Toronto is a dynamic, multi-cultural metropolis with no shortage of things to see and do. The city’s events and festivals draw people from all over the world and the perennial attractions are sure to be on most traveler’s bucket list. Between film festivals, culinary events, major sporting events, live music and theatre, you’ll have a hard time deciding what to see and do during your stay. To help you, here are some suggested itineraries no matter how long you have to spend.
For directions: Google map for each day is given at the end of the article.
1 Day Option: If you have only one day to spend in Toronto
If you have only one day to spend in Toronto, maybe as a flight layover or just a short break, it’s important to plan your time to take in all the best Toronto has to offer!
Without a doubt the most iconic landmark in Toronto is the CN Tower and is an absolute must visit. For 34 years, it held the record of tallest tower and free-standing structure. It is now the 3rd tallest tower but still remains the tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere and one of the modern Seven Wonders of The World. That’s impressive!
Rocket to the top in 58 seconds in the high-speed glass fronted elevator, test your nerve on the glass floor as you look down 342m and enjoy breathtaking, panoramic views from the lookout.
If you’re up for a real thrill, take the EdgeWalk around the outside of the towers main pod, hands-free! Advanced reservations for EdgeWalk are mandatory. The CN Tower can easily be reached by walking west from Union Station along Front St.
Now that you’ve tested your courage, time to calm your nerves. Leave the CN Tower and cross Bremner Blvd to sample Canada’s premier, award winning pilsner lager at the Steam Whistle Brewery. Housed in a historic brick railway roundhouse you can take a guided tour with tastings and see the steam locomotives that helped pioneer our nation.
If you are travelling with children or enjoy the world under the sea, you may wish to visit the Ripley’s Aquarium which is next to the CN Tower. This is Canada’s largest indoor aquarium with 16,000 aquatic animals, over 100 interactive displays, 9 galleries and 3 touch exhibits featuring sharks, rays and horseshoe crabs. Also next to the Brewery is the Toronto Railway Museum, where young kids can enjoy miniature Train rides.
Next Stop: China Town
When you are ready to leave this area, walk west to Spadina Rd. and take the 510 streetcar north to Dundas St. Here you will find yourself in the heart of China town. An ethnic neighbourhood full of colorful shops and smells. Browse the shops for a lucky charm or taste some exotic foods. For the kids, make a game out of seeing who can spot the most dragons!
Next Stop: Kensington Market
Heading west along Dundas St. then north on Augusta St. enter the bohemian neighbourhood of Kensington Market. Full of charm and diversity, enjoy time browsing through vintage clothing stores, herbal shops, restaurants and cafes. This is a great spot to have lunch with a large assortment of different cuisines from around the world. Some favourites are Seven Lives (Mexican), Jumbo Empanadas (Chilean) and The Burgernator, but your really can’t go wrong so take your time and let your taste buds guide you.
Suggestion: If you really want to learn more about all the tasty treats in this area, consider taking a culinary walking tour with Tasty Tours.
You can also go for a 2 hour guided guided tour of Kensington and China Town.
Optional Stop – Art Gallery of Ontario
Also in this area, east of Spadina Rd. along Dundas St between Beverley and McCaul, is the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The gallery holds more than 80,000 works including the largest collection of Canadian art, an expansive collection from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, African and Oceanic art and modern and contemporary collections.
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Leaving the sights, sounds and smells of China Town behind, walk or ride the streetcar back down Spadina Rd. to Queen St. Walking east you will discover an uber-trendy stretch of big brand stores, cutting edge boutiques, art galleries and hip bars. Named by Vogue magazine as the 2nd coolest neighborhood in the world!
Suggestion: Be sure to take a walk down Graffiti Alley made famous on the Rick Mercer report. Just one street south of Queen St and west of Spadina Rd on Rush Lane.
Next Stop: Osgoode Hall
Walking east along Queen St. at the corner of John St. is the home of Bell Media where you might be able to catch a live taping of shows like The Merilyn Denis Show, The Social, Cityline or maybe see your favourite singer being interviewed at MuchMusic. Continue walking east past Univeristy St. and on the left side you will find the Osgoode Hall. A heritage building and the landmark for legal activity for over 160 years. The building has still retained much of its architecture from the late 1800’s and self-guided audio tours are available. Before you leave enjoy some time to stroll around the lovely 6 acres of manicured lawns and gardens.
