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Fashion & Style

The top 10 shopping malls in Toronto

Posted by Staff / May 3, 2014

malls in torontoMalls in Toronto are havens of unabashed, unabated consumerism, where Amy Heckerling's '90s don't need nostalgic revisiting, because they never really went away. Unsurprisingly, Toronto has a love-to-hate-it relationship with Cher Horowitz's second home - many of you answered our highly unscientific Twitter polls by telling us not which malls you liked most, but which ones you despised the least.

However, Torontonians still patronize malls like a Mean Girl - both Yorkdale and the Eaton Centre boast over $2 billion in sales per year - and the best ones manage to provide enough diversity, convenience, escapism and top-notch people-watching to keep us coming back. So read on, loser. We're going shopping.

Here are the top shopping malls in Toronto.

Yorkdale
A trip to Yorkdale is all about perusing Mink Mile staples without the pressure to buy anything or leave - like visiting a museum of useless things money can buy (the admission fee is surviving the apocalyptic parking lot). Nothing cures suburban ennui like eating Kernels popcorn while playing "spot the apology jewelry" at Tiffany. For the more dignified, there are unique stores like Topshop, L'Occitane and Zara Home, and tons of covetable fashion items for all budgets.

Scarborough Town Centre
Unfairly maligned for being east of Victoria Park, Scarborough Town is a useful, logically planned resource for shoppers more interested in variety than marble floors and designer duds. Its mix of major chains, big box retailers and independent shops offer just about everything, including high-end makeup, those ubiquitous transparent yoga pants, bizarre British candy, and axolotls. It also makes the list for being the only mall in the GTA city with adequate clothing options for plus-sizes.

Sherway Gardens
This Etobicoke mall is home to many of the same shops as Yorkdale, the Eaton Centre and Bayview Village, adequately servicing west-enders with plenty of upscale choices. The mall, best known for its iconic tented roof, is the city's best for a day of relaxed window shopping. The environment, meant to replicate a stroll through a series of manicured gardens, is serene and simple (though the layout can be overwhelming), and crowds are often minimal. The mall's only real flaw is a lack of high-quality food options.

Fairview Mall
Thanks to a makeover and Mayor Mel's transit plan, this North York staple is clean, spacious, and easy to access. Fairview manages to pack a lot - books, booze, small appliances, toys and fashion for every age and budget - into a manageable space, meaning shoppers can find everything they want without having to give up an entire day. However, the sub-par, chaotic food court does little justice to the mall's signature atrium above.

The Shops At Don Mills
Cadillac Fairview paved paradise (or at least this writer's former favourite mall) to create this outdoor complex, intended to bring highbrow shopping to an otherwise humble neighbourhood. The European piazza feel of the central courtyard and dining that stays open late inject some liveliness to the area. Stores like Oak+Fort and YellowKorner photography make for a diverse shopping experience, but the mall suffers from a try-hard vibe (think valet parking) and poor use of space.

Pacific Mall
Billed as the "Largest Chinese Indoor Mall in North America," this Markham tourist attraction is more about visual overstimulation, exploration and snacking on addictive cream puffs from Beard Papa's (the world's most perfectly, disturbingly named snack stand) than stocking up on the necessities. Many of the nearly 500 market-style shops trade in the cutesy, kitschy and unusual, but there's no shortage of practical finds like small electronics, cosmetics (including legit BB cream) and kitchen gear.

Toronto Eaton Centre
Though it's overcrowded and inefficient, the city's largest mall remains a fashion destination, with stores like J. Crew, a flagship H&M, and Michael Kors (with the arrivals of Saks and Nordstrom pending). Recent revamps have elevated dining options, and brought visual interest to standard mall staples like Sephora and Shoppers Drug Mart. Stay away on weekends and holidays, when it transforms into the naked mole rat exhibit at the Toronto Zoo.

Vaughan Mills
Vaughan Mills is worth the trip for flagship store Bass Pro Shops alone. This temple of outdoor gear, taxidermy, and inanimate objects shaped like fish is equal parts surreal and scary, like an early Michael Moore movie. The mall itself delivers bargains from Joe Fresh, Holt Renfrew's hr2, and outlet versions of almost every major shoe store, as well as nostalgic entertainment from Lucky Strike bowling and adults night at Lego Land (which is neither as dirty nor as sad as it sounds).

East York Town Centre
It still needs a makeover, but this modest mall is weird and wonderful, with the area's only Target, a throwback bowling alley, a produce market, cute kitchenware, and apparel that could outfit Jilly's dancers. The Dollarama is deceptively great, loaded with scores like DVDs (hello, Barefoot Contessa box sets) and perfect bad gifts (Twilight Scene-It for $3). Thorncliffe Park is rife with delicious Middle Eastern and South Asian eats, and the food court is no exception.

Square One
Practically a city unto itself, this Mississauga mall is similar to Scarborough Town Centre in its mix of independent, chain and big box retailers. Though slightly less eclectic (and far harder to navigate) than its eastern counterpart, Square One stands out for bringing western GTA residents less-common stores like Lush, Target and Boathouse. The mall is also home to vital community services, including the GTA's largest farmer's market and the Square One Older Adults Centre.

Did we miss any? Leave your favourite Toronto mall in the comments!

Writing by Ashley Petkovski. Photo by Daniel Gueorguiev from the blogTO Flickr pool.

Discussion

40 Comments

Bobby / May 3, 2014 at 09:45 am
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Where's Galleria?!
Barry / May 3, 2014 at 10:01 am
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I cant believe that Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket hasnt been included.
American / May 3, 2014 at 10:07 am
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Malls in toronto are expensive, crowded and kinda boring... Much better malls and cheaper prices in the USA.
American / May 3, 2014 at 10:09 am
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I would never shop at a place like Eaton center.. Whoever designed a mall in middle of downtown is an idiot. Just try driving or parking there a big headache and expensive $$$$
Canadian replying to a comment from American / May 3, 2014 at 10:19 am
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Um, you do know that public transit runs right to either end of the Eaton Center. There are a host of reasons to avoid that mall (or any mall) but lack of transportation options and parking for your gas guzzling lazy ass are not one of them.
Elyse / May 3, 2014 at 10:25 am
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What about Markville Mall? It just had quite a big transformation.
Chester / May 3, 2014 at 10:27 am
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I remember Yorkdale back when I was in high school, I loved it. It was literally the best place to pick up girls.
Victor/ia / May 3, 2014 at 11:23 am
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Yorkdale has a ton of variety (I was around when it was still in its original configuration, the "L" shape). They have beautiful clean designer bathrooms. The food court needs work (good ideas, so-so food), but it too is designer'ish and clean. Lots of free parking (Christmas and boxing day is a challenge).

The Eaton Center not even close. Most stores sell the exact same product (same running/dress shoes, tops, pants), and not much in the way of competition (price). It IS poorly designed, stairs in places they don't need to be, not enough elevators, and escalators. The food court has lots of variety, but not enough seating (which is hard and uncomfortable). It does have its reputation as being a tourist attraction (is it still the biggest mall in the city?). Lots of crowds, especially on weekends. Parking is a challenge and it will cost you. There's always transit which takes you directly to the front doors of each of these malls.

If you don't want to be dressed exactly like the next person, my #1 pick is Yorkdale.
Cynthia / May 3, 2014 at 01:49 pm
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And Bayview Village? I grew up there. Heck, I learned to walk there and had my very first ICE CREAM there!! I don't remember either, but my mom said that I turned white after having a bite (which freaked her out), but wanted more after I got my colour back.
TJ / May 3, 2014 at 01:53 pm
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"American", perusing and giving their 2 cents on a Toronto Blog, written by and for Torontonians.... well sure, why not, it's a free world but... must've been a slow news day at your house.
DigitalW1tch / May 3, 2014 at 01:53 pm
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Gerrard Square didn't even make this list and it's IN Toronto but Scarborough Town center and Square One did?
KB / May 3, 2014 at 01:56 pm
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BAYVIEW VILLAGE! Come on, it's like an indoors Yorkville
Nico / May 3, 2014 at 01:56 pm
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Kind of a loose definition of Toronto?
BettieLuv replying to a comment from Cynthia / May 3, 2014 at 02:00 pm
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Cynthia, I haven't the foggiest about Bayview Village but LOVE your little ice cream story. :)
Taliba / May 3, 2014 at 02:23 pm
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Weirdly as an east-ender I've come to appreciate Eglinton Square Mall. Not the best selection, but deals? Check. Busyness without crowds? Check. Public Library? Check.

I just learned that apparently this mall is what helped kill the shopping mecca that used to be Woodbine & Danforth, but still. Whenever I need something good (dress, winter boots) the quality I can get for the deals, and no stress environment, can't be beat.
RM replying to a comment from American / May 3, 2014 at 02:36 pm
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American, the whole point of a mall downtown is that you don't have to drive there.
NH / May 3, 2014 at 03:04 pm
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What Square One harder to navigate than Scarborough Town Centre??
I don't think so
Jane replying to a comment from Elyse / May 3, 2014 at 03:49 pm
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Pacific Mall and Vaughan Mills are not in Toronto, neither is Markville Mall.
W. K. Lis / May 3, 2014 at 03:54 pm
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Where's the underground PATH system?
Cody replying to a comment from American / May 3, 2014 at 04:54 pm
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stay in your suburb ;) Toronto is not for you ;) here we use public transit
McRib / May 3, 2014 at 05:33 pm
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malls are kind of shit, unless you are a teenager picking up chicks and looking to score some dope. Then they are awesome.
linden / May 3, 2014 at 06:28 pm
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some stores such as clothing and shoes are mostly located in the malls so it forces people like me to go there; it is like a zoo. I miss the European shopping experience, which The Shops at Don Mills somewhat resembles but it is still confined to a particular area.
Deryck / May 3, 2014 at 07:05 pm
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If you're going to include Markham and Vaughan, then might as well include The Promenade Shopping Centre in Thornhill, and that Toronto Premium Outlets thing in Halton.
tammy / May 3, 2014 at 07:28 pm
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Where's the Dufferin Mall?
It is in Toronto at least

and is a perfect size. Bigger than that, you might need to bring a skate board for transportation and smaller, well, what's the point in calling it a mall. I like seeing seniors walking around the mall in winter and all. It is good.
saad replying to a comment from Canadian / May 3, 2014 at 07:35 pm
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Canadian Malls are the best... not like other dirty malls.
Nerves replying to a comment from Barry / May 3, 2014 at 07:55 pm
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Seriously, for Families Especially, Upper Canada stands out above the rest. Multiple and well laid out family bathrooms, kids play area, kids events ... no other mall I know of goes to the lengths that Upper Canada does to make family trips to the mall less painful.. even enjoyable.
Mike Bastoli / May 3, 2014 at 08:33 pm
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Square One should be at the top. When was the last time blogTO visited? New stores introduced regularly (Kiehl's is opening up soon), enormous recently expanded food court, two theatres (well, one is across the street), great for walking, and not 'hard to navigate' at all once you get the layout. Plus what other mall has Walmart, Target, and Whole Foods for everyday needs?
You are crazy / May 3, 2014 at 11:05 pm
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Dufferin Mall? Really? That place is a toliet
Robert replying to a comment from linden / May 4, 2014 at 08:55 am
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I find your statement interesting you feel your only options are malls. Toronto's streets are lined with a variety of shops, upscale to discount, chain to mom and pop, every corner of the city from the suburbs to downtown, everything you ever need and never have to go near a mall. Cities surrounding Toronto also have the same kind of on street shopping.
Since you focused on malls I assume you prerequisite is the need to drive and park at the front of or near the stores you are interested in.
You want something other then a mall you need to ditch the car and walk.
chittral patel replying to a comment from Bobby / May 4, 2014 at 09:18 am
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preach my brother
Andrea / May 4, 2014 at 06:24 pm
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When did Mississauaga become part of Toronto?

As someone from Toronto who grew up in Mississauaga, I find that insulting
Bay View / May 5, 2014 at 11:37 am
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Remember when Bayview Village had a K-Mart? I do.
HK / May 5, 2014 at 12:51 pm
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This person has never been to Bayview Village, or is he/she upset that the stuff there are too expensive and elite for his/her standards?
They have a section of nice restaurants/coffee shops, a Chapters, and a Loblaws and Pusateri's if you like more higher end groceries. Other than that BV isn't that exciting unless you're over the age of 25 and notably wealthy.
Oh, btw, check out their washrooms.
ap / July 20, 2014 at 10:31 am
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centre point mall, steeles and yonge st
Cynthia replying to a comment from American / July 20, 2014 at 11:29 am
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But other than outlet malls, many of the "cheaper" malls in the US are crap.
Logan / July 20, 2014 at 02:09 pm
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At least Gerrard Square didn't make the list. That's one really depressing mall.
anne / July 20, 2014 at 02:17 pm
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I remember kmart at Bayview village and Charlie Cs
John / July 20, 2014 at 08:49 pm
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Gerrard Square? Did someone really just say that? It was probably in the top ten white trash malls of all time.... give your head a shake lol
AL / July 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm
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How in the world does EAst York Town Center
Make the list???? And Markville does not???

Unreal
Alan Gomes replying to a comment from Barry / July 28, 2014 at 11:39 pm
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Newmarket is far from Toronto!!!

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