Boasting a population exceeding 2.9 million people, Toronto takes the title of Canada’s largest city, ensuring that the capital of the Ontario province provides a wealth of sights and activities for visitors to enjoy. Toronto’s array of tourist attractions encompasses top-notch museums, excellent shopping opportunities, a diverse culinary scene, and both summer and winter outdoor activities.
The city is renowned for its professional sports teams, such as the Toronto Blue Jays in baseball and the Toronto Maple Leafs in hockey. Toronto epitomizes a lively metropolis, featuring a sizable Chinatown, beautifully restored Victorian buildings, and modern-day skyscrapers.
1. CN Tower
Situated in the heart of Downtown Toronto, the CN Tower stands as Canada’s most iconic landmark. This communication tower was constructed between 1973 and 1976 by the railway company “Canadian National” and, at a towering height of 553.33 meters (1,815.4 ft), held the title of the world’s tallest structure for more than 30 years until it was surpassed in height by the Burj Dubai.
Visitors are transported to the top via a glass elevator, from where they can enjoy panoramic views through glass windows or venture out to an external observation area enclosed by a metal screen. Diners with restaurant reservations have the advantage of skipping the lines at the observatory, and in the evening, the lights from the distant city of Rochester, New York can be seen across the lake.
2. Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum is proudly hailed as one of Toronto’s most beloved museums, and its reputation is well-deserved. Its diverse array of exhibitions makes it difficult to contest this assertion. This museum seamlessly blends natural history with a celebration of world cultures, with displays that encompass everything from dinosaurs and ancient civilizations to textiles and biodiversity.
Visitors can engage with numerous hands-on and interactive exhibits, deepening their understanding of history and the present. The museum boasts the largest collection of Chinese architectural exhibits outside of China and also houses extensive collections of artifacts from various other regions, including Africa and the Middle East.
3. St. Lawrence Market
Visitors to St. Lawrence Market embark on a journey through history, as this thriving marketplace has been a prominent fixture on the site since 1803. Today, it is housed in three separate buildings, each with its own distinct offerings. The first building is dedicated to specialty foods, while the second is reserved for a Saturday farmer’s market, and the third accommodates a variety of retail shops.
Within the South Market, one can explore 120 shops that specialize in an array of delectable foods, including bread and produce, while Toronto’s cultural services are on display on the second floor. The North Market, which has been hosting the Saturday farmer’s market since 1803, transforms into an antique market on Sundays. Additionally, the historic St. Lawrence Hall, built in 1850, serves as a venue for retail businesses.
4. Art Gallery of Ontario
The Art Gallery of Ontario, situated in Toronto’s Grange Park neighborhood downtown, ranks among the city’s most beloved tourist destinations. As one of the largest art museums in North America, it boasts an extensive collection of paintings, photographs, drawings, and sculptures.
Originally opened to the public in 1900, the artworks and exhibitions are now housed in a striking modern complex. The collection comprises over 95,000 unique pieces, featuring an array of fine Inuit carvings, religious works, picturesque landscape paintings by the influential Group of Seven, and masterpieces by European artists. Moreover, the museum regularly hosts temporary exhibitions, along with a variety of talks, tours, and workshops for visitors to enjoy.
5. Distillery District
The Distillery District is the perfect destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in the enchanting ambiance of Victorian Toronto. Located in the historic district, just a brief stroll from downtown, this pedestrian-only shopping district is centered around meticulously restored buildings that once housed the Gooderham & Worts whiskey distillery.
Recognized as one of Canada’s most vibrant hubs, visitors can explore over 80 retail shops, boutiques, eateries, art galleries, and entertainment venues. The district also plays host to a variety of events throughout the year, including art exhibitions and music festivals, ensuring there is always something exciting happening.
6. Casa Loma
Casa Loma is an unmistakable landmark in Toronto, a massive castle that has dominated the landscape since its construction on a hill in the early 20th century. The creation of Casa Loma was the realization of a wealthy man’s dream to reside in a castle, leading to the castle’s construction.
With a total of 98 rooms, Casa Loma was the largest residence in Toronto when it was initially built. It boasts secret passageways, beautiful gardens, a library, a hunting lodge, and even an elevator. It took three years and the efforts of three hundred workers to construct this magnificent and intricate complex.
7. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
The sheer awe of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada goes beyond words. With 16,000 aquatic animals gracefully swimming within a single tank, this is no ordinary fish tank. It is a colossal enclosure filled with over 1.5 million gallons (5.7 million liters) of water.
