Top 10 Things To See And Do In Canada’s Most Populous City
Situated by Lake Ontario, this city is home to roughly 6 million people and is a major draw from visitors from around the world for every possible interest: sports, entertainment, dining, culture, and more. It’s easy to get here from other countries with many direct flights landing at the busy Toronto Pearson International Airport, although other, smaller airports also service the city. And it’s simple to get around the city thanks to a great network of public transportation that includes buses, streetcars, and a subway system so you don’t even need a car to explore.
Once you’re in Toronto you’ll want to know where to go and the must-see attractions to make the most of your time in the city. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing time simply shopping and enjoying great food and drink, or whether you want to go exploring historical landmarks and other sites on a busy agenda, there’s truly something for everyone. Check out the guide below for some great tips on some of the best things to see and do in Toronto. All prices are in
- Scale the heights of the CN Tower
The CN Tower is perhaps Toronto’s most instantly recognizable landmark; shooting up from the ground to a height of roughly 553 miles with a unique architectural design that looks like a triangle piercing the sky. Construction on this massive tower finished in 1976, and it originally took its name from Canadian National (CN), a railroad company that funded the building. However, ownership of the tower was transferred in 1995 to the Canada Lands Company, which is a federal corporation focused on developing real estate. These days it’s a hugely popular place to visit, so you might expect crowds depending on what time of day you go. The LookOut Level at 346 miles high is included in basic entry for your viewing pleasure, or you can pay more adventures and other experiences, like dining in the 360 Restaurant located near the tower’s top with unbeatable scenery, or the EdgeWalk, which is a daring walk around a ledge on the outside of the building in which you’re strapped into harnesses for your safety.
Opening hours: Daily from 9.30am to 10.30pm
Cost: General admission is $38, $34 for senior citizens ages 65 and up, and $28 for children ages 4 to 12; buying additional features will increase the ticket price
- Learn about sporting stars at the Hockey Hall of Fame
Sports fans won’t want to miss a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, perhaps Toronto’s premier attraction for anyone interested in the game. This attraction covers more than 65,000 square feet of ground and has plenty to entertain you, from exhibits chronicling the history of Canada and the National Hockey League through to an exact replica of an official dressing room from an NHL team that you can explore and take pictures in. Other exciting things to see include a number of trophies from top-flight NHL games — and you can even touch the fabled Stanley Cup. Budding hockey players can also try their attempt at goalkeeping and shooting pucks using the state-of-the art simulators on offer. And the Hockey Hall of Fame also hosts a series of temporary exhibitions, with the latest running through March 2020 and honoring the life and times of two important NHL players Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, Saturday from 9.30am to 6pm, and Sunday from 10.30am to 5pm
Cost: General admission is $20, $16 for senior citizens ages 65 and up, $14 for children ages 4 to 13, and free for any child ages 3 and under
- Take a cruise to admire Niagara Falls
The famous Niagara Falls, actually a group of three waterfalls, is about a two hour drive from Toronto (sometimes half an hour less depending on traffic). Although it’s a bit of a trek to get there and this technically isn’t an attraction in the city, many tourists take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a cruise to see the majestic waterfalls as part of a vacation to Toronto. Instead of driving yourself to this attraction, a fun way to get there is to join other visitors on a boat that will sail you from the city to Niagara Falls. You’ll get so close to the falls that you’ll feel the water and mist spraying on you, and many people wear protective ponchos just to stay dry. The most popular company operating is the Hornblower Niagara Cruises, and the boat tour of the falls sits 700 people and takes about 20 minutes in total for a regular daytime trip. You can also book special trips that depart once the sun sets, or take one of the fireworks cruises where the boat has a bar and you’ll see fireworks as part of the trip.
Opening hours: Daily from Spring through to December 1st
Cost: Prices vary depending on the type of boat trip
- Dive into the ocean at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Take a deep dive look into ocean life at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, a sprawling building that houses more than 20,000 different types of sea life. Conveniently located in the center of Toronto’s downtown area, the aquarium has a host of exhibits to interest people of all ages. They’re divided among nine separate galleries featuring aquatic creatures from across the globe, including species common to the Great Lakes by the city. Some of the exhibits even let you get your hands wet as you play with water-based animals.
Opening hours: Daily from 9am to 11pm, but closes at 6pm occasionally
Cost: Regular timed entry tickets are $33, $23 for young people ages 6 to 13, $10 for children ages 3 to 5, and $23 for senior citizens ages 65 and over
- Admire the paintings on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Art lovers should take time to make a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario, also known as AGO. This museum houses beautiful artworks ranging from centuries-old masterpiece paintings by some of Europe’s most renowned artists through to modern day photographs, sculptures, drawings and other wonderful creations. In total the AGO is home to roughly 100,000 individual pieces of art, all kept inside an eye-catching building that was designed by Frank Gehry, the legendary world-famous architect. Among the hundreds of artists whose work are on display here are contemporary pieces by Pierre Huyghe and classical artworks by Peter Paul Rubens. There’s also a section dedicated to art created by Canada’s indigenous population. Set aside plenty of time to allow for a tour of the extensive collections on display.
