Toronto Tourism Information:
The Toronto Skyline view from Central Island
For many Toronto seems to the capital of Canada, when it's in fact Ottawa. However Toronto acts as a capital in its own right, as the main transport hubs and connections are based here. Flying to Canada and starting your journey in Toronto is the best idea for a first time visit. Toronto offers to the traveller a great option of activities, from culture and history to adventure and nature. The city in itself is also full of activities, like the CN Tower, the Old Town Hall, Centre Island etc. During the evening time Toronto has a large party atmosphere, which can be found in Church and Wellesley area and in the downtown.
There are plenty of bars, pubs and restaurants offering varied tastes, specially if you like Asian cuisine. Toronto is also a very open and tolerant city and if you visit during June the LGBT Parade is appealing to everyone.
Toronto is also the city of choice to stay if you are visiting the Niagara Falls, as there are tours which cover a whole day of activities and offer very good rates. See below for more info.
Climate and temperature:
Toronto is well worth visiting year round, though you will find plenty of more reasons to go in summer or spring. Winter's are hard with temperatures falling below 0C in most of January, with snow and strong winds. Summer's (June to September) are the best time to visit the city a with warm climate, but still pleasant to walk around and even at night you would only need a light jacket or jumper.
Toronto has two major airports, the main international gateway to the city is Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ). When arriving by plane, the easiest way to get to the downtown is by bus. You can get the Toronto transport Commission (TTC) Bus service 192 to Kipling Station, trip takes 25 minutes. Other bus lines are 52A to Lawrence west station taking 90 minutes. IF you travel by night you can busses 300A or 332 which operate from 1.30am to 5am and take 45 minutes to reach Yonge Street.
The second airport is the Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ) located within the downtown itself, on an artificial island at the foot of Bathurst Street. To get from the airport to the city you can actually walk, but if you are staying further away, it's advisable to get the free shuttle bus which leaves you close to Union Station, the stop is located outside the Royal York Hotel western entrance on York Street. If you walk from the airport there is a free ferry every 15 minutes which leaves you at Bathurst street. You can also walk under a 850 feet long tunnel taking 6 minutes which was opened in 2015.
It's also popular to arrive to Toronto by coach from many other states or international services from the USA. The bus station is located at 610 Bay St.
Once in the city, Toronto is well connected by metro, busses, trams, trains and ferry services. The centre of the city is Union Station where metro and train lines combine. Below you will find the maps of the city with the transport schematics.
What to see and do?
Toronto is a dynamic metropolis with a core of soaring skyscrapers, all flanked by the iconic CN Tower, which acts as number one attraction to the city and visible from miles away. Toronto also has many green spaces, from the orderly oval of Queen’s Park to 400-acre High Park, together with its trails, sports facilities and zoo. The city is full of interesting activities, both outdoor and indoors. Weather it's culture, art or scenery you're looking for, Toronto will not disappoint!
The main things to see and do in the city are:
- CN Tower: It's is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The tower's height provides enviable views of the city below, but it also serves a practical purpose. When the city's skyline began to grow amidst a construction boom, television and radio transmission towers were having trouble broadcasting. With the structure's completion in the 1970s, the CN Tower allowed transmissions to pass with ease. You can go up to the observation deck at 1,122 feet, and if you wish to test your adrenaline there's an outside platform at, the SkyPod, which at 1,465 feet is one of the highest public observation area in the world.Located in downtown Toronto near the harbour, you can buy tickets directly at the office or pay in advance online where you can save a few $. It is rather pricey, but worth it as a one off. For more information, check out the CN Tower's website.
- Toronto Island Park, This collection of islands and islets offers a welcome touch of green to the city's skyscraper-packed mainland. The three islands, Centre, Ward's and Algonquin, are all connected, so you don't have to worry about having to get on and off a boat to fully experience the area. Visitors will find picnic areas, beaches, sporting rentals, a petting zoo and a boating lagoon. In Ward and Algonquin islands you will find 1920s-style cottages and English gardens. Tourists and locals come to marble at the views of the city's skyline, which is best appreciated in the evening. Entry to the islands is free, but you will have to pay for the ferry ride. Tickets for the ferry are CA$7.50 CAD.
TIP: The best views of Toronto are from Centre Island. To get there you need to go by Ferry, they depart daily and with frequent times you can just show up and buy the ticket at the window. The Jack Layton Ferry Terminal is located at the foot of Bay Street at Queens Quay, just west of the Westin Harbour Castle hotel. Services run till late in the evening but make sure you check the times as they can be less frequent in the winter. Fares are about $7.5 return per adult. The best time to go is during the late afternoon to catch the view of the city during sun set and then stay until it's completely dark and see the city illuminated by night. It's a fantastic scene to watch and the pictures are unique, with the Ontario Lake acting as reflection of the light. To get to the best spots you need to walk towards the right as you get off the Ferry at Centre island. If you go to Ward's island then need to pass the park in the centre of the island and walk for about 20 minutes. The natural park reserve is also impressive as you walk in Centre Island so you will need at least 2.5 hours for the whole activity. Observe the red circles below on the map for the best spots for photography and views.
