Canada’s largest city is a lively metropolis packed with parks, museums, restaurants, and much more. Sometimes overlooked, Toronto has become a cultural and social hub that rivals that of cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston, and it should be on every traveler’s must-visit destinations.
Toronto has many neighborhoods packed in the downtown area of the city. They are all unique and diverse, and they are all worth spending the time to explore. However, any first-time visitor to the city needs to start from the center and work their way out. Three areas form the main center of the city and hold some of the most popular attractions that Toronto has to offer: Downtown Yonge, Old Toronto, and the Entertainment District.
The 3D Toronto Sign located in front of the Toronto City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square marks the center of the city and provides memorable pictures to start your exploration. The best time to visit is dusk when the sign lights up. The square often hosts many festivals and activities, so there is always something fun to see. On the other side of the Square is the Old City Hall building which is a beautiful nineteenth-century Romanesque structure used today as a courthouse. Adjacent to the City Hall complex is the Downtown Yonge area. The area is full of theaters, restaurants, stores, and the impressive Yonge Dundas Square anchors it. The square resembles Times Square in New York, covered with numerous large screens displaying advertisements for the nearby stores. If you are looking to do some shopping, there is no better place than the iconic CF Toronto Eaton Center. This urban mall has many upscale brands and is famous for its large glass ceiling.
Taking Yonge Street south from Eaton Center will lead you straight into the heart of Old Toronto. While the area is still modern, you will notice many more historical buildings than in other central areas. For sports-lovers visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame and seeing the Stanley Cup in person is a must. A short walk from the museum is Berczy Park. The park is surrounded by numerous gorgeous nineteenth-century buildings and is famous for its Dog Fountain and the Trompe L’oeil Mural on the historic Gooderham Building overlooking the park. Down the street from the park is the iconic St. Lawrence Market. The market has stood and thrived since the early 1800s, and today is the anchor for the neighborhood. Vendors sell many farm-to-table products while cafes, bakeries and sandwich shops offer great options for lunch.
For spectacular views and memorable experiences, find your way to the Entertainment District and Harbourfront. Sometimes popular attractions are crowded and not worth the wait. That can’t be said for Toronto’s CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. The CN Tower is the most iconic building in the city as it rises over all other skyscrapers. The views on a clear day go on for miles, and the experience of looking down at the city is unforgettable. You can even take the edge-walk tour if you are looking to add some adrenaline to your day.
Immediately next to the tower is the Aquarium. Massive in size and with numerous exhibitions. Do not miss the Dangerous Lagoon shark exhibition that has the longest moving sidewalk in North America, gently ushering you through a glass tunnel while multiple species of sharks swim over your head. If the weather is pleasant, finish off your day exploring this neighborhood by taking a walk on the harbor front through the Toronto Music Garden and grab a beer and a bite at Amsterdam BrewHouse.
Historic Distillery District
One of the unique places to have a sit-down dinner and take a romantic walk is The Historic Distillery District. Founded in the 1800s, it was once the largest distillery in the world. The area today has kept most of the Victorian buildings and transformed into an arts district with numerous boutiques and galleries. Take a walk with a friend or a loved one on the cobblestones and add a lovelock to the script sculpture. Enjoy one of the many upscale restaurants in the district and catch a show at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.
Kensington Market and Chinatown
If you are looking for something to do later in the night, you should make your way to the Kensington Market and Chinatown Areas. Chinatown is a great place to get authentic Chinese food. If you’re hungry late at night, many establishments are open well into the night (or next morning!). The adjacent Kensington Market area is a stronghold for the bohemian crowd. Local art and music are born here, and it thrives and grows in Kensington. It is common to find popup musical performances in a yard or an alley. Speaking of alleys, take a walk to the most famous of all, Graffiti Alley, near Queens Street. As the name suggests, it is covered in beautiful street art.
When you are considering where to travel for your next trip, do not forget Canada’s largest city. It has something unforgettable to offer to everyone!