Toronto’s 15 top experiences – Lonely Planet

From iconic monuments to food tours, interactive museums to sporting events, world-class shopping to peaceful nature, Toronto has something to offer just about any visitor. 

So many things, in fact, that planning a trip to this cosmopolitan city can feel pretty overwhelming if you are only coming for a short period of time. Let us help.

If you’re ready to explore, here’s what you shouldn’t miss when you visit Canada’s largest city. 

Immerse yourself in the best experiences the world has to offer with our email newsletter delivered weekly into your inbox. Toronto City Skyline at Night in CanadaThe CN Tower dominates the Toronto city skyline © Deejpilot / Getty Images

1. Take in the views from the CN Tower

Once the tallest structure in the world, the CN Tower is a symbol of the city and one of the most visited places in Toronto. Ride the elevator to the main observation deck to take in views of Toronto’s skyline from 346m (1136ft). If you have a strong stomach you can ascend even higher to the 447m (1465ft) SkyPod – high enough that you can actually feel the tower swaying in the wind.

Detour: Seeing the views from the inside is great, but adventure seekers should consider the EdgeWalk, the world’s highest full-circle, hands-free walk. Secured by a harness, you’ll creep around the edge of the tower, 116 stories above the streets below. There is a wheelchair-accessible option for the EdgeWalk as well. 

2. Eat your way around Chinatown

Toronto’s Chinatown is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and liveliest areas. Busy local markets and colorful neon signs make for plenty of visual stimulation – though you’ll want to explore the pan-Asian food vendors with your taste buds as well. Taste your way through servings of dumplings and dim sum, hot pot and pho, banh mi and buns – be sure to arrive hungry.

Detour: To take in Chinatown’s full scope, set out on a food tour. An expert guide will take you to a selection of favorite spots, with smaller portions meaning you can try a wide array of things. We recommend Culinary Adventure Co’s Chinatown + Kensington Market food tour. 

3. Catch a game

Toronto is home to multiple professional sports teams, with games taking place year-round. If you know your travel dates well in advance, see if you can score tickets to see the Raptors (basketball), Blue Jays (baseball) or Maple Leafs (hockey) play on home turf – then cheer along with the locals. 

4. Browse through St Lawrence Market

Historic St Lawrence Market looms large in Toronto. Sure, it’s a top tourist attraction – but it’s also where many locals still go to do their shopping. Here, you’ll find specialty food shops and local businesses, with the Saturday farmers’ markets and Sunday antique market weekly highlights.

Detour: The second floor of the South Market houses the Market Gallery, a space for rotating exhibitions. Stop by to check out the creative happenings in this favorite landmark. 

5. Grab a drink in the Distillery District

Take a pass on the bars in Toronto’s downtown and head to the Distillery District. Known for arts, entertainment, dining and more, the neighborhood is centered around an old whiskey distillery, today filled by crowds continuing the tradition by seeking out tipples of all varieties. Try SpiritHouse for top-shelf cocktails, Mill Street Brewery for a pint of Canadian craft beer or El Catrin Destileria for a margarita during patio (warm-weather) season.

Planning tip: If you’re in town for the holidays, Toronto’s charming Winter Village Christmas Market takes over the Distillery District every year. 

Bicycles parked beside big fat burrito outlet in Kensington Market, TorontoKensington Market is an eccentric neighborhood © Roberto Machado Noa / Getty Images

6. Explore Kensington Market

In a city full of suits and skyscrapers, Kensington Market brings something quirkier. This proudly bohemian, appealing scruffy neighborhood boasts vintage shops, unique boutiques and varied art spaces. Don’t miss the famous “garden car,” with its herbs, flowers, tomato plants and even a lawn growing out of a painted (and permanently parked) sedan.

Planning tip: While most come here to shop, it’s also worth coming to eat at one (or more) of Kensington Market’s many international restaurants. The district is also adjacent to Chinatown, making for a great combination food tour.

