Many people may not realize that two of the five largest cities in North America aren’t in the U.S.—Mexico City is number one, and Toronto, Canada comes in at number four. Toronto is a booming tech city and has a lot to offer—from great shopping, sightseeing, museums, and even some spectacular day trips. We’ve got all you need to know about visiting Toronto.
Read on or click below to learn more about:
- The Best Time to Go
- Things to Know
- Getting to Toronto
- How to Get Around
- The Best Hotels
- The Best Restaurants
- Things to Do
- The Best Shopping
- Toronto Travel Costs
- Arts & Culture
- Key Items to Pack for Your Trip
Best Time to Go
Weather-wise, warmer months (May to October) are the best time to visit Toronto, however, that’s not to say you should stay away during the winter months!
The city is full of events in the spring, summer and fall, and even the winter (if you don’t mind the cold)!
Things to Know
- Currency: Canadian Dollar (CAD). Both $1 and $2 are coins, so be sure to have a coin purse with you! Canada got rid of the penny nearly ten years ago and will round up or down to the nearest five cents.
- Time Zone: Eastern Daylight Time
- Language: English
- Calling Code: +1
- Weather: Winters are chilly, with snow common and average temperatures around 30°F, while spring and fall temperatures are pleasant in the 50s and 60s. Summer is not overly hot, with averages in the high seventies, although don’t be surprised if it gets up to ninety!
Apps to Download
- Transit – Easily navigate Toronto’s Transit Commission (TCC) with this app. Get updates in real-time that tell you when a bus or train will be arriving.
- Toronto Parking Finder – great for anyone renting a car or taking their own to the city. Find parking deals and reserve spots within the app.
- Bike Share Toronto – A must-have for anyone wanting to rent a bike while in the city. While not an app, the mobile website allows you to purchase all pass types and unlock bikes directly from the mobile site.
- Toronto Cycling – Once you have your bike secured, check out the Toronto Cycling app to plan out your cycling route.
- Street Food Toronto – See what street food vendors are nearby via the map in the app, or look up a specific vendor and see where they are located and if they are open.
- Quench – Stay hydrated with this app, which shows you the nearest bottle refill location or water fountain in Toronto.
Entry & Exit Requirements
- Flying: Valid passport required.
- Driving: Proper identification is required.
Getting To Toronto
- Flying: Toronto has two airports, the main airport, Toronto Pearson is where all international flights fly into and is about 30 minutes to downtown Toronto. There is a smaller, domestic airport, Billy Bishop, which is located on a Toronto island. Bishop is a 25-minute walk to CN Tower or a free, 90-second ferry with a free shuttle to union station.
- By Car: Toronto is just 90 minutes from the Canadian border by Niagara Falls, and four hours from the border crossing in Detroit.
How to Get Around
Getting around Toronto is fairly easy, from public transport to easy walking paths.
- Transit: Toronto has three public transit options: subway, street car and bus. Get to almost anywhere in the city via public transportation.
- Walking: Walking in Toronto is easier than you might think- even in the winter, thanks to the PATH, a mostly underground pedestrian walkway connecting more than fifteen miles of shopping, restaurants, offices and hotels.
- Car: Driving in Toronto is like any other city—you’ll hit traffic during busier travel times.
- Cycling/Bike Share: There are loads of bike paths throughout the city making cycling a great option for those who prefer it.
- Taxis: Taxis are available in Toronto, with a base fare of $4.25.
- Ride Share: Like most cities, ride shares are in abundance throughout the city with short wait times.
Luxury Hotel – The Ritz Carlton
You can never go wrong with a Ritz when you are looking for luxury. The Ritz Carlton in downtown Toronto has everything you need for a stay with grandeur: the TOCA Italian restaurant featuring Canada’s only cheese cave within a hotel, a spa with a champagne nail bar and personalized facial, and the Epoch bar which serves a traditional British afternoon tea.
Budget Hotel – Hotel Novotel Toronto North York
Hotel Novotel Toronto North York not only is affordable, it also has direct access to the North York Centre subway stop, making it super convenient to get around to the rest of the city. With a hot breakfast, fitness center, pool and sauna, you’ll have everything you need for a great stay while in the city, without breaking the bank.
Best Boutique Hotel – Broadview Hotel
Originally built in 1891, the Broadview Hotel is an iconic spot in Toronto’s East End. Consisting of 58 boutique guestrooms, the hotel also features three restaurants including a rooftop bar that offers stunning views of the city.
Best Location – Sheraton Centre Toronto
Situated in the heart of downtown Toronto, the Sheraton Centre is super convenient with a subway stop a 3-minute walk away, direct access to the PATH from within the hotel, and within walking distance to many of the city’s popular attractions.
Best Sustainable Hotel – 1 Hotel Toronto
Formally the Thompson Hotel, 1 Hotel is the most environmentally friendly hotel in the city. 1 Hotel has a mission to help better the planet by creating sustainable buildings, and require that all of their hotels meet the minimum standards for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. The Toronto location is currently a LEED candidate, and you’ll find plenty of environmentally-friendly features during your stay; like environmentally-friendly heating and cooling systems, 100% organic cotton sheets, furniture made with wood from fallen trees, and an organic composter.