Opening hours: Daily from 10.30am, closing at 4pm on Monday, 5pm on Tuesday, 9pm on Wednesday, 9pm on Friday, 5.30pm on Saturday and 5.30pm on Sunday
Cost: Regular admission is $25, free for anyone ages 25 and under
- Explore the eclectic collections at the Royal Ontario Museum
From a recreated skeleton of a dinosaur through to an eye-catching exhibit of ancient Chinese art, the eclectic collections on offer at the Royal Ontario Museum offer a wide-ranging mix of things to see and enjoy, so everyone on vacation is bound to find something they like. The galleries cover natural history as well as art and culture. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum also has a calendar of visiting temporary exhibits, so you should check out the venue’s website in advance to see if there’s something coming that is of particular interest to you. If so you can plan your visit to coincide with when it’ll be on display. Allocate a significant amount of time if you are coming to the Royal Ontario Museum, because it boasts more than six million artefacts, so it’s easy to spend an entire day simply looking around.
Opening hours: Daily from 10am to 5.30pm
Cost: General admission is $23, $14 for children ages 3 to 5, and $18 for young people ages 6 to 13, senior citizens ages 65 and over, and students
- Step into the past at Casa Loma
Casa Loma is a mansion from the Edwardian period and is known as the sole full-scale preserved castle in existence across North America. Construction work on the huge building was completed in 1914, and it was originally designed to be the home of Sir Henry Pellatt, a rich financier. Its captivating appearance has seen it used as the backdrop for several films and television shows, and the castle grounds are the perfect place to get some Instagram-worthy pictures during your vacation. Visitors are able to walk through the interior, as well as enjoy about five acres’ worth of grounds with well-kept flowers and outdoor features. And if you need a rest from exploring the many passages, secret walkways, and rooms dressed up with period furniture and arts, you can take a breather at a café located on the castle premises. There’s also a gift shop where you can buy mementos from your visit for a nice reminder of your time here.
Opening hours: Daily from 9.30am to 5pm
Cost: General admission including fees is $32.49 for adults, $27.32 for young people ages 14 to 17 and senior citizens ages 65 and up, and $22.15 for children ages 4 to 13
- Stroll by the sights of Kensington Market
One of Toronto’s unique draws is Kensington Market, a diverse neighborhood that is so renowned the country’s government named it as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2006. Houses started to crop up in the area during the early 1800s and since then it has developed over the years into what you see today: a vibrant mix of residential and commercial that plays host to festivals throughout the year and is celebrated for its collection of unique shops, all offering one-of-a-kind artwork, clothing and other items you can’t find anywhere else. Take a stroll through the markets and simply marvel at the sights with some window shopping, and then take a break at one of the small, locally owned cafes or restaurants. Each has their own story to tell, and visiting Kensington Market you’ll get a feeling of what it’s like to be a Toronto resident. Visit between 11am and 7pm any day of the week, as most places will be open then.
- Have fun with footwear at the Bata Shoe Museum
Yet another unusual attraction in Toronto that you’ll struggle to find replicated in any other city is the Bata Shoe Museum, which houses a collection of roughly 13,500 shoes of all shapes, sizes, colors and designs spanning thousands of years, all curated and kept in four distinct galleries in one building. The museum stems from the extensive shoe collection that the late Swiss Canadian Sonja Bata, a businesswoman and philanthropist, gathered. Her family created the museum in 1979 and in the following decades it has expanded and changed locations, ultimately residing its current spot in a purpose-built venue in 1995. Visitors will see the history of footwear, from sandals dating back to ancient Egypt through to stylish modern shoes.
Opening hours: Opens 10am every day and closes at 5pm every day, except for Thursday when the museum closes at 8pm
Cost: General admission is $14, $12 for senior citizens ages 65 and up, $8 for students, $5 for children ages 5 to 17, and free for children ages 4 and younger
- Sample the tasty food and drink at St. Lawrence Market
Yet another of Toronto’s many claims to fame is that it is a great city for eating and drinking, an nowhere is that more evident than at the bustling St. Lawrence Market. This huge indoor market, which has been in business for more than 200 years, features roughly 120 vendors with stands offering fresh vegetables, meats, snacks, drinks and more to satisfy your hunger and quench your thirst. It’s free to walk around and enjoy the sights and smells as you wind your way through this busy venue, but it’s also a great place to either pick up some food for later, or to get a bite and something to sip while you’re in the market.
Opening hours: Open from 8am to 6pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, open 8am to 7pm Friday, open 5am to 5pm on Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday