Exploring Toronto’s Little Portugal Neighbourhood

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Written by: | Last updated on February 29, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes
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There are pockets of Portuguese communities everywhere, including London, Newark, Massachusetts, San Jose, and Toronto. In fact, Toronto is one of the biggest Portuguese communities in the world. According to the 2016 Canadian census, around 440,892 Portuguese people reside in Canada and the vast majority live in Toronto with another large Portuguese population in Montreal.

Thankfully, for those that love international food and culture, a large portion of these Portuguese people live in the same section of the city, which is affectionately named Little Portugal. The official neighbourhood is located west of downtown in the Old City of Toronto, particularly around Dundas Street and College Street, but you’ll find a few businesses located outside of the official neighbourhood perimeter as well.

For tourists or local residents, visiting Little Portugal offers a chance to visit some great Portuguese restaurants, cafes, and shops, and to travel to another part of the world without ever leaving the city.

Those that visit in June will be especially in luck as this is when the neighbourhood hosts its annual Do West Fest (formally Dundas West Fest). This three-day festival coincides with Portugal Day on June 10th to offer a parade, food, drink, music, and other festivities.

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There are several Portuguese cafes and bakeries in the area, including Nova Era, Caldense, and Golden Wheat, all of which have cafes in other parts of the city as well. Each offer an excellent selection of traditional Portuguese cakes and pastries, including pastéis de nata, bolos de arroz, and pastéis de feijão, as well as breads, whole cakes, savoury snacks or salgados, and deserts such as arroz doce (rice pudding), flan, and bolo de bolacha (biscuit cake). The feeling in each is authentically Portuguese: simple, a TV on the wall showing the news or the football, and groups of Portuguese locals huddled over espressos and slices of cake.

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For lager meals, there are a number of options, ranging from the more casual and traditional like Bairrada Churrasqueira to upscale options like Via Norte and Chiado. Here, you can try a number of traditional Portuguese dishes. Bairrada, for example, offers piri-piri chicken, febras de porco, bitoque, ameijoas à bulhão pato,

For Portuguese gifts and souvenirs, Saudade offers an amazing curation of Portuguese products—everything from canned sardines to plate, soaps, books, blankets, and piri piri sauce. The products are a mixture of traditional and artisan, and many are ideal for gifts, whether for someone else or to yourself.

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Then there’s the Portuguese-Canadian Walk Of Fame, modelling off of LA’s walk of fame. Each year, the PCWOF honours four new candidates, celebrating their achievements and contributions. The inception of this initiative was the brainchild of Manuel DaCosta, whose vision and dedication brought this concept to fruition, creating a lasting legacy for the Portuguese community in Toronto. You might not recognise many of the names in this list, but the mural alone makes it worth stopping off at.

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Since its beginning in 2013, the PCWOF has inducted a diverse array of individuals from various walks of life. The inaugural inductees included Antonio Santos e Sousa, a pioneer of the first wave of Portuguese immigration to Canada, Michael Nobrega, a retired President and CEO, and the internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter Nelly Furtado. Over the years, the Walk of Fame has continued to honour notable Luso-Canadians, including hockey legend John Tavares, Justice Maria Linhares de Sousa, businessman Manuel Clementino, and hockey player Drew Doughty.

A quick search on Google Maps shows there are plenty more Portuguese cafes and restaurants elsewhere in the city, not just in Little Portugal. That’s partly because the neighbourhood is in a state of change and has been for the past few decades, based on this report from 2007.

According to the report from the University of Toronto, many of the Portuguese residents in Little Portugal are moving towards the suburbs, such as Mississauga and Brampton, seeking more affordable housing and a different lifestyle.

Meanwhile, Little Portugal itself is witnessing an influx of new immigrant groups, adding to the multicultural mosaic of the area. Communities from Brazil, Latin America, and various Asian countries are becoming more prominent, each contributing their unique cultural heritage to the neighbourhood. This influx brings a fresh vibrancy, seen in the diversifying local businesses, cuisine, and cultural events. The area’s cafes and shops now showcase a broader range of international influences, reflecting the changing faces of its residents. Even the Portuguese tiled mural next to the Walk of Fame is sandwiched between signs for a dispensary.

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As the neighbourhood becomes more diverse and appealing, it has also attracted a more affluent demographic, drawn by the cultural richness and central location. This influx of wealth is a double-edged sword; while it has brought investment and renewal, it has also lead to rising property values and living costs.

Despite all of this, there’s still a big Portuguese element to this part of Toronto. If you’re looking to experience an authentic Portuguese custard tart or try bacalhau for the first time, head on over to Little Portugal.

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.