Often overshadowed by Montreal’s cultural swagger to the east and Vancouver’s breathtaking natural beauty to the West, Toronto’s tourism offerings are centred on its vibrant arts scene and large, diverse population. Here you’ll find areas with strong Jewish, Korean, Persian, Italian and Indian roots, which at the very least should assure you that you’ll be well-fed in Toronto.
While Torontonians are generally polite and gentle, the one subject that’s bound to get them riled up is ice hockey. The Toronto Maple Leaves (often misheard by visitors as ‘Make Believes’ – to the annoyance of the locals) are the city’s pride and joy. If you get the opportunity to see a home game at the Air Canada Centre, take it.
In addition to its cultural mishmash and exciting gastronomy, Toronto has a thriving arts and cultural scene and is home to world-class museums and galleries, including the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA).
The newly revamped Distillery District is a fusion of European charm and New York buzz. Don’t be misled by the name, though. Despite occupying the former industrial buildings of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, it’s not quite as rye-soaked as you’d imagine. That’s not to say Toronto is a dull town after dark. Quite the contrary, in fact, with clubs and bars buzzing from dusk to dawn.
And then, of course, there’s the shopping. Many of Canada’s cities boast malls of mind-bending enormity, with Toronto’s famed Eaton Centre forming the retail heart of the city. Its 250 stores are housed in an impressive monument to capitalism.
Totonto’s Top 10:
10. Hockey Hall of Fame Canadians live for their hockey. Seriously. Check out the national sport’s history as well as the official hall of fame.
5. Royal Ontario Museum Exhibits on everything from Ancient Chinese civilisations to Medieval Europe are contained in this beauty.
9. Ontario Space Centre This place has a tornado machine, a soundproof tunnel and a rainforest (!), so you’re pretty much guaranteed to have fun.
4. Eaton Centre This mammoth shopping Mecca is pretty to look at and houses over 250 stores. ’Nuff said.
8. McMichael Canadian Art Collection An extensive collection of Canadian-only art. Some remarkable stuff here.
3. Ontario Zoo It’s rated one of the best zoos in the world. Do teams of zoo experts go around voting on such things? Don’t know. But we do know it’s well worth a visit.
7. Art Gallery of Ontario This impressive structure is the largest art gallery in the country. Art nerds, unite (with comfy walking shoes)!
2. Casa Loma A castle in North America? Yes, and one that is rich in history and decked out in European glamour. Roam the gardens (free) before taking a guided tour (not free).
6. Black Creek Pioneer Village Step back in time… to the 19th Century, to be exact. Actors dressed in period garb take you around the sites and give you a fun history lesson.
1. CN Tower Over 550m high, this is the most recognisable structure in the Toronto skyline and a tourist favourite. The view is incredible.
- Casa Loma – An Edwardian-era castle with 98 lavish rooms, secret passageways and a colourful garden.
- Distillery Historic District – This district showcases the industrial roots of Toronto.
- Thomson Memorial Park – This park commemorates the first settlers in Toronto.
- Campbell House Museum – The oldest remaining house from the original site of the Town of York.
- Old City Hall – This brownstone Victorian mansion was originally a place for politicians to gather.
Toronto Art & Culture
- Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre – Built in 1913, this once-vaudevillian stage now offers two spectacular theatres in one.
- Toronto Chinatown – The one located on Don Valley Chinatown East is considered the original deal.
- Royal Ontario Museum – This museum features arresting architecture and extensive galleries on culture and natural history.
- Arrow Hall – One of the most popular concert venues in Toronto.
- Arts on King – There is often an eclectic art festival is going on at 165 King Street East.
- Yonge Street – Toronto’s longest thoroughfare is one of the largest shopping districts.
- The World’s Biggest Bookstore – There are volumes and volumes of books and publications here, including a selection of computer literature.
- Queen Street, West – Trendy shops and eateries line this path near the Ontario College of Art and Design.
- St Lawrence Market – This huge Victorian building features market vendors selling a huge selection of tasty treats.
- The Toy Shop – Find two stories of classic toys in this historic business established in 1910.
Gay & Lesbian Toronto
- Trigger Festival – Three nights of performance art, film, music and theatre in the middle of July celebrating queer activism.
