Stroll along Queen Street East to fill your suitcase with a veritable treasure trove of made-in-Canada design, clothing, gifts and literature.

Street art in Toronto's Leslieville neighbourhood
Shop local in charming Leslieville

Travel mementos remind us of where we’ve been—and sometimes of how far we’ve come. Whether it’s a graphic tee repping a favourite Japanese baseball team or Bermudan oleanders bottled into a fragrance, a thoughtfully chosen souvenir can keep vacation memories front of mind, long after we’ve returned home. So, where in Toronto should you head for such a keepsake? 

Leslieville, in Toronto’s east end, is where it’s at. The main drag, Queen Street East, is packed full of indie designers and locally owned boutiques. Follow along as we take you through five shops where you’re sure to find that special something.

Side note: Leslieville is also close to some of the east end’s buzziest brunch spots. Eggs Florentine followed by a power shop? Sounds like a solid plan to me. Check out Maha’s Egyptian Brunch (226 Greenwood Ave.) or The Green Wood (1402 Queen St. E.). 

Local shop #1: Queen Books

East-end bibliophiles will tell you Queen Books is the place to pick up some CanLit (portmanteau for Canadian literature). Local authors get pride of place around the store, so if you’re looking for a Torontonian page-turner, you’ve come to the right place. Insider tip: before visiting, check their website. On occasion they host local author events, which you might be lucky to catch, plus you’ll also get a chance to see their catalogue. Their titles range from Afrofuturism to indie CanLit. 914 Queen St. E.

Local shop #2: Province of Canada

Province of Canada makes clothing that feels like a warm hug. The brand was started in 2014 by a husband-wife duo, and today can be seen on the backs of many downtown dwellers. Each piece is designed and made in Canada, and they specialize in cozy sweats, T-shirts and winter accessories, plus some home textiles. Shop their BIPOC collection and 10 percent of proceeds go to Black Lives Matter and Indspire, an organization supporting Indigenous education. 1004 Queen St. E.

Local shop #3: Scout

Looking for gifts to bring home for friends and family? Scout has a range of options to suit. You’ll find printed T-shirts emblazoned with classic Toronto sights, like the Revue Cinema and Honest Ed’s. Plus, giftware such as Montreal-made Baltic Club candles, or retro keychains dedicated to one of the neighbourhoods you’ve visited on your trip, like Leslieville or Roncesvalles. 1140 Queen St. E.

Local shop #4: Doll Factory by Damzels

Toronto designers Kelly Freeman and Rory Lindo have been making retro-style dresses and clothing for the last 20 years. They have a loyal following of fans who are into their vintage look. Their pieces mix bold prints (think gingham, florals and leopard), and run the full spectrum of colours. 1122 Queen St. E.

Local shop #5: The Sidekick

Why not finish up your souvenir hunt by flicking through some comic books with a mocha latte in hand? The Sidekick, a Toronto institution, is dedicated entirely to comics and coffee. It stocks titles from DC and Marvel, as well as some single-edition and locally made independent publications. 1374 Queen St. E.

Getting to Leslieville

  • Take the Line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway to Coxwell station, then the 22 bus southbound
  • Or take the Line 1 Yonge-University subway to Queen station, and then the 501 streetcar eastbound