WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Roncesvalles Avenue, always a good bet for last-minute gift shopping + a foodie's delight + access to a beach walk at its foot.
Here's a neighbourhood stroll that includes so many boutiques over 500 meters that it's the ideal destination for those who want to stretch their legs while completing their last-minute shopping!
Roncesvalles is a lively neighbourhood with lots of personality.
Longer walk version
I chose Extra Butter Coffee (283 Roncesvalles) as my starting point because a friend sells her wonderful photos of Toronto cafés there. I'll describe the stores to the north of this café to Howard Park Avenue, 500 metres away, but know that many more shops line the avenue to the south of this café (their coffee is good and they sell festive old-fashioned doughnuts!).
On a sunny day, before or after your shopping spree, I recommend walking down Roncesvalles to Queen St W (1-km from Extra Butter Coffee) and taking the pedestrian bridge over the Gardiner to Sunnyside Beach. It's easy to underestimate the pleasure of hearing the waves roll in, even in winter!
The photos of Coffee Core Confession
In my search for Toronto cafés, I discovered on Instagram @coffeecoreconfession and the wonderful composite photos of Margaret Gdyczynski, clearly just as enamoured of the city's cafés as I am. In fact, she says on her website, "I find my inspiration in exploring Toronto's interior spaces and in my constant quest for the perfect cappuccino!"
This OCAD graduate studied art in Florence, which explains the textures and attention to detail in her work. Thanks to her, I discovered new cafés, and I got to suggest a few to her. In fact, we've met to do a collaboration in 2024.
Right now, until the end of December, you can find several photos of Margaret at Extra Butter in 12 x 16" format for $70 (they're in a box near the counter). Better yet, for a personalized gift, I recommend going to her website www.coffeecoreconfession.com to buy a gift card. This will allow the recipient to select his or her favorite reproduction from the vast selection of Toronto cafés photographed by Margaret!
So many gift options within half a km!
I won't list all the gift options for foodies. Roncesvalles is crammed with grocery stores and boutiques where you can buy edible gifts (my preference for my adult children's Christmas stockings or as hostess gifts). And I'll leave you to discover the multitude of restaurants.
What a feast for the eyes is the stunning holiday storefront at Avenue Daughter (373 Roncesvalles), opened in November 2023. The eclectic merchandise layout is worthy of a movie set.
The beautiful objects in the window of 313 Design Market (313 Roncesvalles) also caught my eye (including Christmas placemats to colour).
I entered Sweet Thrills (367 Roncesvalles) thinking I'd find ladies. The big store was full of board games for all ages! A fixture in the area, it had just moved into its new premises.
Its neighbour Suetables (363 Roncesvalles) specializes in personalized jewelry. It's too late to order engravings in time for Christmas, but they can hand-stamp on the spot and assemble jewelry to your tastes.
Other potential cool gifts I spotted: a little gingerbread hut-looking doghouse at Kennel Café (285 Roncesvalles), a memory game featuring native women at Scout (405 Roncesvalles), and a Jason Momoa colouring book at Maggie's Farm (407 Roncesvalles).
A funky neighbourhood!
Roncesvalles is a lively neighbourhood with lots of personality. For example, the Garden Milk & Variety convenience store (301 Roncesvalles) has a lot of signage advertising the wide variety of specialty and vegan products on offer.
A local resident has erected a memorial tree for his dog on his front lawn, complete with dog treat dispensers (corner of Grenadier Rd and Roncesvalles).
During my visit, the narrow window under the Old Country Shop sign (355 Roncesvalles) featured a rather sexy lamp. (Ted Lasso fans will recognize the Keeley’s lamp for her sexy Christmas.) It's belongs to the little shop Bathing Belle swimwear shop on the second floor.
And the window in the Vinegar Syndrome film and music store (399 Roncesvalles) is not to be missed.
Behind 385 Roncesvalles lurks the tiny counter of the Gold Standard (accessible from Neepawa Avenue), where I ordered an excellent breakfast sandwich to take away.
The street is also home to the Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles). Its neighbour, the pretty restaurant The Local (396 Roncesvalles), offers a solid live music program, and Coffee and All that Jazz (72 Howard Park Ave.), a little further north, occasionally offers daytime jazz on weekends.
This post is a complement to local author Nathalie Prézeau's walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls. (currently SOLD OUT!) You already own this book? Check Nathalie's WEEKLY WALKS calendar available on her site www.torontourbangems.com/calendar. It's free, easily printable by season, and it includes page references which should help you enjoy urban walks year-round.
Visit www.torontourbangems.com to subscribe to Nathalie's coming newsletter and follow the author on social media to find out what latest urban gems she's found for you and to keep posted on her next guide.