11 Top Free or Cheap Things to Do in Toronto

Centre Island in Toronto

TripSavvy / Kristjan Veski

Like any major North American city, a trip to Toronto can eat up a lot of your travel budget with constant temptations in the form of shopping, fine dining, nightlife, and other luxury indulgences. On the bright side, sometimes free or cheap (nearly free) activities offer visitors an experience that is more authentic than typical tourist activities and can add a nice balance to a travel itinerary.

01 of 11

Enjoy Free Entry to the City's Best Museums

An exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto

Art Gallery of Ontario

317 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 1G4, Canada
Phone +1 416-979-6648

Head to the Art Gallery of Ontario, where you can view nearly 95,000 works by esteemed Indigenous, African, and Canadian modern and contemporary artists and photographers, as well as works by world-renowned artists like Peter Paul Rubens and other European masters. While there’s no charge for anyone under age 25, those over 25 can still check out the permanent collection for free on Wednesday nights between 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) offers complimentary admission Friday nights after 5 p.m., while it’s always free to visit the Market Gallery at St. Lawrence Market, a great little museum and art space that highlights Toronto’s history.

02 of 11

Enjoy the Great Outdoors in High Park

Cherry Blossoms in High Park in Toronto

Oleksandra Korobova / Getty Images

1873 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6R 2Z3, Canada
Phone +1 416-338-0338

Just 15 minutes from the city center, High Park provides plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy the sunshine, with 398 acres of gardens and forests, a restaurant, labyrinth, pond, zoo, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields, playgrounds, and picnic areas. It’s also a popular place for hiking and biking in summer, cross-country skiing in winter, seeing the leaves change in the fall, and viewing the cherry blossoms in springtime.

03 of 11

Visit the Distillery District

Toronto's Distillery District

TripSavvy / Kristjan Veski

55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4, Canada
Phone +1 416-364-1177

Toronto’s pedestrian-only Distillery District is a great place to spend a few hours if you're staying downtown and want to get away from the usual sites and attractions. It's also set among historic buildings comprised of the most extensive and best-preserved collection of Victorian industrial architecture around. You won't find a franchise or chain operation here so all the stores and galleries are one of a kind.

04 of 11

Graze at St. Lawrence Market

Inside the St Lawrence Market

TripSavvy / Kristjan Veski

93 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E 1C3, Canada
Phone +1 416-392-7219

St. Lawrence Market consists of three historic Downtown Toronto buildings—an antique market, a food market, and a public space for more than 120 vendors. It's such a popular spot among locals and visitors, even the Pope has shopped here. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, pick up an affordable lunch to enjoy on the outdoor patio. On Sunday, the antique market draws collectors and browsers from far and wide. Don't miss the gallery upstairs, which offers free exhibits highlighting the city’s history and culture.

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05 of 11

Take in Some Culture at the Toronto Harbourfront Centre

Gallery at the Harbourfront Center

 TripSavvy / Kristjan Veski

235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8, Canada
Phone +1 416-973-4000

The Toronto Harbourfront Centre is a nonprofit cultural organization that offers a variety of cultural activities to the public free of charge. Located along the shores of Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto, visitors can stroll the boardwalk on the 10-acre site, relax in one of the parks, or go ice skating during the winter. Inside, take in a lecture, art exhibit, or show before spending some time exploring shopping and dining options.

