Ultimate Toronto Travel Guide, with Insider Travel Tips
Looking for the ultimate city break filled with vibrant culture, diverse cuisine, awe-inspiring sights, and unique activities? Look no further than Toronto, Canada’s largest city and cosmopolitan hub.
Often touted as one of the world’s most multicultural cities, Toronto offers an incredible mix of experiences that cater to every type of traveler, promising an unforgettable stay.
After recently returning from a trip here, let me share with you all of the unmissable Toronto landmarks, activities, and hidden gems!
Best Things to do in Toronto:
The Unmissable Toronto Islands
Just a quick ferry ride from the bustling city centre lies the Toronto Islands.
Comprised of a group of 15 small islands, you’ll experience beautiful parks, stunning views of the city skyline, and even sandy beaches here.
Centre Island and Gibraltar Point Beach are well worth checking out.
The Toronto Islands were by far our favourite place in Toronto – I highly recommend spending a full day here. Whether you fancy a leisurely picnic, a swim, or a bike ride, you can experience it all here. This is the perfect place to experience a quieter, more relaxed side of Toronto city life.
If you’re into Photography (or Instagram) this is where you need to head – there’s beauty around every corner of the islands, which is sure to make everyone back home extremely jealous!
Embrace Inclusivity at The Gay Village 🏳️🌈
Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village, more commonly known as the Gay Village, is a colourful, inclusive community that welcomes everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation.
This lively neighbourhood is rich with culture and history, filled with unique restaurants, charming cafes, and bustling nightclubs – making it an unmissable Toronto landmark.
The Gay Village is also the heart of Annual Pride Month (1 – 30 June), which we were lucky enough to be a part of! This is one of the largest gay pride festivals in the world and radiates joy and love through its vibrant parades and parties.
It’s the perfect opportunity for 2SLGBTQ+ communities and allies to reflect on where they’ve come from, recognise what they’ve achieved, and to rally together for the ongoing push towards an inclusive and supportive society for all ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜
Top Foodie Gems 🥨
Toronto has a seriously impressive array of culinary delights from around the world, which reflects the city’s cultural diversity. From Korean BBQs in Little Korea to the best Italian pizza’s in Little Italy, and from St. Lawrence Market, hailed as one of the world’s best food markets, to the elegant restaurants in Yorkville, Toronto has something for everyone.
Be sure to try out local favourites like Peameal Bacon Sandwiches, Maple crepes, and some delicious Butter Tarts. If you’re a food lover, the epic culinary scene in Toronto is bound to satisfy your palate.
In terms of the best restaurants in Toronto, these are my top picks:
- For the most unique place to eat in Toronto, check out the Poop Cafe, which is a Toilet Themed Dessert Bar in Little Korea! Their ice cream is seriously good and it’s the perfect place to take fun snaps for Instagram!
- For a boujee dinner, head to Akira Back, which perfectly blends modern Japanese cuisine with authentic Korean flavours. The Miso Black Cod and the Chocolate in a Cup are to die for!
- For me, the best co-working space in Toronto is Beatrice Society Cafe, which is also one of the best healthy places to eat in Toronto. You can also buy amazing supplements here like Rainbo Mushroom Tincture to support a high vibrational body!
- Looking for the best coffee in Toronto? Head to Jimmy’s Coffee, which is a local favourite, known for its cozy atmosphere and high quality coffee. They have several locations throughout Toronto, making it easy to find a spot to sit back and enjoy your cup of joe!
- If you’re a true foodie, why not opt to do a food tour to experience the best of the Toronto Food Scene as well as some awesome Toronto landmarks! 🍱🍨🍩🍓 ⬇️
A Roaring Good Time at Toronto Zoo 🐻❄️
If you’re an animal lover or looking for family day activities in Toronto, the Toronto Zoo is ideal.
With over 5000 animals representing 450 species, you can do a safari without leaving the city at this iconic Toronto landmark!
From African elephants to Australian kangaroos and even Polar Bears, the zoo offers an unbelievable glimpse into the world of wildlife.
If you plan on walking around the Zoo, I highly recommend wearing your comfiest walking shoes as it’s absolutely huge, otherwise you can hop on the Zoomobile for a convenient way to get around.
Urban Jungle: Toronto’s Green Spaces 🍃🍁
If you’re looking for free things to do in Toronto, head to its green spaces, which offer a breath of fresh air amidst the rush of the city.
High Park is a true gem and one of the best parks in Toronto for having a picnic! Or, if you’re looking for other things to do in High Park, hiking the lush trails and strolling along the stunning lakefront are also top activities. The park is so beautiful it’s easy to spend an entire day relaxing here.
If you’re a birdwatcher, I suggest heading to Tommy Thompson Park, which is a Toronto landmark known for its rich biodiversity. Also, don’t miss the tranquil Edwards Gardens and the vibrant Toronto Music Garden, designed in collaboration with world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
These are arguably the very best green spaces in the city, so be sure to add them to your Toronto itinerary if you’re into nature and spending time in the great outdoors!
Artistic and Trendy: Queen West and the Art Scene 🎨👩🎨✨
The Art and Design District of Queen West is a cultural hotspot and one of the coolest places in Toronto to hang out. It’s known for its eclectic shops, art galleries, trendy bars, and restaurants. The must-visit Museum of Contemporary Art and independent galleries fill the area, making it a haven for art lovers.
Toronto’s art scene also extends beyond galleries, with street art and murals brightening the city’s laneways and becoming Toronto landmarks themselves. It’s so worth spending an afternoon taking in these quirky sights, especially Graffiti Alley, which showcases some of Toronto’s amazing street art and mural culture. This has to be one of the best free things to do in Toronto!
Step Back in Time at Casa Loma 🏰
Casa Loma is a majestic castle and fairytale Toronto landmark – coming here promises a journey into a bygone era.
You can explore secret passages, elegantly furnished rooms, and enjoy panoramic views of the city from the towers.
The castle’s stunning gardens add to the beauty, making it an unmissable stop on your Toronto itinerary, full of nostalgic charm.
Toronto’s most Iconic Landmark: The CN Tower
Your Toronto trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of the most famous buildings in Toronto – the CN Tower.
Once the world’s tallest free-standing structure, the tower offers incredible views of the city.
If you’re feeling brave, you could walk in the clouds by doing the EdgeWalk. This is the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk (116 storeys above Toronto with nothing but a harness securing you!)
Or, if this isn’t your kind of thing, opt to dine at the 360 Restaurant, with its ever-changing panoramic view, this is arguably one of the best restaurants in Toronto that’s guaranteed to provide a memorable experience.
Nearby, you’ll find Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, which is a must-visit for families and anyone passionate about marine life.
Or, why not take to the skies with a Helicopter Tour over Toronto, offering a perspective that’s often lost on the ground. The CN Tower will be at eye level, adding a sense of surrealism to the experience. This is for sure one of the coolest things to do in Toronto, and surprisingly affordable at around $100.
Ice, Ice, Baby: Experience a Hockey Game 🏑
Even if you aren’t a die-hard hockey fan, the rush of the game, with the roaring crowd and electric atmosphere at the Scotiabank Arena is a cultural experience worth immersing yourself in.
You might just find yourself chanting along with the local fans, caught up in the quintessential Canadian spirit!
Hit the Shops 🛒 🛍️
When it comes to retail therapy, Toronto doesn’t disappoint. From high-end boutiques, to vintage stores, and bustling markets, there is truly something for everyone here.
Kensington Market offers an eclectic mix of local artisans, retro clothing and international goods.
Then there’s the iconic Eaton Centre (my personal favourite), which is a bright and airy shopping mall in the heart of Toronto. It’s got over 230 shops, restaurants and services, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon. And, if you’re a chocolate lover, I highly recommend stopping by Purdy’s Chocolatier in the Eaton Centre to get the best gifts from Toronto (their maple leaf chocolate is to die for!)
Gore, Graveyards and Ghosts 👻
Never one to settle for the TripAdvisor top ten, I’ve discovered that one of the most unique things to do in Toronto is a Ghost Tour!
