Toronto's heritage Distillery District is a pedestrian-only village set amidst amazing heritage architecture. The entire district is devoted to arts, culture and entertainment.
Canada

How to Create a Paris-Themed Day in Toronto

The pandemic has forced us to travel and celebrate life’s milestones a bit differently. 2021 marked two really big ones for me – turning 50 and celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary. My husband and I have a tradition, that every five years we return to our favourite city of Paris, to celebrate our anniversary. Sadly, this will be the first time we break that tradition.

I want to make the day a little extra special, and dare I say it, add a little Paris vibe to our day. That means spending the day in Canada’s biggest city – Toronto. If you are missing the City of Light, why not inject a little French into your day. So how does one spend a Paris-themed day in Toronto? Follow along for a little  inspiration. 

Begin at a Boulangerie

Without fail, we would always kick off our day with a visit to a boulangerie (a bakery/bread shop) or patisseries (a pastry shop) in Paris. There is one literally on every corner. So how do you know which one to go to? For starters, there’s always a lineup. When Parisians find ‘the one’, they won’t settle for anything less. Let your nose be your guide. The best ones will always stop you in your tracks because of the delicious warm bread smell waffling through the air. 

We decided to kick off our day with Hannah’s Café and Bakery, conveniently located at the High Park’s entrance. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but step inside and you may feel like you are in a chic modern Paris café. My go to favourite is always an almond croissant or pain aux raisin. 

Stroll in a Park

Just as we did in Paris, we often would start our day by grabbing a croissant and slowly stroll one of the city’s most beautiful parks. I just love how Paris has created so many pretty public places to sit and relax as you walk from one landmark to the next.  

We decided to visit Toronto’s largest public green space – High Park. Although known for its cherry blossoms in the springtime, High Park offers much more. Endless walking trails, beautiful lakefront views, a dog park, greenhouse and even a mini-zoo! One of the best parts of the park to visit is Hillside Gardens. It starts by Grenadier Café in the middle and ends by the lakefront. It’s a nature lovers escape while in the city.

Visit a Museum

Paris is a city of museums. Each time we go, we like to explore a new one. From the world-class artifacts of the Louvre to the priceless artworks of the Musée d’Orsay. So, how could I not visit one of my favourites in Toronto – the Art Gallery of Ontario, or AGO. 

The AGO was founded in 1900 by a group of private citizens, and is considered one of the largest art museums in North America. It showcases a vast selection of art from all over the world. The stunning architecture, designed by Frank Gehry, is to be admired just as much as the art. Anyone else see the similarities to the Louvre with its use of light, glass and repetition of lines? We headed straight towards the featured exhibit by Andy Warhol, the 20th-century Pop Art icon. Campbell’s soup cans and celebrity portraits became his signature pieces. 

Savour a Meal

We adore the Parisian dining culture. Where food-loving locals make the mid-day meal last about 2 hours. The meal is savoured and usually enjoyed with a glass of wine. Then there is the late night dinner, under the glow of city lights and candlelight. Tables are tiny to create that cozy intimate dining experience. J’adore!

We chose Lavelle, with its uber chic rooftop experience. It’s Toronto’s hotspot for dining, lounging and well, being seen. So, it might not be oozing with classic Parisian charm, but it does channel a great memory of dining on the rooftop of the Galeries Layfette. So, swap out the iconic view of the Eiffel Tower with the CN Tower and viola it is a perfect choice!

Rivaling for attention, you can’t miss the other main attraction and that is of the 155-foot pool; one of the longest rooftop pools in North America. Lavelle has its own vibe – perfect for those chill summer days. 

Tour the Islands

Wandering around Île Saint-Louis or Île de la Cité feels like you are taking a holiday from the rush of Paris. Both are two natural islands sitting in the middle of the Seine with the left and right banks on either side. As you can image, both offer a lovely view of the Seine and the Parisian buildings.

Wandering around Île Saint-Louis or Île de la Cité feels like you are taking a holiday from the rush of Paris. Both are two natural islands sitting in the middle of the Seine with the left and right banks on either side.
Île Saint-Louis or Île de la Cité in Paris
Toronto Islands is an escape from the downtown core. A short ferry ride away and you will have access to parks, beaches and amusement park.
Toronto Islands in Toronto

Toronto Island offers the same magical experience. A short ferry ride and the bustling downtown core feels like a million miles away. The Toronto Islands are filled with parks, beaches, amusement park, and not to mention the best skyline views.