7. Salute Canada’s hockey legends

Since hockey holds a place in every Canadian’s heart, the official Hockey Hall of Fame in the Financial District is a top destination for visitors. This family-friendly attraction holds the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world – including the Stanley Cup itself. Here, you can learn about the sport’s history, try your hand shooting against the world’s best goalies in an interactive exhibit and watch vintage footage from the video vault. 

Spring scene of people enjoying the views of white full-bloom cherry blossoms at High Park, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaHigh Park is known for its magnificent cherry blossoms © Shutterstock / Elena Berd

8. Admire the cherry blossoms at High Park

Come spring, Toronto bursts into bloom with a display of cherry blossoms worthy of Japan. You’ll find the largest concentration of sakura cherry trees in town at High Park. 

Planning tip: Depending on the weather, cherry-blossom season can take place between the end of April into early May, and only lasts a week. Track the season by calling the Cherry Blossom Hotline (647-946-2547).

A man waves a giant rainbow flag at the Toronto Pride Parade, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaToronto Pride in June is one of the city’s liveliest annual parties © Shutterstock / Shawn Goldberg

9. Celebrate with the city

Torontonians love nothing more than a good party. Annual extravaganzas include Toronto Pride and the world-famous Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), as well as the Toronto Jazz Festival, Toronto Caribbean Carnival, the arty Luminato Festival, Canadian Music Week and Nuit Blanche.

Planning tip: Since festivals always draw major crowds, ensure you plan and book well in advance if you time your trip to one of these events. 

10. Step onto a movie set at Casa Loma

While the scenic palace may never have housed royalty, Casa Loma has played home to a number of well-known movie stars over the years. Once the home of a financier, the building is today a tourist attraction, special event venue and movie set. Some 50 productions have filmed here; you might recognize the interior as the Xavier School from X-Men

Vibrantly colored street art is seen all over the walls of an alleywayGraffiti Alley is perfect for colorful selfies © Jessica Lam / Lonely Planet

11. Snap a selfie with street art 

Street art expresses Toronto’s creative spirit – and some of the best examples are in Graffiti Alley. Stretching some 400m (1000ft), this narrow street is covered with bold, bright artwork from some of the city’s top street artists. 

Detour: Graffiti Alley should be just the start of your street-art itinerary. Consider taking a free, self-guided ARTWORX-TO tour, put together by the city government and Driftscape, a community of arts organizations and artists. 

12. Ride a roller-coaster at Canada’s Wonderland

One of the best Toronto activities for kids is a day trip to Canada’s Wonderland. About 40 minutes outside of the city, this amusement park offers 17 roller coasters, a 20-acre water park, special live shows and seasonal-themed events like the Halloween Haunt and WinterFest. Don’t miss the park’s famous funnel cake – although perhaps after you’ve taken a few stomach-churning coaster rides. 

13. Have a beach day 

Practically the size of an ocean, Lake Ontario provides for fabulous beach days – and you can see for yourself at one of the many beaches in and around Toronto. Whether you want to swim, sunbathe, have a picnic or pick up a game of volleyball, these public beaches are great places to join locals on a sunny summer day.

Detour: If you want to escape the city’s buzz, head to one of Toronto’s islands, which host four beaches, some with boat-rental concessions.

Closeup of Elton John's high heel shoes that measure 7.5 inches high at the Bata Shoe Museum in TorontoThe Bata Shoe Museum is a paradise for shoe-lovers © Roberto Machado Noa/ LightRocket via Getty Images

14. Get your footwear fix at the Bata Museum

One of Toronto’s most original museums features displays of towering high heels, shoes made of human hair and other outrageous footwear. With a collection of some 15,000 artifacts spanning 4500 years, the Bata Shoe Museum has the largest shoe collection in the entire world. 

15. Learn about the local Indigenous community 

Modern Toronto was built on the traditional territory of several Indigenous nations, and is home today to a sizable First Nations population. Visitors can experience Indigenous traditions – key Canadian culture – through art, food and celebrations. We recommend checking out what’s happening at the local government’s guide to Indigenous experiences in Toronto.


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