Toronto is a hotbed of culture; a city filled with interesting things to see and do, including the top-tier museums. Whether you're interested in cutting-edge art exhibits, Canadian history, fine art, or ceramics – there really is a museum in Toronto for everyone. These institutions make it easy to combine education with entertainment and learn more about not only Canada’s largest and most diverse city, but also the world around us. Read on for a list of some of the best museums in Toronto, and then choose a few to visit.
Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum is Canada’s largest museum and no visit to the city is complete without stopping in at least once. The sprawling collection here showcases everything from artwork and cultural objects, to exhibits focused on natural history. Whether you’re interested in ancient Rome, textiles from the 1st century BC to the present day, Greek antiquities or Japanese culture (to name just a few), something in one of the museum's more than 40 galleries will likely intrigue. Don’t miss a stop at the James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs, where you’ll find one of the world’s best collections of fossils, a great exhibit for kids.
Art Gallery of Ontarion
From contemporary art and photography, to European masters and the art of Canada’s indigenous people, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is a must-see in Toronto and one of the largest art museums in North America. The collection here spans close to 95,000 works, and anything you lay eyes on is sure to inspire. But it’s not all what’s inside that counts. The AGO is also an architectural gem, especially since the major expansion in 2008, designed by Frank Gehry.
Bata Shoe Museum
Love shoes? One of the city’s more unique museums puts its focus on the history of footwear. Bata Shoe Museum is where you’ll find a thousand shoes and related artifacts on display (from a collection comprising more than 13,000 pieces). The collection, housed over five floors, showcases over 4,500 years of history and will make you think more about what you put on your feet than you ever thought possible. This is where you can not only see the evolution of footwear, but learn about the role of footwear in society throughout history.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Canada’s favorite sport is the main focus of Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame, which is home to the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world, as well as the Stanley Cup. But that’s not all. The Hockey Hall of Fame is also a hands-on, interactive venue in which visitors can go one-on-one against life-size, animated versions of some of today's greatest goalies and shooters. Or if you prefer a more passive approach to hockey appreciation, spend some time watching hockey-themed movies. Either way, a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame is a must for sports fans.
If your interests lie on more of the design-related spectrum, you might want to make time to check out the Design Exchange. Established in 1994, this venue houses a comprehensive permanent collection highlighting Canada's rich industrial design history from 1945 to the present. The collection, spanning over five decades, covers more than six hundred industrial design objects and archival materials, including furniture, housewares, textiles, electronics, and lighting.
Textile Museum of Canada
The Textile Museum of Canada (TMC) is the only museum in Canada of its kind, and the permanent collection here spans almost 2,000 years. Here you’ll find more than 13,000 artifacts covering 2,000 years of textiles from 200 regions of the world. The permanent collection features everything from fabrics and ceremonial cloths, to garments, carpets, quilts, and more. Stop by to learn about the history of textiles and their significance both societally and culturally. There are rotating exhibitions, changed throughout the year, and the TMC also hosts touring exhibitions and guest curators to keep things fresh and continually worth visiting.
Aga Khan Museum
Opened in 2014, the Aga Khan Museum is a building of serene architectural beauty designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki, with a collection of more than 1,000 objects focusing on the art of Muslim civilizations and culture of the Islamic world. There are close to 250 items displayed at any given time in the museum's permanent gallery space. In addition to the permanent collection, there are rotating exhibitions, workshops, and live arts performances to enjoy. Note that admission to the museum and all exhibitions is free each Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Museum of Contemporary Art
MOCA (formerly known as the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art – MOCCA) recently moved from its original home on Queen Street West to the city’s Junction Triangle neighborhood. Here you’ll find 55,000 square feet of gallery space between five floors. These encompass two main exhibition floors as well as smaller program spaces. In terms of what’s on display, there are three phases of exhibitions a year featuring the work of both Canadian and world-recognized artists. There is a cost to explore the entire space, but the first floor is always free and open to the public.
Ontario Science Centre
Love science or have some kids who do? The Ontario Science Centre is the perfect place to go. Opened to the public in 1969, this is where science comes to life in a fun and interactive setting. Discover everything from science and nature to geology and human anatomy via more than 500 hands-on experiences in eight exhibit halls. There are also live daily science demonstrations popular with school groups, a state-of-the-art planetarium, replica rainforest, the KidSpark discovery area designed just for kids eight and under, and Ontario’s only IMAX Dome theatre.
You might not think of Toronto as a place where you’d get to see a castle, but you’re in for a treat with a visit to Casa Loma. This is the former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt, and construction began in 1911, taking nearly three years to complete with a cost of $3,500,000 at that time. Feel as if you’ve traveled back in time as you explore ornately decorated suites, mysterious secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, and stables. The beautiful estate gardens cover five landscaped acres and are also well worth a look. Self-guided multimedia tours are available in English and French, as well as a variety of other languages.