infamous work ethic still holds sway, but when Torontonians want to kick back, there are plenty of places to go. One of the best is the Distillery Historic District, an old whiskey distillery comprised of 19 Victorian-era brick buildings. A few years ago an enterprising group of business people decided to transform the area into an arts and cultural village and today its mix of artist-run boutiques, galleries, eateries, and bars makes it an ideal spot for just hanging out and enjoying the ambience.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Toronto

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Toronto

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Two spas stand out as remarkable, for their unique environment, which soothes urban stresses away. The Hammam Spa (602 King St W) is a Turkish-style spa located among the exclusive strip of award-winning restaurants and sophisticated nightspots on King Street. Drop in between meals to experience a spa with the look and feel of a natural grotto, with black slate surfaces and lit onyx bowls that hold iced towels and cold water for cooling down.

This upscale co-ed spa features a complete menu of spa treatments, but its signature experience comes in the artesian-oil infused steam room, used in concert with detoxifying mud therapies. Couples can experience a Swedish or Deep Tissue massage for two with nutmeg, ginger, and cedar wood oils. Or opt for a half-day at the spa: you and your love can get exfoliated, detoxified, mint-washed, massaged with sea salts, and aromatized in blissful togetherness.

Oasis Wellness Centre and Spa (55 Mill St) is a new 23,000-square-foot urban retreat in the Distillery District that offers holistic treatments, products, and resources designed to relax, release, and revive. This is as close to a European spa as you're likely to find in North America with a full slate of therapists and practitioners, whose goal is to make you feel better as well as look great.

Cabbagetown, (east of Carlton & Parliament Sts), is one of Toronto's oldest and most fascinating neighborhoods blessed with unspoilt Victorian architecture, quiet leafy streets, a working farm and an ornate period cemetery called Toronto Necropolis, where famous historical figures rest.

Stroll down Carlton or Winchester Streets, admiring the gingerbreading, tall gables, decorative ceramic tiles, slate roofs, and other fine architectural features of the houses. It got its quirky nickname from the working-class Irish immigrants who settled here and grew cabbages in their front gardens. Today it's a highly sought-after corner of the city, close to downtown, but retaining a small-town feel with an old-fashioned village green at its centre.

This is where you'll find Riverdale Farm (210 Winchester St), a genuine working farm with rare heritage breeds of cattle, chickens, geese, horses, pigs, sheep, and goats. The farm is open every day of the year to visitors, but from May to October you can also buy refreshments and poke around in a farm-themed gift shop.

After exploring the neighborhood head back to Parliament Street for a cup of coffee at the Jet Fuel Cafe, (519 Parliament St) a local hangout where many of Toronto's finest writers surface for their daily cuppa.

Head over to High Park (Bloor St W and Keele Sts), where you can do a few hours of low-key sightseeing. It has a small zoo, tennis courts, bowling greens, and a large lake to watch as you enjoy a picnic. The 121-acre park is considered an urban oasis.

Sit back and enjoy picnicking or listening to a band concert in Riverdale Park (on Broadway Ave between Danforth Ave and Gerrard St).

Take a stroll through one of the oldest cemeteries in North America. The Mount Pleasant Cemetery (375 Mount Pleasant Rd) is the final resting place for many famous Canadians, including classical pianist Glenn Gould and Charles Best, who discovered insulin. You'll also spot many rare plants and shrubs and a Memorial Peony Garden, which is a prime spot for a few quiet moments of reflection.

An organized tour can help you see all the highlights of Toronto. We tell you about several Toronto tours on the next page.

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