06 of 11

Window Shop in Yorkville

Shopping in Yorkville

 TripSavvy / Kristjan Veski

77 Bloor St W #89, Toronto, ON M5S 1M1, Canada

This posh pocket of the city features quaint Victorian architecture featuring dozens of restaurants, boutique shops, and art galleries. Yorkville dining and shopping is considerably upscale, and the galleries here represent some of the finest Canadian and international artists. Yorkville is also home to the exclusive "Mink Mile" shopping district, which includes high-end retailers like Burberry, Prada, and Gucci, and Canadian department store Holt Renfrew, among other swanky brands. Keep an eye out, as celebrities have been spotted strolling Yorkville’s sidewalks, especially during the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

07 of 11

Enjoy Some Green Space at Riverdale Farm

Riverdale Farm in Toronto

TripSavvy / Kristjan Veski

201 Winchester St, Toronto, ON M4X 1B8, Canada
Phone +1 416-392-6794

Riverdale Farm is home to more than seven acres of green space in Downtown Toronto, complete with cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, and other docile farm animals. Visitors can wander the grounds and watch staff do their chores free of charge. The farm is particularly charming in that it realistically recreates early 20th century Ontario country life—no old-fashioned soda machines or tacky gift shops here. A few homemade goodies are available for purchase, all in keeping with the Riverdale Farm theme. Note that parking is available only on the neighboring residential streets, which comprise a fascinating architectural mix of Victorian and modern-style houses. You'll also find lots of excellent restaurants and bistros near the farm on Carlton, Broadview, and Parliament Streets.

08 of 11

Attend the Canadian Opera Company's Free Concert Series

Canadian Opera Company's Free Concert Series

 Canadian Opera Company 

145 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 4G1, Canada
Phone +1 416-363-6671

Pack a brown bag lunch and attend one of the Canadian Opera Company's free lunch hour performances, typically held from late September to May. You can also enjoy dancing and a variety of other musical concerts in the sunbathed Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. There, audience members have a full view of busy University Avenue through the transparent, all-glass façade, melting away feelings of isolation from the outside world you may normally experience in a concert hall. 

Opera performances in the evening are held in R. Fraser Elliott Hall, a traditional European horseshoe-shaped auditorium designed to be an entirely separate and isolated structure within the building, resting on nearly 500 rubber acoustic isolation pads. Before or after the performance, check out the surrounding areas of Eaton Centre, Chinatown, and Queen's Park.

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09 of 11

Take a Streetcar to the Beaches

Toronto waterfront beach at dusk with CN Tower in background, Ontario, Canada.

Wayne Barrett & Anne MacKay / Getty Images

2075 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L 1J1, Canada

The Beaches is an east-end Toronto neighborhood that boasts a long stretch of waterfront space. Come down for the day to hang out by the water, stroll the boardwalk, or visit the shops and eateries along Queen Street East. It's easy to reach by public transportation; just take one of the city's streetcars, such as the 501, which heads straight down Queen Street, providing an affordable tour of one of Toronto's most famous streets. Toronto's streetcar routes operate in the classic style on street tracks shared with car traffic; they are not heritage streetcars run for tourism or nostalgic purposes.

10 of 11

Stroll Through Kensington Market

Colorful streets in Kensington

 TripSavvy / Kristjan Veski

Kensington Market, Toronto, ON M5T, Canada

While Kensington Market is a hip Toronto neighborhood adjacent to Chinatown, it's not actually a market in the usual fruits and veggies sense, although you will find those there in abundance. The area has a funky, organic, fair-trade coffee shop vibe, but not obnoxiously so. You'll find retro furniture, vintage clothing shops, and plenty of places to pick up an affordable takeout meal, including tasty empanadas and other Latin American foods.

11 of 11

Take the Ferry to Centre Island

Toronto Islands Ferry
Elijah-Lovkoff / Getty Images
11 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON M5J 2H3, Canada

Centre Island makes a great day trip for anyone wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Getting there requires a 10-minute ride on the ferry, which leaves every 15 to 30 minutes and costs between $4 and $8.50 Canadian (about $3–$7 USD) depending on your age; children under 2 ride free. Centre Island consists of 820 acres of parkland. Other than the ferry ride, there's no charge to enter, though a small amusement park, restaurants, and other attractions may convince you to open up your wallet. Keep your budget in check by bringing along a picnic lunch or taking advantage of the fire pits and barbecues.

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11 Top Free or Cheap Things to Do in Toronto