Toronto

Toronto is a city that deserves its place on the world map on the same level like New York, London or Tokyo. It’s a city that is modern, vibrant and full of life and things to do.

A trip to Toronto offers something for everyone from culture to modern night life and great experiences. Read our guide to understand why Toronto should be your next travel destination.

Overview

Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is a vibrant, multicultural metropolis that offers a blend of modern attractions and historic charm. Nestled on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto is a city where diversity is celebrated, and every neighbourhood offers a unique slice of the world.

From its iconic skyline, dominated by the CN Tower, to its bustling streets lined with eclectic eateries and shops, Toronto is a place that constantly evolves while retaining its rich cultural heritage.

What truly sets Toronto apart, though, is its people. Friendly, welcoming, and diverse, Torontonians embody the city’s spirit of inclusivity and openness.

This melting pot of cultures means that, no matter where we come from, you’re sure to find a little piece of home in Toronto.

Travel to and Around Toronto

Travelling to Toronto is straightforward, thanks to its well-connected Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), which serves flights from around the globe. The airport, one of the busiest in North America, is just 22.5 kilometres northwest of Downtown Toronto, making it a convenient gateway to the city.

If you are looking for suitable flight options, make sure to check out this article with top tips on how to find cheap flights.

For those flying in, a variety of transport options are available to get you into the heart of Toronto, including taxis, ride-sharing services, and the UP Express train, which offers a quick and affordable connection to Union Station in the city centre.

For visitors already in Canada or the northern United States, Toronto is also accessible by train via VIA Rail and Amtrak, or by bus with companies such as Greyhound and Megabus.

Those who prefer to drive will find well-maintained highways leading into the city, although it’s worth noting that Toronto traffic can be quite congested during peak hours.

Travelling Around Toronto

Once you’ve arrived, getting around Toronto is a breeze thanks to its comprehensive and efficient public transport system. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) operates an extensive network of subways, buses, and streetcars (trams) that cover all corners of the city.

The subway, with its four lines, is the quickest way to travel longer distances, while the iconic streetcars provide a scenic and leisurely way to explore Toronto’s neighbourhoods.

Having said this we did find that streetcars, or better said, trams, are a bit slower than you might like and so we would suggest taking them for short(er) distances.

For convenience, you can purchase a Presto card, which allows seamless travel across the TTC, as well as GO Transit and UP Express services.

As a general rule, you only need to tap once as you enter the mode of transport, no need to tap when you exit.

We used our bank cards since the TTC allows you to tap in and out with your card just like with a Presto. We used our 0% fee cards throughout this trip to make sure we always got the better rates. Read more here about managing your finances when travelling.

You will find that they will place a hold of about $1 on your card and after 48h they will charge you the correct fares you did throughout that day.

One thing to note however, don’t plan things on a Sunday morning as the metro opens at 8am and if you are in a rush to get an early bus or train you might miss it. This almost happened to us.

Where to Stay in Toronto?

Toronto boasts a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. From luxurious hotels in the downtown core to charming boutique inns in historic areas, you can find the perfect place to rest your heads.

For a local experience, consider staying in an Airbnb in one of Toronto’s eclectic neighbourhoods like Queen West or the Distillery District.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, we would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. Use the widget below to find the best accommodation in Toronto for your specific dates.

We found hotels to be fairly expensive compared even to London and so we opted to stay a little bit further out, in a place called Vaughan which is at the end of the yellow metro line. We stood at Residence Inn by Marriott Toronto Vaughan.

Best Time to Visit Toronto

The ideal time to visit Toronto is during the late spring to early autumn months (May to October) when the weather is mild, and the city is alive with festivals and outdoor activities.

However, each season offers its own unique charm. Winter, though chilly, transforms Toronto into a snowy wonderland perfect for festive celebrations and ice skating.

We went during late May and found it warm but had some days with torrential rain. So it really is down to your luck also.

Things to do in Toronto

In Toronto, you can experience the best of both worlds: the excitement and convenience of a major urban centre, alongside serene natural spaces and waterfront views. We think Toronto is perfectly do-able in 3 days or so, 4 days if you plan a trip to Niagara Falls.

