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Toronto, or The Six, as Drake (yes papi) so affectionally refers to it, is a vibrant, bustling metropolitan city located in the Eastern Canadian province of Ontario. Being the largest city in Canada, it’s also a melting pot of cultures, which gives Toronto that special allure many people come for. Here is the ultimate Toronto itinerary so you can have the best time in TO.
Getting Around Toronto
By public transport
Toronto is pretty well connected via public transportation, or the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission), as the locals call it, with its extensive network of trains, buses, and streetcars. Most of the city is connected by the PATH system which is an underground system built to beat the bitter cold Toronto winter days. Most locals don’t even have to surface above ground during the winter months since you can get almost anywhere via the PATH system.
You can buy a Presto card and load money on at any station. A Presto card allows you to tap on it to pay for any bus, subway, or streetcar for a two-hour period.
If you’re visiting on a weekend, get a day pass from the station instead. A day pass allows two adults and two children unlimited travel for a day on the weekends.
I don’t recommend driving around the city, as parking can cost quite a bomb. In fact, I walked most of the time during my time in Toronto, and you probably will too!
But if you need to venture a little further, Lyft and Uber are also available throughout the city.
Hop on hop off bus
Alternatively, you can get a hop on hop off bus pass and enjoy learning about the city as you ride around to the key sites and attractions.
Click here to purchase your Toronto Hop on Hop off bus tickets online
Where to Stay in Toronto
When I first marked out my points of interest on Google Maps, everything looked so close to each other. When I finally got to Toronto and started walking, I realized one thing – the map is hugely deceiving. Because Toronto is HUGE.
If it’s your first time in Toronto and you’re only visiting for a few days, it makes sense to stay downtown. I recommend staying around Yonge-Dundas Square due to its central location and proximity to shopping malls and plenty of eateries.
Here are some recommended hotels for your visit:
- The Drake Hotel from $209
No, it wasn’t named after the famous Champagne Papi, but for a taste of luxury, this elegant hotel should be your top pick.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Toronto Downtown from $150
Can’t go wrong with a Hilton, this 4-star hotel is strategically located in Downtown Toronto and a stone’s throw away from the train station and the underground maze of shopping malls!
- Fairmont Royal York Hotel from $180
If you’ll be taking the intercity train quite a bit, The Fairmont is located right across from Union Station. It’s also super close to CN Tower and the Harbourfront.
- Budget option! The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar from $80
Excellent location, excellent price. Bonus if you appreciate a bit of live music every night, it’s one of downtown Toronto’s most iconic locations.
Best Time to Visit Toronto
When I mention Toronto to my friends in Asia, all they think about is the biting cold. And they’re not wrong as Toronto faces cold weather almost more than half the year. The best time to visit Toronto is in Summer when temperatures can exceed 30 degrees Celcius, which makes for great days outside.
There’s a lot to do in Toronto in the winter, but getting around and getting the most out of the city can be a little tricky. Winter itineraries in Toronto won’t involve much time outdoors as temperatures can drop to -25 degrees Celsius with normal snowfall.
The fall shoulder season (September–November) is best for taking in spectacular color, while the high season (June–September) is ideal for outdoor activities but can get expensive and crowded.
How many days in Toronto?
You could easily fill a whole week or more in Toronto if you’re visiting for the first time, soaking up the city’s vibe and trendy attractions, dining, and exploring like a local.
However, if you’re short on time, 3 days in Toronto will allow you to see the best of the city and get a real taste of what’s on offer!
If you read my other guides, you’ll know the first thing I like to do when I get to a new city is to join their free walking tour. It’s a quick and economical way of getting your lay of the land, and getting some insider tips on that city.
That tall pointy building you see peeking above Toronto’s skyline is the iconic CN Tower. It’s probably the #1 thing to do when you’re in Toronto as it gives you sweeping views of the city. I recommend coming just before the sun sets to enjoy the sky turning colors! On a clear day, you can even see all the way to Niagara Falls. And if you’ve got balls of steel, maybe take a step out onto the Edgewalk!
This was probably one of my favorite areas in Toronto. I loved the whole feel of the place, with the bare brick stone buildings and cobblestoned streets. These buildings used to house a large whiskey distillery, not to mention one of the largest in the world! There are cute little shops, art galleries, and cafés for you to spend a couple of hours here. You’ll usually find performances here too so you’re sure to be kept entertained.
If you’d like to learn more about the secret history of Toronto’s iconic Distillery District, this tour includes a local guide who will tell you stories of business intrigue, a drunk city and the company that became the world’s largest distillery.
Book your Distillery District History Walking Tour here
You can’t miss snapping a picture here when you’re in Toronto! If you get the chance, come by in the evening when the Toronto sign is all lit up in multiple colors!
Did you know that Toronto has its very own Flatiron Building like the one in NYC? It’s much smaller in size, but this is the OG flatiron building, predating the one in New York by 10 years!
If you’re a bit of an animal lover like me, you’ll love Ripley’s Aquarium which hosts over 16,000 aquatic creatures – it’s a sure hit with kids and adults alike.
Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto’s weather can be pretty brutal sometimes, and museum hopping is a perfect indoor activity. So why not drop by Canada’s largest and one of North America’s largest museums?
Book your Royal Ontario Museum tickets online
Another one for the animal lovers! And if you loooove animals, you’ll love that the Toronto Zoo is one of the most ethical zoos in the world.
A castle in North America? They are pretty few and far between, so don’t pass up the chance to visit this architectural marvel! Movie buffs might like to know that this castle served as a location for several movies such as X-Men, Chicago and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Potterhead fun fact!: Casa Loma was transformed into Hogwarts for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!
