Written by: Emily De Sousa
Toronto is Canada’s largest city, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the entire world, and the birthplace of so many incredible individuals like Drake, Margaret Atwood, and yours truly!
Population: 5, 928, 040
Languages: English (Canada is a bilingual country. Our second official language is French. While it’s not as popular in Toronto, you could still encounter some French speakers during your visit!)
Fun fact: Toronto is the only Canadian city with representation in 7 major league sports.
When to visit
Toronto is a beautiful city year-round, so no matter when you decide to visit, you’ll be in for a treat! Summer time is definitely high-season in Toronto and the warm weather brings in a lot of tourists, so if you’re planning to visit in the summer months be sure to book your hotels well in advance. Summer is also a great time to visit the city as there are a ton of different music, cultural, and food festivals to experience. Visiting Toronto in the winter will provide a truly Canadian experience and the city does look magical under a fresh snow fall. Travelling in the winter months may also save you a bit of money as it’s considered off-season, and you can utilize the PATH, Toronto’s underground walking tunnels that will keep you dry and warm as you walk between destinations.
Prior to Arrival (what to pack)
The summer months in Toronto can get pretty warm and Canada doesn’t have any strict dress policies; short shorts and shoulder bearing won’t be an issue here, so don’t fret too much about your clothing! The number one thing that you absolutely need to pack is comfortable shoes. Toronto is a very walkable city and it’s the easiest way to get around so you’ll be spending most of the day on your feet. Make sure you’ve got a comfortable pair of shoes that you won’t mind wearing a lot. Now for winter…you may want to pack a few extra layers. Canadian winters are known for being very unforgiving and temperatures around Christmastime can drop as low as negative 30 degrees Celsius. If you’re visiting Toronto in the winter months be sure to pack a warm winter jacket and some boots that will be comfortable to walk in and keep your toes warm!
Upon Arrival and How to Get Around
Toronto is definitely not a driveable city. A rental car is going to set you back hundreds of dollars and you’ll spend the better part of your trip stuck in traffic or trying to find parking downtown – and don’t even get me started on the cost of parking downtown; when you finally do a find a spot you’ll be paying $10-$40 a day depending on the area. On the bright side, Toronto has a great public transit system. The TTC runs 662 square kilometres and has the third highest per capita ridership rate in North America. You can buy a weekly TTC pass for $43.75 or day pass for $12.50. Each will grant you access to all subways, street cars, and bus lines.
To get into downtown from the airport you can hop on the Union Pearson Express. Toronto’s International airport is actually located in Mississauga, so you won’t be able to get downtown without driving or taking public transit. The easiest way to get downtown from the airport is via the new Union Pearson Express. It takes about 25 minutes to get downtown and the train comes every fifteen minutes. A one-way ticket will set you back $12.35.
Where to Stay
Photo Credit: thompsonhotels.com
Arguably the coolest hotel in Toronto, the Drake Hotel much more than just a place to sleep and eat, it’s a hot bed for culture. Not only does the boutique style hotel feature unique rooms that you won’t find anywhere else in the city, but it also features a delicious ground floor restaurant with live music weekly. This hotel is located on Queen St. West, right in the heart of the Arts District.
Looking for the hotel room with the best view of the city? Look no further than the Thompson Toronto. This hotel is located in the historic King West Village and is rated one of the top hotels in Canada. The Thompson features a stunning rooftop patio with a pool that provides stunning views of the CN Tower and the bustling city below.
This vibrant hotel is located right on the water, just steps away from Toronto’s downtown core. The prime location is the highlight of the Westin property as it literally puts you in the middle of everything.
While Toronto’s hotels are breathtaking, they do come quite the price tag. If you’re looking to save some money on accommodations in the city, Hosteling International’s downtown hostel is a perfect solution. The hostel offers private or shared rooms and a prime downtown location within walking distance of the St. Lawrence Market, the Eaton Centre, Union Station, and the CN Tower.
Another great option for budget travellers visiting Toronto is booking an AirBnb. You can book a beautiful downtown apartment for as low as $75 that will put you within proximity of everything and provide you with the privacy of having a place to yourself.
Where to Eat
Toronto has over 8000 restaurants, so you won’t have a hard time finding a delicious spot to dine during your trip – you just may have a hard time narrowing down your favourites!
This Dundas West restaurant is a celebration of local ingredients and wild foods. Antler serves up Canadian cuisine with a rustic twist, using foraged ingredients to emphasize the importance of locally sourced forced and cooking game meats over an open fire pit.