Visitors are afforded a remarkable view of this marine world by strolling through North America’s largest viewing tunnel, allowing for an up-close encounter with sharks, stingrays, and a multitude of other sea creatures. The aquarium offers more than 100 interactive exhibits designed to educate visitors about marine life, and live shows featuring these remarkable animals are presented every two hours.
8. Black Creek Pioneer Village
For those with an interest in delving into the history of the city and its environs, Black Creek Pioneer Village is an essential stop, located just a half-hour’s drive northwest of the city center. This expansive open-air heritage museum provides a vivid glimpse into rural life in Ontario during the early nineteenth century.
Established in 1960, the village boasts over forty meticulously restored historic structures, including a church, blacksmith’s shop, and schoolhouse, among others. In addition to its informative displays and exhibitions, the presence of costumed re-enactors brings to life the daily routines and activities of the villagers from that era.
9. Hockey Hall of Fame
Toronto is renowned as ice hockey territory, a status it has held since 1917 when the Toronto Maple Leafs were founded. Moreover, the city is the proud home of the Hockey Hall of Fame, establishing it as an essential destination for visitors who have a passion for this exhilarating sport.
Within its walls, the museum proudly houses the legendary Stanley Cup and showcases the sport’s greatest players, offering insight into its history through a captivating collection of artifacts and film. Furthermore, the museum features cutting-edge interactive multimedia exhibits, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the experience, whether by projecting themselves into a game against the pros or trying their hand at play-by-play broadcasting.
10. Toronto Islands
The Toronto Islands, situated just a ferry ride away from downtown Toronto, serve as a popular recreational destination. These islands are unique in Lake Ontario, as they are the sole islands in this region. Due to strict vehicle limitations, they represent the most extensive urban car-free zone in North America.
A plethora of recreational activities await visitors, ranging from swimming and kayaking to biking and playing Frisbee golf. Centerville, located on the largest island, Centre, offers a nostalgic amusement park experience for kids, complete with a miniature railway and antique carousel, designed in the style of the 1900s. Additionally, Toronto Islands play host to annual arts and rock music festivals.
11. Kensington Market
An absolute sensory delight, Kensington Market, with its lively and bustling atmosphere, offers a true representation of the city’s multicultural fabric. This vibrant neighborhood, filled with shops, restaurants, and stalls, is conveniently located just a ten-minute drive to the west of the city center.
Once predominantly inhabited by Eastern European Jewish immigrants, the area has transformed into an incredibly diverse community with a relaxed bohemian ambiance. As you wander through its lively streets, you will encounter captivating public art installations and vintage shops, all housed in graffiti-adorned buildings. Moreover, you’ll find a variety of Jamaican, Mexican, and Tibetan eateries, as well as stalls selling a wide range of items, from fresh produce and jewelry to souvenirs. Live music and street performances are also common occurrences in this eclectic neighborhood.
12. High Park
High Park caters to those seeking outdoor enjoyment. Toronto’s largest public park offers a range of amenities, including hiking trails, a children’s playground, gardens, and even a zoo. Additionally, it boasts a picturesque waterfront, bordering Grenadier Pond, home to ducks and various aquatic birds, with the best vantage point being the observation deck at Hillside Gardens.
For visitors in search of more active pursuits beyond nature walks, the park also features an outdoor swimming pool, baseball diamonds, and tennis courts. High Park’s most renowned landmark is a “maple leaf” crafted from flowers or other vegetation.
13. Toronto Eaton Centre
Tourists can indulge in a shopping spree at Eaton Centre, Toronto’s leading shopping destination. If hunger strikes, the mall offers an array of dining options, encompassing fast food and diverse ethnic cuisines. Eaton Centre, centrally located in Toronto, houses a staggering total of over 235 stores and restaurants.
This expansive complex, also accommodating offices, welcomes approximately one million visitors each week, cementing its status as the most popular attraction in Toronto. Unfortunately, shoppers won’t find products from Eaton’s, the department store chain from which the mall derives its name, as it has ceased operations.
14. Toronto Zoo
Offering a fantastic family-friendly day out, the Toronto Zoo is home to a vast variety of animals from around the globe. Situated just a half-hour drive to the east of the city, it features a diverse range of creatures, including pandas, polar bears, rhinos, tigers, and gorillas.
Having opened its doors in 1974, this immense zoo now impressively houses over 5,000 animals, both large and small, within spacious enclosures designed to replicate their natural habitats. While some sections and exhibits focus on Canada’s native wildlife and ecosystems, others transport you to Africa, Eurasia, and Australasia. With its wealth of beautiful animals and birds to observe, the Toronto Zoo is unquestionably a must-visit attraction.