Optional: The Four Seasons Centre for the performing arts is directly across the street from the Osgoode Hall. A theatre specifically built for the finest level of opera and ballet. Building tours and backstage access are available.
Next Stop: Nathan Philips Square
As you continue to walk east along Queen St. you will soon arrive to Nathan’s Philip Square. Home to New City Hall, the TORONTO sign, a sculpture court and peace garden. During the winter enjoy skating on the free ice rink and in the summer people watch by the water fountain. Across the street on the opposite corner is Old City Hall. Take a moment here to appreciate this well-preserved Romanesque building showcasing a clock tower and gargoyles. Can you spot the grotesque carved stone faces above the Queen St. entrance said to be those of politicians? Inside you can still admire the painted murals and stained glass windows.
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Next Stop: Eaton Centre/ Yonge Dundas Square
If you didn’t find everything you were looking for on Queen St. don’t worry, the Eaton Centre at the corner of Yonge St. spans two blocks and will fill every shoppers need. At the least, take a walk through and exit at Dundas St. Be prepared as you step into a world of noise, lights and crowds. Yonge/Dundas square is a public square and one of busiest and liveliest intersection in Canada. Throughout the year many public events, performances and art displays take place here.
Tonight, head out on the town. Toronto’s entertainment district along King St. between Spadina Rd. and University Ave. is where you can find some of the best restaurants, bars and theatrical shows. You can enjoy a production at the historic Royal Alexandra Theatre or catch a screening of old and new movies at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Dinner: Go to Buca to see executive chef Rob Gentile create some of the city’s most original and intricate dishes in a bare-bones industrial style, open kitchen. 604 King St. W.
2nd Day Option
After all that shopping yesterday, make today a day to explore natural history, art and culture at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Situated at the corner of Bloor St. and Spadina Rd. it is easily reached by subway. On line 1 exit at Musuem station and on line 2 exit at Spadina station. You won’t be able to miss the new entrance, “The Crystal”.
Suggestion: If the weather is good, from the line 1 subway get off at Queens Park and take a nice stroll up to the ROM through this lovely urban park. There are several historic monuments throughout the grounds as well as the Ontario Legislature building. Often during the year events will be held in the park.You may also go on guided tours of the building.
The ROM is one of the largest museums in North America so plan to spend a few hours there. With more than 6 million items and forty galleries everyone will find something of interest. For the kids, they will love the dinosaur exhibit and interactive displays.
Tip: In the Spring, Wednesday nights are discounted admission and Friday nights during the summer there is live music, dj’s and food. Check the calendar for all events and special exhibits.
Optional – Gardiner Museum
If you’re not too hungry for lunch yet take some time to visit the Gardiner Museum across the street from the ROM. This is Canada’s national ceramics museum and houses a magnificent permanent collection of over 2,900 pieces from Ancient Americas, Italian Renaissance, Japanese Porcelain and more.
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The best food options are found west of the ROM along Bloor St., also known as the Annex. A place of students, multi-million dollar homes and excellent food. Some suggestions are Fresh, Future Bistro and Little Piggy’s. For a special treat after, line up at Eva’s Original Chimney’s. It’s worth the wait!
Next Stop: Bloor Yorkville
After a tasty lunch in the area. Walk east on Bloor St through Toronto’s most exclusive shopping district the “Mink Mile”. Continuing one street North of Bloor you will find the affluent Yorkville. Once a bohemian cultural center and breeding ground for some of Canada’s most famous musicians, artists and writers. Take a walk beyond the upscale stores and you will still see many beautiful Victoria-style homes, quiet residential streets and picturesque gardens.
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Next Stop: Casa Loma
When you feel you’ve had enough glitz and glam for the day, take the line 1 subway heading north and get off at Dupont station. Walk North two blocks on Spadina Ave (the street will end). Climb the Baldwin Steps, take your time – there are 110 steps, and at the top you will be rewarding with the site of Toronto’s majestic castle, Casa Loma. Step back into a time of European elegance and splendor. Complete with decorated suites, hidden passages, tunnels, towers, stables and a 5-acre estate garden. Watch a film presentation of the amazing life of Sir Henry Pellatt who the castle was constructed for. All included in your admission.
