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Where to Buy Great Souvenirs in Toronto

 

Jse-Che Lam is a Toronto-based writer who is on a one year sabbatical from her teaching job so that she can Explore, Travel, and Play. We're delighted to have her in our Journeywoman Network and feel she is the perfect person to ask about (will finish this once article is done.

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Whether you live in Toronto and are travelling abroad or you are a visitor looking for souvenirs to bring home for your pals I have several personal shopping guidelines to offer other JourneyWomen.

I prefer to source out items that are locally made, preferably something small, unique, and useful. Bookmarks, fridge magnets, jewellery, or well-packaged snack items are wonderful choices. During tourist season, you can also find special items at farmers’ markets, street festivals, or outdoor events.

Need a lot of souvenirs? Stretch your dollars by checking the store’s clearance section. Dollar stores always have an area for tourists.

Always check your airline’s weight restriction on luggage as well as the quarantine restrictions at your destination. If you have a fragile item, ask the shopkeeper to package your item appropriately or ask if it can be shipped home for you instead.

I know that as a traveller, my souvenir shopping is usually done at the last minute. Unless I have found something not to be missed, I don’t want to be carrying around too much stuff. I also want to comparison shop since this is one of the most important rituals of retail therapy.

Here’s a rundown of ten of my favourite local finds. These aren’t tourist traps but places that local Torontonians frequent.

1. If are not particularly concerned with the birthright of your souvenir, Spadina Avenue has numerous vendors selling logoed t-shirts that you can buy in bulk. Look out for B&J Trading (378 Spadina Avenue), an awesome spot that is chock full of Asian keepsakes, housewares, handmade paper, and last minute gifts. It’s like an Asian themed dollar store but better!

2. University of Toronto Bookstore (214 College Street): University swag is certainly cheaper than tuition for a four-year undergraduate degree. Find licensed U of T giftware and clothing here (don’t forget to check the clearance section on the lower level). The back to school rush in September is to be avoided unless you want to feel the surge of students as they converge to buy textbooks. Website: www.uoftbookstore.com

3. Peach Berserk (507 Queen Street West): Other arbiters of cool have left Queen Street West due to high rents or fashionista fickleness but not this designer. Peach Berserk is for those who believe in vibrant colours and in statement clothing. Lots of teens sign up for their silk-screening workshops so they can design something one-of-a-kind for their high school prom. Click here.

4. Nicholas Hoare Bookshop (45 Front Street East): Imagine that charming, genteel bookstore that every bookworm wants in her neighbourhood. My favourite detail in this shop is the sliding ladder, giving this welcoming shop a touch of elegance and glamour. This is the bookseller to visit if you are seeking exceptional customer service and advice about quality Canadian literature. Website: www.nicholashoare.com

5. Spacing: Go home with a selection of buttons to remind you of the city’s subway system! Each adorable little button was designed to match its corresponding subway station. Sold by the set and wildly popular with civic-minded Torontonians. Check the Spacing website for shop locations. Website: www.spacing.ca/store/buttons

6. Good Egg (267 Augusta Avenue): This is a cookbook store that carries whimsical kitchen giftware as well as cookware. Entering this specialty boutique induces giddiness. As with most Kensington shopkeepers, the owner and her staff are approachable and knowledgeable. The store’s inventory reflects the thoughtful touches of a curator who has chosen quality items that will appeal to foodies. A Canadian cookbook would be a lovely reminder of your travels. Website: http://www.goodegg.ca

7. Bounty (York Quay Centre, 235 Queens Quay West): This is a contemporary art and design shop that showcases some of the most innovative finds in Canadian Craft – in fact, you can watch the artisans creating these pieces in the adjoining open workshops. Note that the shop also includes work from internationally renowned artisans. The selections available at Bounty have a playful, funky vibe. Anyone who appreciates functional art and design will enjoy this store. Click here.

8. The Guild Shop (118 Cumberland Avenue): Various artists and different types of mediums are represented at the Guild Shop. This is the place for a special art collectible or sophisticated keepsake for that splurge purchase. Different price points are represented but this is definitely the destination for the discerning shopper. Website: http://www.theguildshop.ca

9. Dufflet’s Bakery and Café (787 Queen Street West) as well as other several locations: Come for a coffee and a slice of yummy cake. Take home some of Dufflet’s pre-packaged indulgences for a sweet-toothed friend who will no doubt be happy and grateful that you chose such a thoughtful and delicious gift. Website: www.dufflet.com

10. CBC Shop (250 Front Street West): The Canadian Broadcasting Company is the country’s national network. After exploring the radio and television museum in this flagship building, seek out the boutique. Lots of DVDs, CDs, books, and clothes are for available sale. The top best-sellers include the Hockey Night in Canada line of merchandise. Remember that we, Canadians are most passionate about our hockey! Website: www.cbcshop.ca

 

Hunt for 100 yen shops in Tokyo...

For souvenir shopping in Tokyo, hit the 100 yen shops. Everything in the store is 100 yen and there is an amazing assortment to chose from. Some shops - Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ikebukero are multi-levels and the items are divided into sections – kitchen, home, beauty, etc. The selection is endless – dishes, napkins, chopsticks, washi paper, snacks, charms, hair accessories, slippers, etc. This is also the place to pick up things for your trip – travel-size shampoo bottles, extra toothbrushes, mesh bags for dirty laundry, socks, locks for backpacks, and also places for souvenirs and gifts – funny stationary with Engrish on it, kimono print notebooks, lanterns, etc. You can go crazy inside – everything is just about a dollar.

(Laura, Toronto, Canada)

 

Inexpensive trip souvenirs...

Woman BookwormI've found a great way to acquire inexpensive and beautiful souvenirs of my trips without packing, storing or shipping problems of any kind. I have collected close to 100 gorgeous bookmarks. They are available in every museum shop, church store and in the beautiful paper shops in Venice, Florence, and Seoul. And the best part is I love using them myself and also giving them away as gifts. Bookmarks are great reminders of the wonderful places I've had the privilege to visit.

(Harriet, California, USA)

 

The perfect travel souvenir...

When I travel I love to spend time looking for the perfect souvenir in all the towns I pass through. I'm always making mental notes about what I want to bring back with me that will remind me of this place or that. I also like to buy something new to wear like earrings or a scarf really early during my holiday so I can wear them and spruce up my not-so-new travel outfits. These items often become treasured souvenirs that bring back memories of where I bought and wore them and why.

(Astrid in New York City, USA)

 

Souvenirs bring back memories...

Travel is my passion and over the years I've collected an assortment of wonderful 'stuff', juicy souvenirs of the many, many crazy adventures I've had along the way. I love 'my stuff' because it reminds me of the places I've been, the people I've met, and the shopping scenarios that led to my purchases. Each has its very own story. To read more.

(Evelyn Hannon, Journeywoman Editor)


 

 

 

 

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