Experience Immersive Art

Beyond Van Gogh Immersive exhibit. It's a multimedia production, one that takes familiar images of Van Gogh's paintings and blows them up into light projections and timed to music.

The latest trend making its way across North America is the Immersive Art exhibits. What began in France in 2008, ‘Beyond Van Gogh’ and now ‘Beyond Monet’ is essentially creating theater experiences out of art. It is undeniably Instagrammable. Love it or hate it, in the end it’s introducing art to a whole new audience. I personally love it, equally as much as seeing it in a gallery. It’s just two different experiences.

Beyond Van Gogh Immersive exhibit. It's a multimedia production, one that takes familiar images of Van Gogh's paintings and blows them up into light projections and timed to music.

Hang out at an Urban Beach

One of the advantages of visiting Paris in August for our anniversary is seeing the pop-up beach, or ‘Paris Plages’. A long stretch of the right bank of the Siene is transformed into a beach boardwalk, complete with sandy areas, mist showers, chaises lounges, and beach bars. 

Visit Paris in August and enjoy le plages - a pop up beach along the Siene.
Paris Plages, a popup beach along the Siene
Visit Toronto's urban beach which is directly across Redpath Sugar Refinery.
Sugar Beach in Toronto

Something just as whimsical is Toronto’s Sugar Beach. What was once a concrete parking lot has been turned into an unexpected beach at the water’s edge. The cute pink sun umbrellas contrast the industrial view of the Redpath Sugar Refinery. But somehow it works. 

Step Back in Time

Every time we are in Paris we always visit Le Marais – the city’s historical district. The charm of Le Marais lies in its cobblestone streets and historic architecture. It feels like a village and unlike the rest of Paris. It’s also full of trendy boutiques, tiny galleries and cute cafés.  

Maybe that’s why I love Toronto’s Distillery District. It’s a pedestrian-only village set amidst amazing heritage architecture. The entire district is devoted to arts, culture and entertainment. I love the fact that it is filled with unique galleries and specialty shops. Not a single franchise in sight, well except Balzac Coffee Roasters. They get a pass, because there is no denying that their two-storey Parisian style café is amazing. 

Lock your Eternal Love

The love lock tradition – the idea of a couple inscribing their initials on a lock in hopes of eternal love – was made famous in Paris on the Ponts des Arts bridge. However, the origins of this commitment of love began in small town of Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia. The story revolves around a young couple, Nada and Relja, who were deeply in love. When Relja was sent off to war (WW1) and returned with a new bride, Nada was left heartbroken (and never married). The women of Vrnjačka Banja never wanted to experience that type of heartbreak so they wrote the initials of their loves on a lock attached it to a bridge and threw the key in the river. 

The love lock phenomenon has spread to every major city around the world. Of all my travels, my favourite can be found right here at home in the Distillery District. With the red brick as the backdrop, the lovelorn can lock their love on the 9 metre-long ‘love’ installation. It blends in with the Distillery District’s industrial-chic vibe. 

As a holidaymaker…

Well there you have it! If you can’t travel to Paris, why not bring a little Paris to you – in Toronto!

Until next time…a bientôt!

Spending a French-inspired day in Toronto with activities of going to a park, museum, dining, and so much more. It's all about finding a little Paris in Toronto.
Spending a French-inspired day in Toronto with activities of going to a park, museum, dining, and so much more. It's all about finding a little Paris in Toronto.

52 Comments

  • Paul Healy

    I love your ingenuity to create a Paris themed itinerary when travel is difficult. All the activities sounds great. The immersive art experience sounds like the perfect opportunity to transport yourself to Europe. Great post.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks so much Paul! I’m glad you like the twist on the article. If you haven’t seen an Immersive art show yet, you’ll have to check it out. It’s fantastic!

  • Ildiko

    I love your Paris-themed concept! How incredibly fun. Easy to see the parallels between Paris and Toronto. Love how you presented it as well!!! Great job!

  • Krista

    You always seem to come up with such unique ideas! I love how you’ve compared famous sites in Paris to ones that look a bit similar in Toronto.

