Mini Guide: Toronto

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Canada’s biggest city, Toronto, is consistently ranked as one of the most liveable and welcoming cities in the world. They say that at least one person from every other nation in the world lives in Toronto – making it the world’s most multi-cultural city. And you can easily see it’s diversity on every corner in form of architecture, art, music and cuisine. Toronto is worth every reason there is to travel with all it’s richness in history and culture, famous museums and festivals, sun and snow, parks and beaches. This detailed mini-guide will tell you what to see and what to do if visiting for only a few days or a long weekend, and it can also be used for planning longer stays. Whatever you choose to do, enjoy this amazing city with all your heart. Be open and Toronto and it’s humans will open it’s arms for you!
 
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DAY 1
 

 

Start off you first day in Toronto with a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), which is one of the largest museums in North America. The modern building with it’s impressive architecture covers art, natural history, world culture and everything in between, and they always have interesting exhibitions and events on. They are engaged in the community with learning and educating, and every Friday night they host Friday Night Live with different themes, food vendors and DJ’s.
Top 3 Highlights: Gallery of Chinese Architecture, Gallery of Canada: First Peoples, Gallery of Korea.
General Admission is $17

Getting hungry? Well you won’t have to go far to find Creme Brasserie, a fancy, but casual Italian restaurant with great service and food. Try the the fried Calamari seasoned to perfection, or the Pork Belly which will leave you wanting to come back over and over again.
Next stop today is the Bata Shoe Museum, yeah, you heard right – a shoe museum! It’s the only shoe museum in North America and they have an impressive collection of over 13,000 modern, rare and traditional shoes from around the world. The visit will leave you fascinated with shoes and the story they are able to tell. They change their exhibitions regularly so this museum is worth a visit if you go back to Toronto another time.
General Admission is $14
Now it’s time to put your own shoes to work and walk through the impressive university campus down to the famous Kensington Market. A vibrant and diverse neighbourhood with market style streets where you can find quirky shops, bars and restaurant, galleries and groceries.

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If you need a coffee break, stop by the Swedish inspired Fika Cafe located in the heart of the Kensington neighbourhood. Try their Cloudberry Jam Roll Cake with a Lavender White Hot Chocolate and you are in for an delicious Swedish afternoon treat!
Next, make your way down to Roundhouse Park where you’ll find the Steam Whistle Brewery. They brew the popular Steam Whistle Pilsner made with only four natural ingredients; spring water, yeast, hops and malted barely. Their pilsner is crisp and refreshing and you are in for a taste when you do a tour of the brewery. The tour will take you through every stages from making the beer to getting it to the store and every process in between. You’ll also learn how impressively green Steam Whistle is and you’ll be told it’s interesting and amusing story behind the name and history of the brewery. Bookings are recommended during the weekdays, but on weekends is first come first serve. To make a booking click here.
Tour starts at $10
The iconic CN Tower is a must-see when in Toronto and it is the next stop for the day. Get up in time before the sun sets and you get to see the best of Toronto in both sunshine and moonlight. Don’t forget your camera! A little fun fact: In 1995 the American Society of Civil Engineers classified the CN Tower as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
General Admission is $35
Are you filled with butterflies from the high altitude or is it hunger that’s rumbling around in your stomach right now? If it’s hunger then Richmond Station is the place to go. This funky restaurant is run by Canada’s Top Chef winner Carl Heinrich (2012) and when you get a taste of what they serve, you can understand why he made it to the top! Prices are good and they have a menu that changes with the season. If you’re a real foodie, let them recommend what to eat and what to drink – after all, they are the experts!
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Day 2
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Today it’s time to explore Toronto on the bike and have a picnic on Toronto Island. Book your bike with Sweet Pete’s in advance online at one of their Bloor Street locations and pick it up at 11 am on the day you’re going (alternatively if you want a longer, scenic bike ride you can rent a bike from their Brick Works Location). They have hybrid bikes that are light, easy and very comfortable to ride. They offer all day rental at a decent price and they have great passion and knowledge about biking in Toronto (and surrounding areas), so don’t be scared to ask for any tips.