Art & Design District – The Drake
Two words: Rooftop Suite. That’s right, The Drake has a rooftop suite that you can book. Enjoy your own private rooftop terrace, along with a 2 bedroom suite featuring a kitchenette. Don’t get too attached to the views, though, make sure you get out and explore the city!
Yorkville – Hazelton Hotel
This luxury boutique hotel is in the heart of Yorkville, where you’ll find high fashion, inspiring galleries, and some of the best restaurants in the city. Rooms are designed to “evoke grandeur with a splash of 1940s inspired Hollywood glitter,” so you’ll fit right in with the neighborhood surrounding you during your stay.
Best Waterfront Hotel – Westin Harbour Castle
Dine at Michelin-rated Don Alfonso 1890, also named the best Italian restaurant in the world during your stay at the Westin Harbour Castle. If that is too intimidating for you, there are 4 more bars and restaurants on-site to satisfy your appetite or wet your whistle. The hotel itself has undergone some major renovations, including a newly renovated yoga and meditation studio, and rooms to be finished in early 2023. All of this on top of gorgeous views of Lake Ontario.
For a Coffee – Balzac’s
If you’re visiting Canada from elsewhere in the world, you must try Tim Hortons at some point, however, if you’re looking for fancier, delicious coffee, try Balzac’s in Toronto. Along with typical cafe staples like lattes, cappuccinos and brewed coffee (all which, by the way, you can get sweetened with maple syrup), you can try their Cafe Nordique, a latte featuring honey, vanilla and cardamom.
For Breakfast – Lady Marmalade
You’ve heard of all day breakfast, but have you heard of all day lunch? Along with breakfast dishes like cheddar and spinach waffles, a breakfast sandwich or pancakes, Lady Marmalade also serves up lunch items in the morning, like their spicy salmon or a baja rice bowl.
For Lunch – House on Parliament
Serving typical pub fare, House on Parliament is the perfect spot to sit down for lunch. With salads and sandwiches (and of course, a pint to wash it all down with), this pub, situated in an old victorian house, will leave you satisfied for the rest of your days travels.
For Dinner – Bar Isabel
For great food, drinks, and atmosphere, you can’t beat Bar Isabel. With more exotic dishes like octopus (whole, half or quarter) and a 45 Day Dry Aged Bone-In Ribeye, you’ll also find cheese boards and salad. And don’t skip dessert, their Basque Cake with Hot Sherry Cream will have you coming back for more!
Best Bar – Bar Raval
A great bar needs the following: a fun atmosphere, delicious drinks, and a decent beer and wine list. Bar Raval ticks all of the boxes.
Things to Do
The iconic CN Tower is a must-stop for anyone visiting Toronto. At 1,815.5 feet tall, its Skypod is the highest observation deck in the western hemisphere. Real daredevils can try the Edgewalk, a hands-free walk around the tower attached only by a harness. For a more low key experience, have a meal at the 360 restaurant with stunning views of the entire city, as the restaurant slowly rotates.
Toronto International Film Festival
One of the most exciting times of the year in Toronto is during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Every September, the city transforms into a mini-Hollywood, bringing celebrities and filmmakers to the city. Dubbed the “people’s festival,” anyone can buy tickets to premieres, and head to the red carpet to see the stars arrive. Past winners that went on to win Best Picture Oscars include Belfast, Green Book, and 12 Years a Slave.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Canada is the birthplace of hockey, and Toronto is home to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Get your picture taken with the coveted Stanley Cup, learn the history of the sport, as well as about the best players to strap on skates. For an interactive experience, you can try your hand at playing against some of the best players (or at least full-sized, animated versions of them) by trying to score against the best goalies or saving goals from some of the best shooters in the NHLPA Game Time center. Budding broadcasters will love the TSN/RDS Broadcast Zone, where they can record their own play-by-play of a hockey game.
Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum features “art, culture, and nature from around the world and across the ages.” Artifacts include a piece of a meteorite from Mars that crashed to Earth over twenty million years ago, the preserved body of a White Rhino that lived in the Toronto Zoo for over forty-five years, and armor dating back to the time of Henry VIII in England. For a different experience, try the ROM After Dark, a once-a-month event where the museum is open later and features curated music, visual arts, pop-up performances, and themed food and drink.
Take in a Toronto Maple Leafs or Raptors game at Scotiabank Arena. If sports aren’t your thing, then you can catch a concert—past and present performers include Bon Jovi, the Eagles, Arcade Fire, Muse, and for the kids, Disney on Ice.
The Distillery District
In 2003, developers had an idea to create an exciting shopping/dining/arts experience for all who visited. They then transformed a group of victorian buildings that once housed the Gooderham & Worts Distillery, and the Distillery District was born. Filled with restaurants, shops, breweries, bars, galleries and even theatres, it’s truly a one-stop shop for whatever you are craving: art, food, drink, or shopping.