The city’s cultural mosaic is reflected in its array of world-class museums, galleries, and theatres, as well as its vibrant festivals that take place throughout the year.

Whether you are foodies eager to explore the culinary scene, history buffs wanting to delve into the past, or adventure seekers looking to try something new, Toronto promises an unforgettable experience.

The city’s architectural landscape is a fascinating blend of old and new. Historic buildings like the Gooderham Building and Casa Loma stand proudly alongside modern marvels like the Royal Ontario Museum’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal and the sleek skyscrapers of the Financial District.

Each district in Toronto has its own character: the bohemian vibes of Kensington Market, the chic boutiques of Yorkville, the artistic flair of Queen West, and the family-friendly attractions of the Harbourfront.

1. See Toronto from above from the CN Tower

No trip to Toronto is complete without ascending the iconic CN Tower. The tower was commissioned by the Canadian National Railway to exhibit Canada’s engineering might.

The ascent is done via a fast lift which opens up to wonderful views as you go up. The panoramic views from the top are simply breathtaking, and till the Burj Khalifa was built, it was the second tallest building in the world.

No need to panic if you see a large queue in front of the tower as it goes very fast and you will be up in no time.

2. Immerse yourself in the Sea World at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

A visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada allows you to dive into the fascinating underwater world. The mesmerising jellyfish displays and the impressive shark tunnel are highlights that shouldn’t be missed.

We particularly enjoyed the shark tunnel with it’s wonderful large sharks and colourful banks of fish all swimming in harmony.

3. Do a Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour of Toronto

The Toronto Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour is a flexible and convenient way to explore the diverse attractions of Canada’s largest city. This tour allows you to get on and off at various stops throughout Toronto, letting you visit key landmarks at your own pace.

We got the 24 hour pass and also got the boat tour option to explore the city and the Toronto Islands.

4. Explore the Toronto Islands

Another great thing to do in Toronto for families also is a short ferry ride takes you to the Toronto Islands, a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. You can rent bikes, paddle boats, or simply relax on one of the island’s beaches.

We chose to do two different boat trips:

  1. Which is more a ferry and takes you to the islands. Tickets can be bought from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. There are 3 points where the ferry service can take you:
    • Ward’s Island, which is where you will get a good view of the Toronto Skyline
    • Centre Island which is also great for views of Toronto but in addition offers also more amenities; this is what we opted for.
    • Hanlan’s Point which is better if you are heading towards Pearson Airport
  2. A sightseeing cruise of the islands where they walk you through the many things that are interesting about the islands and the history behind the people that still leave there. Tickets can be bought from below.

5. Check out the Harbourfront & Relax at Sugar Beach

Toronto’s Harbourfront is a bustling area filled with parks, cultural spaces, and scenic views of Lake Ontario. It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing boat tour.

Sugar Beach, with its pink umbrellas and white sand, is an urban oasis where we can unwind and enjoy the waterfront views. It’s a lovely place for a picnic or a bit of sunbathing.

6. Learn about Hockey at the Hockey Hall of Fame

For sports enthusiasts, the Hockey Hall of Fame is a treasure trove of memorabilia and interactive exhibits. This is one of the most Canadian things to visit whilst in Toronto. It’s a fantastic way to learn about Canada’s beloved sport.

The place is very interactive and you can even try to play some hockey or dress up as a hockey player.

We also got to see the real Stanley Cup and its history. Funny enough, although named after a former Governor of Canada, he never got to see the cup being awarded to anyone as he had to go back to England on official duties.

7. See the Gooderham Building

Known for its unique flatiron shape, the Gooderham Building is a historic architectural gem in Toronto. It’s a great spot for photography and a glimpse into the city’s past.

This is very similar to the Flat Iron building found in New York.

8. Try Local Foods at St. Lawrence Market

St. Lawrence Market, a foodie’s paradise, offers a plethora of culinary delights. It offers anything from imported foods to snacks on the go.

We think this place is a great opportunity for lunch to explore Toronto’s informal culinary scene. We suggest you try the famous Rueben sandwich at the Stack’d Deli Kitchen – it’s a local favourite!

