I’ve lived in Toronto for almost 10 years now, and although it’s Canada’s biggest city, to me it just feels like home. What makes Toronto so special is how multicultural it is. It has been named one of the world’s most diverse cities in the past, and when visiting, you’ll see why. We have people speaking all languages, and merging their cultures into different pockets, and restaurants across the city. It truly is one of the things that make Toronto so special.
If you’re planning a visit to this beautiful city, whether you only have one day, or four, I have you covered in this itinerary to help you plan your time wisely and cover as much of the special things in this city as possible.
You can take and do any of the below daily itineraries individually, or all together. Pick what interests you and make it your own!
Day One: Downtown Toronto
It’s most likely that you’ll be staying pretty centrally in Toronto, and the Toronto core is really around Queen St. West and Bay Street (give or take a few blocks). This is the heart of the financial district. The souring office towers, and head offices isn’t something that really appeals to visitors, but this is a good base to really access any major part of the city and a good place to centralize yourself.
On day one there are a few things that as a tourist, you’re going to want to cover:
Although going up top the CN Tower isn’t something most locals do more than once in their lifetime, this is definitely something any new visitor should experience. Catch the skyline views from the top, walk on the glass floor, or you can even make a reservation at their 360 Restaurant.
Buy CN Tower tickets in advance here
Steam Whistle Brewery
Located just across the street from the entrance of the CN Tower, Steam Whistle Brewery is a sprawling brewery located in a larger green space called Roundhouse Park. I well say that Toronto has dozens of fantastic, small breweries, and this is one of the larger ones. However, even though I wouldn’t say they have the best beer in the city, the brewery itself is worth a visit. They do offer limited brewery tours, have a bar you can grab a beer at, and an expansive biergarten with CN tower views.
Note: In this general area you will also find the Ripley’s Aquarium. This is a great activity if traveling with kids, but I also love it as an adult too.
An itinerary item that is a little less touristy than the above two, but is definitely a must-do for anyone visiting Toronto for the first time. Kensington Market is a bohemian neighbourhood lined with vintage shops, authentic ethnic cuisines, and has stayed relatively untouched by major developments or chains. Just outside the boundary of Kensington Market you’ll find Chinatown that is full of authentic Asian restaurants. You can find some of the best food here!
Click here for my full guide on Kensington Market
Queen Street – Fashion District
If you have some time left in your day one, you can explore Queen Street. Queen Street was once named one of the coolest streets in the world by Vogue and you can spend hours walking down it, hopping in and out of the local stores. The area around Queen St. and Spadina is known as the “Fashion District” as in the early 20th century, many textile and fabric factories and warehouses were located here. As you walk west down Queen Street, you’ll still find several textile shops, but in addition to those, new businesses have populated the street ranging from cute local markets, clothing stores, and everything in between.
Here is my full guide for Queen Street
BONUS! Museums & Galleries
Toronto is also filled with great museums and art galleries. I’m personally not big into museums when I visit a city, but if you are, you can easily swap any of the above activities to add these into your day in Toronto. You can also add them into any of the below additional days, depending on how many you want to visit, and how much time you want at each. Some that are worth a mention are:
- The Art Gallery of Ontario (known to locals as the AGO and located very central to Kensington Market and Queen Street as mentioned above)
- The Royal Ontario Museum (known as the ROM)
- Ontario Science Centre
- Bata Shoe Museum
- Casa Loma (not really a museum or gallery, but a castle and a worthy stop if this is what you’re into)
Where to Eat in Toronto
There is no shortage of places to eat in Toronto, and you’ll find great restaurants in basically all the areas mentioned above, with the exception of the Steam Whistle Brewery/CN Tower area, this area is primarily filled with touristy restaurants that don’t really represent the best cuisine in the city. Instead, I’d choose a restaurant from this guide that I’ve created. Toronto also recently got its own Michelin List, and if you’re lucky you can snag a reservation at one of the many recommended restaurants.
Day Two: West End
If you are lucky enough to have a second day in Toronto, I’d recommend choosing between either this itinerary for the West End of Toronto or the day three itinerary for the East End of Toronto. There is an ongoing debate between which end is the “best end” between locals, and it’s entirely dependent on what you’re into. I used to heavily be a West End supporter, and as I’ve gotten older, the East End has become more appealing to me.
