The Canadians are fascinated by Europe and the European lifestyle. That’s the reason why a significant number of the country’s citizens want to travel, at least once in their lifetime, to the old continent and visit Paris, Rome, London or Barcelona; the cities that mainly embody the ideal of sophistication and cosmopolitanism they think is cultivated across the Atlantic.

Some decades ago, there was a common phrase among the emigrants arriving in Toronto, which expressed nostalgia and frustration: “if you want to go out for dinner, you have to go to Montreal.” The capital of Ontario embodied the puritan and austere paradigm of the Anglo-Saxon in front of the relaxation of customs of French people in Quebec. Montreal was the financial and cultural capital of Canada at the time and Toronto was a town with no history or lineage, growing near Ontario Lake.

High-quality street musicians coexist in a space of hustle and expansion surrounded by centenarian buildings. Picture: Juan Gavasa / PanamericanWorld. 

Time passed by and both cities experienced inverse processes. Montreal was frozen in its absorption and Toronto took advantage of the complacency of its eternal rival and it grew beautiful, rich and influential. Nowadays, it stands out as Canada’s financial capital and one of the cities with the highest economic dynamism in North America. Toronto is cosmopolitan and multiracial. Its urban and architectural rebirth meets no rival among other cities of the world: 165 skyscrapers were built last year, more than any other place on the planet.

Large and spacious terraces, or patios as they are called in Toronto, can be seen at the Distillery District with a mix of tradition and chill-out atmosphere. Picture: Juan Gavasa / PanamericanWorld

That urban and social revolution has brought about frenetic cultural life and a new global gastronomic cartography that has also influenced the old tradition-based customs. Toronto’s streets ooze vitality and offer visitors a growing urban scenario characterized by restaurants, pubs, leisure halls, museums, art galleries and stores. Some of Toronto’s streets, such as Yonge, King, Queen, Adelaide or Bay, confirm that “Europeanization” that is described by those who want to graphically explain the dimension of the change experienced by the city. Distillery District rises beyond all those long and noisy arteries, a neighborhood with industrial past, which gathers in just a few streets everything the people of Toronto wanted and they now have: a city with European taste.
Antique stores are one of the symbols of distinction and purchasing power in Toronto. In a country of radiant youth, Canadians look for the roots of their identity in these stores, which are based in the most selected neighborhoods of the city. Picture: Juan Gavasa / PanamericanWorld
Toronto’s Distillery District is a historic and amusement site, nestled in the eastern area of the city. It’s a sophisticated neighborhood that comprises numerous cafes, restaurants, terraces, art galleries and fashion and antique stores, which occupy buildings and spaces of old Gooderham and Worts Distillery. The old industrial area has moved away its original objectives and it has become one of the most selected and visited places in Toronto. This 53.000-square meter area includes over 40 heritage buildings and 10 streets, so its stands out as the largest sample of industrial architecture from the Victorian age in North America. The district was declared Canada’s National Historic Site in 1988.

Gooderham and Worts Distillery was founded back in 1832 and it later became the biggest distillery of the world. There was a time when it produced over 7 million liters of whisky for the world market and it triggered a movement of merchandise and trade transactions that played a leading role in the economic development of Toronto. As most of the industrial sectors on which the economy of the city was based during the first half of the 20th century, the lack of modernization and change of production models pushed distilleries into a slow but irreversible decline.

Remote marks of the Victorian age in narrow and isolated streets that still hold the industrial taste of their origin. Picture: Juan Gavasa / PanamericanWorld

In 1990 the center definitely stopped its production and the urban area became pure industrial archaeology, while the city was growing around with new residential buildings that made the industrial past of the area fall into oblivion. Finally, it was restored and adapted to the new times and demands of the new Toronto, a city focused on the travel industry and services. Ever since, the old distilleries have been in the background of over 800 movie and TV productions.