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Toronto is a vibrant urban mix of over 140 distinct neighbourhoods – each with its own character. These neighbourhoods are a defining feature of Toronto's urban geography and reflect a variety of unique qualities unmatched anywhere on the globe.

"While so many cities lament the global economic crisis and the dulling effects of globalization, boutiques and restaurants seem to open every week in Toronto, and immigrant neighbourhoods still feel linguistically, gastronomically, gloriously, distinct." (The New York Times, 2012).

Within each area of the city, these different lifestyle clusters perform the important civic function of bringing people together through fellowship, festivals and various seasonal events. Here is a sampling of the rich cultural character of Toronto's urban miracle...

The Annex is where bohemia and academia meet, with art houses, theatres, beatnik coffee shops, discount stores and well-stocked bookstores peppering a dense city-centre of restaurants and bars. This area reflects the liberal ambience of university life, with kitsch meeting nerd-chic head-on.

The Beaches coast evokes quaint Atlantic towns of the northeastern United States. The boardwalk and beach is a favourite destination for sunbathing crowds and sports enthusiasts who can enjoy volleyball, cycling, tennis, sailing, or the relaxed pace of pedestrian life along Queen Street's mix of exquisite clothing boutiques, antiques shops, quirky stores, coffee houses and restaurant bars.

Bloor West Village is one of the city's greenest neighbourhoods, centered around High Park, consisting of 400 acres of wooded hills, gardens, large bicycle and walking trails, tennis courts, athletic facilities, a petting zoo and a hillside theatre popular for its annual Shakespeare in the Park productions. Intersected by the historic Humber River, Bloor West Village offers a leisurely adventure in Eastern European delicatessens, pastry, coffee and culture.

Bloor-Yorkville was originally the focus of hippie culture in Toronto. Now, five-star hotels, Victorian-era restorations, designer boutiques and fine dining prevail. At its southern edge, high fashion retail reigns supreme as the "Mink Mile" of Bloor Street offers international luxury brands for every occasion or purpose.

Cabbagetown – formerly a working-class enclave – is now a gracious cluster of lovely parks and renovated Victorian homes with iron fences and manicured gardens. Parliament Street, Cabbagetown's main street, is not so much quaint as it is miscellany – comprised of a hodgepodge of restaurants, cafés and boutiques.

Chinatown. Always bustling with crowds of shoppers and vendors, Toronto's Old Chinatown is home to some of Canada's best Asian restaurants and best-stocked Asian stores. Besides Chinese imports, this ever-busy area sells Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese products, with shops and sidewalks alike brimming with food items, clothing, jewelry, home décor, electronics and toys.

Church-Wellesley. Home to Canada's largest LGBT community, the Church-Wellesley district is an everyday festival of celebration, year-round. The Village is nestled in the downtown core, and hosts a potpourri of shoppes, cafés, restaurants and clubs. "Pride" in the Village is grandly proclaimed with the each summer's Pride Parade extravaganza that caps a week of citywide celebrations and plays host to over a million attendees.

The Danforth/Greektown is constantly abuzz with busy sidewalks and street-front patios. There is also strong contrast here, with traditional Greek grocers and classic architecture alongside popular nightclubs and cafés that light up the night. Every summer, Toronto becomes a Greek city for a weekend as the Taste of the Danforth festival attracts over one million people to celebrate Greek culture.

Downtown Yonge. Toronto's iconic thoroughfare and the longest street in the world is an ever-evolving combination of addresses that reflect the latest in urban trends. The heart is Yonge-Dundas Square with its industrial urban esthetic, a dynamic venue for community celebrations, theatrical events and concerts. Nearby is the Toronto Eaton Centre, the city's most-visited attraction for shopping and dining.

The Entertainment District is centered on the landmark theatres of King Street West, and packed with fashionable restaurants, hotels, and one of North America's liveliest nightclub scenes. Walking King Street means joining Canada's most famous attractions, including the CN Tower and Rogers Centre, as well as the new permanent home of the famed Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Financial District and PATH/The Underground City. Toronto's skyscraper jungle matches architectural sensation with artful parks, green spaces, and functional artistry. Toronto's Financial District is compact and walkable, even in inclement weather. Beneath its sidewalks lies the one-of-its-kind PATH, or Underground City, with 30 kilometres (18 miles) of interconnecting passageways leading to 50 office towers, 1,200-plus stores, hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions, as well as access to five subway stations and the Union Station train/bus terminal.