  • Anita

    I love your idea! Toronto looks awesome itself, but I can imagine that in the situation like it is now, people would want add Paris touch to it. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and great concept!

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    What a fun idea to create a Paris themed day at home in Toronto. Starting the day with a fresh baguette will definitely get me in the mood. And a day at Toronto Islands would give me the views I crave. We have not yet eaten at Lavelle so thanks for that suggestion for rooftop experience. And I hope that “Beyond Monet” is still on when we get back to Toronto in the fall. Love the ideas to bring back Paris memories.

  • barry

    This is an amazing use of imagination and creativity to recreate the scenes that you unfortunately can’t enact this year. Having visited Toronto (and adored it), I totally see how you have created the same scenes in Toronto. Really good interpretations of the Parisian sites. Your choices really work.

    I particularly like the comparison with the Parisian lovers bridge and a Toronto version. AGO was impressive (I was however surprised at the exterior which I at first thought resemlbed an airport facade), but got over it when I saw the fantastic exhibits inside.

    It’s made me wonder how I can create an alternative here to some of my favourite events from abroad.

    Bonne idee!

  • Natascha

    Happy anniversary! I turned 50 too this year and normally I would have traveled somewhere for my birthday. What a great idea to do a Paris themed day in Toronto instead. I live in Berlin, a very multicultural city – so now I am thinking about a travel destination within the city.

  • Umiko

    I like your ideas of bringing Paris to Toronto. Not too many people have a creative idea like this. It reminded me of when we flew around the world in 3 days in Texas Hill Country. Anyway, I like your park in Toronto and the urban beach. And the love locks in Toronto is prettier than the one in Paris.

  • Raksha

    Oh my God this is such a cool idea. Creating the Paris themed day in Toronto. So much art and food, definitely count me in. I love the comparison and the recreation of the Paris vibes. I will try to do something similar in Sydney. Thanks for the idea.

  • Clarice

    This is a great idea! Since it’s so hard to travel nowadays, I would love to have a paris-themed day. Love how you included an immersive art experience. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Tami Wilcox

    What a clever idea! Kudos to you for finding a way to keep your Paris tradition going despite the challenges of the pandemic. I’ve been to both Toronto and Paris, and might not have thought you’d find similarities, but you certainly did!

  • Emma

    This is such a fabulous idea. I love that you haven’t made the inability to travel put a stop to your lifelong tradtion. I reckon a ‘Paris themed day’ could be replicated in many major cities across the world. Maybe not the pop-up beach, but there may be alternatives that would suit the activity. I also really like the padlock love heart, such a great idea.

  • Anne

    I love that you did this–way to be a master of your own destiny and be so creative in the face of the pandemic hurdles. Toronto really does have many Paris-like qualities and with your go-getter attitude, it seems like you found the same love and light : )

  • CHELSEA MESSINA

    Lavelle has the most beautiful rooftop! The immersive art experiences are so neat, and I’m glad they are becoming a trend in NA because it brings joy and beauty. We have tickets to the Van Gough exhibit in Detroit for November and I am SO EXCITED.

  • Jennifer L Prince

    I love this idea! When people aren’t traveling as much, it’s a fun way to explore by seeing similar places in another location. Toronto looks beautiful – I haven’t been before but need to put it on my list of places to see.

  • JoJo Hall

    Such a beautiful post! It’s so wonderful so see how you’re able to recreate places, food, and the scenery of Paris. Until you’re able to visit Paris again in the future, this is such a fun snd sweet way to reminisce about memories from your travels

  • Emma

    I love this idea. I’ve definitely missed travel this last year and have some similar things in my city, search for international feeling places and foods. It’s amazing how many great options there are. Paris is probably my favorite city also and I usually visit every few years, so I can’t wait to go again but until then I’ll have to plan a day like this

  • Rob + Ann @TravelLatte

    Merveilleux! As we’re reading, we are discussing how we could pull this off in and around Dallas, Texas. Challenge accepted! Like you, we are missing Paris too – in fact, we would have been there this fall but for the Pandemic challenges. Funny you should mention AGO resembling le Louvre. We thought it bore a very strong resemblance to Musee d’Orsay, with that long gallery and the arches. Looking forward to following your example, and visiting Toronto to follow in your footsteps!

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