Toronto is a massive city, and happens to be the largest city and most visited city in Canada. It is also one of the most multicultural cities in the world. In fact, it is often pegged as ‘The New York City of Canada’.
Toronto is split into six separate districts, with what is now known as Old Toronto being split into five very diverse and unique areas, each of which is then divided into smaller neighbourhood, some of which are cultural enclaves. It is a sprawling city with much to offer visitors, from architectural structures to famous annual events.
Lets explore the best things to do in Toronto:
1. See the city from above
At 553 metres, the CN Tower is not only the tallest building in Toronto, but it is also the tallest free standing building on the continent. It also happens to one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World.
The CN Tower boasts the highest glass floor paneled elevator in the world, which lifts passengers up to its magnificent glass floored viewing deck. If you are afraid of heights you may not want to look down at the city from 342 metres above.
View the city from even higher at the 447 metre high SkyPod, which offers insanely spectacular views. Those that really want to get their heart pumping should try SkyWalk, where participants are standing on a hands-free ledge towering over the city. For those who want to get even higher, try this Window Seat Helicopter Tour.
2. Surround yourself with history
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is one of the best museums in North America and the best place in Toronto to engulf in history. Plus, it is easy to find, as there is a metro stopped named Museum.
The ROM has a collection of over six million artefacts, many of which are displayed in its 40 separate galleries. Some galleries are based on natural history, while others are from around the world.
In addition to having art and artefacts, the museum also has an extensive collection of dinosaur bones, minerals, and fine arts and design items, particularly from the Art Deco period. It also has a kids’ learning zone and a shop.
3. Enjoy the city’s multiculturalism
There is no better place in the city to get a true taste of Toronto’s multiculturalism then Kensington Market. This National Historic Site used to be a Jewish market, but today it has turned into a funky neighbourhood for artists, writers and foodies.
Kensington Market is a massive tourist site that is filled with fresh food stores, used clothing shops, discount surplus stores and funky cafés. It is also home to a few landmarks, like the Number 8 Fire Station and Bellevue Square Park.
The neighbourhoods also has an eclectic artist community, with small galleries, tattoo shops and rare books shops. There are no brand name shops here, instead, everything is locally owned and managed.
Available tour: Kensington Market Afternoon Food Tour
4. Wander around a castle
Step back into time and wander the hallways and rooms of the elegant Casa Loma. This Gothic Revival castle is one of the most unique pieces of architecture in the city and a famous Toronto landmark.
The castle is now a museum complete with decorated suites, towers, gardens, stables and secret passages. Self-guided audio tours are available to visitors in eight different languages.
Casa Loma has been featured in many films, including X-Men, The Pacifier and Chicago. It is also a popular venue for weddings and private parties.
5. Go to an island
There are a few small islands in Lake Ontario that are part of the city; hence their name the Toronto Islands. There are 13 islands in total that are spread across 820 acres.
Centre Island is the most popular of the islands, as it features a massive park with picnic areas, a beach, magnificent gardens and an amusement park. It is best visited in the summer.
Some of the other islands are home to some of the oldest residential communities in Toronto, while others are home to prestigious yacht clubs. The Toronto Islands even have their very own airport.
Available tour: Toronto Islands Twilight Bike Ride
6. Gaze at the Stanley Cup
The Hockey Hall of Fame is a museum that is dedicated to the history of hockey. It is also displays the Stanley Cup, which sits in its Great Hall.
In addition to being a museum, the Hockey Hall of Fame is also a hall of fame, just like its name suggests. There is an 18-person committee that chooses who is going to have the pleasure of being inducted into the hall of fame, which can be a player, a coach, a general manager or even a commentator.
The Hockey Hall of Fame consists of 15 exhibits that display trophies and other hockey memorabilia. There is also a 125-seat 3D theatre that shows documentary films.
7. Experience Old and New
Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, the Distillery District is a unique residential and commercial area that has recently been refurbished and built up. Many of the buildings here are stunning heritage buildings that have been converted into shops, restaurants, bars and lofts.
This area of the city is home to North America’s largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture. It is truly a great place for culture, dining and shopping. It is even home to some fantastic micro-breweries.
Art galleries, jewellery stores and funky coffeehouses can all be found in the Distillery District. Before Christmas, the area turns into a winter wonderland with its world renowned Christmas Market.
