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The first European to discover Lake Ontario and to set foot on the land that would become the largest city in Canada was Étienne Brûlé, a French explorer sent by Samuel de Champlain. Brûlé's expedition took place in 1615, at the beginning of the French colonization of North America. Like many of his predecessors, Brûlé was in search of a navigable route across the continent to the riches of the Orient.

The French set up a fur-trading post in 1720. About 30 years later, the British constructed a fort in an attempt to counter competition from their commercial rivals. The French ultimately burned their Fort Rouillé in 1759 as they beat a hasty retreat from advancing British troops.

John Graves Simcoe, the first governor of Upper Canada, needed a capital for the new province; the location had to be well-protected and far enough from the U.S. border to avoid potential invasion. In 1793, he chose this site. A small fort called York was built, and the area's new status as the capital attracted a few colonists. The 700 people that had settled here by 1812 succeeded in pushing back the Americans, who had declared war on Britain the year before, but not before the town had been seized for a few days and then destroyed.

In 1834, the city was incorporated and renamed Toronto. Its population was 9,000 at the time. During the 19th century, Toronto underwent rapid expansion, particularly from 1850-1860 with the construction of the railway between Montréal and New York.

Toronto's growth over the last 20 years has redefined the city, both literally and figuratively. Figuratively, in the sense that nowhere else in Canada are there as many different ethnic communities, a characteristic that distinguishes the city from the rest of Ontario and also from the Toronto of old. Toronto is not only the financial centre of Canada, but also the heart of culture in English-speaking Canada.

The Waterfront

Being near a major body of water often determines the location of a city, and Toronto is no exception. For many years, however, the city of Toronto neglected its waterfront. Fortunately, efforts were made to revive this area, and it is now home to luxury hotels, many shops, and numerous cafés bustling with constant activity.

Harbourfront Centre (410 Queen's Quay W.; 973-4000) is a good example of the changes on Toronto's waterfront. Apart from the pretty little cafés and the numerous shops, a variety of shows and cultural events also help make this the pride of Torontonians.

The CN Tower (Front St.W., 360-8500). No doubt the most easily recognizable building in Toronto, the CN Tower dominates the city from a height of 553.33m, making it the highest observation tower in the world. Originally built by the Canadian National Railway company to help transmit radio and TV signals past the numerous downtown buildings, it has become one of the city's main attractions. To avoid long lines, go early in the morning or late in the day, especially in the summer and on weekends. If the day is overcast, it is best to postpone your visit. The foot of the tower offers a panoply of activities. You can also reach the observation deck in an elevator that lifts you off the ground floor at a speed of 6m per second, equivalent to the takeoff of a jet aircraft. Located 335.25m up and set on four levels, the observation deck is the tower's foca

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