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Toronto, capital of Ontario, is the largest city in Canada and also one of the most diverse. It’s home to a dynamic mix of tourist attractions, from museums and galleries to the world-famous CN Tower. And just a short drive away is Niagara Falls.
You’ll find no shortage of things to do, from the vibrant Entertainment District, featuring the latest musicals and fine dining, to the historic Distillery District, home to unique shops and restaurants set in incredibly restored buildings.
Toronto city center is relatively easy to navigate, with many of the top attractions within walking distance of each other and a subway system to cover longer distances. If you are visiting Toronto in winter, head indoors to explore the extensive PATH network of underground walkways that connect shopping, entertainment, and attractions. In summer, wander along the beautiful waterfront and enjoy the beaches and parks.
For a complete look at how to spend your time, see our list of top tourist attractions in Toronto.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. See the View from the CN Tower
Toronto’s famous landmark, the 553-meter CN Tower, is one of the city’s must see attractions and also the most impossible to miss. Towering above the downtown, this Canadian icon can be seen from almost everywhere in the city.
You have the option of simply appreciating the building from the ground, or taking a trip up to one of the observation areas or restaurants for fabulous views over the city and Lake Ontario. The CN Tower, built between 1972 and 1976, was once the tallest freestanding structure in the world, but has long since been surpassed.
The highest viewing area on the CN Tower is from the Sky Pod at 447 meters above the city, with views that, on clear days, extend to Niagara Falls and New York State. To get here requires taking two elevators.
Below this, at the top of the main elevator is the LookOut level at 346 meters, with floor-to-ceiling windows and the new Glass Floor, which looks down to the original Glass Floor, one floor below, where the Outdoor Sky Terrace is located. As the name suggests, the Glass Floor offers a bird’s-eye view directly down over the city.
For those looking for a little more adventure, or perhaps a lot more adventure, there is the “Edge Walk.” This involves a hands-free walk on a 1.5-meter-wide ledge around the outside edge of the main pod, at an elevation of 365 meters. Participants are attached to a safety harness and rope.
Located at 351 meters is the revolving 360 Restaurant, featuring fine dining and some of the best views from a table anywhere in Toronto. 360 is open for lunch and dinner, and visitors who dine here also receive complimentary access to the LookOut and Glass Floor levels of the tower.
Basing yourself in the city center, preferably near the CN Tower, is the best option for exploring Toronto. For accommodation ideas in this area see our recommended luxury, mid-range, and budget hotels in Toronto.
Address: 301 Front Street West, Toronto, Ontario
Official Site: https://www.cntower.ca/intro.html
2. Visit the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
The Royal Ontario Museum, known as the ROM, is one of Canada’s premier museums, with an international reputation for excellence. It houses an outstanding collection, which covers natural history, art, and culture from a great variety of periods from all over the world. It is also well-known for featuring exhibitions from across the globe.
A controversial expansion in 2007 saw the addition of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, a modern wing featuring glass and sharp angles, added on to a very traditional older building. It’s now one of Toronto’s most recognizable buildings.
Address: 100 Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario
Official site: https://www.rom.on.ca/en
3. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
One of Toronto’s newest top attractions is the Ripley’s Aquarium near the base of the CN Tower. This fabulous facility displays all kinds of marine life and is one of the most popular things to do in Toronto for families.
The most impressive feature is the huge underwater tunnel with a moving sidewalk. You can watch the ocean world go by all around you as sharks glide past and sawfish linger on the tunnel roof above. This is a truly serene experience for all ages.
Another unexpected highlight is the jellyfish display, accented with creative lighting. Further on, touch tanks with stingrays and small sharks allow for a hands-on experience. And for the engineering minded, the building’s open concept also allows for a look at the Life Support System and filtration equipment operating the facility.
Address: 288 Bremner Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario
Official site: https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/
4. Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
The renowned Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the largest museums in North America. The collection of more than 95,000 pieces includes works from around the world, from European masterpieces to contemporary art, but also holds an impressive collection of Canadian Art, including a vast collection of works by the Group of Seven. A series of temporary exhibitions are mounted throughout the year.
The AGO occupies a unique looking building, with a mix of older and modern architecture, on the west side of the city center. Next to the AGO is the hard to miss Ontario College of Art and Design, standing high above the street on stilts designed to look like pencils.
Address: 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Official site: http://www.ago.net/
5. Day Trip to Niagara Falls
If you have never been, a quick day trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls is well worth the time. You can be standing on the edge of the falls in just over an hour.