Whether you’re a local or a tourist, with this tour you’ll get to experience a different side of the city. Your guide will take you to some of the creepiest places in Toronto and share the spooky stories behind familiar Toronto landmarks.
It’s the perfect tour to learn more about Toronto’s history through stories of crime, mystery, and the supernatural!
Adults Only Fun at Pursuit OCR 🎆
If you’re looking for fun activities in Toronto for adults, then look no further than Pursuit OCR. This is a giant playground with the worlds deepest ball-pit, an indoor pedal car race track and a fort building dodge ball. Children are banned!
Note: You’ll need to book in advance and wear Athletic/running shoes.
Toronto Nightlife 🍸
When the sun sets, Toronto comes alive with its impressive nightlife.
What to do in Toronto at Night Time: From bustling night markets to rooftop lounges, and live music venues to popular nightclubs, there’s something for each and every night owl here.
In terms of the best rooftop bars in Toronto, check out Lavelle. Located in the trendy King West neighbourhood, Lavelle offers one of the best rooftop experiences in the city. With a stunning infinity pool, comfortable loungers, and panoramic views of Toronto’s skyline, it’s a luxurious spot to relax and unwind.
Or, Kost is another amazing option. Situated on the 44th floor of the Bisha Hotel, Kost is a tropical-inspired rooftop bar that offers a laid-back atmosphere and stunning views of Lake Ontario.
However, if you’re a bit more of a grandma like me, but don’t necessarily want to be in bed by 9pm, then head to the historic Distillery District. We actually stayed in this area, and it’s a great spot for an evening stroll. The cobblestone streets and Victorian-era buildings here are absolutely gorgeous, and well worth checking out for yourself.
Book a Toronto Tour:
Viator is one of the best tour booking platforms out there. It has over 300,000+ experiences to explore – everything from city tours of Toronto to thrilling adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)!
Check out discounted Toronto tours here ⬇️
Unforgettable Day Trips from Toronto:
While Toronto has so much to offer, sometimes the real adventure lies just beyond the city limits.
Ontario’s diverse landscape provides endless opportunities for day trips. From natural wonders to charming towns, there’s a world of discovery waiting just a short drive or train ride away!
Here are some of the best day trip destinations from Toronto:
1. The Thunderous Wonder of Niagra
Just a 90-minute drive from Toronto, Niagara Falls is a must-see for anyone in Ontario. These legendary falls, straddling the US-Canada border, are a true marvel of nature. Be prepared to be captivated by the thunderous roar and the misty spray of the Horseshoe Falls.
Top tips: When we hire a car, we tend to use Discover Cars as they’re a fantastic option for finding affordable car rentals all over the world.
Alternatively, catching the train is another convenient way to get from Toronto to Niagra, taking around 2.45hrs.
⬇️ Get the best deals on trains by using Omio ⬇️
2. Prince Edward County: A Wine Lover’s Paradise
Prince Edward County, nestled on the shores of Lake Ontario, is a top destination for wine enthusiasts. Just over two hours east of Toronto, this charming region is known for its award-winning wineries, sandy beaches, and fabulous local cuisine.
The drive to Prince Edward County is a beautiful journey through the countryside. Public transit options are limited, so hiring a car is the best way to explore the region at your leisure.
3. Thousand Islands: A Majestic Archipelago
Located along the border between Northern New York State and Southeastern Ontario, the Thousand Islands are a group of more than 1,800 islands, offering breathtaking beauty and unique landmarks.
Expect charming lighthouses, opulent castles, and a rich history!
To get here, driving is the best option, taking around three hours from Toronto.
Once you arrive, do a boat tour to experience the majesty of the islands up close.
💸 The True Cost of Discovering Toronto Landmarks 💸
The million-dollar (or should I say, Canadian Dollar) question on every traveler’s mind is, “Is Toronto expensive to visit?” So, let’s explore this important question to help prepare your budget…
Eating Out in Toronto 🤑 💰
We found that eating out in Toronto can be as expensive or as affordable as you make it. You’ll find high-end restaurants where a meal could cost CAD 100 or more per person, but equally, there are countless affordable eateries, food trucks, and markets here. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs about CAD 15-20, and if you decide to explore areas like Chinatown or Little India, you can find delicious meals for even less!
