Your Foolproof Guide To Visiting Toronto

Explore Canada’s largest and most exciting city

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Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is rife with culture and cool restaurants. It’s home to many amazing tourist attractions, eclectic neighborhoods, and a vibrant arts scene. With a walkable downtown area and dozens of amazing hotels, it’s the perfect place to tour and explore. Keep reading for all the information you need in order to enjoy Toronto! 

Top 3 Neighborhoods

  1. The Distillery District

Step out of the modern city and into this charming piece of history located in Old Toronto. The cobblestone streets are lined with brick heritage buildings that house cafes, restaurants, and boutiques. It features stunning one-of-a-kind shops that sell items such as artisanal chocolates, sustainable skincare products, and unique vintage gifts. The pedestrian-only district is a cultural hub, with multiple art galleries and theatres. Though the area is gorgeous year-round, it truly comes to life in the winter during the Toronto Christmas Market. With Instagram-worthy sculptures and restaurants with expansive patios, you’ll love exploring Toronto’s most intimate village. 

  1. The Entertainment District 

Home to the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium, the Entertainment District is a classic tourist area— and for good reason! There’s no limit on things to do in this booming Toronto area, located downtown. The district is filled with impressive restaurants, stunning hotels, and astonishing venues. You can catch a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre or experience a thrilling concert at Scotiabank Arena. Along King Street, you’ll find multiple state-of-the-art theatres, as well as the TIFF Bell Lightbox, otherwise known as the center of the Toronto International Film Festival. Whether you’re grabbing a drink at a buzzy bar or shopping up and down Queen Street, you’re sure to enjoy your time in Toronto’s most popular area. 

  1. Kensington Market 

Brace yourself for bohemia when you visit the lively neighborhood of Kensington Market, located in the heart of Toronto. With vibrant storefronts and charming Victorian houses, this is one of Toronto’s most unique and spirited neighborhoods. It takes less than 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other, and you’ll see beautiful vintage boutiques, spacious restaurant patios, and colorful murals along the way. There’s a variety of bars and restaurants in the area, ranging from culturally diverse eateries to upscale wine bars. The eclectic neighborhood is home to a thriving art and music scene, featuring stunning sculptures and talented street artists. The best day of the week to visit is Sundays when vehicles are barred from entering and the streets fill with dance parties and food vendors. 

READ MORE: The Best Food Tours in Toronto

Top 3 Attractions

  1. The CN Tower

Toronto’s largest and most famous landmark is the CN Tower, which stands tall at 1815 feet. That makes it the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere! The Tower, which is a distinct feature in the city’s skyline, contains multiple observation decks, a restaurant that spins 360° as you dine to give you a view, and an entertainment complex. The CN Tower also features EdgeWalk, the world’s highest full-circle hands-free walk, in which you harness in to the side of the Tower as you walk around it— 116 stories off the ground! 

The CN Tower is open from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. all year round. Admission begins at $43 CAD for adults, with additional ticket packages available for Edgewalk and Skypod, the highest observation deck in the Western Hemisphere. Children from ages 6–13 get in for $30 CAD, while children ages 3–5 get in for $14 CAD. 

  1. Ripley’s Aquarium 

With a variety of exhibits featuring fascinating sea creatures, Ripley’s Aquarium is a must-visit while you’re in Toronto. The aquarium is home to jellyfish, sea turtles, sharks, moray eels, and even stingrays that you can pet! The venue is over 135,000 square feet and boasts many uniquely designed exhibits, such as Dangerous Lagoon. As you travel the longest moving sidewalk in North America, sharks and sea creatures swim above and around you— you can even take selfies with them! Ripley’s also offers a Discovery Dive program, where you can swim with the sharks in Dangerous Lagoon. The aquarium typically takes 2–2.5 hours to walk through and explore, but make sure you check out all the exhibits, or you may miss out on seeing the beauty of Rainbow Reef or learning about moon jellies in the Life Cycle exhibit! 

Ripley’s Aquarium is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, occasionally closing earlier for events and birthday parties. All early closures will be announced on their website. Tickets for timed entry are available online. It costs $44 CAD for adults, $12.50 CAD for children ages 3–5, and $29 CAD for seniors (65+) and children ages 6–13. 

  1. Royal Ontario Museum

Better known as the ROM to Toronto locals, the Royal Ontario Museum hosts over 13 million artworks and artifacts within 40 galleries and exhibits. There’s no shortage of incredible history to explore, from the Matthews Family Court of Chinese Sculpture that displays over 2000 years of Chinese sculptural tradition to the James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs that features massive skeletal specimens from millions of years ago. There are even kid-specific exhibits, such as the Patrick and Barbara Keenan Family Gallery of Hands-on Biodiversity, where kids can explore the relationship between living things and explore interactive displays. With new exhibits added frequently, the ROM is the perfect place for some family-friendly exploration. 

The Royal Ontario Museum is open from Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. General admission for adults is $23 CAD. Tickets for children ages 4–14 cost $14 CAD, while tickets for youth ages 15–19, students, and seniors (65+) cost $18 CAD. Admission is free every third Tuesday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Admission is free every Tuesday for students with a valid student ID card. 

