Canada's biggest city has something different at every turn
There are many things that spring to mind when you hear the name Toronto. With an endless variety of landscapes, activities like hiking, road tripping towering skyscrapers, this city is one you have to see once in your lifetime.
Canada is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists and The Six is no exception. If you’re planning a trip to this amazing country, here are the best things to do in Toronto.
The capital of Ontario, Toronto has all of the hallmarks of a major city rolled into one. Theatres, music venues, nature, shopping spots and an endless selection of food. Oh, who can forget Drake? The largest city in Canada, Toronto boasts a population of 5.9m people, and with over 50 per cent of Torontonians identifying as a visible minority, it’s also one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
Summers can get too hot and muggy with temperatures at around 25 degrees and higher, and winters in Toronto can get blisteringly cold when temperatures dip under 0 degrees. Spring and autumn are more temperate times to visit. During the autumn, or ‘fall’, you can really enjoy Toronto’s many parks and green spaces and the city’s attractions are less busy too!
The weather is still mild in September, with the weather hovering at around 20 degrees Celsius. October is also warm Canadians celebrate their version of Thanksgiving on the 8th.
Airports serving Toronto and what you should know before you book
Main airports, Pearson International Airport and Hamilton. There is also the regional Billy Bishop Airport, which is on the Toronto Islands.
The Union Pearson Express is an airport rail link service which runs between Union Station in Downtown Toronto and Pearson.
VIA railway system: The VIA railway system allows you to travel from all over the country if you’re coming in from somewhere else or want to visit another city.
It’s important to note that British visitors flying to Canada must have an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) to enter the country. It’s advisable to apply ahead of booking your airline ticket. The ETA costs C$7, or just over £4, and is valid for 5 years.
Getting Around the City
Toronto’s metro trains operate from around 6am to 1:30 am daily, except on Sundays when they begin running at 8 am. The city’s two primary lines are the Yonge-University and the Bloor-Danforth which run along Toronto’s main streets.
The city is mainly served by buses and streetcars, although traffic is notoriously congested in this city.
Toronto also providesaccessible transit with the Wheels-Trans minibus service.
The PATH system is an underground system of walkways that allow you to get around to most of Downtown Toronto. It spans over 30 km and is particularly helpful during those long cold, cold winters!
Attractions to visit in Toronto
CN Tower: Yes, this is an obvious choice. But who wouldn’t want to face their fears with a walk on the glass floor, 342m above ground? It’s expensive to go up the elevator and anyone interested in strapping on a harness and doing the EdgeWalk will have to fork out C$175. Nonetheless, it’s fun and offers unbelievable views of the city from above.
Toronto Island Park: Toronto’s Island Park is actually made up of a series of islands on Lake Ontario which you can walk or cycle to and from. Kids will love it here. With a ten-minute ferry ride is 10 minutes from Toronto’s inner harbour, it is a world apart from the bustling city centre. You’ll find weeping willows sagging over the lake, bike paths, a 150-year-old community living in old-fashioned cottages, a beach and much more! I recommend going for a swim, renting a canoe or visiting Centreville Amusement Park.
Riverdale Farms: This is another perfect place to escape the urban bustle for an hour or two. Come here soothe your weary soul among the cows and geese in this small patch of rural life, found in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood. You can milk a cow or just walk through the woodland areas and gardens. It’s perfect for a family day out and is open seven days a week.
Air Canada Centre: If you’re planning a visit to Toronto during the months of October to April, then try to catch a hockey game! Cheer on the renowned Toronto Maple Leafs in the Air Canada Centre.
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). This is a modern history and natural history museum. If you like dinosaurs, you’re in luck! The whole museum is very interactive and perfectly enjoyable at any age. The dramatic architecture jutting out onto the street just adds to the experience.
Drive to Niagara Falls – This is technically outside of the city, but a worthy attraction nonetheless. You’ll find a really nice drive along Highway 81, with rolling fields, vineyards and farms. Stop by the small and charming town of Niagara on the Lake and appreciate its 19th-century buildings and then continue on to the might Niagara!
The best of food and drink in Toronto:
Toronto is blessed with a smorgasbord of fine dining and international cuisine options. One of the best things to do in Toronto is hit up a food market and see what you can find. Whether you want to hit up a vegetarian Carribean restaurant, eat some frozen Greek yoghurt or munch on classic battered fish and chips, you won’t be left wanting.
Kensington Market: This neighbourhood offers a diverse offering of Latin cuisine with vendors selling everything from Spanish empanadas to Mexican dried chilis, to Argentinian sweets and much more. It attracts the city’s more eccentric characters so you’ll have fun people watching while you shop!
St Lawrence Market: If you find Kensington overwhelming, then stop by the smaller St Lawrence Market. You’ll find the farmers market open at 5 am on a Saturday with the freshest selection of fruit and vegetables, cheeses, sausages and anything else you want to use to whip up your breakfast.
Little Italy, or College Street West: Come here for baked goods and wood fire pizza and stay here for a fun night out! You’ll find laidback pubs and thumping nightclubs.
Chinatown: Toronto actually has not one, but two Chinatowns! The main Chinatown ruins along Spadina Street in Downtown Toronto and is one of the largest districts of its kind in North America. During weekends, you’ll find the streets crammed with food stalls and vendors. Restaurants here serve up authentic cuisines from Mandarin to Szechuan and though the food is cheap and cheerful, the quality is fantastic.
Hot dogs stands: There is a hot dog stand on virtually every street corner in Toronto. Slather it with ketchup or garnish it with relish.
Neighbourhoods you should visit in Toronto
Toronto is a mosaic of different neighbourhoods, each with their own history and way of life. Exploring the unique and mesmerising streets of this city is one of the best things to do in Toronto.
Heart of the city: Yonge Street is the city’s backbone and was for many years believed to be the longest in the world! This bustling street connects Lake Ontario with Lake Simcoe. Here you’ll find the gargantuan Eaton Centre where you can shop ‘till you drop. You’ll see Massey Hall
Queens Street Area This is go-to area for people in search of ‘alternative Toronto’. In other words, it’s as gentrified as you can imagine with boutiques, galleries, trendy restaurants and bars.
Nevertheless, you will find the Graffiti Alley just off of Queen Street West, the only public space where graffiti is legal. You can do a walking tour of this area which will tell you about the neighbourhood and counter-culture scene, as well as the styles, techniques and tags of the artists.
Distillery district: A trip to Toronto’s Distillery District is like stepping back in time. Just east of Downtown, here you’ll find cobblestone streets and old brick factories which have been converted into loft spaces, bakeries and restaurants. This area is chock-full of culture, with plenty of galleries and theatres to be found. In fact, this pedestrian area has been used in many movie shoots. Cinderella Man, anyone?
Cabbagetown: This is a historic area of the city with beautiful Victorian houses. Originally home to a working-class community, the neighbourhood supposedly got its name from Irish immigrants who would grow cabbage in their front garden. It’s also home to the much-loved Riverdale Farms (see “attractions and sights” for more).
Yorkville: It’s possible to spot an A-list celebrity around the swanky Yorkville neighbourhood in September when the Toronto Film Festival takes place.It’s a great spot to people watch!