Moving to Toronto
If you’re thinking of moving to Toronto, you’re not alone. Toronto is a city that embraces diversity and immigration. In fact, just under half of its population is composed of first-generation immigrants. They may have come because “Hogtown” (Toronto’s nickname) is low-key, except when bursting with pride as Canada’s leading economic, culinary, cultural, entertainment and sports center.
Immigrants to Toronto, including many Americans, like its vital downtown, which is full of lively residential neighborhoods. They value universal health care and incentives to do business. They probably also enjoy the abundance of green spaces, great annual festivals and diversity. You might have a tough time deciding where to eat each night of the week, whether in the multicultural city’s Chinatown, Little India, Greektown, Little Tokyo, Little Tibet or Koreatown.
Toronto leaves characteristic Canadian modesty behind in its (justified) boast of being a world-class city. Here are some of the reasons and ways you should work and live here.
Why You Should Move to Toronto
Toronto is not only a good city to live in — it might be the best. Nestled on the shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto was recently named the best place in the world to live by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Indexes. It ranks cities from around the world on six standards, including business environment, the cost of living, liveability, safety, food safety and democracy.
Among the reasons to move to the capital of the province of Ontario are:
Toronto Is an Innovation and Economic Hub
Toronto is Canada’s largest city (followed by Montreal in Quebec and Vancouver in British Columbia) and leads in business, finance and technology. The big city works hard to attract investment and makes it easy to start businesses and come here as a skilled worker. It has one of North America’s fastest-growing tech jobs market. For example, the Toronto-Waterloo Region Corridor is second only to Silicon Valley as an innovation and startup center.
A Relatively Low Cost of Living
While Toronto may seem expensive to Canadians, it will be a bargain as far as cost of living if you come from places like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. For example, consumer prices, including rent, in New York City are almost 55% higher than in Toronto. Even in Los Angeles, it is nearly 15% more expensive to go to a restaurant than in Toronto, and the cost to rent a place in Los Angeles is 29% higher.
The cost of living in Toronto comes down even further if you move just outside the city. But don’t worry — you’ll still have easy access to the downtown core and large markets south of the border.
A World-Class Food Markets
Dating back to 1803, Toronto’s bustling downtown St. Lawrence Food Market was once ranked by National Geographic as the “world’s best food market,” beating out such notables as Union Square Greenmarket in New York City and Castries Market in St. Lucia.
Every weekend, the St. Lawrence Food Market offers two busy floors filled with food shops, organic meats, fishmongers, world cheese shops, roaming musical bands, fragrant spice vendors, and the delicious smells of back bacon sandwiches being sold to hungry shoppers for a fast brunch. Kensington Market is another famous food market with a long history worth visiting.
A Lot of Festive Fun
As a leading cultural center, Toronto has a ton of festivals. For example, there is the world-renowned Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Toronto Jazz Festival, a Toronto Pride Festival and the massive Caribana Festival, including a parade with show-stopping costumes. In the summer, there is practically a festival or special event every weekend. Nearby annual theater festivals, such as the Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival and the downtown Toronto theater district round out the festive fun.
The Safest North American City
The Economist gave Toronto high marks for personal safety, putting it ahead of such cities as Melbourne and Amsterdam. It’s the sixth safest city in the world and the safest city in North America. The only other metropolis in North America on the top 10 list was Washington, D.C, which came in seventh place.
The Safe Cities Index ranks cities according to criteria that include cybersecurity, health security (access to health services, environmental policies, etc.) and personal security (prevalence of crime, drug use rates, terrorism threats, etc.).
Living without a lot of fear about crime helps create the city’s high standard of living.
Outstanding Restaurants and Nightlife
The Economist also cites Toronto for a “world-class food safety system.” While that’s nice, what really attracts people is the amazing food scene with internationally acclaimed restaurants and chefs. Asian cuisine, classic restaurants, fusion-scene marvels, comfort food, acclaimed bakeries ... you name it, Toronto probably has it.
The city also has a thriving bar and nightclub scene, ranging from Vegas-style lounges and after-hours nightclubs to dive bars with the best up-and-coming talent.
Easy to Get Around
If you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive, no problem. Toronto has an extensive public transit system. Whether by streetcar, bus or subway, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) will get you where you need to go. Short-term bike and car rentals are also easy to come by.
A single adult fare to use the TTC is $3.25 CDN. This compares to a single adult fare in Montreal of $3.50. Meanwhile, in Chicago, a single adult fare is $2.50 (“L” Train) or $2.25 for the bus. With the exchange rate, that would make Toronto slightly more expensive than Chicago. However, in a Transit Score study, Toronto ranked third of 70 U.S. and Canadian cities and first in Canada, with Chicago ranking ninth. The study considers the variety of modes of public transit available in cities, such as bus, light rail, subway, and also looks at the frequency and the number of stops in each neighborhood.
Best Toronto Neighborhoods
If you want to move to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), you’ll want to find a great neighborhood to settle down in. The good news is that Toronto is a city of distinctive neighborhoods, many clustered around the downtown core. Residents strongly identify with their neighborhoods, doing all their socializing, shopping, dining out, and, if they’re lucky, working there.
City magazine Toronto Life offers its comprehensive “The Ultimate Neighborhood Rankings,” using criteria like housing, safety, transit, shopping and more. Topping the list is Runnymede-Bloor West Village, a classy neighborhood that’s close to downtown but cloistered from it. It’s full of great shops, bars and restaurants, and top-ranked schools. The city’s sprawling and well-used High Park is the neighborhood’s backyard.
Don’t just be guided by the rankings’ top choices. Look for a neighborhood that matches your personal criteria. For example, if you are searching for an up-and-coming area with a hipster vibe, try the Junction. Once a dry (no drinking) area full of factories and abattoirs, the railway-bounded district now boasts trendy breweries, bars, restaurants and bakeries, and a lot of renovations of old homes. It has attracted write-ups from The New York Times and visits from celebrities, such as Diane Keaton, who went antique shopping.
Another area to consider is the Beaches on the east side of the city. Once home to cottages, the Beaches has long since been incorporated into the city. While the Beaches area does command high house prices, many find them worth the cost to have easy access to the long, sandy beach and Lake Ontario in the summer. The Queen Street strip is full of lively cafes, restaurants and boutiques, only a few blocks above the beach. Top-rated schools and a safe environment attract many families to the Beaches.
How to Immigrate to Toronto
When immigrating to Toronto, you have a number of different federal and provincial channels you can use. Are you a skilled worker? Do you want to come as a self-employed digital nomad? Are you an investor or entrepreneur who wants to start a business or sink their money into an existing one? The list goes on.
Each category of work comes with its own special requirements and possible immigration solutions, so make sure you research your case thoroughly to have the best possible chance of coming to Toronto under favorable terms.