Getting around Toronto 🤑 💰
Toronto has an efficient public transport system consisting of buses, streetcars, and subways. A one-way ticket costs CAD 3.25, and a day pass (unlimited travel for a day) costs CAD 13.00. If you’re planning to stay longer, getting a weekly pass is probably more economical. Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber are also available but are pricier than public transport.
Sightseeing in Toronto 🤑 💰
Lots of Toronto’s top attractions like the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium have an admission fee. However, some sights and activities are free. For example, you can stroll around Kensington Market or visit the Distillery Historic District without spending a dime!
Accommodation in Toronto 🤑 💰
Accommodation is usually a big chunk of any travel budget. In Toronto, you’ll find a range of accommodation options, from luxurious downtown hotels to budget-friendly hostels and everything in between.
On average, a night in a mid-range hotel in Toronto will cost you around CAD 150-200. However, affordable accommodations are available, with hostels and budget hotels offering rates as low as CAD 30-50 per night, especially if you book in advance or are flexible with your dates.
During the peak season (June through August), prices are usually higher and reservations are essential. If you’re traveling on a budget, visiting during the shoulder seasons (May and September), when rates drop is a great travel hack.
I can’t give you a personal recommendation for where to stay in Toronto, as we had a total disaster with our accommodation. We booked a business conference hotel, as this was technically a work-cation, but when we turned up it was a student dorm! Luckily we had our own room but it was far from ideal.
However, you can find the best accommodation deals by using Hotellook, which finds and compares hotel prices across official hotel websites and booking agencies like Agoda, Booking.com etc. ⬇️
The Verdict 💸💸💸
So, is Toronto expensive to visit? Overall, like any major city, a trip to Toronto can be tailored to fit various budgets. It’s undoubtedly more expensive than some smaller cities or rural areas in Canada, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. With some smart planning, savvy choices, and perhaps a splurge here and there, you can absolutely create an amazing Toronto itinerary that suits your budget.
How to Get to Toronto From Pearson Airport
From Pearson Airport, one of the quickest but more expensive ways to travel is by the Union Pearson Express (UPE) Train, which takes 25 minutes. Naturally, the more economical option takes longer. This involves getting a bus, with buses operating from 6 a.m. (8 a.m. on Sundays) to 1 a.m. daily. A private transfer or taxi, costing around $70 are also options.
Toronto Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is essential in Canada due to the high cost of healthcare. Getting the right insurance will save you thousands if something goes wrong.
Nomad Insurance with SafetyWing is amazing, as it covers emergency medical evacuation and bedside visits, starting at just $42 per 4 weeks.
You can use it as a subscription service, meaning you don’t have to pay for the whole year upfront. Instead, you’re charged every 28 days, until you cancel, giving you the ultimate level of flexibility. There’s also no limit on travel duration, so you don’t need a return date (and a return ticket) in order to activate your insurance. So it’s the perfect safety net for anyone on the move!
Check SafetyWing Insurance out for yourself here:
Toronto truly has something for everyone. Whether you’re an adventurer, a foodie, a culture vulture, or a shopaholic, Toronto’s diversity and dynamism make it a traveller’s dream.
When you visit Toronto, you’ll experience a city that’s been built and shaped by hundreds of cultures and communities, each adding a unique layer to its rich tapestry. It’s a city where the thrill of a Maple Leafs hockey game and the tranquillity of the Toronto Islands both define what it means to be a Torontonian.
Toronto isn’t about presenting a picture-perfect image for the world to admire though. It’s about showing you its authentic self – the bustling streets, the lively markets, the hushed corners of its galleries, and the quiet of its green spaces. So pack your bags and get ready to explore this dreamy city, Toronto is waiting for you!
I hope you enjoyed reading my Toronto Travel Guide, if you have any questions about any of these iconic Toronto landmarks feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me on Instagram!
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