Bike rental rates: $20/Hour or $45/Day (includes a helmet and a lock).
Tip: If you want to go on a multi-day bike ride, Sweet Pete’s offer weekly rentals for only $250. If you plan on biking the Toronto Greater Area and Ontario, Ontario on Bike is a great website to check out.
After you get your bike out on the road make you way over to Caplansky’s and pick up some picnic food for later on. They have a big selection of sandwiches, salads and cold and warm small dishes; they make a pretty nice potato salad and their Beef Kreplach is amazing! Don’t forget some dessert and drinks, and a backpack to carry it all in.
Tip: if you want to save some time you can order your food online or call them ahead.
It’s time to make you way out to the island. Bike down to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and catch the ferry to Hanlan’s Point on the west side of Toronto Island. From there you can bike over to Hanlan’s Point Beach (clothing optional) and relax for a bit before making your way over to the historic and mysterious Gibraltar Point Lighthouse; don’t forget to look out for ghosts!
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Next, it’s time to dig into some of that delicious food you’ve brought with you, and the best place to do that is on the Olympic Island which offers the best views in town of the Toronto Skyline. Another options is to sit on the pier which overlooks the massive Lake Ontario. What ever view you prefer;  Bon Appetite.
After lunch it’s time to explore the neighbourhood on the Algonquin Island. Bike your way around the small island and admire all the beautiful houses with their colourful gardens. Don’t forget to wave at people as you’re passing them.
If you feel for some refreshments after checking out the neighbourhood, a few pedal push on the bike will take you back over the bridge to the The Rectory Cafe where you can get sodas, coffee or beer…  and something sweet if that’s your thing. 
Next, make your way over to Ward’s Island beach where you can rent a SUP board with Toronto Island SUP to take out on the water. If you haven’t tried SUP before you can book a private lesson, though if you rent a board for a few hours you should quickly get the hang of it. Good luck!
Rentals starting at $30/Hour and private sessions are $70/75min
There isn’t much more to see on the Island so catch the next ferry back to Toronto where you can explore the water front and the city streets on the bike. One option before returning the bike is to bike your way through High Park on the way back. High Park is to Toronto what Central Park is to New York and Hyde park to London; A green breathing space with wildlife, walking trails and sports facilities, cafes, a zoo and much more.
End your day with a trip down to the Distillery District where you’ll find the famous history, art, events, shopping and dining. Dinner is recommended at Archeo, an Italian style restaurant situated in a historic, rustic and sophisticated setting. Their food and service never disappoint. Try the Spicy Asiago Chicken Pizza or the Lemon Linguini Vongole, finish of the meal with a Tiramisu Crème Brûlée. Mmm, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Tip: The restaurant closes at 9pm on weekdays, but if you’d like to extend the fun you can walk over to Front and Wellington Street where you’ll find bars and lounges to keep you up all night. Map here.
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Day 3
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Day three starts with a visit to the impressive Casa Loma meaning “House on the Hill”. Once Canada’s largest private residence, this unique architectural building in Toronto today attracts more then 350,000 visitors every year. It’s been the back drop to many movie productions like CocktailX-Men and Chicago, just to mention a few. The castle’s interior has some amazing hand-made details on everything from furniture, lighting, construction, windows and doors that are very easy to appreciate.
Top 3 Highlights: Vintage Car Exhibition, The Conservatory and the Underground Tunnel featuring old, historic photos from Toronto.

General Admission is $25 and includes a self-guided audio tour
Tip: Casa Loma has Canada’s only theatrical escape game, The Casa Loma Escape Series, and you can be in on the fun. More info about the game and bookings can be found here.

It’s time to go colourful Chinatown for some lunch and the place you should go to is Swatow. This hole-in-the-wall neighbourhood favourite is always busy and the food is worth every dollar. Try the General Tao Chicken or the Shrimp Dumpling Soup for a mouth-watering experience. 
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Next stop today is the ever impressive AGO (Art Gallery of Toronto), one of North Americas largest galleries and Toronto’s second most visited museum after ROM. Their awe-inspiring collection is displayed beautifully in modern architecture and includes more then 80,000 works dating back as far as the 1st century. They often have performances and various programs on, so make sure you check what’s on at their website so you can plan your visit accordingly.
Top 3 Highlights: The Manasie Akpaliapik exhibition, Into the Woods exhibition and the photography collection.
General Admission is $19.50
Oh look, it’s coffee o’clock. Cafe Crêpe on Queen Street serves excellent coffee (and tea). Feel like something sweet? Try the dark chocolate, caramel, coconut crêpe; so freaking delicious, and sweet and tasty and yummy!
Next, make your way down to the one and only Hockey Hall of Fame. A must-visit museum wether you’re a hard-core fan of ice hockey or not. They have the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world, engaging exhibits, a 3D movie show and the holy grail of all trophies – The Stanley Cup! Prepare yourself for hours of fun at this unique place.
General Admission is $18
It’s time for an early(ish) dinner and in true hockey game-night dinner style, comfort food is on the menu. Walk over to Fran’s Restaurant and Bar. This old school diner is best known for creating the world’s first Banquet Burger back in the 1940’s, better known today as the bacon cheeseburger. Try their claim to fame or their succulent Baby Back Ribs, a half rack just won’t do it – go for the full!
You won’t have to go far for the next stop. Do you see a person in a cape holding a light? Then you’ve found the right place; the meeting spot for Haunted Walks. You heard right! It’s time to explore the streets of Toronto at night whilst listing to intriguing ghost stories told by expert ghost guides. The Original Haunted Tour of Toronto takes around 90 minutes and it’s jam-packed with amusing, sorrowful and interesting descriptions of historical events and unsolved mysteries that still haunts the city to this day! Bookings are recommended and can be done here.
Tip: If you weren’t too spooked they have other tours for you to check out like Ghost and Spirits of the Distillery and The Time Travel Trail Adventure. Tours can be booked in Kingston and Ottawa as well.
Tickets are $19.75
Not ready to go to bed quite yet? Then head over to the Rock ’N’ Horse Saloon where you can ride the bull between your drinks, or simply enjoy the views of Toronto from their roof top patio, The Porch. Either way, enjoy your last night in this magnificent city!
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Good to Know