Related tour: 4-Hour History of the City Told Through Beer
8. Shop until you drop
Toronto has so many shopping opportunities that it is even overwhelming for the most seasoned shopaholic. Most tourists start their shopping spree in the Toronto Eaton Centre, which is somewhat of a city landmark.
Those with money to spare will enjoy shopping in Yorkville, which is the most upscale shopping area in the city. Visitors staying in North York will want to head to Bayview Village, which in addition to being home to high-end boutiques, also has one of the best vintage wine selections in the city.
Chinatown is the best place to go to shop for knockoff designer duds and cheap souvenirs. Queen Street West has some funky independent boutiques for trend setters.
9. Visit animals
The Toronto Zoo is a world-class zoo that happens to be one of the best in North America. It features both indoor and outdoor displays and is divided into several different zones.
Most people find it impossible to explore the entire zoo in one visit, as it is massive and has so much to see. There are over 5,000 animals living here in their natural environment.
One of the most popular zones in the Toronto Zoo is Africa, which is home to white rhinoceroses, masai giraffe, white African lions and spotted hyenas, as well as many others. The Australasian Pavilion is also popular, as it houses Western grey kangaroos, komodo dragons, wallabies, lion fish and kookaburras.
10. Stare at marine life
Toronto is home to one of three aquariums that is owned by Ripley Entertainment. The downtown Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada exhibits around 13,500 exotic marine life in its 5.7 million gallons of water.
The aquarium is home to marine and freshwater life from all over the world, including giant pacific octopus, green sea turtles, whitespotted bamboo sharks, southern stingray and upside-down jelly.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is separated into nine galleries, all of which feature a specific area or species. The Rainbow Reef is one of the more popular ones, probably because of its interactive dive show.
11. Look at Art
Toronto is home to the magnificent Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), which is Canada’s largest. It is interesting both inside and out thanks to its recent ultra-modern Frank Gehry addition.
One of the AGO’s main draws is its Henry Moore room, as the gallery is home to the largest collection of his sculptures in the world. The European paintings exhibit is also quite spectacular.
There is an extensive collection of Canadian art on display here, as well as a gallery that focuses on modern and contemporary art. Plus, the gallery is home to a large collection of photography and drawings.
12. Go to the theatre
Toronto’s entertainment district is one of the best on the continent, with numerous venues that show the latest musicals, operas, ballets and symphonies. Toronto is home to the Canadian Opera Company, the National Ballet of Canada, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Stage Company and the Canadian Electronic Ensemble.
This area features Canada’s best performing arts venues. The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Roy Thomson Hall, the Royal Alexandra Theatre and the Princess of Wales Theatre are all within the city’s entertainment district.
Tickets for the latest shows can be bought online before arriving in the city, or at the box office on the day of. For the more popular shows, be sure to purchase tickets well in advance.
13. Party at an event
The biggest and best events in Canada take place in Toronto, some of which are world renowned. September’s Toronto International Film Festival is the most famous and attracts stars from all over the world.
Pride Week, which coincides with Canada Day, is one of the largest LGBT festivals on the planet and is loads of fun. The Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival is also amazing, with the parade costumes being incredible.
The Taste of the Danforth is a popular event that takes place in Greek town every August. It is one of the city’s largest festivals, celebrating Greek culture and cuisine.
14. Look at shoes
Yes, that’s right shoes. The Bata Shoe Museum has a unique collection of footwear from around the world. In fact, it displays over 13,500 items.
The museum is a great place to go to if you love shoes or want to know more about the history of footwear. It features four exhibits, one of which is a semi-private gallery and three that change regularly.
The world’s largest and most complete collection of shoes is found here, spanning every culture and continent. Some of its most famous shoes are ballroom slippers worn by Queen Victoria, Elton John’s monogrammed silver platform boots and a pair of Elvis Presley’s white and blue patent loafers.
15. Go to the park
There is not a lot of greenery left in the city, but fortunately the lovely High Park is still intact. This 161 hectare park is in the West End of the city centre and today it is the largest park in Downtown Toronto.
High Park is recreational and natural park, with cultural facilities, sporting facilities, educational facilities, playgrounds and gardens. It features several points of interest, including Colborne Lodge, Grenadier Pond and the High Park Zoo.
In the summer months the park hosts Shakespearean plays that are performed by the Canadian Stage Company. In the winter, tobogganing is quite popular.