Spend the day and part of the night in this family-friendly, west-end neighbourhood that’s rich in food, culture and nature.

Which part of Toronto to explore first? It’s the question many visitors ask the moment they arrive. With such a plethora of options, it can be hard to decide, but Roncesvalles Village (known as “Roncy” to locals, and consisting of the stretch of Roncesvalles Avenue from Bloor Street south to Queen Street West) should definitely be on the short list. 

This west-end neighbourhood’s Polish roots sit alongside a collection of cafés, family-style eateries, tree-lined streets and one of the city’s biggest parks—which is replete with playgrounds, a zoo and a large number of cherry trees that blossom each spring.

Follow along as we give you an exciting 12-hour tour of Roncesvalles. 

10 a.m.: Brunch

Make sure you arrive with an empty stomach as your first stop of the day requires an appetite. Brunch is a weekend ritual in these parts and the smell of home fries and freshly brewed arabica will entice you to partake. Head one block east of Roncesvalles Avenue to Mitzi’s Café, where locals go for a home-style brunch. If creative takes on classic brunch faves whet your appetite (bacon guacamole eggs Benny or caramelized pear brioche French toast, perhaps), head to The Ace.

11 a.m.: Shopping

No trip to Roncy is complete without exploring the many boutiques that line Roncesvalles Avenue, between Dundas Street West and Queen Street West. There’s Muttonhead for Canadiana-printed T-shirts and hoodies, Likely General for artfully curated homewares, clothing and gifts, and then there’s Cookery. This kitchenware store offers special kids’ workshops, if you have the little ones in tow.

1 p.m.: Lunch

Dig into Eastern European classics at Café Polonez. You’ll find hearty Polish dishes like borscht, pierogies, goulash and schnitzel. Or if you feel like Caribbean, get a table at La Cubana. This trendy eatery’s retro interior will grab your attention but the Cuban comfort food will stay on your mind long after you leave. You can’t go wrong with the guava BBQ beef short ribs—it comes with tostones (twice-fried plantains), red-cabbage ’slaw, plus rice and beans. 

2 p.m.: Sightseeing & exploring

Head to nearby High Park for activities to suit all ages. Little ones will love the zoo, where you’ll find bison, deer and llamas. And the south playground, Jamie Bell Adventure Park, looks like something out of Disney World. If you’re here in summer, head over to the Sorauren Farmers’ Market on Monday afternoons, to taste test your way through local Ontario produce and artisanal products.

4 p.m.: Afternoon snack

Once those mid-afternoon cravings hit, there are plenty of choices to keep you going. Pick up a paczki, traditional Polish donut, at Benna’s Bakery & Deli. However, if a jolt of espresso is more in line, there are options. Look out for the retro orange chairs in front of Cherry Bomb Coffee. They roast their own beans—so you could grab a bag to take home with you—and offer an array of melt-in-your-mouth pastries. Fantail is another local favourite. Insider tip: try their superfood-packed Innocent Muffin, voted one of Toronto’s best!

6 p.m.: Dinner

Dinner options abound along Roncesvalles Avenue, so you could just take a stroll and land upon a great option. For those who indulge in copious amounts of BBQ (think smoked pulled lamb with pomegranate molasses), then Barque Smokehouse is a gold-star choice.  For families, Pizzeria Defina is a surefire hit. Try The Winner, which devoured the competition at the prestigious International Pizza Expo Las Vegas (2013).

9 p.m.: Movie night 

Lastly, a trip to Roncy isn’t complete without a stop at Toronto’s oldest movie theatre that’s still actually showing movies. Revue Cinema runs new releases and classic films and is a sight with its Edwardian exterior and art deco detailing. Keep an eye out for special events through Designing the Movies, a local film series that explores the costumes, wardrobes and set design behind Hollywood films. Past showings have included classics like Marie Antoinette and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Getting to Roncesvalles

  • Take the Line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway to Dundas West station 
  • Or, take the 501 Queen streetcar to Roncesvalles Avenue, or the 504 King streetcar to Roncesvalles Avenue at Queen Street West