We start hearing more and more often about Toronto, this city located in Ontario, Canada. I didn’t have particular expectations regarding my 3 days in Toronto, but I had a feeling I’d like it. We regularly see Toronto as one of the world’s most livable cities in numerous rankings. Moreover, people I know who visited Toronto before I did almost all told me they liked the city! Toronto is also put on the spotlight and is regularly promoted by Drake. Indeed, he often pays homage to his hometown. It’s time to see what to do in Toronto and start my visit to the city.
Description of Toronto
Toronto is an English-speaking city. It’s the largest city of Canada, and the fourth largest city in North America in terms of population after Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles. We call Toronto “The Queen City”, or “The Six” cause there are six municipalities in the city : Old Toronto, East York, North York, York, Etobicoke and Scarborough. It’s a lively city, and indeed it looks nice to live there.
Toronto is also a cosmopolitan city. Indeed, half of the people living in Toronto weren’t born in Canada! That’s a real melting pot! The five most spoken languages in Toronto are English (of course), then Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi and finally Italian! French isn’t even in the top 5, although there are other cities in Canada like Montreal where French is the official language!
A lot of people say Toronto is just a pale copy of big US cities, but located in Canada. By the way, sometimes people call Toronto “The little New York”. There are also skyscrapers, a business center and Dundas Square, a place reminding people of Times Square. Toronto is also a city that never sleeps, there’s always something to do! A lot of movies supposedly taking place in New York are actually shot in Toronto!
But there’s still this little Canadian flavor. Inhabitants of Toronto are big fans of sport, and the most popular one is ice hockey. I heard people pay a ticket on average 300 dollars, to watch an ice hockey match! If you don’t have all this money, comfort yourself and go to the Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s a museum dedicated to the history of ice hockey!
The city is in full growth. When I was visiting the city, there were construction sites everywhere, they were building new skyscrapers, etc… From what I heard, it’s been this way for several years, and it won’t stop anytime soon. I also heard construction and real estate are the two biggest industries in Toronto, and not everyone can live there! The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is 2200 Canadian dollars (1500 euros!).
What to do in Toronto?
The CN Tower
The symbol of the city, one of the reasons why Toronto is famous, the CN Tower of course! It’s 553 meters (1815 ft.) high, and it was the world’s tallest tower for 34 years, from 1976 to 2010, when it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Pay 36 dollars (25 euros) and you can go up to the 114h floor. You’ll take the elevator to get to the top in less than a minute (58 seconds exactly). From there, you’ll have a wonderful view of the city. I suggest going there at the end of your stay. You’ll have the opportunity to spot the various places you visited in the city. It’s possible to walk on a floor made of glass and see what’s going on in the street, below your feet. Some people were too scared to do it…
For your information to go up to the 147th floor, but you’ll have to pay an extra 12 dollars (8 euros). The view from there is even better. For the bravest ones, you can try the edgewalk. It’s gonna be a thrill, but you have to pay 225 dollars (150 euros)! More information here. There’s also a restaurant on top of the tower with a 360-degrees view! Anyway, don’t forget to go to the top of the CN Tower, and preferably go there early in the morning. Otherwise you’ll wait about one hour to get there. Next to the tower, you’ll find the aquarium of Canada but I didn’t go, it’s not my thing… It’s 35 dollars (24 euros) to get in.
The distillery historic district
The distillery district is a historic district in Toronto. You almost feel like you’re in London, with its buildings made of red bricks. For a long time, this area belonged to a distillery, but it’s now a pedestrian zone. There are numerous small shops, cafés, restaurants, art galleries… It’s also possible to taste several beers of the distillery. It’s really nice to have a walk there.
St. Lawrence Market
A market dating back to 1803! Perfect place to eat if you’re hungry! Indeed, it’s not common to see in the area a market with bakeries, a cheese maker, a pork butcher, a fish shop… But also fruits and vegetables, and other local products! It’s closed on Sundays and Saturdays, otherwise you have to go! FYI, the National Geographic designated it the best market in the world in 2012!