After an optional short rest at your hotel, time to recharge with a nice dinner and prepare for a night of entertainment. Here are a few options of ways to spend your night.
Dinner: At O.Noir, experience food, drinks and conversation like never before – in the dark! Canada’s second “Dine in the Dark” restaurant brings an extraordinary culinary experience to its guests. 620 Church St.
1.The Canadian Opera Company at the Four Seasons Centre is the largest producer of Opera in Canada. For a truly VIP experience purchase seats in the Grand Ring where they have boxes for two, six, eight or twelve people. Pre-purchased tickets are recommended and can be purchased on their website.
- Attend a live show at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre on Yonge St. across for the Eaton Centre. The world’s largest operating double-decker vaudeville theatre. Offering a variety of concerts, comedy shows and operatic performances.
- If you’re in the mood for a laugh, take a seat at one of Toronto’s comedy clubs. For local talent and top headliners head to Second City or Yuk Yuk’s. Tickets can be purchased at the door one hour before the show or in advance on their websites.
For more entertainment options, see Performing Arts in Toronto
3rd Day Option
Spend some time this morning learning about the history of Canada’s national sport, hockey! The Hockey Hall of Fame at the corner of Front and Yonge St. carries the largest collection in the world of memorabilia including famous gear, the Stanley cup and interactive games. Even if you are not a hockey fan you will surely find the information fun and educational. You can easily reach here by walking east from Union Station along Front St. or South on Yonge St. from King station on line 1.
Next Stop: St Lawerence Market
After you’ve learned all you can about hockey continue walking east along Front St. Along the way get your camera ready as you pass the red-brick Flatiron building. One of the most photographed landmarks in the city. When you arrive to the corner of Lower Jarvis St. on your right you will find the St. Lawrence market. One of the world’s great markets. Be inspired by the locally produced products, large selection of produce, bakeries, artisan shops, antiques and more. With its variety of tasty eateries this makes a good spot to enjoy lunch. Tip: Sunday & Monday the market is closed so try to schedule to visit on a different day.
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Optional: St James Cathedral is one block north of the St. Lawrence market. This church is a prime example of Gothic Revival architecture and is the oldest congregation in the city. There is also a lovely park to the east to take a rest.
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Next Stop: Distillery District
When you’re ready to continue on your way, leave the market from where you entered and wait for the 121 bus just outside the main doors. Exit the bus at Mill St. and walk South one block. You will now find yourself in the Distillery District. Widely regarded as Canada’s premier arts, culture and entertainment destination housed in Victorian industrial buildings from the 1800’s. Take your time here to enjoy the one-of-a-kind stores, shops, galleries and studios. When the shops close up the villages many restaurants and bars come to life making it the perfect places to spend the evening. There are also local theatres with daily lives shows and an array of festivals throughout the entire year. Have a look at what’s happening.
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Dinner: Cluny Bistro inside the Distillery District is a beautiful modern French bistro and Boulangerie with a Gallic feel. The menu offers a playful twist on traditional French dishes. 55 Mill St.
Don’t feel like staying in your hotel room tonight? Consider a night of jousting, horsemanship and falconry while eating with your hands in a castle-like venue! Medieval Times at Exhibition Place is a thrilling family-friendly dinner attraction inspired by an 11th century Spanish feast and tournament. While enjoying your four-course dinner, cheer for your knight as he competes. Advance ticket purchase necessary.
4th Day Option
Today spend some time enjoying the greener side of Toronto. Start your morning with a visit to Toronto’s waterfront, one of the longest urban lakefronts in the world. The heart of the area is the unique 10-acre Harbourfront Centre with a diverse range of activities, seasonal festivals, concerts and food year-round for all ages. Take a walk along the boardwalk and marina to enjoy the tall ships, music garden and the awe-inspiring glass art instillation “Waterglass”.
To arrive here from Union Station take the 509 or 510 streetcar (from inside the station) and get off at the Harbourfront Centre stop. There are many, large outdoor festivals that take place so be sure to check the events calendar.
Lunch: Enjoy lovely lake views on the patio of Amsterdam Brewhouse. A skillfully crafted menu showcasing some of the most creative uses of beer & brew process techniques in the world. Craft beer meets fresh artisan food. 245 Queens Quay West.
