Toronto is a beautiful city with many typical tourist attractions. You can never go wrong with a trip to Ripley’s Aquarium or the CN Tower. However, if you explore a little outside Toronto’s most touristy areas, you’ll find a variety of places only the locals know. From picturesque walking trails to secret bars, here are Toronto’s hidden gems.
- Don Valley Walking Trails
This 8.5-mile (13.8-kilometer) trail stretches from downtown Toronto all the way to the upscale Bridle Path neighborhood. At the end of your hike, you’ll find yourself surrounded by magnificent multimillion-dollar homes— or, if you’d prefer, you can end your walk earlier or take a detour onto one of the six side paths. The options are endless: you can choose to stop at Riverdale Park, which has a gorgeous view of the Toronto skyline, or you can decide to take a break at the four-acre Botanical Garden. Whichever path you choose, you’ll have the same journey— one of fresh air, endless greenery, vast amounts of wildlife, and the babbling river.
- Evergreen Brick Works
Once a brick-making factory, the Evergreen Brick Works serves as one of Toronto’s most sustainable areas and a neat piece of history. The Brick Works, which is actually located off of the Don Valley Walking Trail, is open year-round for locals and visitors alike to explore the gardens, view historical artifacts like the John Price Brick Press, and browse the Evergreen Garden Market. The Children’s Garden offers a safe and fun environment for kids to explore nature. It’s best to visit the Brick Works on a weekend, so you have the chance to grab a coffee or craft beer at The Sipping Container or do some shopping for locally-grown fruits and vegetables at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.
- Fika Cafe
Housed in a vibrant building in the eclectic Kensington Market area, Fika Cafe is a quaint place to grab a coffee. The cafe is Swedish-inspired and boasts a delicious menu, from sweet treats like their famous cinnamon rolls to beautiful brunches like their smashed avocado toast. Whether you want to sit on the backyard patio with an iced chai latte or view the wall of old books in the backroom, there’s something for everyone within Fika’s cozy walls.
- Midnight Market
This eccentric bar is actually three bars in one— well, two bars in one unless you discover the hidden gem within this hidden gem. Tucked in one corner is the Midnight Bar, which is casual, chill, and dimly lit by red paper lanterns. In another corner is the Dance Bar, which features experimental music. The bar is inspired by Asian outdoor night markets, and that inspiration is evident in the Dance Bar’s open concept layout and dim neon lighting. Finally, at the end of a zig-zag hallway, shut off from the rest of the space, is the Lonely Bar— a quiet respite from the typical bar vibes, complete with snug tables and chairs. The menu is rife with fruity cocktails and unique Asian-style fare you wouldn’t see anywhere else, and it won’t always be the same— the Lonely Bar has a special menu that shifts frequently, adding to the intrigue.
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- Allan Gardens
The Allan Gardens Conservatory is a chance to explore plants from around the world and perhaps take some pretty Instagram-worthy pictures! With six unique greenhouses, this spot provides a gorgeous glimpse at various greenery free of charge. Allan Gardens is located in the Garden District of Toronto (named after the indoor conservatory, of course) and also has a dog park and playground on the property, providing fun for the whole family— even furbabies!
- Purple Penguin Cafe
For made-to-order fritters and classic coffees, look no further than Purple Penguin Cafe. The cafe, with a vibrant purple exterior and a cozy interior, is the perfect little nook to enjoy penguin-shaped cookies and locally roasted coffee. While the cafe is famous for its fresh fritters — which come in flavors such as apple, banana, pineapple, and even Oreo — the rest of the menu is equally delicious. From Montreal-style bagels to a vast range of grilled paninis, you’ll need more than one trip to test out all the food they have to offer. Similarly, there’s no shortage of drinks. You can stay caffeinated with handcrafted lattes or try a uniquely flavored lemonade.
- Three Monks and a Duck
If it looks like a bar, and serves cocktails like a bar, and has colorful neon lighting like a bar… it’s probably a bar, right? Upon first glance, that appears to be true for Three Monks and a Duck, a chic, snug cocktail venue with a mouth-watering menu. The menu, which is 70% plant-based, boasts a unique combination of weekend brunch meals, seafood, and Asian-style fare. If you’re not feeling like having avocado toast and a mimosa inside the art-filled bar, however, you can head over to the manga wall. Behind it lies a secret door to Three Monks and a Duck’s gorgeous outside patio, where you can enjoy your brunch in natural light under hanging lavender.
- Scarborough Bluffs
Located in the eastern part of Toronto outside of the city itself, the Scarborough Bluffs are a must-see. The bluffs are an exquisite escarpment high above the lakeshore, featuring parks, hiking trails, and even a white sand beach at Bluffer’s Park. It’s an incredible spot to have a picnic, go paddleboarding, or watch the sunset. While the bold cliffs are a stunning natural feature, the edges are unstable and all exploring should be done with caution. Regardless of which of the many parks you end up at, or what activities you set out to do, you’ll be in awe at the view.