If you’ve found yourself with awesome weather and the sunny sun sun out, please do yourself a favor and catch the first ferry out to Toronto Islands! It’s the perfect way to spend a couple of hours, or even a whole day out. Here you’ll find biking trails, picnic spots, and an amusement park for all ages. You also get unobstructed views of the Toronto cityscape — magnifico!
If you have an additional day in Toronto, you can’t miss a trip to one of the Wonders of the World, Niagara Falls. It’s a quick 1-hour drive from Toronto, which makes it an easy day trip. The best part is, you get to experience the falls from the Canadian side, which most people agree is the better side 😉
Guided Tours in Toronto
If you want to see the best of Toronto in a short time, especially if you’re only visiting Toronto for a day or two, bus tours and walking tours can be great options so you don’t miss out on the highlights of the city!
You can combine one or more of these guided tours and day trips into your Toronto itinerary:
- Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus – For a semi-self-paced tour around Toronto, the hop on hop off bus is a great option to learn about the sites and get off when you like.
- Toronto: City Highlights Night Van Tour with Boat Cruise – Immerse yourself in the Canada’s bustling capital city at night on this van tour with an included Toronto harbor cruise. Sit back and relax as you take in the city’s sights illuminated at night.
- Toronto: Best of Toronto City Tour with Entry Tickets – Experience the best of the best on a small group city sightseeing tour. Take in Toronto’s must-see attractions and learn about the city’s history.
- Toronto: 2-Hour Downtown Walking Tour – Set off on a public or private tour of Downtown Toronto to see its main attractions and learn how it developed into the cultural and financial capital that it now is.
- Toronto: Heart of Downtown 3.5-Hour Bike Tour – Enjoy an easy 3.5-hour bicycle tour and see Downtown Toronto’s key sights, including must-see cultural and historical landmarks, as well as major attractions. Do this tour first to get a sneak preview of all the places you might want to go back to later!
- Toronto: Haunted Night Walking Tours – Learn about the darker side of Toronto’s history with four walks to choose from: the Original Haunted Walk in English or French, the Campus Secrets and Spectres Walk, the Ghosts and Spirits of the Distillery Walk, or the Black Creek Pioneer Village Walk.
Where to Eat
When I think of Toronto, I think of food. The amalgamation of cultures and ethnicities in Toronto has produced some of the best gastronomic options sure to satisfy all kinds of tastebuds. Here are some of my favorite picks:
My travel buds always ask why there’s a line outside every eatery I pick – well, you gotta treat your tummy to the very best right? We waited almost an hour in the blistering wind on a weekday afternoon, and was it worth it? You’ve gotta try it yourself and decide. Serving up some pretty inventive dishes, it’s a perfect brunch spot. I loved the bright and airy interior that complimented my brunch (and Instagram).
I’ll let the long queues outside this establishment speak for itself. For some seriously good Northern Thai food, come to Pai. Come for the food, and stay for the super chill vibes (oh, and the Thai beer).
St Lawrence Market
Who doesn’t love a good food market? Toronto has its very own St. Lawrence Market. Ask any local and you will be directed here for their peameal bacon sandwich, almost autonomous with Toronto food. Thank me later!
If I could have one food for the rest of my life, it probably would be pizza. Don’t take my word for it, but I’m pretty sure it is. So everywhere I go, I like to try some good ol’ cheesy delights. And I’m happy to report that General Assembly serves up a mean pizza. They’ve got a pretty extensive menu so a repeat visit is almost warranted. Doesn’t hurt that they’ve got a few branches across the city!
Best Cafés and Coffee Shops in Toronto
I love my coffee, and if you’ve read my other travel guides, I always scout for the best coffee joints in that particular city. These are some of the bestest places to get your caffeine fix.
Located right by the ferry terminal, Boxcar Social is an excellent place to wind down and chill. There were quite a few people working on their laptops here too, as the ambiance is really chill and I loved the light flooding in through the big glass windows. They offer coffee flights as well if that’s your cup of tea. TIP: I can’t recommend the food!
Dineen Coffee Co.
Propeller Coffee Co.
Strange Love Coffee
Sam James Coffee Bar
Jimmy’s – Kensington Market
Balzac’s – Distillery District
SPECIAL! For the Harry Potter Fans
If you’re a Potterhead like moi, you’re gonna go cray cray at these two locations I’m gonna introduce to you:
Curiosa: Purveyors of Extraordinary Things
Wands Wallets at the ready! Not sure how many rounds I walked around this shop, but I guess it’s a norm as the staff did not shoot me any weird looks. Here you’ll find all sorts of Harry Potter collectibles including Limited Edition MinaLima prints (!!!). For the Muggles in the back, MinaLima is the graphic design company that designed most of the graphic art like posters and book covers for the Harry Potter universe. Each limited edition poster has a special serial number, so you’ll know you’re one of the lucky few to own a piece of magic history. Not sure if there’s anything cooler than that?
I had this place bookmarked on my maps but unfortunately had no time to make my way here as it is a little out of town. :sadface: But I know the next time I am in Toronto, this will be my first stop! The Lockhart is a cocktail bar inspired by the Harry Potter franchise. Serving up cocktails like Gin’s Weasley, The Marauder served in a flaming cauldron (!!!), and The Dementor’s Kiss which has a glaring disclaimer stating that this is not fit for human consumption (pfft, challenge accepted!).
Further reading: Lonely Planet Canada Travel Guide is an up-to-date guide on what to see and skip, and the hidden secrets Canada holds. It features color maps and images, highlights and itineraries, insider tips, essential info, honest reviews and tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots.
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Visiting Toronto Checklist
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Love your article on Toronto. As former Torontonian it was well laid out and took the visitor to the key landmarks and some fine options for food.
One minor correction, Ontario is a province not a state.