Next Stop: Toronto Islands
After your lunch, continue your walk east just a short distance to the bottom of Bay St where you will find the Jack Layton ferry terminal to take you over to the Toronto Island. A refreshing escape from the downtown with blue flag beaches, manicured gardens, bike/walking trails, a petting zoo and the Centreville Amusement Park. Lockers are available after you disembark the ferry as well as a tourist booth and bicycle rentals. Half the fun is getting there on the scenic 15 minute ferry ride. No cars are allowed on the Island.
Optional: Ontario Science Centre
If the weather is not good for spending time outside, let your imagination come to life with a visit to the Ontario Science Centre. An iconic cultural attraction with a vision to inspire curiosity, discovery and action with top science experiences, memorable exhibitions, engaging programs and breathtaking IMAX films.
Directions: Take the Yonge St. line 1 north to the Eglinton Station and transfer to the Eglinton East (route 34) bus from inside the station. Get off at Don Mills Road. Or, take the Bloor-Danforth subway line 2 east to Pape Station and transfer to the Don Mills (route 25 or 185 Express) bus. Get off at St. Dennis Drive, right in front of the Science Centre.
Make your final night in Toronto a truly memorable one aboard a scenic dinner cruise. Dine and dance the night away while you watch the sun set on Toronto’s harbour and take in the breathtaking skyline.
To save time and move around easily it’s best to stay in the downtown area south of Bloor St., east of Bathurst St. and west of Gerrard St. From here many places can be explored on foot or easily on the TTC.
Fairmont Royal York: Recognized as one of the 2016 Top Hotels in Canada by Condé Nast Traveler readers. The newly refurbished Fairmont Royal York is located in the center of Downtown Toronto, minutes away from: The CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Toronto Island Ferry, St. Lawrence Market, the Eaton Centre, and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
Sheraton Centre: Sheraton Centre Toronto is ideally located in the centre of downtown and near the financial and entertainment districts. Enjoy the panoramic views from the 43rd floor Club Lounge or relax in the Waterfall Garden, a two-acre natural oasis.
Hotel Victoria: A historic icon centrally located between Union Station and the Eaton Centre, this boutique hotel offers great value. A relaxing home away from home amidst the excitement of Toronto.
Residence Inn Toronto Downtown: Part of the Marriott chain, their large studio rooms with kitchen and sitting area make them a great option for families or longer stays. Just a short walk the entertainment district, CN Tower and Union Station.
TTC: The Toronto Transit Commission is the city’s public transportation system and consists of buses, streetcars and subways. This is the fastest and least expensive way to move around the city with stops at all the top attractions. The fare is $3 per ride or you can purchase a day pass for $12.50 per person during the weekdays. On the weekends and holidays the day pass is good for the entire family. Check conditions, full fare details and route maps on the website.
Hope-on-Hop-Off: Like all great cities, Toronto has its own tourist bus. This option is a bit more expensive than the TTC but allows you flexibility to explore at your own pace with stops at most of the main attractions and on-board guided commentary. This option is great if you only have one or two days and want to see as much as possible. They also include a free boat cruise with each purchase!
Taxi: The main companies operating in the city are Beck, Diamond and Co-op although you may spot a few others. All taxis are signed and metered. The starting fare is about $3.50 making it the most expensive form of transportation but the most convenient. Taxis can easily be flagged down on the street. Just look for one with its rooftop light on.
An alternative, but not an official taxi is Uber which has a great presence in the city and lower rates. If you have the app already you are all set!
Parking: Parking in the city can be very challenging and expensive but not impossible. The city offers many Green P lots paid by the hour. On street parking is very limited and you need to pay very close attention to the signs as many streets cannot be parked on during rush hour. Driving is the least recommended way for getting around the city as you will likely waste a lot of time in traffic and looking for parking.
Bike Share: This is a fun, healthy and reliable way to get around the city. Pick up/Drop off from one of the 200 convenient stations. A day pass is only $7 or a 3-day pass is $15 and the first 30 minutes of each ride are free.
City Pass: If you will be visiting the main attractions mentioned here the City Pass is a must. It will allow you entrance to the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Casa Loma, ROM and the Ontario Science Centre or Toronto Zoo at a 40% discount.
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