By James Weller
Toronto is the capital of Ontario in Canada, and is the largest city in the country. It’s home to a population of more than 2 million people, and, as you’d expect, the city boasts plenty to entertain locals and tourists alike.
If you’re looking to visit Toronto for the first time, or perhaps you’re moving to the city for work or education, you might want to know exactly what it has to offer.
This in-depth travel guide from TNT Magazine covers everything you need to know about the city of Toronto, so if you’re interested in where to go while you’re there, read on!
If a trip to the city isn’t complete for you without checking out the club scene, you’ll love Product Nightclub. Based on Richmond Street West, this club is located inside a converted abandoned factory, and its colourful art décor is seriously cool. Don’t leave without checking out the chandeliers, fireplace and unique displays of art. Of course, you should also sample a drink and hit the dance floor while you’re at it.
St Lawrence Market
Foodies, this tip is for you – don’t leave St Lawrence Market off your “must visit” list when you had over to Toronto. The market opened back in 1803, and today, you can find it serving up a whole host of fresh and baked goods, as well as clothes, antiques, accessories and much more. The market now consists of three buildings, with more than 100 vendors at a time selling their wares. It’s worth checking out in the daytime, whether you’re looking to sample a local delicacy or nab a bargain deal.
You’ll want to visit Scotiabank Arena if you have even the slightest bit of interest in ice hockey. As you may well know, Canada is world-renowned for its ice hockey, and it is even the country’s national winter sport. At Scotiabank Arena, you’ll find the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canada’s NHL-level hockey team. Just make sure to visit between October and April if you want to catch a game.
Outdoors lovers will appreciate High Park, Toronto’s largest public park. The park offers waterfront spots, picnic areas, places for dog walking and sports, and even a mini zoo. It’s famous for its cherry blossom trees, which tourists from all over the world pay a visit to see in spring. The park also holds various events throughout the year, so chances are, you’ll catch a festival or a show during your visit.
There’s more to Toronto than its intercity bars, restaurants and clubs. Right in the heart of Toronto is Fort York, a 43-acre national historic site that’s home to Canada’s biggest collection of original War of 1812 buildings. Fort York is a great place to go to learn all about Canada’s industrial, topographic and rail history. It’s open throughout the year, and offers exhibits, tours, events, kids’ clubs and school programs.
Casa Loma was the vision of Canadian millionaire Sir Henry Pellatt, who reportedly spent a fortune on getting it built in 1914. Located in midtown Toronto, the castle is now a treasured heritage landmark owned by the City of Toronto. Hundreds of thousands of visitors visit the castle each year to check out its spectacular architecture and gardens. You can book events at the castle, visit for a tour, or just go for a wander around on your own.
Royal Ontario Museum
For some people, a trip to a new location isn’t complete without a dive into the destination’s culture. The Royal Ontario Museum is the perfect place to get your culture fix, as it features exhibitions of art and nature not just from Toronto, but from all over the world. There are 40 different galleries to explore, plus an outdoor space, and, importantly, a place to grab a bite to eat.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
You might not be a fan of the super touristy hotspots, but if you’re happy to get stuck in, you’ll enjoy paying a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. This public aquarium can be found in downtown Toronto, just southeast of the CN Tower, and hosts more than 20,000 aquatic animals (plus a fair few visiting humans). There’s North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel, plus daily dive shows. Tickets do come at a price, so check out the website for more details before your visit.
Thought Toronto was all just built-up city life? You’d be wrong – the city actually has a chain of 15 small islands on Lake Ontario, which provide a laid-back, scenic place to hang out away from the hustle and bustle. There’s plenty of parkland to check out, plus Centerville Amusement Park for the kiddies, and several beaches. The easiest way to get to the islands is by ferry or by water taxis. A few private companies also offer fancier boat tours to the islands.
The CN Tower is one of Canada’s most famous landmarks, and you can find it right in the middle of Toronto. At 553 metres high, the tower is one of the highest structures in the world – and, in fact, at one point, it was the highest structure, until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai came along. You can head up to the observation deck to check out the amazing views of the city, or sample some food at the tower’s restaurant, which is 356 metres up from the ground.