It’s not a market but a neighborhood, one of the most famous of Toronto. It’s like Camden Town in London, but Toronto style. It’s actually a hipster, a bit bobo and hippie. You’ll find second-hand clothes stores there, but also numerous vegan restaurants, organic food, stores selling products from all over the world… Don’t hesitate to go to Graffiti Alley and Rush Lane, two narrow streets. Their walls are covered with graffiti and street art!
Have you been to New York? If so, Dundas Square will immediately remind you of Times, or to a lesser extent Picadilly Circus in London. You’ll see huge billboards there but also Eaton Center, the biggest mall in Toronto. For your information, Dundas Square is next to Yonge Street. That’s the longest street in the world, it’s 1896 kilometers 1178 miles) long!
Nathan Phillips Square
It’s pretty quick to watch and admire Nathan Phillips Square, but it’s worth the detour! You’ll see the old city hall, really beautiful, but also the new city hall. You’ll find on this square “TORONTO” written in big letters, and those letters enlighten in the evening. There also a small garden called Peace Garden, opened in memory of the victims of Hiroshima. From mid-November to mid-March, the lake turns into a skating rink!
Only 10 minutes away from Toronto by ferry, you’ll find the Toronto islands! The islands are not always accessible wintertime because the river can be frozen. If not, go to the islands! This is a quiet place, but most importantly, you have a wonderful view of the skyline of Toronto! The weather was really nice when I went there, and it’s really relaxing because there are no cars there. You can go kayaking, rent a bicycle, go picnic, there are a few beaches if you want to take a dip… You need to go to Queens Quay and take the ferry. It’s 8 dollars (5.50€), and you can use your ticket all day. There are three main islands : Center, Ward and Hanlan.
Those who personally know me already know I’m not much into museums… That doesn’t mean I never go but I really need to be like “I have to visit this one!” in order to go. That means I didn’t go to any museums in the city but if you’re interested, go to the Royal Ontario Museum, the largest museum of Canada. It has six millions items related to natural history and cultures of all over the world, dinosaurs’ skeletons… It’s 20 dollars (14€) to get in. There’s also the art gallery of Ontario exhibiting paintings from Monet, Picasso, Rembrandt… It’s 20 dollars to get in. There’s also the Casa Loma, a castle in the north of the city. It’s 30 dollars (20 euros) to get in. If you have some time, you can have a walk at High Park, or Sugar Beach if the weather is nice.
If you have some time, you need to go to the Niagara Falls, two hours away from Toronto by bus! It’s really worth the trip and everybody says it’s a lot better to watch the Niagara Falls in Canada (rather than in the US). By the way, here’s an itinerary for a road trip in Ontario!
I really liked my visit to Toronto. A lively and cosmopolitan city, where there are many things to do. Three days are enough to visit Toronto, add one more day if you want to see the Niagara Falls. If you go to Canada, don’t miss Toronto!
Toronto travel tips
- Check the visa policy of Canada here. Most citizens from Western countries can stay up to six months visa-free. Be careful though. Unless you’re a US citizen, if you arrive by air, you are required to obtain an ETA beforehand here. If you arrive by land from the US, or if you’re a US citizen, you don’t need the ETA.
- Do not go to the US without a travel insurance! If something happens, you’ll see by yourself, medical expenses are extremely expensive there!
- How to get around in Toronto? Take the subway or the subway! You’ll notice their subways are very long!!! The subway is far from covering the whole city, however you can go anywhere with the tramways. Buy a presto card and put money on it (5 dollars, 10, 20, 50…). A one-way ride is 3 dollars.
- Where to stay in Toronto? There are many options, check here.
- There are many things to do in Toronto. Skip-the-line tickets, visit of the city, bicycle rental… Check here what you can do.
- 3 days in Toronto are perfect, 4 days is better if you want to see the Niagara Falls!