- Toronto Gay Pride Week – From late June to early July, Toronto has the world’s third-largest pride celebration.
- Gay Village – Trot down to Church and Wellesley Streets to see Toronto’s “gaybourhood”, where almost everything is rainbow coloured.
- Halloweek – An event at the end of October that offers costumes and candy.
- Tie the Knot – Get married in the first place in North America where same-sex couples can legally tie the knot.
- High Park – A nearly 400-acre park offering a taste of nature and recreational activities.
- Necropolis Chapel – The Toronto City of the Dead displays historical Victorian architecture and Renaissance-style structures.
- Fort York – This supposedly haunted site features events commemorating Toronto’s history.
- Ashbridge Bay – A hike along this area is a favourite for many.
- Wonderland – This theme park has more than 200 attractions, including a water park.
- Sign up for the Not So Pro Sports League to participate in sport and social activities throughout the year.
- Explore the hands-on Hockey Hall of Fame, home of the Stanley Cup trophy.
- Catch a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game at the Rogers Centre.
- Enjoy a challenging game of golf at Dentonia Park Golf Course.
- Join the passionate fans at a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto LocalOld Toronto
The heart of Toronto is home to a stack of attractions, but let’s face it – there’s no better way to start your day than with some retail therapy. Roll out of bed and into the Eaton Centre, and marvel at the fact that youths around the world seem to have ‘mall loitering’ as a common pastime. Next, the CN Tower will give you a spectacular view – assuming you have a head for heights. Lastly, check out The Waterfront, along the shores of Lake Ontario, for a fun, relaxed vibe paired with great eateries and bars.
This lush and leafy area is home to the famous Toronto Zoo, the place to gawk at gorillas and leer at lions. If animals aren’t your thing, enjoy some scenery along the Scarborough Bluffs (FYI, they’re cliffs) and then grab a drink at one of the many trendy bars in the district, or laze away a summer’s day at Thompson Memorial Park.
This area of Toronto is an absolute smorgasbord of culture. Grab some grub at one of the dozens of kosher delis in Lawrence Manor, hit up Central North York for a spot of serious shopping and then catch your breath at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. Once you’ve had your fill of flora, head to the Persian Section for a delish dinner, Little Moscow for some memory-erasing vodka and then the Korean Strip for some alcohol-induced karaoke. A perfect day, no?
Toronto Eat & Drink:
Wayne Gretzky This legendary ex-ice hockey player’s eatery/pub will cater to those who love their sport, food or beer. So, basically, everyone.
Insomnia The young shiny set come here in droves to enjoy a late-night feed, a chilled vibe, cheap Jaeger-bombs and good DJs. The Annex
Mistura This modern venue serves up Italian food with a twist. The Annex
The Bowl Mixed Asian cuisine in a laidback and modern setting.
Bistro 990 French country-style décor paired with the Euro feast on the menu makes this a perennial fave.
Sassafraz A celeb fave and Canadian icon. Nibble on French food and suck down a fine Canadian red. Yorkville
Xaphire Chic digs and hefty servings of Asian fare. The Pad Thai will change your life. North Toronto
HY’s Break out your best threads for this elegant venue. Their specialty is posh steak and chic cocktails.
Fressen Delicious vegan eats may sound like an oxymoron but rest assured, this place will fill your tum with some of the best food you’ve ever tasted.
Dufflet The amazing cakes, pastries and other treats on offer will turn even the purest sugar-virgin into a down and dirty sugar-whore.
Winterlicious! A slightly lame name for the awesome late January to early February food fest. If you’re ballsy enough to be in Toronto during winter, you’ll enjoy big-name chefs churning out top-notch nosh for a number of events all over the city. But if the thought of a Canadian winter makes you want to rock back and forth in a corner, head to Summerlicious in July.
Mid-June welcomes Luminato, a festival of arts, culture and creativity. This festival has only been around for a few years but is hugely successful and always popular with locals and visitors alike. Expect a feast of music, dance, film, fashion, design, art and food. Most of the events are free.
If you’re down for smooth crooners and a nice sax riff, hit up the Toronto Jazz Festival, held every late June to early July. In the 24 years this festival has been around, nearly 2000 free events have been held and over seven and half million people have come to enjoy them. Nice.