If you are after something more authentic, perhaps local maple syrup, if you are around, each Saturday you will find the Farmer’s market at St. Lawrence where locals come and sell their produce.

However, do be aware this is a more authentic market as they actually sell their vegetables and so on, so less touristy things, more real stuff. Nonetheless, we managed to buy some local Ontario made maple syrup which was great on next morning’s pancakes at the hotel.

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9. See the Hippie side of Toronto at Kensington Market

Kensington Market is a vibrant neighbourhood known for its bohemian vibe, eclectic shops, and diverse eateries. This is a great place for couples to go and explore the more colourful part of Toronto.

It’s a great place to soak in some local culture and find unique souvenirs however, don’t feel like you must come here if time doesn’t allow. It’s very similar to London’s Camden Town for those who have been there, minus the food market.

10. Have a Beer at the Distillery District

The Distillery District is one of Toronto’s most captivating neighbourhoods, offering a delightful mix of history, culture, and contemporary charm.

Located east of downtown, this pedestrian-only village is renowned for its beautifully preserved Victorian industrial architecture and cobblestone streets, providing a unique backdrop for a leisurely day out.

As you stroll through the district, you are immediately transported back in time, yet surrounded by the vibrancy of modern-day Toronto.

One of the best ways to experience the Distillery District is by indulging in its burgeoning craft beer scene. The district is home to several fantastic breweries and pubs where you can sample a wide range of locally brewed beers, each with its own distinct flavour and character.

11. See Casa Loma

Casa Loma is one of Toronto’s most enchanting landmarks, offering a glimpse into the city’s opulent past. This Gothic Revival-style mansion, perched on a hill overlooking downtown Toronto, was built in the early 20th century by Sir Henry Pellatt, a prominent financier and industrialist.

With its majestic towers, sprawling gardens, and richly decorated interiors, Casa Loma is a must-visit for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike.

Whilst the house is beautiful, for anyone coming from Europe, we might suggest to skip this one as it’s nothing new, unless it’s a rainy day (like in our case).

12. Discover Little Canada

Little Canada is a captivating and immersive family attraction that offers a miniature, yet highly detailed, version of Canada’s most iconic landscapes and cityscapes.

Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Little Canada is a relatively new addition to the city’s array of cultural experiences, but it has quickly become a favourite among locals and tourists alike.

It’s amusing to take a photo next to a miniature version of the Canadian Parliament or see Niagara Falls from above.

13. See the Lights at Yonge-Dundas Square

Yonge-Dundas Square, often referred to as the “Times Square of Toronto,” is the city’s vibrant and bustling urban hub. Located at the intersection of Yonge Street and Dundas Street, this lively public square is the epicentre of activity in downtown Toronto, serving as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike.

This is also the starting point for the Toronto Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing bus, so it’s a good place to start your journey around Toronto.

14. Admire the City Hall Buildings and the Toronto Sign

Another must-see attraction is the contrast between the old and new City Hall buildings, located in Nathan Phillips Square. The Old City Hall, completed in 1899, is a stunning example of Romanesque Revival architecture with its imposing clock tower and intricate masonry.

Right next to it stands the New City Hall, an iconic modernist masterpiece designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell and completed in 1965. Its unique curved twin towers and central saucer-like council chamber symbolize Toronto’s forward-looking spirit.

In front of these landmarks is the vibrant and photogenic “TORONTO” sign, which is worth a photo for sure!

15. Learn about Canada and North America at the Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is not just a museum; it’s an immersive journey through the natural and cultural history of Canada and beyond.

Situated in the heart of Toronto, this iconic institution houses a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits that span centuries and continents, offering visitors a deep dive into the diverse stories that shape our world.

As we step into the ROM, we are greeted by its grand architecture, blending historic elements with modern design. The museum’s galleries are thoughtfully curated to showcase everything from ancient civilizations to contemporary art, providing a comprehensive understanding of Canada’s heritage and its place in the global context.

16. Go on a Day Trip to Niagara Falls

A day trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls offers a thrilling escape to one of the world’s most iconic natural wonders. For us, this was a dream come true.

We went there by coach from Toronto Union Station to Niagara Falls. We allocated a full day for this experience and whilst there also did a boat tour, the journey behind the falls and saw the Niagara Falls from above from the Skylon Tower tower.