Day Trip: Peller Estates Winery
To escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head to Peller Estates Winery. This family-run winery not only has standards like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but also has several Icewines and sparkling wines. During your tour, you’ll get to check out 10 Below, the Peller Estate Icewine Lounge where you’ll get a sampling experience like no other! For a truly unique experience, you can charter a helicopter to leave from (and return to) the estate and get stunning bird’s-eye views of Niagara Falls.
Day Trip: Niagara Falls
If you don’t want to charter a helicopter, don’t worry, Niagara Falls is just eighty miles from Toronto, and Megabus even has a route from Toronto to the falls, or you can rent a car. Dare devils can try the Maid of the Mist for an up close and personal view of the falls.
Shopping is in abundance in Toronto, from neighborhoods filled with shops, markets, and even shopping centers. Highlights include:
- Queen Street West – great for vintage shopping.
- Bloor-Yorkville – This is for anyone looking for designer shops. You’ll find favorites like Chanel and Gucci, among others. (And some non-designer spots too!)
- Distillery District – as mentioned above, the Distillery District is the perfect spot for some shopping, eating, and browsing!
- Eaton Centre – typical shopping mall, connected to the PATH, perfect for shopping familiar names plus Canadian stores you may not be familiar with like the department store Hudson’s Bay, Indigo Books, and Roots.
Toronto Travel Costs
Expect to spend around $1800 (including hotel, not including airfare) for a week stay in Toronto.
- Hotel: You can expect to pay less than $200 per night for a double occupancy hotel room during your stay in Toronto.
- Food: Expect to pay around $30 for lunch and dinner, but less for breakfast, averaging around $70/day. Of course, if you eat at more expensive restaurants, this will go up, but if you stick to street food, this can go way down.
- Transportation: A daily TTC pass is $13.50, you can also get a pay-as-you-go card (called PRESTO in Toronto), fill it when you arrive and as needed during your trip. The base fare for taxis is $4.25 with $1.75 per kilometer, you’ll find Uber may be slightly cheaper than a taxi.
- Entertainment/Attractions: The cost of what you spend on attractions and entertainment really is dependent on what you want to do. Cost to get into museums can vary—but you can expect around $10-15 for an entrance fee. The CN Tower general admission is $43 per person, while the Edgewalk is $195 per person.
Arts & Culture
Toronto is bursting with arts and culture. From museums, theatre, music, and festivals, there is never a lack of anything to see and do.
There are plenty of spots to catch theatre and dance in the city, whether you are looking for blockbuster hits or lesser known, local shows. Here are some spots to catch live performances in the city:
- Mirvish Productions runs four theatres to bring big name productions like Hamilton, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Mean Girls to the city.
- The Second City Toronto helped launch the careers of comedians like Mike Myers, John Candy and Dan Aykroyd.
- Canadian Stage is a performing arts center dedicated to showcasing Canadian artists and their work.
Toronto has a hopping music scene, from big venues like Scotiabank Arena, to smaller, more intimate venues such as:
- Horseshoe Tavern – great for an intimate setting for some live music, mostly standing room only although there are some seats.
- Phoenix Concert Theatre – this two story concert club is a live music experience like no other.
- Dakota Tavern– This basement venue provides an ultra intimate atmosphere for shows, mainly featuring rock, alt country and bluegrass performers.
- The Opera House – originally a 1900s vaudeville theatre, the space now hosts mainly punk, metal and rock shows, with the original architecture.
- Massey Hall – Great acoustics in a large space make for fantastic shows at Massey Hall, where you’ll find everything from rock to jazz concerts.
Museums and Art Galleries
Toronto is filled with museums and galleries for browsing during your stay.
- Alton Mills Centre – Houses over twenty artists, galleries, a heritage museum, cafe and shops.
- Bay of Spirits Gallery – Showcases unique, aboriginal art from all over Canada.
- Art Gallery of Ontario – One of the largest art museums in North America, AGO features “cutting-edge contemporary art,” European masterpieces, as well as works by Indigenous and Canadian artists.
There is no shortage of festivals in Toronto throughout the year. They include:
- Buskerfest – Prepared to be awed by a large gathering of buskers from around the world.
- Beaches International Jazz Festival – Daily music in the lakeside Beaches community of Toronto in July.
- Toronto International Film Festival – Film festival featuring many major motion picture premieres.
- Bloor-Yorkville Ice Fest – Explore ice sculptures in the Bloor-Yorkville section of the city
- Focus International Environmental Film Festival – Film Festival dedicated to showcasing films to educate and inform the public about environmental issues facing the world.
- Toronto Light Festival – A chance to get out when you typically want to stay in, the Toronto Light Festival is a display of artworks of light by artists from Canada and throughout the world.
Key Items to Pack for your Trip
Packing for Toronto is just like any other city, but here a few things you’ll want to consider:
- An Umbrella
- Walking shoes
- Layers of clothing
- Warm jacket (if going during colder months)
- Rain Coat
- Snow Boots (if going in winter)
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