Toronto Guide: Planning Your Trip

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Pter Mocsonoky / EyeEm/Getty Images 

Toronto is a diverse and exciting city buzzing with energy. It’s a city that really comes alive in the summer, yet also offers many interesting things to see and do year-round. There are numerous museums and art galleries to visit, leafy parks to explore, dining options to suit every taste and budget, and attractions for almost every interest and age level. For anyone thinking of planning a trip, read on for tips and information on what to see and do, how to get around, where to stay, and what to eat and drink.

Centre Island in Toronto
TripSavvy / Kristjan Veski

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Toronto is typically in the spring (April and May) or during the fall (September to early November). At these times, you'll likely find fewer crowds, cheaper accommodations, and the best weather for sightseeing as it is neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Language: English and French are the two official languages in Canada. In addition, the top five other languages spoken in Toronto are Chinese, Italian, Tamil, Portuguese, and Spanish.
  • Currency: The currency used in Toronto is the Canadian dollar (CAD). However, U.S. dollars are accepted in many Toronto businesses, although you’ll get change back in Canadian funds.
  • Getting Around: The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) makes it easy to get around the city via many buses, subway, and streetcars. A single fare will take you anywhere in the city on a one-way trip. Figuring out how to get where you want to go is easily done using the TTC’s convenient Trip Planner.
  • Travel Tip: While you may opt to base yourself in downtown Toronto to be near many of the city’s main attractions, it’s also worth taking some time to explore some of the many great neighborhoods that each offer their own unique charms and attractions. Some to keep on your radar include colorful Kensington Market, the Junction, Leslieville, and Little India.
Waterfront in Toronto
TripSavvy / Kristjan Veski 

Things to Do

No matter what time of year you visit, you won’t have to look far for something to do in Toronto. For starters, the city is filled with museums and art galleries, both large and small. Also, anyone who enjoys the outdoors will want to spend some time in High Park (the city’s largest park) or even do some hiking and paddling in Rouge National Urban Park, home to one of the region’s largest marshes, beautiful beaches, the city’s only campground, and numerous scenic hiking trails. Foodies will love taking advantage of Toronto’s diverse culinary scene, and anyone who likes beer will appreciate the city’s booming craft beer scene. Toronto also offers great shopping (from high-end to vintage) and fun activities for kids of all ages.

  • Get a Dose of Art & Culture: The Royal Ontario Museum is Canada’s largest museum and showcases everything from art and archaeology to natural science in over 30 galleries. Or, stop by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), one of the largest art museums in North America with a collection of more than 90,000 works of art.
  • Take in the Views From the CN Tower: High-speed elevators whisk visitors to the top of the tower in just 58 seconds for epic panoramic views over the city. Depending on your threshold for thrill-seeking, you can go one step further than the CN Tower’s LookOut Level or Glass Floor and try EdgeWalk and have the chance to try a hands-free walk around the main pod of the tower, 116 stories above the ground.
  • Spend a Day in the Distillery District: Explore the historic Distillery District to stroll among Victorian-era buildings on pedestrian-only cobblestone streets filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants. The area is also home to several art galleries, theatres, and artist workshops to explore.
  • Hang out at Harbourfront Centre: Head to Harbourfront for more than 30 spots to explore, including theatres, art galleries, parks, gardens, restaurants, and more. There’s also a skating rink to use in the winter and many festivals and events in the summertime.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the best things to do in Toronto, the best free things to do in the city, Toronto’s best parks, and easy day trips from Toronto.

Where to Eat and Drink

Toronto is a city made for foodies and offers excellent dining for every taste and budget, from high-end establishments to hole-in-the-wall burger joints to cocktail bars serving elevated tapas fare. And due to the city’s multicultural population, you can find a wide range of cuisines here, ranging from Greek and Italian to Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, and nearly everything in between. In addition, Toronto is also home to St. Lawrence Market (the city’s largest market), where over 120 specialty food vendors sell everything from fresh produce and baked goods to prepared foods, dairy, meat, and seafood.

In addition to the opportunity to sample various cuisines and enjoy the city’s creative food scene, Toronto is also home to numerous craft breweries serving excellent beers. Many of them also serve snacks or even full menus, and there are a few that are even dog-friendly.

Learn more about where to eat and drink in the city with our full-length articles on top spots for foodies in Toronto and 10 places to buy craft beer in Toronto.

Skyline view of Toronto
TripSavvy / BrakeThrough Media 

Where to Stay

No matter your accommodation budget, there should be a hotel to suit your needs. Several high-end hotels are located right downtown, including Fairmont Royal York, Shangri-La Hotel Toronto, and Ritz-Carleton Toronto. You can also find many mid-range and boutique hotels downtown as well as in the city’s east and west end areas. For example, Queen West is home to many bars, restaurants, shops, and live music venues, as well as the Drake Hotel (great for solo travelers and couples) and the chic Thompson Hotel with a rooftop pool. Shoppers may want to base themselves in Yorkville for the range of boutiques found there, as well as the ROM and Bata Shoe Museum. It may also be worth your while to stay near the waterfront (home to several hotels) to access the ferry to the Toronto Islands, Harbourfront Centre, and more.

For more about where to stay in Toronto, check out our full-length articles on hotels for any budget and the city's best boutique hotels.

Getting There

Getting to Toronto by air is easy via Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), Canada’s busiest Airport. Pearson sees 30 airlines flying to more than 180 destinations worldwide out of two terminals (T1 and T3, linked via the Terminal Link train). Rental cars, taxis, limousines, and airport shuttles are available here, but one of your best options is to take the UP Express (Union-Pearson Express), a dedicated rail service connecting Union Station and Toronto Pearson airport in 25 minutes.

You may also encounter Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (formerly Toronto City Centre Airport), located on Toronto Island, minutes from the downtown core with links to the city by a short ferry or pedestrian tunnel, and is served by both Porter Airlines and Air Canada. Porter provides service to Canadian and U.S. destinations.

Money-Saving Tips

  • Take advantage of free museum nights in Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which offers free admission on Wednesday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. In addition, the Bata Shoe Museum offers Pay What You Can admission on Thursday evenings between 5 and 8 p.m.
  • If you can, it’s a good idea to skip a car rental and instead opt to take public transportation to save money on parking, which can be pricey in Toronto.
  • Plant lovers may want to pay a visit to Allan Gardens Conservatory, an indoor botanical garden featuring all kinds of beautiful plants and flowers, which also happens to be entirely free every day of the year.
  • Choose from a variety of free walking tours throughout Toronto that come courtesy of the Tour Guys, making for a good introduction to the city from a knowledgeable guide.
  • If you happen to be visiting Toronto during the summer, the city has 58 outdoor pools free to use for leisure swimming.
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