A tour to Niagara Falls from Toronto is an easy way to see the falls if you don’t want to drive yourself. Tours offer hotel pickup and drop-off and include a Hornblower Niagara Cruise, which takes you up close to the wall of water tumbling that is the main Horseshoe Falls.
Tours also stop at some of the key sites in the area, including Whirlpool Rapids, the Floral Clock, and the beautiful little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
A train (Go Train) also runs to Niagara Falls from Union Station in summer, from late June to the start of September, as well as the Thanksgiving weekend in October. On weekends you can even take your bike on the train, and enjoy a bike ride along the Niagara Parkway.
If you have enough time, you may also want to consider spending a night at Niagara Falls to explore the downtown and see the falls lit up at night.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Niagara Falls: Best Areas & Hotels
6. Catch a Show or Dine in the Entertainment District
The Entertainment District in Toronto covers a large area of the city center, and includes many of the city’s top attractions, like the CN Tower, Scotiabank Arena, Rogers Centre, and many museums. It’s also known for fantastic dining, and most importantly, shows and performances. Most of the action is centered around King Street, between Spadina Avenue and University Avenue.
Toronto’s answer to New York’s Broadway, the Entertainment District comes to life in the evenings and is a great place for nightlife. This is the place to see major theater productions, including musicals, concerts, and other performing arts.
Some of the most prominent venues in this area are Roy Thomson Hall, home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Alexandra Theatre, which hosts the most current musicals.
Official site: http://torontoed.com/
7. See the Animals at the Toronto Zoo
Toronto zoo has an outstanding and diverse collection, with approximately 5,000 animals. Some of the favorites include pygmy hippos, lions, tigers, giraffes, penguins, orangutans, and many more. The zoo is divided into several sections, each representing a major region of the globe.
Some of the other highlights at the Toronto Zoo include the Gorilla Rainforest; the Tundra Trek, featuring polar bears; and the Great Barrier Reef. The Discovery Zone is a popular area with families, and during the summer months, a splash pad offers fun in the sun.
The zoo lies on the Rouge River about 40 kilometers northeast of the city center.
Address: 361A Old Finch Road, Toronto
Official site: www.torontozoo.com
8. Tour Casa Loma
Standing in beautifully kept grounds, Casa Loma is an extraordinary building somewhat reminiscent of a medieval castle. It was originally constructed in 1914 for Sir Henry Pellatt, an eccentric Canadian multi-millionaire who was among the first to recognize and exploit the money-making potential of Niagara Falls.
With close to 100 rooms, including three dozen bathrooms, the house is now a museum. Visitors can take a look back in time to a period of European elegance and splendor. Canada’s foremost castle is complete with decorated suites, secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables, and five acres of estate gardens.
Address: 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto
Official site: http://www.casaloma.org/
9. Wander through St. Lawrence Market
The St. Lawrence Market houses a variety of vendors selling various food products, flowers, and specialty items. The St. Lawrence Hall was built in Toronto in 1850 and served as a public meeting place and a concert venue.
If you’ve been shopping or touring nearby, this is an excellent spot to stop in for a bite to eat or to relax with friends over a cup of coffee. In the summer, outdoor patios on elevated spaces allow you to soak up some of the warm sunshine.
The hall was restored in 1967 but has retained much of its old charm. The building provides a unique atmosphere for the market and is also occasionally used for film and television shoots. The interior features a grand staircase and a gas-lit chandelier.
Once you leave St. Lawrence Market, head north (away from the lake) up to Front Street and then head west for a block and a half to check out the architecturally stunning Gooderham building at Church Street. This building framed in front of the towers of downtown Toronto is an iconic picture of the city.
Address: 92 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario
Official site: http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/
10. City Hall & Nathan Philips Square
Dominating the spacious Nathan Philips Square with its bronze sculpture, The Archer, by Henry Moore, is the still highly acclaimed new City Hall. It was designed by the gifted Finnish architect Viljo Revell and built in 1965. City Hall consists of two arc-shaped high-rise blocks, 20 and 27 stories high respectively, wrapped around a lower central building topped by a flattened cupola.
In the square in front of City Hall is a man-made pond, which becomes a popular skating rink in winter and is where the often photographed Toronto sign is located. This is a beautiful area to visit in December, particularly at night, when it’s decorated for the Christmas holidays.
Address: 100 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario
11. Shop at Eaton Center
The huge Eaton Center mall is located at the north end of the Central Business District. With its own subway station, this ultra-modern shopping complex extends over several blocks and is continually being renovated and enlarged.
Strangers can quite easily lose their way in the bewildering maze of department stores, specialty shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafeterias, and snack bars, which crowd the different levels above and below ground. Eaton Center is connected to the Hudson Bay store via a skywalk and is also a stop on Toronto’s subway system.