Great Spots to Admire the views!
Toronto City View
- Harbour-front Centre: Situated along the banks of Lake Ontario, this 10-acre attraction has transformed from a derelict shipping terminal to an upscale neighborhood bustling with hundreds of things to do. Abandoned warehouses have been transformed into theaters and an art gallery. There's also multiple eateries around as well as several small parks, including the Toronto Music Garden. If you happen to be around in the winter, you can ice skate. You can find Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto, about half a mile from the CN Tower.
- Distillery District: Back in the early 1800s, this waterfront neighbourhood was home to Canada's largest distilling company, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. Today, this historic pedestrian-only neighbourhood overflows with art galleries, performance spaces, cafes, restaurants and a brewery naturally. For a true glimpse into Toronto's past, this is the place to go. You can find the Distillery District a little more than a mile from the King subway station.
- Lawrence Market: Located in Toronto's historic Old Town, built from the 17th century. Along with being a marketplace, it has served as the city's social centre, as well as its City Hall. Today, the market sells goodies galore, from gourmet cured meats to a mix of food and retail items. The St. Lawrence Market is open throughout the day from Tuesday through Saturday, while Sundays are devoted to the Antique Market. Hours vary by day but admission is free. You can find it less than a mile from the King subway station.
- Kensington Market,it's perhaps an alternative area to visit, if you don't mind a little mess, it's modern, but at the same time casual, dirty and arty. Kensington Market is the name of the neighbourhood in which these shops and restaurants reside, not an actual outdoor market. There are lots of vintage stores and antiques while also plenty of restaurants and cafes on hand. Located less than a mile west of the St. Patrick subway station.
- Casa Loma: in the early 1900's Sir Henry Pellatt, a former soldier, built a castle overlooking Toronto. The 98-room Casa Loma took nearly three years to make and cost more than $3 million to complete. There's also an immaculate 5-acre garden outfitted with fountains and sculptures. You can get there by getting off at the Dupont subway station. Admission ranges from CA$24 for adults.
- Royal Ontario Museum:The Museum (also referred to as the "ROM") is a must-visit for history fans. It's Canada's largest museum of world cultures and natural history. The museum features a diverse range of relics on display, including dinosaur bones, ancient Roman sculptures, Chinese temple art and an exhibit on Canada's First Peoples, to name a few. Admission to the museum ranges from CA$17 per adult. You can find it located off of the Museum subway station.
- Fort York: Established in 1793, it's the most historic site in Toronto, having protected the city from the end of the 18th century right up through the end of World War II. It is also the site in which the city of Toronto today was established. Today, visitors can tour the soldiers' and officers' quarters, witness cannon firings, military drills and participate in the flag raising.Located along the western end of the Harbourfront district, prices start from CA$9 for adults.
Suggestion, visit Niagara Falls:
This natural display of water falls is unique in the world and it attracts thousands of visitors every day. To get there is best to organise a tour unless you renting a car. The tour's are well organised from Toronto, with multiple tour companies operating every day of the year. The trip can be reserved online and tailored to your dates and times. Alternatively you can organise it from the main tourist information centre in the downtown. The tours pick up from major hotels or pick up points and take you not only to the Niagara Falls but to other interesting sights along the way. The trip usually takes 2 hours from Toronto, with stops, most likely to be made in a winery and the picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, renowned for resembling houses of the Victorian style, where it's popular to buy maple leaf syrup and any kind of products related to it, including souvenirs.
When you get to the Falls, you will ride the "Maid of the Mist" boats which will take you into the falls. You will understand why it's called like this when you are at on the boat! Afterwards you have free time to have lunch in the town of Niagara and spend more money on the shops and entertainment stores nearby. Tours usually pick you up at 7am and bring you back to Toronto downtown by 5pm, traffic allowing. Check at the Ontario Travel Information Centre to arrange your visits, located at 65 Front St W. (Tours around $40-50 per person, without lunch).
Maid in the mist boat trip
Niagara on the Lake
On the boat trip
Toronto is a highly demanded city when it comes to finding places to stay. Either for short stays or wishing to stay longer you will find accommodation is at a premium in the downtown. Therefore if you are on a budget we recommend looking for hotels or hostels away from the centre but within good reach of public transport. Chinatown is a popular area to stay with prices per night being much more affordable. Alternatively Airbnb for private stays and hosting.
Staying in Toronto offers the traveller with a wide variety of choices to see and do, plus tours to other areas of the state, like the Niagara Falls for example. On a first visit you should not underestimate the size of the city, because although Toronto can be seen quick in two days, it offers a lot more than meets the eye. A more practical 3 to 4 nights stay would be enough to see the main sights plus do a tour to the Falls.