Toronto is filled will pretty places, both indoors and out. Some are hidden away, while others are out in the open and obvious. I’ve already written about the best spots in Toronto to Instagram, but this time I’m focusing on some of the prettiest places you can find in or near the city.
These are places that make it easy to escape hectic city life if you’re in need of a break, or just want a serene spot to think or bliss out in nature for a while. Oh, and they’re all pretty Instagram-worthy as well should you feel like snapping a few pics (and why not?)
Toronto Music Garden
A slow wander through the Toronto Music Garden at Harbourfront Centre never gets old and it is indeed a very pretty spot to discover on a warm, sunny day in the city.
Designed by internationally renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy, the design of the gorgeous green space was inspirited by Bach, specifically, his Suite No. 1 in G Major for unaccompanied cello, BWV 1007 and every section of the garden corresponds to a movement in the piece. So essentially, the garden is designed like a lilting, moving piece of music. Admission is free and the garden is open year-round. You can also go on a free guided tour, offered June through the end of September.
Podium Green Roof at City Hall
In can feel hard to escape the bustle of Toronto when you're right downtown, but there is a slice of serenity you can easily access. City Hall is home to Toronto’s largest publicly accessible green roof, which opened in the spring of 2010. What was formerly a giant patch of concrete is now a thriving green space in the heart of the city and an excellent spot to get some fresh air in pretty surroundings. You’ll find landscaped gardens, meandering walkways, courtyards, terraces and seating, as well as some good views of the city below. Access to the roof garden is free and it’s open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends and holidays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Edwards Gardens gives visitors a double dose of garden beauty because it also happens to be the location of the Toronto Botanical Garden. The serene space is home to rock gardens, floral gardens, fountains, a water wheel, greenhouses, charming wooden arch bridges and numerous walking trails from which to enjoy it all. If you want to really get to know the pretty plants you’re passing, the Toronto Botanical Garden offers various garden tours and other educational programming and workshops for both adults and children.
Allan Gardens Conservatory
If your idea of pretty involves a plethora of tropical plants, you’ll definitely want to make your way to Allan Gardens Conservatory, home to six greenhouse bursting with colourful plants from around the world. The conservatory itself is over 100 years old and a beauty in and of itself. Head here to see gardens containing everything from palms to bromeliads to cacti. The permanent collection of exotic plants covers over 16,000 square feet. Admission is free and you can visit 356 days a year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cloud Gardens Conservatory
Kind of a hidden gem within the downtown core, Cloud Gardens Conservatory is a way to feel like you’ve gone on a mini vacation someplace tropical without every leaving the city. Tucked between office towers downtown, the park is home to a variety of plants, but the greenhouse is the real star. With a soothing waterfall and a host of palms, ferns and other greenery you’d otherwise find in a rainforest, it's easy to think you've been transplanted to the tropics.
The walkway in the greenhouse goes from the lower level entrance to an upper level exit, something that really makes you feel like you’re walking up into a tropical forest. You can find the conservatory on the south side of Richmond Street between Yonge Street and Bay Street
Looking out onto the Simcoe Wavedeck can be a trip for the eyes. The undulating wooden wavedeck on Toronto’s waterfront is a whopping 650 square metres with giant curves that swell nearly three metres above the lake. The whimsical design of the deck is what makes it so appealing to the eye and it makes for an ideal spot to spend time by the water. At night the wavedeck is lit from beneath making it even more beautiful.
This waterfront park is yet another pretty place to check out in the city. The nearly four-acre park covers more than two city blocks and features a vast swath of green space, an ice rink in the winter which turns into a splash pad in the summer and water channel that’s home to three massive pieces of public art. The three sculptures rise up nearly nine metres above the 240-metre water channel creating an effect that’s as dramatic as it is eye-catching. The art piece is titled “Light Showers” by artist Jill Anholt.
You’ll find Crothers Woods in the Don River Valley and the 52-hectare woodland puts you within easy access to nearly 10 kilometres of trails to explore. The woods themselves are home to many trees that are over a century old. Hiking these trails is a great way to lose yourself in nature without having to leave the city.
Toronto’s historic Distillery District is a national historic site and one of the prettiest spots to walk around in the city. Explore the pedestrian-only cobbled streets as you walk among Victorian-era Industrial architecture. The Distillery District is filled with an array of shops, theatres, cafes, restaurants (many with expansive patios) and art galleries so you can easily spend an entire day here and not get bored for a minute. There are also various events hosted here throughout the year, from concerts to markets.
Tommy Thompson Park
If you want to be among the largest existing natural habitat on the Toronto waterfront, make your way to Tommy Thompson Park. One of the most interesting things about the urban park is that it’s located on the Leslie Street Split, a man-made peninsula that stretches out five kilometres into Lake Ontario. The area is home to everything from cobble beaches and sand dunes, to marshes and wildflower meadows. This is also a good spot for bird watching in Toronto.