Hide Your Credit Cards: Toronto's Best Shopping Experiences



Save some room in your suitcase when you visit Toronto with the intent of going shopping. Maybe even bring a bag entirely for your finds, as Toronto has stores so tempting that it will be hard not to pull out the plastic.

Whether you have a red carpet event to attend (us neither) or just want to load up on the latest fashion, Toronto is filled with stores that will delight you and potentially drain your wallet. 

If you like to kick it old school at a department store, Hudson's Bay and Holt Renfrew will bring out a little Audrey Hepburn in you. If you prefer a specialty shop, we have everything from menswear with a built in barbershop at Gotstyle to Canadian inspired swag at Drake General Store.

Most of these stores are excellent places to get a souvenir or two if you want to let someone know back home that you were thinking of them. If you think that you would be a more deserving recipient of that souvenir, we completely understand. 



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High Park/Roncesvalles
Likely General
Photo courtesy of Andrew Williamson


 

Likely General is a design shop in Toronto like no other. Its diverse products involve knitted hats, limited print books and hand crafted room spray. Owner Brooke Manning is on hand to provide her expertise on every product. Brooke is a musician who has her hand directly in the artistic community, and the local, crafted products that make the cut into her store are goods that you won't find displaced to a garage sale in the future. Brooke uses girly cursive on a chalkboard that she places directly in the front to welcome you into her store. Once you enter you are not "likely" to find anything "general" about the space. (Sorry.) Go to browse, to sign up for a craft course held twice a month, or to align with your artistic side.


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Normally food isn't included in a best shopping list, because grocery shopping is often seen as a chore and not pleasure. That is not true at "the world's best food market", in operation since 1803 on what was then "Market Block." It was the first permanent farmer's market, and insightful tours can keep you abreast of this important part of Toronto history. In 1834 it became a temporary office for the local civic government. It was rebuilt after the Great Fire of Toronto but continues to be a hub of Toronto activity. Most importantly, it has everything delicious under one roof, from locally aged cheeses to the best peameal bacon sandwiches in town.


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We know that when it comes to shopping lists, men often get the short end of the stick. Therefore, we are pleased to welcome you to one of Toronto's leading menswear stores, Gotstyle. Rather than outfitting one portion of a man's lifestyle, Gotstyle addresses the whole man: business, social and casual. With shoes and accessories on offer, they even have a barber shop to provide their customers with a fresh shave to complement their new look. There are a range of price points and styles but all will make a man feel sophisticated and stylish. Let's bring the dapper back, one cuff link at a time.


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Yorkville Village
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Yorkville Village


 

Upscale shopping at its best; this Bloor-Yorkville destination has been at the top of the list for visiting celebs and well-to-do Torontonians since it opened back in the 1970s. Look for shoes, handbags and couture from designers such as Badgley Mischka, Christian Louboutin, Monique L'huillier, Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Zac Posen. Shop for organic groceries at Whole Foods (or Whole Paycheque) with the cloth bag-touting elite. Pick up a bottle of wine. Go to Equinox for a sweaty yoga class or spinning session. Whatever you do here, it will be stylish because it's all about location, location, location.


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Queen West
Logan & Finley
Photo courtesy of Phillipa C Photography


 

Logan & Finley is the store you go to when the pulse of the city becomes a little too loud. It is also the place you go when you start to crave a canoe more than a coffee. This eco-friendly store is the in heart of downtown Toronto, but feels like it is in harmony with nature. You can buy excellent (albeit stereotypical) Canadian products, such as maple syrup, or you can get other handmade products that are unexpected, such as a local skincare line. The clothing is sustainable and local, with designs that don't scream "hippie!" During the summer months, golf tees and maxi dresses reign with lovely neutral colours that will blend well with your existing closet.


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Mountain Equipment Co-op
Photo courtesy of Mountain Equipment Co-op Facebook page


 

If there is any sport or activity that you have an affinity for, Mountain Equipment Co-op (or MEC) is the place to go. Whether you are trying on a sweat-wicking, toddler holding backpack or rain gear that will support your trek up Kilimanjaro, MEC is filled with affordable and functional clothing that will move you towards your goals. This outdoor-gear brand prides themselves on minimizing environmental impact by building products that last. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or a calm crusader, this large store is interested in outfitting your free time. They have preferred parking set aside for hybrid vehicles and car co-ops. Check out their website for their weekly clinics that can teach you anything from how to maintain your bike to how to run barefoot.


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Even though department stores are going out of style about as quickly as the last version of the IPhone, we would be remiss to not include Hudson's Bay in a Toronto 10 Best Shopping list. Hudson's Bay is as Canadian as Canada goose jackets and a long shivering winter. Their signature blankets with thick stripes across a white background can be found in almost every Toronto home. The department store itself was founded in 1670 and is North America's largest continually operated company. Being older than Canada itself means that there is a little nostalgia, but also a lot of amazing goods. Clothing, shoes, accessories, furniture, beauty products and countless other products can be purchased or admired. If you are visiting Toronto, get your hands on one of those blankets.


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Shopping at Holt Renfrew in the Bloor-Yorkville area of Toronto harks back to the time when customer service was all about the customer rather than the commission. There are concierges that roam the store ready to attend to your every need. There is complimentary alterations on all full priced items. There is an in-house spa and barber. There is a cafe with Pinterest-worthy pastries and the frothiest of cappuccinos. High end designers present fashion shows in the store. The experience is top notch, even if your price bracket will only allow you to look longingly at items. Drown your sorrows in one of those cappuccinos before you exit.


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Torontonians like to believe that they are living in Canada's New York, and when Saks Fifth Avenue landed in Toronto it just added more fuel to our fire. This flagship New York Store opened in the old location of Hudson's Bay, a beloved Canadian landmark. The large space proved that retail therapy is apparently not dead. There are over 1,000 shoes on display at any given time, giving an adult playground to every woman (and man, for that matter) who idolized Carrie Bradshaw. Men's clothing and shoes are also enormous departments, as Saks once declared that "Men are the new women." (We'll see.) In any case, this luxury market will have someone for everyone, even those dedicated to getting most of the items in their life from Amazon.


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Drake General Store
Photo courtesy of The Drake Hotel


 

In the market for some ghee and some ironic children's clothing? You can get both at Drake General Store as well as other quirky items, like adult onesies and solid Gold Slinkys. You can also buy onesies for the kids for one heck of a family photo. Originally the hotel gift shop for the Drake, there are now four locations that are part flea market, part museum shop. "We love things that are sensible and things that are not so sensible," they claim. Look for the neon purple cross which may confuse you to thinking you have landed in a pharmacy when you are just in gifting heaven. (And before you ask, no, the store does not belong to the recording artist.)


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Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney

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