15. Rogers Centre
Adjacent to the towering CN Tower, you’ll find another of Toronto’s primary attractions and most iconic landmarks: the Rogers Centre. Not only does it serve as the home to Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, but it also plays host to countless concerts, sporting events, and auto shows throughout the year.
When it was completed in 1989, this state-of-the-art stadium made history as the world’s first arena with a fully retractable dome roof. This feature creates an electrifying atmosphere when the roof is closed, and the Blue Jays step up to bat. Beyond enjoying an exciting baseball game, visitors can explore the stadium through guided tours or partake in various conventions, concerts, or carnivals held within its walls.
16. Ontario Science Centre
The superb Ontario Science Centre, housing a wide array of captivating and interactive exhibits, is conveniently situated just a fifteen-minute drive to the northeast of the city center. This family-friendly destination offers a wealth of hands-on activities and experiments that shed light on the realms of science and technology.
Established in 1969, the center has consistently been a beloved choice for both adults and children, thanks to its informative yet engaging exhibits and live demonstrations. While some sections delve into the intricacies of the human body and mind, others explore the natural world and scientific principles, offering enjoyable games and a remarkable planetarium experience as well.
17. Bata Shoe Museum
The Bata Shoe Museum offers a captivating journey through more than 4,500 years of footwear history. Situated in a uniquely designed building resembling a shoebox, this captivating collection is located just to the northwest of the University of Toronto’s St. George campus.
Established in 1979, the museum impressively houses over 13,000 shoes of various shapes, sizes, and styles. On display, you’ll find everything from jewel-encrusted slippers and chestnut-crushing clogs to Japanese geta, Inuit boots, and even footwear worn by celebrities. With a vast array of remarkable artifacts from all around the world, the museum provides an opportunity to explore the rich history and evolution of shoe designs.
18. Harbourfront Centre
Overlooking Lake Ontario, the expansive waterfront complex is located just a short distance from the CN Tower. Brimming with art galleries, theaters, parks, and outdoor stages, the Harbourfront Centre proves to be an incredible destination.
Once an abandoned shipping terminal, the area underwent a transformation in the 1990s, evolving into a vibrant hub for arts and culture. It now hosts numerous studios, venues, cafes, and restaurants. In addition to exploring its galleries and enjoying scenic views of the lake, visitors can partake in a wide array of cultural events, dance performances, and festivals, with more than 4,000 such events taking place here each year.
19. Aga Khan Museum
The Aga Khan Museum stands as one of North America’s premier institutions dedicated to Islamic Arts. Housed within a striking, light-filled modern building, it is surrounded by serene and expansive grounds featuring large reflecting pools.
The museum’s permanent collection had its beginnings in the 1950s, thanks to the efforts of the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan and Princess Catharine Aga Khan. On display, you’ll encounter an array of remarkable artifacts, including manuscripts, ceramics, and textiles, spanning from the 9th to the 19th century. These items have been sourced from a wide geographical range, stretching from China to Spain.
In addition to the permanent collection, the museum regularly features visiting exhibitions on its second floor.
20. Little Italy
Toronto’s rich multicultural diversity contributes to its status as one of the most welcoming cities in North America. Individuals from across the globe have chosen to call this world-class city their home, bringing with them the finest aspects of their respective cultures.
Throughout Toronto, you’ll encounter a variety of ethnic neighborhoods, and one of the most well-known is Little Italy. Situated roughly within the square formed by Dundas and Harbord Streets and Ossington and Bathurst Avenues, the primary retail district of Little Italy is centered around College Street.
This vibrant area buzzes with people strolling along the broad sidewalks, passing by Italian restaurants, especially lively during European soccer games. While exploring, don’t miss the opportunity to spot the statues of renowned Italian Canadians along the Italian Walk of Fame.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Toronto: Best Areas & Hotels
Q: What is the best time to visit Toronto?
A: Toronto is beautiful year-round, but the summer months from June to August are particularly pleasant for outdoor activities.
Q: How do I get to the Toronto Islands?
A: You can take a ferry from the mainland to the Toronto Islands. The ferries operate regularly and offer stunning views of the city skyline.
Q: Are there any free attractions in Toronto?
A: Yes, there are free attractions like Queen’s Park, High Park, and many museums offer free admission on certain days.
Q: What is a must-try food in Toronto?
A: Poutine, a Canadian dish made of fries, cheese curds, and gravy, is a must-try when in Toronto.
Q: Are there family-friendly activities in Toronto?
A: Yes, Toronto offers numerous family-friendly attractions, including the Toronto Zoo, Ontario Science Centre, and the Toronto Islands for outdoor fun.