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How To Get There

Flying: There are two airports serving Toronto; Toronto Pearson International Airport which is the biggest and most busiest and Billy Bishop which is closest to downtown Toronto and less busy. Billy Bishop serves only Air Porter and Air Canada (international and domestic), and offers free shuttles for everyone going downtown to Union Station. Pearson International serves major airlines coming in from most continents around the world in addition to domestic flights. Getting from Pearson International into Toronto is easy with GO Transit and TTC, learn more here.
Bus: You can easily get to Toronto with direct and connecting buses from most places in Canada and American cities like New York, Boston, Chicago and more. The best bus companies to use are Greyhound and Megabus. If booked early in advance you can get tickets starting at only $10!
Train: An alternative to the bus is the more comfortable, but pricier; VIA Rail Canada. They have 19 train routes across Canada stretching from Halifax in the east to Prince Rupert and Vancouver out west, and Windsor in the south to Churchill which is their most northerly stop.

Getting Around

All the subway (metro) lines, buses and streetcars (trams) are served by the Toronto Transit Commission, more know as the TTC. The transit system is really easy to understand and runs 24/7, but it is unfortunately quite expensive and not very flexible regarding their weekly and monthly passes if staying for a longer period of time. The weekly passes ($42.45) are good for unlimited travel from Monday through to Sunday. Meaning, if you come on a Wednesday you can’t buy a weekly pass as they stop selling those for that week on Tuesdays, hence you have to buy a day pass ($12) for the rest of the week or tokens (3 token = 3 rides for $8.70).

The same goes for a monthly pass ($141.50), it runs from the 1st of every month and is sold up until mid-month, meaning if you come after the 15th you have to buy a weekly pass for the next two weeks until you can buy a monthly pass for the following month. If you end up using token, don’t forget to get a transfer slip so you can jump on a continuing journey, for example getting of the last subway to take the bus further to your destination. Transfers can be obtained from the bus/streetcar drivers and inside subway station you depart at (red box usually easily visible) after paying your fare. More info about subway lines and bus routes can be found here.

 


Bike Share

A good alternative to the public transport system is Bike Share Toronto where a 24hr period cost $7 and 72hrs costs $15. Currently there are 80 stations around Toronto where you can get out a bike and return it, but it’s planned an add-on of a 120 new stations throughout the summer, so access will only be easier over time. The system is easy to use: you can either pay online or at the bike station, you can take as many trips as you want for free (within the period you have payed for) as long as the trips are within 30 minutes. If you ride longer than that the price will increase rapidly, but it is really easy to stay within the 30 minute limit as there are so many stations around the downtown area so this shouldn’t be a problem. If you want to ride for longer, all you have to do is park the bike and get out a new one at the same station.

Where To Stay

Fairmont Royal York (from $249/night)
Toronto Garden Inn B&B (from $69/night)
The Planet Traveler Hostel (from $43/night)
Airbnb (from $34)

Also Worth A Visit

Canada’s Wonderland – Fun packed amusement park
Toronto Eaton Centre – Great shopping
Evergreen Brick Works – Markets, history and events
St. Lawrence Market – Farmer’s market
Edward’s Gardens – More then just a botanical garden
Air Canada Centre – Entertainment and sports
The Beaches – A neighbourhood with beach fun
Aga Khan Museum – Museum of Iranian and Islamic art and Muslim culture
Princess of Wales Theatre – A 2000-seats theatre showcasing leading productions
Food Trucks – A whole world to choose from

Festivals

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (April – May)
Craft Beer Festival (June)
Toronto Food Truck Festival (July)

Toronto Burlesque Festival (July)
Toronto Caribbean Carnival (July)
Importfest – Celebrates automobile culture (August)
Food Truck Frenzy (August)
Fan Expo – Comics, anime and sci-fi (September)
Ashkenaz Festival  – Jewish music and culture (September)

Useful Websites

toronto.com
gocanada.about.com
blogto.com
seetorontonow.com

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Want to see more awesome photos from Toronto? Then click HERE ⬅

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6 Comment

  1. Great guide to Toronto! On my list of places to visit.

    1. Marita says: Reply

      Thanks! It really is an awesome city with something for everyone’s taste.

  2. Rachel says: Reply

    I’m so impressed, great article! Very you, museums and ghosts 😉 I can’t wait to visit Toronto and use all your great tips!

    1. Marita says: Reply

      Thank you Rachel! I think you would love Toronto 🙂

  3. Chandi says: Reply

    This is a very thorough mini guide. Good job! You know, you might want to turn it into an eBook through Unanchor. I did a guide like this and it is sold through Unanchor. Tell Cat that I sent you!
    Cat Crews: cat@unanchor.com

    1. Marita says: Reply

      Hi. Thanks for compliment and great tips – I will definitely check out Unanchor. Thanks 🙂

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