Official site: https://www.cfshops.com/toronto-eaton-centre.html
12. Watch the Action at Yonge Dundas Square
This neon lit public space is fashioned after New York’s Times Square and is a popular gathering spot for Torontonians. The area is complete with seating areas, dancing fountains, and a stage where concerts take place in the summer.
Yonge Dundas Square is best enjoyed in the evening when the flashing neon signs come to life and the place develops a fun vibe. It is by far the best place in the city for people watching. The surrounding streets are packed with restaurants, many of which have patios.
The square is accessible via Toronto’s subway system, or you can park in the large underground parking lot directly beneath the square.
13. Stroll through Kensington Market
Kensington Market is an area of Toronto with a bohemian and multicultural feel. On a typical summer’s day, the smell of incense wafts through the air; music from a street-side musician can be heard; and the numerous retailers, who mostly operate out of old two-story brick homes, set up their goods on designated areas of their deck-covered lawns or on the sidewalks. This is a fantastic area for a stroll.
The shops, many of which display colorful murals and street art, sell everything from Tibetan blankets to jewelry, bags, purses, and vintage clothing, and there are even a couple of cheese shops. Restaurants and coffee shops here offer a multicultural festival of choices that include Jamaican, Mexican, Tibetan, or more basic options like pizza or smoothies. You can also find natural food stores, tattoo shops, and fruit and vegetable stands.
14. See the Stars at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
One of the highlights on Toronto’s annual events calendar is the Toronto International Film Festival. Held each year in early September, this world-famous festival attracts some of the most famous names in film.
You can see a movie or simply hang around and hope to catch a glimpse of someone famous walking by. The weather in Toronto this time of year is still hot. Dining outside in the evening and relaxing on an outdoor patio is a major pastime, as limos drive by and photographers and press are out in full force.
The vibe in Toronto for this eleven-day event is electric. Throngs of people descend on the city. If you want to visit Toronto this time of year, book a hotel well in advance.
Official site: https://www.tiff.net/
15. Dine and Shop in the Distillery District
Toronto’s Distillery District is a restored historic area, which has been transformed into a trendy entertainment and shopping district. Charming boutiques, galleries, artists’ studios, and restaurants fill the old buildings. This is an interesting place to come during the day or evening and any time of year.
A variety of entertainment events are held here, but one of the most well-known is the annual Toronto Christmas Market. Wooden stalls all decorated for Christmas sell unique gifts; a huge Christmas tree stands in an open square; and cozy outdoor areas are set up, often with couches and large fire pits to gather around. Restaurants offer outdoor dining despite the cold, with heat lamps and lap blankets. Hot chocolate is always readily available at this time of year.
Official site: http://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/
16. Visit the Aga Khan Museum
The Aga Khan Museum is one of the best institutions devoted to Islamic Arts in North America. It is housed in a spectacular light-filled modern building with beautiful, peaceful surroundings consisting of large reflecting pools.
The permanent collection was first started in the 1950s by the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan and the Princess Catharine Aga Khan. You’ll see spectacular items, including manuscripts, ceramics, and textiles, with pieces dating from the 9th right through to the 19th century. The items have been sourced across a wide geographic area from China to Spain.
In addition to the permanent collection, visiting exhibitions are showcased on the museum’s second floor.
The museum’s restaurant is one of Toronto’s top dining destinations.
Official site: https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/index.html
17. Enjoy Nature at High Park
High Park is a huge green space with sunken gardens, hanging basket gardens, nature trails, natural ponds, and streams. The 165-acre country property, originally owned by the Howards, was deeded to the City of Toronto in 1873. This deed came with the stipulation that the park was to remain “for the free use, benefit and enjoyment of the citizens of Toronto and it be called High Park.”
Within the park is the High Park Zoo, home to a number of animals, including bison; reindeer; llamas; wallabies; and Toronto’s famous Capybara’s, Bonnie and Clyde, who escaped from their enclosure and quickly rose to fame, developing their own social media platforms in 2016.
Other things to do and areas of interest in the park include swimming and wading pools, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a scenic train tour. The grounds also include 19th-century recreated gardens, a Coach House, and the Howards’ Tomb.
For a week or 10 days in the spring, the sakura cherry trees burst into bloom and herald the start of warmer weather. This colorful spectacle is beloved by the citizens of Toronto, and it always attracts big crowds. The best place to see the trees is near the duck pond.
Annually, the Canadian Stage Company puts on a performance at the open-air theater in the park during the months of July and August, known as “Shakespeare in High Park.”
