Those who think Canada is all about nature have clearly never been to Toronto. Canada’s biggest city stacks up with the best of them, thanks to its diverse cultural communities, unique neighbourhoods, endless restaurants, and enough attractions to keep you occupied for years.
Of course, most travellers won’t have years to spend. So here are a few things you can accomplish in a long weekend:
Day 1: Take your taste buds on holiday
Markets are a great way to learn about the city you’re visiting. The foods and product on-sale often offer insight into the people behind the place. Toronto is no exception. There’s the classic St. Lawrence Market, which at 208 years old has been a big part of the city since nearly the beginning. There you’ll find 120 vendors, with the freshest produce, meats, baked good, and dairy products for your perusing. Then there's Kensington Market. This incredible neighbourhood really reflects the diversity that makes Toronto so special. Caribbean, Latin American, European, and Vietnamese immigrants have all left their stamp on the city, and that impact can be smelled, tasted, and enjoyed throughout Kensington Market.
Take, for example, Rasta Pasta, which serves up Jamaican and Italian fusion cuisine. Don’t balk at it until you try dishes like Reggae Lasagna, which combines jerk chicken with more traditional pasta ingredients, or the Tuscan, a jerk pork panini.
Of course, Toronto’s food scene stretches well beyond market overflowing food scene. Here are a few more options more than worth your while.
Small plates, big flavours. That’s what The Chase literally brings to the table. Named one of Canada’s best new restaurants in 2014 by EnRoute magazine, this is somewhere to go for an elegant meal to remember. Order one of their seafood platters for a spread of oysters, snow crab, and tuna that you won’t soon forget.
Another favourite, Hawker Bar serves up dishes inspired by Southeast Asian street food, as well as creative cocktails. Plus, it’s open until 2 am, so you can stop by at the end of the night to relax and enjoy their delicious chili wings.
If you’re more interested in a drink, head just outside the city to the Junction neighbourhood and pay a visit to Rainhard Brewing, Halo Brewery, or countless others in the area. If cocktails are more your speed, there are few more classic Toronto experiences than a drink enjoyed on the rooftop patio of the Drake hotel.
- Where: Kensington Market
- What to order: The Vatican panini and some jerk chicken dumplings
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 am to 7pm; Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm. Closed on Monday.
What to order: Oysters… or any seafood really
Hours: Monday-Friday, 11:30 am - 11 pm, Saturday 5 pm - 12 am, closed on Sunday
Where: Trinity Bellwoods
What to order: Singapore chili chicken wings
Hours: Monday-Thursday 6 pm - 10 pm, 6 pm - 2 am Friday, 5 pm - 2 am Saturday, 5 pm - 10 pm Sunday
Day 2: Take your trip to new heights
At 533 metres in height, the emblematic CN Tower dominates the skyline of Toronto, and offers experiences for foodies and adrenaline junkies both.
Take a walk 113 stories above the ground with nothing separating you from the ground except a glass floor and a whole lot of air. Or, if that’s not enough of a thrill, head outside the tower for Toronto’s most extreme attraction. The EdgeWalk sees you strap into a harness, tiptoe onto an exterior walkway, and lean out over the edge. No hands!
Do heights make you lose your lunch? Why not have lunch instead? For a more tame CN Tower experience, enjoy an unforgettable dining experience with a revolving view of Toronto at the 360 Restaurant. In addition to the fantastic food, the restaurant’s wine cellar (Guinness World Record Holder as the highest cellar in the world, by the way) features a tasty array of fine wines.
Where: Downtown Toronto (Entertainment District)
Hours: Observation decks are open from 8:30 am - 10:30 pm and 360 Restaurant is open from 11 am - 10:15 pm year round (except Christmas day). EdgeWalk runs seasonally, except in electrical storms, high winds, or other extreme weather.
Costs: General admission is approximately £22 (or $36 CAD). The EdgeWalk experience costs approximately £137 (or $225 CAD).
Day 3: Embrace your inner Canadian
Even though there are a lot of stereotypes about Canadians, it’s actually pretty tough to paint a picture of Canada with just one brush (not that being friendly and liking plaid are a bad thing). That being said, Toronto has a few experiences that will leave you feeling like you really embraced your holiday surroundings.
First, head to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the largest collection of Canadian art in the world, including many works from Canada’s famous Group of Seven. These are pieces of art that capture the Canadian landscape and way of life, and are a great way to learn about the country. Plus, Canadian works make up only some of the impressive 90,000 works of art that live inside the museum’s walls. From photography to sculpture, Picasso to Rembrandt, it’s all there. Then there’s the building itself, which features an extension designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. If you love art, you’ll love the AGO.
Next, there are few things more widely associated with Canada than hockey but that’s a stereotype we’ll never complain about. In Toronto, the Hockey Hall of Fame is the absolute best place to learn about the sport and its history, all while taking on fun challenges like shooting, goaltending, and hockey trivia.
After a day spent learning, spend your night indulging in some good old-fashioned axe-throwing. While 99 per cent of Canadians have probably never thrown an axe, we certainly love our woodsmen history! Head to Bad Axe Throwing, grab an axe that tickles your fancy, and throw it at a wooden target until you hit that oh-so-satisfying bullseye. You won’t find a better way to let off some steam.
Hours: 10 am - 5 pm Tuesday and Thursday, 10 am - 9 pm Wednesday and Friday, 10 am - 5:30 pm weekends, closed on Monday
Cost: About £12 ($19.50 CAD)
Where: The Junction
Hours: 8 am - 11 pm
Cost: £27 (or $44.25 CAD) for three hours or approximately £12 ($20 CAD) for one hour
Suddenly have the urge to travel? Just feeling hungry?
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Other Toronto musts
Sports: If you like sports, Toronto will keep you pleasantly occupied. The city has a professional hockey team (duh). It is also where Canada’s only NBA basketball team, the Toronto Raptors, and MLB baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, are located. They also have professional football, Canadian football, and lacrosse teams.
Festivals: Toronto is a city of nearly endless festivals. For music fans there are dozens of choices, including NXNE and the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. If you love to dance, you can join the party at Toronto Pride or learn a new dance at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. The biggest celebrities in the world can be seen during the Toronto International Film Festival, and lovers of the arts will also enjoy Luminato.
See this trip in action: