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I see your point, and that just may be the crux of the distinction in that something can be very urban without necessarily being 'big city'.
 
In that case you have to compare apples to apples. The pictures of Toronto that I posted would also not be reflective of the CBD here.

The areas I showed in London were very clearly residential areas in the central city - the first picture is from Pimlico, the second is seen from the top of Westminster Cathedral; Toronto's downtown prewar residential vernacular is still Bays and Gables with front yards. You could be as centrally located as Grange Park, Granby and McGill streets or Seaton street and have the same sort of built form (give or take the age) as you would out at Bloor and Lansdowne. Although a few Edwardian apartment blocks exist here and there, there were no residential neighbourhoods characterized by buildings that went right up to the sidewalk and were flush with neighbouring blocks. The kind of midrise apartment blocks that I'm talking about are only a recent phenomenon in our city and were primarily added to formerly industrial areas to blend in with warehouses.
 
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Hamilton--if you picture it as a city 50-100 years ago--has more of big-city feel to it than Toronto does. I also think Toronto suburbanized the core with all the big plazas around office buildings, city hall, schools etc in the post-war period. Looking at old photos of Toronto from c.1920's the city seems bigger and more urban and happening than it does today.

Perhaps I should revise my original statement: Toronto is a suburb of small town Britain!
 
Neighbourhoods in Toronto and Hamilton are built pretty similar. If Hamilton had grown into a larger city it may have been better, considering the remnants of the mid 19th century scattered in Hamilton:

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As far as I know, the only cities in Canada with substantial "urban" neighbourhoods are Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and Hamilton. (Ottawa=almost, Halifax and maybe some others on the east coast on a smaller scale, i.e. not hundreds of blocks)
 
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I agree with Ganjavih--Montreal has some wonderful old buildings, but TO is certainly no slouch. And I love the gardens--they're a distinctive feature of our city for sure. Believe it or not, even in the nicest bits of London (say, Richmond or Hampstead)--every house has a front yard but that usually means a parking pad and some recycling bins. The overflowing vegetation in front of Toronto houses is incredible by comparison--and something I've heard Montreal visitors comment on too.

Additionally, the truly spectacular old greystones are present in a pretty small area of Montreal (the true centre of the Plateau around Sq St-Louis, where most of these photos appear to have been taken, bits of lower Westmount and the Quartier Latin, etc). What prevails elsewhere is more utilitarian, with some exceptions.

You could assemble a similar collection of images of Toronto's very best bay-and-gables etc.--which do represent a very different style, but to me are just as impressive. But who cares? Both styles--and cities--are tremendous places with unique built form. Canada is so lucky to have both.

If there's any difference between the two cities' historic endowments, I think Montreal takes much more pride in its historic commercial strips. In this funny Protestant way Torontonians are fiercely proud of their own homes, but that pride falls down in the shared spaces. The result is the mishmash of hydro wires and broken sidewalks with which we're so familiar.

Part of this, of course, is that very little new is being built in Montreal, so the city sees its structures as essentially permanent. In TO where everything seems about to be knocked down for some high-rise I guess the same incentives aren't there...
 
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^Yeah that's just it. When I'm in Mtl I forget about how nice walking down Indian Rd or Delaware is while otoh living in Toronto with little exposure to Mtl it's always eye-opening to flashback to my days in Mtl (in love) via google streetview or these photos. If I were rich, I'd own a house in both cities, and fly in my private jet between the two cities, using the travel time to read the local newspapers. Cottage north of Toronto? Nah, I'd rather be on my way to my Outremont brownstone.:) Oh and of course, have a wife in both towns--gorgeous stylish French Canadian woman in Mtl, frumpy wears all black all the time woman in Toronto...? :p
 
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I never understood why torontonians take such pride in bringing down their own city.
As someone who grew up in the plateau and has spent considerable time in toronto's cabagetown, i will take cabagetown over the plateau on any given day.
 

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