When To Go
- Toronto’s winter is brutal so unless you’re into blizzards and frostbite, stay away during late-November to mid-March. For warmth and the ability to feel your face, visit during June-September.
- Winter damn near cracks the mercury with temperatures averaging -10°C (14°F) during the day, and often getting down to -25°C (-13°F). Brrrrrr!
- Spring in Toronto is pretty, though can still be cold with temperatures hovering around 10-17°C (50-63°F)
- Summer is pleasant and sometimes quite hot in Toronto, with averages between 25-30°C (77-86°F)
- Autumn has temperatures that would be considered winter in any sane part of the world, with averages of around 2°C (36°F).
- The TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) offers a subway system, streetcars and buses on the transport menu. All are effective ways to get around the city and are pretty cheap. Tickets for adults are CA$3.
- Cabs in Toronto are clean and relatively inexpensive, and your driver will most likely know the score of the hockey game if you’re interested.
What To Miss
- Don’t joke about hockey. In a city with more religious and cultural backgrounds than you can point a relic at, hockey is the undisputed god.
- Try not to get sick or hurt during your Canadian travels as you’ll have to pay upfront for any treatment you need (and we’re talking hefty amounts). Travel insurance is always a good idea.
- The homeless population of Toronto is huge and one of the city’s major problems. While most homeless people are harmless, there have been increased reports of violence in recent years, so keep valuables close.
The financial heart of Canada, home to a metro population of 5.5 million people, dominates the national discussion, much to the dismay and revulsion of the rest of the country.
While Toronto may not have the cultural diversity and charm of Montreal, or the hip swagger of Vancouver, the city draws more than 14 million visitors a year. No matter how you slice it, Toronto's shift in the past century from provincial backwater to global capital is remarkable. The urban swath Toronto cuts today, with countless suburbs and diabolical traffic, totals over 7,000 square km. Nonetheless, the city core is awash with magnetic tourist allure.Attractions
The Royal Ontario Museum, a cityscape icon in Toronto, is one of the best museums in Canada, with exhibits that emphasize natural history and world cultures.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is the best place to witness the Great White North's obsession with hockey. The interactive, memorabilia-rich museum has exhibits on all the legends of the game, from Maurice Richard, Bobby Orr to Wayne Gretzky.
The Ontario Science Centre is one of the pioneer science museums in the world, with tactile educational exhibits for the entire family.
The Toronto Zoo is one of the foremost zoological parks in the world, famous for conservation efforts and exotic animal births.
Despite a reputation as a cold hub of steel and concrete, Toronto provides city residents with a surfeit of green space. The shiny new waterfront area, on the shores of Lake Ontario, is a wonderful respite from the downtown core.
The Toronto Islands are a small network of islands in the Great Lake that provide first class recreation and beautiful cottage homes.
The Beaches, another popular escape, is a city play area that hosts festivals and concerts throughout the summer
High Park, off fashionable Bloor Street West, is one of the best public parks in the city, with lush gardens and popular sites in close proximity.
The Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto is the principal mall in the city, with luxury shops and mainstream retail outlets.
A big sports market, the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL is the most popular team in the city, by a mile. The most difficult ticket to procure, a game at the Air Canada Centre is worth the expense and effort.
The Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball play at the Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, while the Toronto Raptors provide the city with a competitive NBA franchise.
The Toronto International Film Festival is in the estimation of many, on par with Cannes in terms of importance and influence.
The Caribana festival in July is the most popular celebration of Caribbean culture outside of Trinidad, with over 1 million people in attendance.
The Entertainment District of downtown Toronto is nightlife central, with scores of clubs and bars.
The Theatre District, or north Broadway for many, features plays and musicals that rival New York City and London. Major concert halls include Roy Thomson Hall, Princess of Wales Theatre, Massey Hall and Royal Alexandria Theatre.
Home to the National Ballet of Canada, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Canadian Opera Company, the city has a fair share of options in store for classical buffs.
Though Toronto has four distinct seasons, swings in temperature and snow and rainfall are not quite as dramatic as in Montreal or Quebec City. Still, you will need to bundle up in winter.
- Winter (November to March) -7-7°C
- Spring (April to May) 4-19°C
- Summer (June to August) 15-26°C
- Fall (September to October) 7-21°C
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