The Eyeopener’s guide to the neighbourhood

In Arts & Life /

By Amanda Cupido, Hilary Hagerman and Adam Vrankulj

The Annex:

Something is always going on in the Annex. You can go for a walk at 3 a.m. and find many others doing the same. Being as close as it is to the University of Toronto, there is a great student culture, with many businesses in the area offering student discounts. There’s shopping, there’s coffee shops, there’s grocery stores, bookshops and flower shops. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hipster or just looking for a place to live, the Annex is a student oasis and it looks good. It’s just a matter of being able to afford it and dealing with the longer commute.

Average rent: One bedroom: $1200-$1500, two bedroom: $600-$800 per person.

Distance to Rye: 35-45 minute walk. Or twenty minutes by subway.

The highlights: On the bright side, there are a ton of houses in the Annex where you can live with roommates for considerably less. The Annex has everything a student needs, including many smaller, independent grocers that tend to sell food for cheap. You can also grab some deals at Honest Ed’s, entertain your brain at the ROM and boogie down at the Dance Cave.

The downers: Did we mention it’s expensive?

Kensington/Chinatown:

In the 1920s, Kensington market used to be solely a Jewish market, but now has transformed into a multicultural collection of stores, cafes and restaurants. It has a European feel with bakeries and narrow streets. It is also very well known for its wide selection of vintage shops and artistic studios.

The community is filled with unique places to dine and shop. Chinatown is known for its Asian cultural cuisine and Chinese markets and vendors. You can easily find Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. It’s one of the largest Asian communities in all of North America and is known for having great deals on items like sunglasses … $5 a pop! Even the street signs have Chinese translations.

Average rent: One bedroom: $1200, two bedroom: $500 per person.

Distance to Rye: The best way to navigate around this area is by using the streetcar. You can easily hop on the ones that run down all four of the major streets that border the area. If you want to get to campus, it would be about a ten minute ride. If you’re a trooper you can walk the 20 minutes.

The highlights: Banks and grocery stores are strategically placed since a lot of students live in the area. There’s no Metro, but you will find many fresh food markets and delis. As far as cool places go, there’s the Blue Banana (250 Augusta Ave.), a one-of-a-kind gift shop that’s three stories and the Red Room (444 Spadina Ave.), a unique restaurant with mismatched couches and library decor. And don’t forget Ronnies, it’s a bar with a sweet patio.

The downers: During the day, the markets are open and people are out, but at night, everything gets put away and it turns into a ghost town. Graffiti is commonly seen on stores and playgrounds. Don’t travel alone and stick to the main streets.

The Village:

The Village is a LGBT-oriented neighbourhood and home to the largest gay community in Ontario. The Village is also home to the annual Pride Week celebrations, based around The Pride Parade, held on the last weekend of every June. But it’s not like you have to be gay to live there, anyone can enjoy the close community vibe. People of all persuasions are always out walking their dogs and grabbing some grub at the higher-end specialty stores like About Cheese at 483 Church St.

Average rent: One bedroom: $850, two bedroom: $700 per person.

Distance to Rye: 10-15 minute walk.

The highlights: The Village is home to tons of coffee shops, like Second Cup, Starbucks and Lettieri, and bars, gay and otherwise, like Woody’s, The Barn/Stables, O’Grady’s, Churchmouse & Firkin. It is also close to Ryerson hangouts like Mick E. Fynns. Statlers Piano Lounge is a cool jazz club with cabaret every night. Check out Café California for their crème brûlée and friendly wait staff. There are tons of places to buy groceries and TD Canada Trust and Bank of Montreal have local offices.

The downers: The area is in such high demand. Not just for the LGBT community, but for students (especially Ryerson) and young professionals. It is a clean, safe neighbourhood and in close proximity to so many things. It can sometimes be hard to find a place right away, unless you’re willing to pay for a pricey condo. If you have a friend in the area, ask them to keep an eye open for availability, and call potential places in advance. Then if you do find a place, you’ll notice that since the area is always so colourful and busy, it can sometimes be loud when you don’t want it to be. Like at 3 a.m. or when you’re studying for exams. You might want to think about buying a good pair of earplugs!

St. Lawrence:

This pricey area of the city is known as being home to a bit of a yuppie crowd. And as Melissa Kim, a second-year journalism student who lives in the area said, “You see a good amount of pinstripes and hear a lot of conversations regarding brunch.”

The St. Lawrence Market, a farmers’ market where you can find anything from fresh food to handcrafted gifts, is epic. It’s easy to spend an entire day in the sprawling market, checking out what the various vendors have for sale. So if you like anything in between fresh pastas and locally-grown produce, this historic area is for you. In 1834, Toronto’s first city hall was located at the corner of King and Jarvis Streets. The building burned down in 1849, and was replaced with St. Lawrence Hall and north section of the market, which today is known as the North Market. The former city hall was also converted and expanded into the South Market, where the old council chamber is still located on the gallery’s second floor.

