Whatever you call it—Toronna, Hogtown, the Big Smoke, TO, or the 6ix—Toronto is a city of neighborhoods. These enclaves, influenced by diverse ethnicities, blend into each other, creating a unique and special vibe. From the lively Chinatown to the Latin-influenced Kensington Market, the 6ix is more than the film town it’s known to be every September. It is home to some of Canada’s best chefs, an explosive music scene, and abundant visual and performing arts.
When’s the best time to go to Toronto?
Fall and spring are the most comfortable, weather-wise. October and November are cool and crisp minus the snow; March and April can be rainy. In early September, stars and star seekers touch down for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), so book well in advance!
How to get around Toronto
Your best bet to get to the city from Toronto Pearson International Airport is the UP Express rail line, which takes you to downtown’s Union Station for $12.35 CAD. By taxi, the trip downtown will cost anywhere from $60 to $85. Toronto’s sprawling public transportation system, called the TTC, also has a bus that takes you to the subway and then downtown. Have exact change of $3.35 for this bus, called the Airport Express. The smaller Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, served by Porter Airlines and Air Canada, connects to downtown Toronto by ferry or an 853-foot-long pedestrian tunnel.
TTC trains, buses, and streetcars traverse the city. A one-way fare is $3.35, and visitors can buy daily, weekly, or monthly passes in stations. You can buy the pass with a credit or debit card. Cash is also accepted, but you’ll need exact change and won’t get the system’s free two-hour transfer. Taxis are readily available, but Uber or local taxi apps like Beck are also there to ensure safe and reliable rides.
Can’t miss things to do in Toronto
Rising 1,815 feet, the CN Tower is an iconic part of Toronto’s skyline. It’s also home to Edgewalk, a thrilling walkway on the tower’s exterior and an incredible vantage point of the metropolis. Nearby attractions include the Hockey Hall of Fame, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, and Toronto’s futuristic City Hall, designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell in 1965. Its giant, illuminated “TORONTO” sign is a popular selfie spot.
The Beaches Boardwalk offers a nice place to walk or run, plus a great skyline view of the city. Walk south to Ashbridge’s Bay Park from Coxwell and Queen, past the cluster of sailboats and beyond the Boardwalk to “the rocks,” where you’ll find this peaceful view. Make a day of it by packing a picnic, your bike, or a swimsuit to for a dip at Woodbine Beach, the largest of the area’s four beaches, and a 15-minute stroll west. Just north is the Burger’s Priest, known for its tasty hamburgers.
Food and drink to try in Toronto
Toronto is renowned for its widely diverse food scene. From Afghani kabobs to Aboriginal fry bread, Belgian waffles to Bahamian guava duff, Tibetan momos to Taiwanese fried chicken, you’ll find it here. The scene has even birthed its own fusion combos: Kensington Market’s Rasta Pasta is Canada’s first Jamaican-Italian fusion spot. Toronto also boasts three Chinatowns, Little Italy, a Koreatown, Little India, and a kaleidoscope of cuisines in neighborhoods like Scarborough, Brantford, and Markham outside the downtown core.
With 13 Michelin starred-restaurants in the city, Toronto cuisine extends beyond poutine. Canoe is famous for haute Canadian cuisine with views to match. SAP, at the Bay department store, is a runner-up. And a new breed of chef is spurring innovation with restaurants like Alder, Parquet, and Sunny’s Chinese.
Markets come to life in every neighborhood on the weekends. The best-known is the historic St. Lawrence Market, flush with fresh produce and eating options, including the famous peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery.
Culture in Toronto
There’s plenty to do in the city. The Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario offer fun and thought-provoking exhibitions and events on a regular basis. Bloordale Village, West Queen West, Ossington, and the Distillery District house clusters of small art galleries. The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is home to performances by the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. And the symphony performs at the unusually-shaped Roy Thomson Hall. Toronto’s quirkier sights include the Bata Shoe Museum and the Canada Walk of Fame in the heart of Toronto’s theater district.
Although Toronto is known for its film festival, TIFF, Hot Docs brings film buffs back every April. North by Northeast (NXNE), Canadian Music Week (CMW), and Jazz Fest keep music lovers entertained in the spring and summer. Neighborhood festivals like Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays happen from May to October. In June, Toronto Pride celebrates the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community. The Canadian National Exhibition (known as the CNE or the Ex) is a fun way to count down the summer and has become known for quirky food creations like the infamous Bacon Ice Cream Sandwich. Art is celebrated year-round at the Contact Photography Festival in May, Nuit Blanche in September, and the Distillery Winter Village in December.
Local travel tips for Toronto
You can discover Toronto’s grittier side through its graffiti and public art installations. For rogue art, check Graffiti Alley just south of Queen West, though you’ll find glimpses of incredible street art scattered throughout the city. The Red Canoe (Tom Thomson’s Canoe) is a favorite installation in the lovely urban greenspace, Canoe Landing Park. The Toronto Sign, and the annual winter art in the lifeguard stations along the lakefront provide art-lovers lots of detours in town.