The 360 Restaurant at the top of the CN Tower is one of Toronto’s most unforgettable dining experiences. The market-fresh cuisine is served with a magnificent revolving view of Toronto more than 351 metres below. The restaurant also features an award-winning wine selection of over 550 international and Canadian wines from its “cellar in the sky”.
Another restaurant the provides stunning views of the city, Canoe sits atop the TD Tower on Wellington on the 54th floor and its menu pays homage to some of the finest ingredients and regions in Canada.
Famous for its $5.95 bar food menu, Warehouse is one of the best places in Toronto to find cheap eats. There are multiple locations throughout the city, so no matter where you happen to be you can pop in to enjoy some affordable food and good vibes.
Pick 6ix is another one of Drake’s business ventures in the culinary world. The place has a very upscale vibe featuring black and old décor, TV’s and alcohol hanging on the walls, and blue velvet access. The high-end feel doesn’t match its surprisingly affordable price tag, but be sure to make a reservation early as the place books up quickly.
Things To Do
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Visit the CN Tower
You simply cannot visit Toronto without visiting the biggest landmark in the city. You can buy a ticket for access to all the levels of the CN Tower for $38 or if you want an even more thrilling experience in the sky, try out the CN Tower Edgewalk where you can walk alongside the outside of the CN Tower.
Catch a game
No matter when you visit, there is bound to be a Toronto sports team in the midst of a season. In the fall and winter catch the Toronto Maple Leafs on the ice or Toronto Raptors on the court, if you’re visiting in the spring or summer you can check out the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre baseball diamond or Toronto’s club soccer team or Canadian football league team.
Take the ferry to Toronto Island
If you’re finding the hustle and bustle of the big city a little bit overwhelming, an escape is only a short ferry ride away. You can catch the ferry right from downtown Toronto and be on the Toronto islands in a matter of minutes. The Toronto islands are a great place to kayak, paddleboard, or just enjoy the sunshine and stunning views of the city from afar.
Shop at the St. Lawrence Market
This is one of the most historic markets in Toronto and admission is completely free. If you do end up buying something, you’ll be sure to get it at a bargain price!
Visit the Royal Ontario Museum
The ROM is one of the largest museums in North America and features stunning displays of art, world culture, and natural history. General admission tickets cost $20 and includes entry to over 30 galleries and exhibits.
Visit Casa Loma
Casa Loma is a historic and magical downtown attraction. General admission tickets cost $30 and will grant you full access to walk through the beautiful castle. If you’re visiting during the fall, Casa Loma is transformed into a spooky haunted house that is an absolute must-see attraction!
North America’s largest cultural festival is a truly unforgettable experience and one everyone should enjoy if you’re in town for it.
My Favourite Neighborhoods
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Toronto is a big city, so most Torontonian’s will refer to a specific neighborhood when describing where there from. There are 140 neighborhoods officially recognized by the city of Toronto, but in the post I’m going to focus on the downtown neighbourhoods, since these are most likely the one’s you’ll be visiting. These neighbourhoods are like their own tiny towns and with each being so diverse and different from the other you’ll feel like you’re being transported to a completely different place with each new neighborhood you visit.
The Annex – Bordering the University of Toronto, this is a student-friendly neighborhood housing cheap pizza joints, sushi restaurants, pubs, and cafes – including Toronto’s smallest café!
Chinatown – Chinatown is always a hub of activity as residents and tourist elbow for bargain housewares, produce, and dim sum.
Church Wellesley Village – One of the most fun neighbourhoods in Toronto and ground zero for the annual Pride Week, this spot is a thriving mix of restaurants, cafes, and clothing stores.
Little Italy – Little Italy sports a diverse food scene that will take you way beyond delicious Italian pizza. This is also a prime spot for bar crawls and late night eats.
Dundas West – This is the spot to find vintage clothing and a thriving nightlife that features some of Toronto’s most acclaimed bars and restaurants.
Entertainment District – This where your senses come alive in Toronto. The Entertainment District is known as a first choice destination to eat, drink, watch movies and live theatre.
Harbourfront – Right on the beautiful Lake Ontario, this neighborhood is home to numerous summer festivals and the ferry terminal to access the Toronto Islands
Young & Dundas – This is the central hub of Toronto; it features a large outdoor square, a movie theatre, and Toronto’s largest downtown mall.
Yorkville – This is Toronto’s original bohemian enclave and is now home to designer boutiques, high end hotels, and delicious gourmet restaurants.
That’s all for my Toronto City Guide! I really hope you guys enjoyed this and find it useful when booking your next trip to Toronto.