Big City Living: Your Unofficial Guide to Living in Toronto

By Defne Inceoglu

Moving can be a hassle, or a big stress. It can be even MORE stressful moving to a big city notorious for being one of the most expensive in the world. But for all of its criticisms, past the onslaught of brutalist buildings and high rent prices, there is something magical about the City of Toronto.

Doing some homework inside of the Faculty’s building, looking out over UofT’s great architecture.

This article will breakdown some of the resources that an incoming Torontonian may need. Let’s discuss housing, food, transit and leisure.

Looking downtown from Casa Loma.

Housing

You can’t talk about Toronto without talking about neighbourhoods. Toronto is a city made up of unique neighbourhoods that each offer different things. Check out this guide!

As a UofT student, it may be appealing to live near the University. While living near St. George Campus has its perks (walking distance, no need to take TTC or other modes of transport as frequently), it is expensive. In fact, the closer you creep to ‘downtown proper’ of the city you will find that rent prices may be out of a grad students’ range. Not only rent prices, but the cost of groceries and restaurants also go up. Roommates help with this, and in fact you will probably need to live with roommates upon first arrival to the city. But! Consider looking to the East or West end of the city – both sides offer more affordable rent and better options for student-friendly-non-bougie grocery stores.

A chilly but fun walk by the lakeshore in the wintertime.

Transit

Public Transit

Before COVID-19, the Toronto Transit Commission (affectionally called TTC) was my usual quick ride around the city. Toronto offers three services: buses, streetcars and the subway. For folks with accessibility needs, TTC’s streetcars are mobility device accessible, and most major subways have elevators. TTC also offers a service called Wheel-Trans for Torontonians with disabilities. Transit is a relatively cheap way to get around the city reasonably quickly. Fare is $3.25, which can quickly add up. My advice is to get a Presto card once you move to the city. You can load the card online and just tap onto transit to pay. The major benefit of Presto is the two-hour transfer. This means you can take unlimited trips within a 2 hour window with one fare, as long as you tap your card. Great for taking quick grocery trips or running errands when it may be too cold to walk.

Biking

To be honest, Toronto is not a 100% bike friendly city like other cities can be. Toronto is working on it though! New bike lanes are being prioritized all over the city. My advice for bikers is to plan your routes based on these lanes. There is a very luxurious bike lane on Harbord Street, which is a main street that intersects with the St. George Campus. Check out the city’s cycling network map.

Walking or Rolling

The great part about Toronto being full of small neighbourhoods is that for the most part you can easily get to whatever you need. Groceries, toiletries, restaurants, libraries, parks and other necessities are usually scattered around each ‘hood. This is a perk of living in a big city, most things are nearby! In the Spring, Summer and Fall, strolling around Toronto is a breeze. In the Winter, things get pretty chilly, icy and snowy, so you may have to default to riding public transit to get to where you need to go.

Things to do in the city!

There is SO MUCH to do in Toronto. Living in a large city has so many perks. Check out the resources below for some ideas on how to pass the time in the city!

Toronto Parks, Gardens and Beaches

I recommend Allan Gardens, a free indoor greenhouse garden open year ground.

Allan Gardens in the Winter of 2019.

History, Art & Culture

Toronto has many museums and other attractions you can visit.

Visiting the Toronto Railway Museum.
Visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Toronto’s Food Scene – captured in detail by BlogTO

All photos by Defne Inceoglu

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