Toronto’s Distillery District is another place to check out if you love learning about art and culture (and having a pint or two while you’re at it). The historic district comprises of a number of Victorian buildings, and has the effect of taking tourists back in time when they step into it. You can shop and dine to your heart’s content, visit theatres and art galleries, and get involved in one of the hundreds of events that are hosted at the site every year.
Here’s another option if you’re into the more touristy offerings in Toronto. Toronto Zoo is the largest zoo in Canada, and showcases a whole host of animals from the different regions, including Indo-Malaya, Africa, Australasia, and, of course, the Canadian Domain. There’s plenty for all members of the family to see and do, but tickets are on the pricier side. Check out the website for more information.
Ontario Science Centre
When you’re tired of exploring the city, or the weather takes a turn for the worst, a popular indoor hotspot for visitors is the Ontario Science Centre. The centre opened way back in 1965, and currently has more than 500 interactive experiences in eight exhibit halls to keep you busy. Plus, there’s a dome theatre that shows daily films, and regular live science demonstrations.
Toronto Botanical Gardens
Looking for a true escape from the city? You can’t go wrong with Toronto Botanical Gardens. There are 17 different gardens to explore, which cover nearly four acres of land, as well as outdoor learning opportunities, garden tours, day camps and the occasional special event. The gardens contain more than 4,500 plants altogether, and, even better, they’re currently undergoing an expansion for its educational offerings.
Toronto is bursting with theatres! The Ed Mirvish Theatre, Roy Thomson Hall, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Royal Alexandra Theatre and the Princess of Wales Theatre are all easily accessible within the city. Whether you pick your show and book your tickets well in advance or just turn up on the day and look for shows with spare seats, you’re pretty much guaranteed to experience a mind-blowing performance.
The Bata Shoe Museum
If you prefer novelty museums to the more serious offerings, you’ll love the Bata Shoe Museum. It currently has more than 13,500 items of unique footwear from around the world on display, and it’s actually very informative. If you love footwear, you’ll learn a whole lot about the history of shoes at this museum, plus get to tell your friends you’ve checked out the world’s largest collection of shoes.
Toronto International Film Festival
Granted, Toronto’s International Film Festival can’t be found in the city year-round, but if you happen to be visiting in September, you’ll should definitely plan to get involved in the action. You’ll get to participate in screenings, discussions, lectures and workshops, and there’s even the opportunity to speak to legendary filmmakers from around the world.
The Art Gallery of Ontario
The Art Gallery of Ontario has both permanent and short-term, special exhibitions for art lovers to feast their eyes on. You can take a tour, get involved in a course or workshop, grab a bite to eat, or just wander round and take in the sights at your own pace. One of the great things about this gallery is that it allows visitors under the age of 25 to enter for free – just make sure to bring a valid id if you look like you could be older!
West Queen West neighbourhood
If you’ve never heard of Toronto’s West Queen West neighbourhood, you’re missing out – it was named as the second coolest neighborhood by Vogue in 2014, and it’s easy to see why. Filled with boutique hotels, bars, restaurants, cafes, and art galleries, there are plenty of hip spots to check out and activities to get involved with. It’s a great place to stop by if you fancy a leisurely shopping day or you’re looking for a fun evening out.
Allan Gardens Conservatory
There’s something undeniably impressive about large conservatory spaces bursting with tropical plants, and Toronto’s Allan Gardens Conservatory does it best. The conservatory consists of six different greenhouses, each of which offers a selection of plants from around the world. It’s open year-round, so you’ll get to check out palm trees and bananas in the middle of the snowy winter if you fancy it. You can find it on Gerrard Street East.