Gerrard East/Little India, hailed as the largest South Asian marketplace in North America, Gerrard India Bazaar, also known as Little India, is where Toronto's Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi communities congregate. Restaurants and greengrocers offer regional dishes and local ingredients, and the myriad shops sell tunics, saris, scarves and jewelry. Dining options abound for vegetarians and carnivores alike.

Guildwood is among Toronto's most beautiful and exclusive neighbourhoods. The main entrance is marked by a formal stone pillar and cast iron gateway and welcomes visitors to its major landmark, the historic Guild Inn, situated on 90 acres of property overlooking the magnificent Scarborough Bluffs and majestic Lake Ontario. Tourists and local residents visit the Guild Inn to enjoy its historic architectural walking tour and rustic woodland nature trail.

Kensington Market is a must-see dense labyrinth of narrow streets where the shops are stacked with produce and gift items from Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. The streets where cars struggle to pass offer a virtual trip around the world, with global finds in the vintage and second-hand clothing stores tucked in amid unique restaurants and cafés. Every day is busy here, with fishmongers, shoppers, street musicians and impromptu speechmakers crowding the laneways. It's no surprise that Kensington is ranked among the best street markets in North America.

Little Italy. La dolce vita thrives year round in this stylish, warm and welcoming community, where restaurants and bars serve up well-executed traditional Italian dishes, lattes and espressos, complemented by lively banter. Whether daytime or evening, this is the perfect setting for people watching. Nowadays, Little Italy is home to an influx of families from Asia, Latin America, and other Mediterranean countries, but it remains the city's cultural core for Italians. It is also one of Toronto's best nightspots.

Old Town Toronto is home to St. Lawrence Market, Corktown, and the Historic Distillery District, as well as an abundance of boutiques, theatres, galleries and restaurants. Its well-preserved Victorian architecture houses distinct neighbourhoods where local arts and stylish restaurants are enthusiastically celebrated by visitors and residents alike. The St. Lawrence Market is a lively farmers market that sits where the city originated in 1793. The Historic Distillery District has evolved into a centre for arts, culture and entertainment, embracing a rich historical and architectural legacy. This pedestrian-only village houses art galleries, museums, boutiques, artist studios, bistros and cafés.

The Queensway is an affordable west end neighbourhood that offers both convenient access to downtown Toronto and numerous recreational opportunities at the nearby South Humber Parklands. This relatively low profile neighbourhood has quietly earned celebrity status with many television, movie and commercial productions filmed around Queensway Park.

Queen Street West. Over the past decade, celebrity-chef restaurants, clothing chains and art house décor have descended on Queen Street West, but none have diluted this colourful strip's street-cool factor. Named the world's 2nd-hippest neighbourhood by Vogue Magazine (2014), the strip is lined with a stupendous variety of textile stores, antiques shops, tattoo parlours, shops selling "real vintage" anything, alongside sleek loft condos and all manner of new dining spots, watering holes, grab-and-go ethnic fare and pop-up eateries. Queen Street West remains a workaday carnival of culture, creativity and attitude.

Roncesvalles Village/Little Poland is the century-old community of Eastern European and Russian immigrants living in a mix of residential and small family-owned retail and food shops specializing in heritage foods, crafts and community services. The neighbourhood is especially rich in special events, notably the Annual Roncesvalles Polish Festival – now the largest celebration of Polish culture in North America.

The Waterfront's natural nautical theme influences its many parks, shops and residences. Queen's Quay Terminal is a historic building that marks the strip's centre point along the harbour, with shopping, restaurants and an Inuit art gallery. The Harbourfront Centre next door is an arts hub with free festivals every weekend throughout the summer. HTO Park (a sandy strip complete with umbrellas and lounge chairs), Ireland Park, and the Music Garden (designed by Yo-Yo Ma) all offer serene escape while enjoying the breezes blowing in from the lake and the view of sailboats bobbing on the water.

York Mills is one of Toronto's most affluent neighbourhoods. The mills are long gone, replaced by shining office towers, luxury condominiums and pastoral estates. The area's main arterial roadways, Yonge Street and Bayview Avenue – once horse trodden paths – now serve as major roadways to and from the city centre. And yet, within a ball's toss from these major thoroughfares, pockets of lovely homes, schools, parks and places of worship adorn tree-lined streets throughout an area of natural beauty that has helped make it one of Toronto's most desirable neighbourhoods.

Map of Toronto's 140 neighbourhoods