You can organise your own trip or you can book an organised trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls via the link below.

Top Restaurants in Toronto

Toronto’s culinary scene is as diverse and dynamic as the city itself, offering a gastronomic journey that reflects its multicultural fabric. The city boasts an array of dining experiences, from high-end restaurants helmed by world-renowned chefs to charming neighbourhood eateries serving authentic international cuisines.

Food lovers can explore vibrant food markets like St. Lawrence Market, where local vendors offer everything from fresh produce to gourmet delicacies. The city is also known for its eclectic food festivals, which celebrate everything from street food to haute cuisine.

Neighbourhoods like Kensington Market and Queen Street West are hotspots for innovative and artisanal fare, while areas like Little Italy, Greektown, and Chinatown provide a taste of the world within Toronto’s borders.

Toronto’s culinary landscape is constantly evolving, with new restaurants, food trucks, and pop-up events ensuring there’s always something new to savour.

Below is a list of our recommendations when in Toronto:

Try Eastern European Food at DROM Taberna

DROM Taberna is a vibrant and eclectic spot in Toronto where you can indulge in the hearty and flavourful dishes of Eastern Europe. Located on Queen Street West, this lively tavern offers a unique dining experience that combines rustic charm with a bohemian atmosphere.

We tried a selection of their foods, from Cevapi with ajvar to sausages and pierogi. Overall, very tasty and we really enjoyed it.

One of the highlights at DROM Taberna is their live music, which often features Eastern European folk bands and other eclectic performers. During our visit, we enjoyed a great flamenco performance, rivaling the one we saw in Madrid.

This added an extra layer of enjoyment to our dining experience, making it a perfect spot for a fun night out with friends.

Have some Wings with a View at Jack Astor’s

Jack Astor’s is a prime spot in downtown Toronto for enjoying delicious food and drinks while taking in the vibrant energy of Yonge-Dundas Square.

This bustling bar and grill is situated right at the heart of the action, making it an ideal location for people-watching and soaking up the city’s lively atmosphere.

We had their wings which were tasty and crisp. We also tried a very interesting dish similar to a more creamy clam chowder with lots of cheese served alongside nachos and pita bread for dipping. This was actually a highlight for us.

Our mains consisted of fried chicken tenders and they were what they were supposed to be: tasty, crisp and juicy.

Try a Reuben Sandwich at Stack’d Deli @ St. Lawrence Market

Stack’d Deli, located in the historic St. Lawrence Market, is a must-visit for anyone craving an authentic and mouth-watering Reuben sandwich. This iconic deli has perfected the art of the Reuben, making it one of the most popular items on their menu.

Have fresh Bagel at St. Urbain Bagel Bakery @ St. Lawrence Market

St. Urbain Bagel Bakery, nestled within the bustling St. Lawrence Market, is the go-to spot for a delicious and fresh bagel in Toronto. This charming bagel shop prides itself on offering a wide variety of bagels that are baked fresh daily, ensuring that each bite is a perfect combination of crisp exterior and chewy interior.

We did find however, that for the custom made bagels, the wait time is ridiculously long and if you are in a hurry, it’s best to get just some plain bagels and head on your way.

Final Thoughts

Toronto is a city that effortlessly blends the old with the new, the bustling with the serene, and the local with the international. Whether we’re exploring historic sites like Casa Loma, immersing ourselves in the miniature marvels of Little Canada, or soaking up the vibrant energy of Yonge-Dundas Square, there’s always something to captivate our interest.

The culinary scene alone, from Eastern European delights at DROM Taberna to classic comfort food at St. Lawrence Market, offers a delightful journey for our taste buds.

But what truly sets Toronto apart is its spirit – a city that embraces diversity and innovation while honouring its rich heritage. Every corner of Toronto tells a story, every neighbourhood offers a unique experience, and every visit leaves us with memories that beckon us to return.

Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:


  • Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.

  • Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.

  • Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide, Klook or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.

  • Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.

  • Internet abroad – with Airalo or Nomad you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.

  • Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.

As an Amazon Associate and member of various other affiliate programmes, some of the links in this article are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.


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