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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 state 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.
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.
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!
Where to Stay
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 realised one thing – the map is hugely deceiving. Because Toronto is HUGE. And I mean, YUGE.
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 Champage 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.
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 infamous 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 colours! 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 brickstone 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 hours here. You’ll usually find performances here too so you’ll sure to be kept entertained.
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 that hosts over 16,000 aquatic creatures – it’s a sure hit with the 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?
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.
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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’re 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 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 the infamous 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 😉
How to Save on Entrance Fees in Toronto
If you plan to do some sightseeing, entrance fees can really add up. The best way to go about this to purchase the CityPASS that saves you up to 38% off on admission fees. Save yourself time and hassle of queuing at each attraction as well, with the CityPASS, you skip the line – one simple purchase gets you in in no time!
CityPASS Admission Includes the attractions I’ve mentioned above including:
- CN Tower ($38)
- Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada ($33)
- Casa Loma ($30)
- Royal Ontario Museum ($23)
- Toronto Zoo ($29) OR Ontario Science Centre ($22)
The total price for all these attractions is $153, while the CityPASS costs only $92. That’s a whopping $61 of savings, which can go to an excellent meal and even some sumptuous dessert!
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, stay for the super chill vibes (oh, and the Thai beer).
St Lawrence Market
Who doesn’t love a good food market? Toronto has it’s 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!
Where to Coffee
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.
- Boxcar Social
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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