Official site: http://highparktoronto.com/
18. Take a Trip to Toronto Islands
The ferry trip from Queen’s Quay Terminal to the Toronto Islands, about a kilometer offshore, is the prelude to a thoroughly enjoyable outing. There are lovely walks on the islands, as well as the opportunity for rowing, sailing, swimming, and other outdoor activities. In summer, the Toronto Islands are the venue for numerous open-air events. In favorable weather, there is a stunning view of the Toronto skyline.
The Centreville Amusement Park is located on Centre Island, one of the Toronto Islands, and features a variety of children’s rides. The Toronto Islands Ferry Service runs from Queen’s Quay and travels to each of the main Toronto Islands.
19. Ontario Science Centre
The Ontario Science Center is a family-oriented attraction with many interesting exhibits to entertain children. It occupies a site overlooking the Don Valley, about 10 kilometers northeast of the city center.
Designed by the virtuoso architect Raymond Moriyama, this modern building was completed in 1969. The emphasis is very much on visitor participation, with 12 permanent exhibitions, a planetarium, and an IMAX OMNIMAX Dome theater.
Visitors to the center are brought face to face with the latest developments in technology, telecommunications, optics, biology, physics, space travel and meteorology, and much more, all presented in an absorbing and imaginative way.
Address: 770 Don Mills Road, Toronto, Ontario
Official site: http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/
20. Hockey Hall of Fame
For hockey fans, a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto is a necessity. This is the place to learn about the all-time hockey greats: the players, the teams, and the games. It also offers a chance to see the Stanley Cup, along with a collection of important memorabilia, and an interactive display allows you to test your own hockey skills.
Address: Brookfield Place, 30 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario
Official Site: www.hhof.com
21. Graffiti Alley
This long alley in Toronto will look familiar to Canadians who have watched the long running TV comedy series, Rick Mercer Report. This is where he filmed his controversial news rants. Even if you have never seen this show, this is an incredible area that seems to go on forever. Tourists love coming here, posing in painted doorways and windows and taking selfies day and night.
Graffiti Alley runs parallel to, and between, Queens Street West and Richmond Street West from Spadina Avenue to Portland Street.
22. Rogers Centre
Immediately adjacent to the CN Tower is Rogers Centre, a massive domed sports arena and home to the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB). The unique design includes a retractable roof, which slides back, allowing it to be opened in favorable weather.
This mega-structure was completed in 1989 and can accommodate tens of thousands of spectators and is also used as a venue for other major events, including concerts. The center also offers one-hour guided tours with a behind-the-scenes look at the facility.
Attached to Rogers Centre is the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel, with rooms that look out over the field. If you are in town to see a game, staying here is an extremely convenient option and a bit of a unique experience.
Address: 1 Blue Jays Way, Toronto, Ontario
Official site: https://www.mlb.com/bluejays/ballpark
Where to Stay in Toronto for Sightseeing
For sightseeing and entertainment, the best place to stay in Toronto is right downtown in the heart of the action. The hotels listed below are all highly rated and in good locations in Toronto’s city center, within easy walking distance of many of the main attractions.
- At the top-end of the luxury category is The Ritz-Carlton, with a convenient, central location near the Entertainment and Financial Districts.
- The Delta Hotels by Marriott Toronto has a great location near the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, and Rogers Center, and offers good views over Lake Ontario.
- Near Eaton Center Shopping Complex and Toronto’s famous City Hall and winter skating rink is the Hilton Toronto. The hotel has an indoor/outdoor pool that is open all year long; rooms on the south side of the building have views of the CN Tower.
- The Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel is kitty corner to the Hilton and faces Nathan Phillips Square. It’s connected to Eaton Center via the underground PATH system.
- The One King West Hotel & Residence offers very good value with a variety of rooms, some with kitchenettes. The hotel is located in the center of all the action and steps to great restaurants.
- At the top-end of the mid-range selection is the Radisson Blu Admiral Toronto Downtown on the waterfront. This is a great spot, particularly in summer, near many lakefront restaurants and an extensive waterfront pedestrian area and within walking distance of the CN Tower and other attractions. The hotel also has an outdoor pool.
- The recently renovated Novotel Toronto Centre is another good choice, on The Esplanade, near the St. Lawrence Market and trendy restaurants with outdoor dining in the summer.
- North of The Esplanade and within easy walking distance of the Financial District and many attractions is the Holiday Inn Express, another quality mid-range hotel.
- With a good location in Chinatown, on the eastern side of the city center, is the reasonably priced Super 8 by Wyndham.