The Toronto CityPASS

Toronto also offers a CityPASS, which includes admission to the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the historical museum Casa Loma, as well as either Toronto Zoo or the Ontario Science Centre. The pass is valid for 9 days upon using it for the first time and costs $105.97 CAD for adults and $72.92 CAD for children ages 4–12. 

READ MORE: How to Eat like Drake in Toronto

Top 3 Restaurants

  1. PLANTA

With four locations throughout the city, PLANTA has redefined the vegan dining experience. The food is thoughtfully made from scratch using local ingredients, and that care and commitment to health and sustainability are evident in the presentation and taste of the food. The menu is unique to each location— the Queen Street eatery, for example, features a vast range of delicious sushi, noodles, and dumplings. Meanwhile, PLANTA Cocina boasts tacos, burritos, and an extensive cocktail menu. Modern furniture and a variety of seating options makes any PLANTA location perfect for date nights, drinks with friends, or an amazing meal as a family. 

Price range: $$

  1. Le Swan

It’s not often that you hear about a French diner, but it’s even less often that you hear about one as incredible as Le Swan. Tucked between an art gallery and a park on Queen Street, Le Swan is a chic restaurant the likes of which you won’t be able to find anywhere else. The menu is sectioned into “French” and “Diner,” offering both bistro-style foods like salad niçoise and classic diner comforts like grilled cheese. As for desserts, the diner side vaunts milkshakes, whereas the French side reads “Fondue!” The diner has a large selection of wine curated by a sommelier who works at one of Toronto’s best wine bars as well. For a classy dining experience, Le Swan is the way to go. 

Price range: $$

  1. Momofuku Noodle Bar 

A favorite of Toronto locals, Momofuku Noodle Bar is an iconic restaurant with a mouth-watering menu. With an everchanging collection of daily dishes, there will always be something new to try on your many visits— and trust me, if you go once, you’ll go again! The menu stars steam buns, rice cakes, and of course, multiple different kinds of noodles. Momofuku sources many of its ingredients from local vendors, and the Toronto location is said to have been inspired by Ontario’s diverse ingredients. The restaurant itself is beautiful, with the first story featuring an open kitchen and communal dining tables. The second story has smaller tables, a private dining room that can be booked, and Momofuku’s Milk Bar— the restaurant’s venture into desserts, with elaborate cakes and delicious cookies on the menu. With such a diverse menu and cool vibe, you’ll definitely want to stop here during your trip.

Price range: $$

Best Ways To Get Around

For such a large city, Toronto is surprisingly walkable— especially when if you plan to stick to one neighborhood. However, it’s not always easy for travelers to walk from place to place when you’ve packed your day full of attractions and events. If you want to get somewhere in a pinch, Toronto has multiple taxi services, as well as ride-sharing services such as Uber, Lyft, and Facedrive operating in the city. With that said, though, you may not get there as quickly as you want to— Toronto traffic is notoriously heavy. 

Public transportation makes it easy to get across Toronto. If you’re coming from Toronto Pearson Airport, you can take the Union Pearson Express after 5 p.m. on weekdays or any time during weekends. This will land you at Union Station in downtown Toronto, where you can connect with buses or the subway line— or just walk upstairs and find yourself on Front Street, surrounded by restaurants and hotels! You can also take a bus from the airport to downtown Toronto or the suburbs. 

The Toronto transit system, while extensive, is relatively easy to navigate. There are four subway lines, two of which will keep you within Toronto and two of which will take you into the suburbs and surrounding cities. Buses and streetcars are constantly running, with a vast variety of routes. 

READ MORE: Where to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth in Toronto

Best Time Of Year To Visit & Weather

The best time to visit Toronto is in late spring, summer, and early fall. As lovely as the city is in the winter (and as amazing as the Toronto Christmas Market is), the temperatures are freezing and the snow can be intense. While the weather gets better in the spring, it’s still not particularly warm until mid-April, and it starts getting cold in October. This makes May–September the best time to visit Toronto as the weather is comfortably warm. Most tourists tend to visit Toronto in the summer months, due to the warm weather and variety of cultural events. Summer days tend to go as high as 81° F (27° C) with lows of 57° F (14° C). 

Languages

English is the primary language in Toronto, and the majority of people speak it. You may find some French speakers as well, as it is one of Canada’s official languages. Toronto is an incredibly diverse city where you’ll find people who speak languages such as Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Tagalog, Urdu, and Italian. The majority of people who speak these languages also speak English. 

Currency & Tipping Customs

In Toronto, Canadian dollars are used. If you’re not from Canada, you’ll want to convert some of your native currency into Canadian dollars. 

In Canada, it’s polite to tip at least 15 percent at restaurants, bars, and other places of service. Many people choose to tip 18 percent, and it’s typically an option on credit card machines. Tips usually range from 15-20 percent. Generally speaking: the better the service, the higher the tip. 

Emergency Info & Local Pharmacies

For police, fire, and medical emergencies, call 9-1-1. 

The non-emergency number is 416-808-2222. 

If you missed something on your packing list or need to pick up a prescription, there are over 60 Shoppers Drug Marts throughout the city, some of which are open 24 hours a day. Other popular pharmacies include Rexall and Pharmasave. 

Rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 can usually be picked up at participating pharmacies, the list of which can be found here. The list includes hundreds of pharmacies in the city. 

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