The Distillery District, Toronto

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2005, 12:00am

Toronto's Distillery District balances character and urban chic, resisting the temptation to become a victim of kitsch. The former Gooderham and Worts distillery, which dates back to the 1830s, is a five-hectare haven of cobblestone and brick in the southeast end of downtown. Once Canada's top film location, serving as the set for such movies as Chicago and X-Men, it's reminiscent of a European village; a getaway where pedestrian traffic, artists' studios and patio cafes rule. But it's the place itself, including the 143-year old limestone distillery, which remains the main attraction.

Blue Dot Gallery (55 Mill Street, Building 47; This gutsy gallery takes its name from the owners' belief that Earth is a small blue dot whose inhabitants are all connected. Displaying contem-porary art from around the world, it admirably follows through on its promise of 'Art for Earth's sake', donating half of its net profits to charitable causes.

Lileo (55 Mill Street, Building 35;, is an emporium of exposed brick and windows dedicated to all things for the fashionably healthy mind and body. The buffed and beautiful flock to this shop for its in-house designer sportswear and other exclusive lines of clothing (from C$100 or $625), educational toys, skincare products (from C$10) and flip-flops (from C$18). Organic vegan dishes are available at its fresh juice bar, plus gargantuan salad mixes, sandwiches and other treats.

Co-founder Syd Beder is also behind Fashion Cares Canada, the glitzy annual ball that has raised more than C$6 million to help those living with HIV/Aids. Tank (55 Mill Street, 103 Case Goods Warehouse) is typical of the sort of artists' studio-cum-shop in the complex. Customers can watch craftsmen at work and gain a sense of how jewellery and works of art are created.

Mona's For Pets (55 Mill Street, Building 53; offers exclusive lines of

T-shirts (from C$22), hoodies or sweaters (from C$65) in a wide range of sizes and colours for

the pooch that has everything. Whether it's a London Dog rain-coat in traditional mustard plaid

or a City Slicker with a tie-back hoodie in candy colours, such apparel can turn any mongrel into

a hound. Mona's owner raises funds for animal shelter and rescue organisations.

Canadians take pride in their beer and the Mill Street Brewery (55 Mill Street, Building 63; offers a line of beers and ales made in an area renowned for its suds a century ago. The golden Mill Street Sparkling Ale is considered by locals to be the champagne of beers. Tours are available by appointment, while the tasting bar is open during regular brewery hours from Wednesday to Sunday. The retail section sells beers in bottles (C$11.95 for a six-pack) and kegs.