Average rent: One bedroom: $1400, two bedroom: $1000 per person.

Distance to Rye: 10-20 minute walk

The highlights: There are banks, there’s Union Station, the market is lively, the area has a cool look and tons of hot culture spots. There’s the Irish Embassy, C’est What, and The Reservoir — just to name a few. There are also tons of condos, lofts and apartments available in the St. Lawrence area that are ready to be rented. But don’t wait, start early to find the best deal.

The downers: If you’re going to live in this neighbourhood, be prepared to spend money. That is, if you have any left over from the cost of your rent. Also, just because the area doesn’t have many students doesn’t mean you won’t have annoying neighbours, said Kim, who has to call security every Saturday night on her neighbors who blast the Ting Tings. (Who knew?)

St. Jamestown:

Jarvis Street to Parliament Street, Bloor Street to Wellesley Street

St. Jamestown is full of apartment buildings. To be exact, there are 19 high-rise buildings altogether and St. Jamestown is home to almost 17, 000 people. It’s a very multicultural neighbourhood. Though there are an abundance of variety stores, there are very few bars in the area. But that’s fine because the central location makes it easy to walk to Yorkville, the Village, Cabbagetown and the downtown shopping area. Though St. Jamestown is lacking a few things as a neighbourhood, it’s no doubt a cheaper alternative to Cabbagetown and is nearly the same distance from Ryerson. Also be prepared for lots of families with children running around.

Average rent: One bedroom: $700-800, two bedroom: $525 per person.

Distance to Rye: A 20 minute walk or you can jump on the TTC at Sherbourne.

The highlights: A huge No Frills with dollar day sales, lots of convenience stores and a new Shoppers Drug Mart. Most importantly, it’s cheap, close and you can find a place quickly in a crunch.

The downers: Crazy people hanging around in the buildings, some blaring music, cockroaches and the occasional mouse. Oh, and sometimes you can hear gunshots ring out in the night.

Cabbagetown:

Cabbagetown certainly wins points for having beautiful and historic Victorian architecture, quaint little store fronts and lots of public art. Though there are lots of beautiful places to live and the neighbourhood is close to Ryerson, rental prices are a bit exorbitant. Most one bedroom apartments in this area list around ten bones and up. But if you like pubs, cute bakeries and interesting characters, Cabbagetown could be the area for you.

Average rent: One bedroom: $1000, two bedroom: $700-$900 per person.

Distance to Rye: About a 10-20 minute walk, or you can jump on the east-west streetcar for a quick ride to school.

The highlights: Cheap food from No Frills and great bars and summertime patios like Brass Taps at 221 Carlton St., Grasshopper Bar at 460 Parliament St. and House on Parliament at 456 Parliament St. And if you’re interested in finer dining try Cobourg at 533 Parliament St.

The downers: There are some crazy people walking around. Be careful at night and don’t walk around in the back alleys by yourself.

Greektown:

Danforth Avenue from Chester Avenue to Dewhurst Boulevard

The largest Greek neighbourhood in North America, Toronto’s Greektown is a bustling neighbourhood home to many restaurants, cafes, shops and markets. The area boasts one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per square kilometre in the world and was one of the major places of settlement for early Greek immigrants coming to Toronto. One of the great things about Greektown is that it isn’t full of high-rise condos and expensive apartment complexes. It may take a while, but you can find a great townhouse or house with a lot of character for a reasonable price. Try the neighbouring streets around Danforth, especially near Chester or Pape to stay close to TTC.

Distance to Rye: A 15-20 minute subway ride from Chester, Pape, or Donlands subway station to Ryerson.

The highlights: Allen’s, Dora Keogh, The Only Cafe, 521 Bar and Lounge. Make sure to check out all the one-of-a-kind, family-owned Greek restaurants along the Danforth. The Music Hall (formerly The Danforth Music Hall) has great live music and shows. Also, lots of places to eat: Sun Valley Fine Foods, Blackstone Organic Meats, Strictly Bulk, Big Carrot Natural Food Market, Greek House Food Market, IGA.

Average rent: One bedroom: $650, two bedroom: $500 per person.

The downers: If you live in Greektown, odds are you’re going to want to buy a Metropass, which is about $100 extra out of your pocket each month. And apparently, some apartments and homes along the Danforth have cockroaches and mice, so if you’re looking into living here, you might want to make sure yours doesn’t. Or invest in some Raid.

 

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