Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. It is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. Toronto, with a population of 2.6 million, is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) which contains 6.2 million people. The city is the anchor of the Golden Horseshoe region, which wraps around Lake Ontario from Toronto to Niagara Falls and totals over 8.5 million residents, approximately a quarter of Canada's entire population. Toronto is the fifth largest city and fifth largest urban agglomeration in North America.
Spawned out of post-glacial alluvial deposits and bluffs, the area was populated at different times by Iroquois and later Wyandot (Huron) peoples. The settlement by Europeans started with the French building a seldom occupied fort near today's Exhibition grounds in the mid-1700s, then grew out of a backwoods English trading post established as York in 1793 (reverting to the current name Toronto in 1834). Later in the 19th century, it grew to become the cultural and economic focus of Canada. Owing largely to the country's liberal immigration policies starting in the 1960s, and the region's strong economy, Toronto has, in recent decades, been transformed into one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the world. More than 80 ethnic communities are represented, and over half of the city's residents were born outside Canada.
Toronto's climate is on the whole on the cool side and variable conditions can be expected, temperatures average -3.8°C (25°F) in January downtown, however the type of extreme cold experienced in parts of Canada further north do not hold a tight grip for usually more than a couple of days at a time, despite this come prepared, winters are still cold, mostly cloudy and at times, snowy and uncomfortably windy. The city experiences warm and humid summers with an average high of 27°C (80°F) and a low of 18°C (65°F) in July/August with many muggy evenings but rarely extreme heat, historically with an average of only 12 days where the temperature exceeds 30°C (86°F) however this number has doubled over the past 12 years. Hotter airmasses often arrive with moderately high humidity levels but are typically short lived. Late spring/early summer and early fall are generally considered to be the best times to visit for weather, with comfortably cool nights and less crowds, mid-summer is the peak tourist season, but visitors will find that Toronto's vibrancy extends through the winter with outdoor ice-rinks and bundled up clubgoers, etc. Toronto's public buildings are nearly all air-conditioned and fully heated.
Sometimes during the winter, severe storms can slow down transportation and activities in the city for a day or two. In the summer, thunderstorms occur from time to time, most lasting less than an hour.
Toronto is generally considered to be one of North America's top food cities. It has the same variety as New York or San Francisco and the compact and safe downtown keeps them closer together. As one of the most (if not the most) multicultural cities in the world, Toronto has authentic ethnic cuisine like no other city in North America. It is easy to eat out in Toronto and have a superb meal for cheap.
The majority of nightlife in Toronto is centred on the appropriately named Clubland and in the fashion district on Queen Street West. Nearly everywhere is packed to the brim with pubs and bars, but none so much as Adelaide and Queen Street in those districts. Clubs tend to operate on Richmond and Adelaide streets (both run east-west, 1 block apart); names change frequently, but the district keeps on going. Four other clubs of note outside this district: The mega club/ultra lounge Muzik Nightclub (by Exhibition Place), The (long-lasting) Phoenix (on Sherbourne), The Guvernment (Toronto's largest club - on the harbour east of Yonge Street) and the Docks (literally operating on part of Toronto's commercial port, but this place has an outstanding view of the city on warm summer nights, and boasts an extensive entertainment complex).
Toronto is remarkably safe and the streets are vibrant with pedestrians and bicyclists, even at night in most neighbourhoods. If you use common sense, you should have no trouble at all.
The overall violent crime rate in Canada, and particularly in Toronto, is much lower than that found in major cities in the United States. Petty crime is generally not a problem in Toronto, but as always is the case, keep vigilant with your possessions. Car and bike theft are comparable to other large North American cities.