For context, the West End appeals a bit more to the younger demographic, where the East End is more family-friendly, both ends though have something to offer for everyone and are filled with cute shops, businesses, and great restaurants and bars.
To begin, it’s probably important to know where exactly is the West End of Toronto? Give or take, the West End begins at Bathurst Street and moves, you got it, west! You’ll find great pockets of things no matter what street you are traveling East to West on. Honestly, just walk and get lost, you’ll find some treasures among the streets I lay out below. You can spend a whole day just exploring, shopping, eating, like a local in the West End.
Here’s a general guide of the neighbourhoods:
- College Street: From approximately College Street and Bathurst to Ossington you’ll be in Toronto’s Little Italy. You’ll find several Italian restaurants and bars along here, and there is also some Portuguese and Latin influences throughout too.
- Dundas Street: If you move west from Bathurst following Dundas Street, there are lots of fantastic pockets. There is some great restaurants and cocktails bars along this strip, especially as you get closer to Ossington, one of the world’s coolest streets that runs North to South but before you reach Ossington, you may want to stop in Trinity Bellwoods. This park is one of the most popular for locals to sit with a beer in during the summer due to how central it is. If you keep traveling beyond Dundas and Ossington, to around Dovercort, you’ll hit Little Portugal, and if you go even further west, you’ll reach one of Toronto’s largest parks, High Park.
- Queen Street: Following Queen Street west of Bathurst you’ll head into West Queen West area. This is one of my fav streets to walk down on a Sunday when the weather is nice and I want something to do. There are limitless restaurants, bars, and shops here. If you go further west, past Dufferin Street, you’ll also hit Parkdale, which was infamously know as one of Toronto’s “hipster” pockets for years. This neighbourhood has some fun vintage stores, street art, and a mix of restaurants. Keep traveling through Parkdale, and you’ll reach Roncesvalles which spans across Queen Street, Dundas Street, and King Street, and is full of great things to check out.
- King Street: Last but not least, we have King Street. King Street is infamously known to attract those in their early 20s. Although there are some great restaurants and busy bars around King Street and Spadina area, when you continue west, past Bathurst, I don’t find there to be too much but residential neighbourhoods. Once you get to King Street and Atlantic Avenue, you’ll hit Liberty Village, a hot spot for those between 20-35 to live (fun fact, it’s where I lived when I first moved to the city). There are some stores, restaurants, and bars in this area to service all the condo buildings, but I think for a first timer in Toronto, you’ll want to stick to one of the areas mentioned above.
Of course there are several other neighbourhoods not mentioned in the west of Toronto such as Bloor West, St. Claire Avenue West, The Junction, etc. but the above is the more central areas that as a visitor to the city you are more likely to find yourself in.
I can’t mention the West End without mentioning all the great breweries you can visit, if you have the time to brewery hop, this can be a fun way to explore the city. Here are my recommendations.
Day Third: East End
If you have a third day, hit up the East End of the city to compare the contrast from the West End. As mentioned, I personally love the East End but I don’t really spend a lot of time there just because where I live, the West End is just more convenient for me. However, that doesn’t mean the east isn’t easily accessible by public transit, and even by foot depending on how far east you want to go.
The most likely streets you’ll travel east on is King Street or Queen Street, however, if you have the time to head up to the Danforth (aka Toronto’s Little Greektown), this is definitely a neighbourhood that is also worth checking out. So let’s chat through what some of these neighbourhoods have to offer:
- St. Lawrence Market: Starting off with what is the closest to Toronto’s city centre, St. Lawrence Market. This is located only slightly east of Union Station with on Front Street East. St. Lawrence Market has been named one of the best food markets in the world and it is a great spot to stroll through to shop local produce, and goodies. You can read my guide on the best spots to eat at here.
- Distillery District: If you follow Front Street east, you’ll eventually hit the Distillery District. This is a popular spot all year but especially during the holiday season when they run their Winter Village Market. The Distillery District is set in quaint 19th century buildings that once houses a whiskey distillery. It’s pedestrian only, and full of cobblestone streets, and adorable boutiques, restaurants, and galleries.