While relaxing at the beach might not be at the top of your list of things to do in Toronto, if you find yourself with some free time after touring the city, this is certainly something worth considering. Toronto is home to a handful of beautiful beaches, but one of the nicest (and most family friendly) is Cherry Beach. It’s great for swimming and sunbathing, and it’s always a popular place for tourists in the summer. In the winter, it’s equally as beautiful, but you’ll probably struggle to sit out on your deckchair – and, in fact, with the coastal winds blowing inland, you may even struggle to walk.
Evergreen Brick Works
Toronto hosts plenty of large spaces for events and get-togethers, and Evergreen Brick Works is another one of its better offerings. This destination is open year-round, and National Geographic even named it one of the top 10 geotourism destinations in the world in 2010. You’ll find plenty to do, whether you’re an adult traveling alone or with kids. Look out for the farmer’s market, ice rink, workshops, nature trails, and an abundance of family activities and events.
If you’re a lover of old rock, Horseshoe Tavern is a must-visit. This ancient venue has been running since 1947, and has hosted some absolute rock and pop legends, including The Rolling Stones, Arcade Fire and Tragically Hip. It’s only a small space, so if you’re interested in checking out the scene, make sure to visit the website and take a look at the upcoming events to book tickets in advance.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, PATH is the world’s largest underground shopping complex. At a total of 19 miles long and 371,600 square metres, it’s the place to be if you plan to shop ‘til you drop in Toronto, and boasts a wide array of shops and restaurants (both high-end and affordable), plus entertainment, and even spas and fitness centres. PATH starts in Queens Quay and finishes at the Eaton Centre.
Thrill-seeking couples, friends and families alike will need to make sure to visit Canada’s Wonderland while in Toronto. This impressive amusement park is home to more than 70 rides – plus there’s a sprawling water park for when the weather gets nice. You’ll find rides for all levels of enjoyment, from stomach-churningly high rollercoasters to little merry-go-rounds for the kiddies. Don’t forget to check out ticket prices and consider booking in advance for the best deal.
Rouge National Urban Park
The majority of the action might be found in the heart of Toronto’s city centre, but that doesn’t mean you can’t escape from it all come evening. If staying in hotels is a bit too same-same for you, consider camping at Rogue Park instead. This huge green space consists of everything from beaches and marshes to camping grounds and hiking trails. You can choose to explore the natural environment alone, or consider taking a guided tour with an area expert.
Niagara Falls isn’t technically in Toronto, but it’s close enough – approximately 120 kilometres away. The Falls are on many peoples’ bucket lists to see, so they’re definitely worth stopping off at if you don’t think you’ll get the chance to come back in the near future. The famous Horseshoe Falls is a must-see, and is the quickest drive from Toronto. Consider hiring a car for the simplest and most convenient travel.
Nom Nom Nom
Anyone who takes even the slightest interest in food needs to try out some of Canada’s traditional dishes while in Toronto. Poutine – i.e. fries, cheese curds and gravy – is a Canadian staple, and you’ll find it all over the city. One of the best places to go, though, if you want to get the best poutine experience available, is Nom Nom Nom. You’ll find this little market stall in Market 707, where it offers traditional poutine, and double and triple-cheese options for anyone with slightly more room in their stomachs.
There are several Chinatowns to be found around Toronto, but the biggest and most famous is Old China Town. You can find this west of Downtown, and it is currently one of the biggest Chinatowns in North America. There are plenty of delicious foods to be tried here, from dim sum and pecking duck to sweet tea and read bean buns, plus shops selling Chinese wears and knickknacks. Visit for Chinese New Year celebrations to see the area come to life.
Hockey Hall of Fame
If you’re not able to watch an ice hockey game in Toronto – or that’s not enough for you – you can visit the Hockey Hall of Fame on Yonge Street. The museum is dedicated to all things ice hockey, including its history, and comprises of both a museum and a hall of fame. There’s 60,000 square feet of 15 exhibitions to navigate, where you can check out trophies and memorabilia from key moments in hockey history.
I’m just a Torontonian who enjoys writing in his free time. Some other activities that especially interest me are fishing, skiing, canoeing and playing badminton.