Culture, cuisine, and charm-filled neighborhoods are just the beginning of all Toronto has to offer.
Toronto deserves its reputation as Canada’s most cosmopolitan city. Set on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, this diverse urban sprawl is well known for its vibrant culture that offers travelers world-class museums with incredible art collections, many diverse neighborhoods, charming small businesses, and one of the best culinary scenes around — with everything from Michelin-rated fine dining to food markets. When the sun goes down, locals and visitors mingle at the rooftop bars and hidden speakeasies. Outdoorsy types enjoy easy access to nature thanks to leafy parks and nearby islands that make for scenic day trips.
These are the best things to do in Toronto, according to local experts.
Bruce Bell is a Toronto historian and tour guide offering group walking tours and private excursions to some of the city’s most famous sights.
Harry Hollywood is the chef concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, a luxury property located in the Yorkville neighborhood.
Related: T+L’s Guide to Toronto
See the city from the CN Tower.
Arguably the city’s most iconic landmark, the CN Tower was once the tallest structure in the world. Though it no longer holds the title, it still looms large over the city. On a clear day, the views from the top stretch all the way to Niagara Falls. At night, it’s illuminated with colorful lights.
Eat your way through St. Lawrence Market.
Established in 1803, St. Lawrence Market is the oldest and largest food market in Toronto with more than 80 vendors. “It’s very multicultural and really reflects the city’s diverse population with many delicious dishes to try,” says Bruce Bell, Toronto historian and tour guide. He recommends “the world-famous peameal bacon sandwich.”
Explore the Distillery District.
From 1837 to 1990, the Distillery District housed a large whiskey distillery. Today, it’s one of the coolest areas in the city. “The cobblestone streets are lined with hip cafés, restaurants, bars, and boutiques,” says Harry Hollywood, chef concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. “It also hosts a festive winter village and holiday market in December.”
See what’s on at the Harbourfront Centre.
Part of a massive citywide revitalization project in the early 1970s, the non-profit Harbourfront Centre puts on all sorts of public cultural events throughout the year, from international writing festivals to contemporary art exhibitions. The Harbourfront Centre also hosts courses and workshops ranging from glass blowing to jewelry making throughout the year.
Take a Sunday stroll around Kensington Market.
“Kensington Market is actually a neighborhood rather than a market as its name suggests,” explains Hollywood. “It’s a lively, multicultural hub that blends diverse backgrounds and cuisines, from Caribbean and Mexican to Middle Eastern and Vietnamese.” On select Sundays, the area transforms into a pedestrian-only zone.
Admire art from near and far at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
“The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) proudly showcases a broad array of talent, from Vincent van Gogh to Indigenous Canadian artists to renowned British sculptor Henry Moore,” says Hollywood. “It also provides educational programs and seminars, hosts global exhibitions, and actively engages with the surrounding community.”
Tour Casa Loma, Toronto’s very own castle.
Built by Sir Henry Pellatt in 1914, Toronto's historic hilltop castle, Casa Loma, showcases Gothic Revival architecture, beautiful gardens, and panoramic views of the city. Besides being a museum, it’s also an events venue and popular filming location. You might recognize it as Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in X-Men.
Enjoy a concert at the Toronto Music Garden.
Designed in collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the Toronto Music Garden is an idyllic green space with draping trees, grassy lawns, and waterfront views that hosts summer concerts and impromptu performances for locals and visitors on nice days. Even without live music, it’s still a beautiful place for a stroll.
Get lost in the Royal Ontario Museum.
Canada’s largest museum, the Royal Ontario Museum draws upwards of one million visitors each year who come to admire the staggering variety of artwork, cultural items, and natural history specimens. Learn more on one of the museum’s tours, like the climate change tour that explores the topic through the works and items found throughout the galleries.
Bop around Queen Street West.
Queen Street West — a major east–west thoroughfare — and the surrounding area is a hub of trendy galleries, funky stores, cafés, and street art. “It’s kind of like Toronto’s answer to Brooklyn — very cool and dynamic with an indie spirit,” adds Bell.
Snap some photos in Graffiti Alley.
Toronto has a really incredible legal street art scene. One of the best places to see tons of colorful murals — from depictions of fun characters to more political messages — is Rush Lane, better known as Graffiti Alley, just south of Queen Street West. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Take a day trip to the Toronto Islands.
The Toronto Islands is a collection of 15 islands in the western part of Lake Ontario. “Cars are prohibited, preserving a calm atmosphere for all,” says Hollywood. It’s a lovely place for a day trip to get outside, ride bikes, and go to the beach, especially in the warmer summer months. Families will want to visit the Centreville Amusement Park on Centre Island (open seasonally).
Go under the sea at Ripley’s Aquarium of Toronto.
Among the city’s star attractions for kids, parents, and really anyone with an interest in marine life, Ripley’s Aquarium of Toronto boasts more than 20,000 aquatic animals, from sea urchins and harlequin tuskfish to spotted eagle rays and a giant Pacific octopus. It’s a popular spot for both school and family trips and offers many education programs and workshops for budding oceanographers.
Learn all about Canada’s national winter sport at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Ice hockey is the national winter sport of Canada. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a recent convert, it’s worth visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame to learn about the history of the sport and its most famous players and see tons of cool memorabilia and NHL trophies, including the Stanley Cup.
Take a walk around High Park.
The ideal place to be on a nice day, Toronto’s largest public green space, High Park, covers 400 acres of recreational facilities (including an outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, ice skating rinks, and playgrounds), gardens, lakeside walking trails, and a mini zoo with llamas, buffalo, bison, deer, and peacocks.
See shoes in a whole new way at Bata Shoe Museum.
The Bata Shoe Museum displays the most extensive collection of footwear and related items in the world, with exhibitions ranging from a fascinating timeline that chronicles 4,500 years of footwear history to cutting-edge kicks of the future. Some highlights include red leather stilettos worn by Marilyn Monroe and the Dalai Lama’s flip flops.
Dine at Alo.
Fans of fine dining who don’t mind splurging on a memorable meal should reserve a table at Alo, a Michelin-starred Relais & Châteaux restaurant and culinary fixture that delights diners with contemporary French gastronomic tasting menus. The Dining Room serves a multi-course tasting menu that costs $225 per guest.
Spend some time in the beautiful Yorkville neighborhood.
The upscale Yorkville neighborhood is home to designer shops, ritzy restaurants, and five-star hotels — including both the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto and The Hazelton Hotel. Whether you plan to go for dinner, stay the night, or just stroll around, it’s a posh and pretty place to spend some time while in Toronto.
Learn about Canadian history at Fort York.
“First erected in the early 19th century, Fort York was later attacked by the Americans and rebuilt,” explains Bell. “Now preserved as a national historic site, it’s a great place to visit to get an idea of how the relations between Canada and the United States once were and the evolution of that relationship.” Admission is free, and you can learn more on a free guided tour.
Shop until you drop at CF Toronto Eaton Centre.
Located right in the middle of downtown Toronto, the CF Toronto Eaton Centre is a major shopping destination with hundreds of stores and places to eat. It’s also an unexpected place to peep art. Canadian artist Michael Snow created the eye-catching installation of 60 flying geese that hang from the glass ceiling.
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