- Leslieville: Just east of the Don Valley Parkway, Leslieville is one of my fav East End neighbourhoods to explore. I like to walk east on Queen Street East and pop into all the cute shops, restaurants, and bars. In fact I have a whole guide on exploring this area here.
- Danforth: The infamous Greektown in Toronto is loaded with great Greek food and cute shops. This strip goes along Danforth Avenue starting at around Pape Avenue and goes until Woodbine Avenue.
- Beaches: Just as east of Leslieville, you’ll hit the Beaches in Toronto. If you continue on Queen, you’ll hit some cute spots for lunch or a beer, but what this area is usually known for from locals is the actual beach. On a hot day in the city, this is where locals get some beach time in. If you are from a city that has beaches, this is likely not somewhere you need to go on your visit in Toronto, unless of course you’re looking for a spot to lounge in for the afternoon.
Just like the West End, I can’t mention the East End without mentioning all the great breweries you can visit, if you have the time to brewery hop, this can be a fun way to explore the city. Here are my recommendations.
Day Four: Toronto Islands
Last but certainly not least, if you are visiting Toronto in the summer and you have an extra day and want a bit of an escape from the hustle and bustle, Toronto Islands are for you. This is one of my fav spots in the city on a hot summer day. Toronto Islands are a chain of 15 islands just south of the city centre on Lake Ontario. They’re home to beaches, yacht clubs, a few cute restaurants, and some people even live here!
To get to the islands you’ll take the ferry or a water taxi. Both leave from the Harbourfront. You can find the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal at the bottom of Bay Street with ferries departing regularly for less than $10 round trip. You will also find various water taxi companies along the waterfront. You’ll pay a bit more for these but they are less busy, and leave more frequently. This activity makes for a cost efficient way to spend a day in the city. I like to pack a cooler of snacks, food, and alcoholic beverages and set up shop on the beach or a grassy area when I get there.
My full guide of the Toronto Islands is here but I recommend heading to Wards Island for the day as it’s the least busy. If you are traveling with kids, Centre Island is loaded with activities for them, including an amusement park, but if you’re an adult, you likely want to avoid this part of the island as it is the busiest.
From the island you’ll have a fantastic view of the city, and in my opinion, one of the best views of the Toronto skyline. You can always head here for sunset if you don’t want to spend a full day here.
Note: You can visit Toronto Islands in the winter too, but naturally it’s more enjoyable when the weather is warmer and nicer.
Other Fun Activities:
It’s obviously impossible to fit all my recommendations into one post, however, some additional, worth mentioning things that you may be interested in adding to your days in Toronto are:
- Underground Donut Tour: A fun donut tour to do in the core of Toronto
- Skating at Nathan Philips Square: An iconic winter activity right in front of the Toronto sign
- Hockey Hall of Fame: Home to the Stanley Cup
- Allan Gardens: A botanical garden and greenhouse
- Sports Games: Catch the Blue Jays (most affordable and family friendly), TFC, Maple Leaf’s, or Raptors
- Budweiser Stage: My fav outdoor concert venue in the summer
- Theatre Show: Catch one of many Broadway shows
How do I get around Toronto? You can fly into Toronto at both the Pearson International Airport, and the Billy Bishop City Centre Airport. You can also take the Via Rail train to Toronto, the GO train, or of course, drive.
When is the best time to visit Toronto? The summer or fall are the best seasons in Toronto. The city is alive, and the weather is great. Winters and spring can be damp and gloomy, it’s rare to have much snow to even enjoy in Toronto.
What currency do they use in Toronto? We use the Canadian dollar in Toronto, but you can use credit cards, and debit cards basically everywhere. It’s not rare for places to not even accept cash at all post-pandemic.
Is Toronto expensive? Toronto is one of the most expensive cities in North America to live, so naturally the cost for tourists can be more expensive too. However, you can make your visit as cheap or as expensive as you wish. The most challenging part will be getting a good deal at a hotel or Airbnb.
How far is the Toronto airport from the city centre? The Pearson International Airport is about a 30-45 minute drive to the city centre depending on traffic. Your best (and cheapest) way into the city is by taking the UP Express train that runs frequently, and beats the traffic.
How do I get around Toronto? Toronto has an extensive public transit system that can get you around the city easily. It’s also walkable too. Here is my guide for riding transit.