As the largest city in Canada, Toronto receives a lot of visitors from around the globe. It’s among the best travel destinations in Canada, thanks to its diversity and world-famous attractions.
Unfortunately, you can’t visit everything with just one day in Toronto. The sprawling metropolis has no shortage of things to do.
The city has a crowded mixture of skyscrapers, museums, and galleries. It also has a wide range of unique shops and restaurants that reflect the over 200 ethnic groups that call Toronto home. Toronto has beaches and bluffs, various neighbourhoods full of boutiques and bars, and lots of parks that give you lots of opportunities for people watching.
The nightlife scene and a variety of seasonal street festivals and markets also keep things interesting all year round.
Not sure where to get started? Plan your entire trip with this complete 1-day Toronto itinerary…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Toronto in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
- Ride the elevator to the observation deck in the CN Tower
- Stroll along the Toronto Waterfront and enjoy the fresh air
- Fill your stomach with fresh fruit purchased at St. Lawrence Market
- Shop the underground at Toronto Eaton Centre and the PATH Network
- Catch a glimpse of yourself in the reflecting pool at Nathan Phillips Square
- Browse priceless paintings at the Art Gallery of Ontario
- Browse original artwork with a trip through Graffiti Alley
- Catch a show or grab dinner in the Entertainment District
- Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Toronto
What to do in Toronto in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
As with most of our one-day city itineraries, your tour of Toronto in 24 hours includes stops at some of the top attractions and takes you through the most-visited parts of the city. You’ll get to shop in the world’s largest underground mall and see the skyline from the top of one of the tallest freestanding towers.
The itinerary mostly stays in the city centre with its easy-to-navigate streets. Most of the stops are within walking distance of each other while the convenient underground walkways and subway system connect everything else.
Ride the elevator to the observation deck in the CN Tower
The CN Tower is a highlight for any Canada itinerary and the most famous landmark in the city. It stands 553 metres high, providing a panoramic view of the city’s skyline.
As the most famous site in Toronto, it becomes extremely crowded as the day wears on, making it the first place that you should visit.
When you arrive at the tower, ride the elevator up to the main observation deck. Technically, you need to ride two elevators.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Edge Walk. It’s a 1.5-metre-wide glass-bottom ledge that wraps around the outside of the main pod.
If you don’t want to step outside, the main pod includes a restaurant with 360-degree views of the city. While it’s early for dinner, you could grab a snack before continuing your trip.
You could also wait until you get back to ground level. The streets around CN Tower are home to several fast-food restaurants, including a Tim Horton’s.
Spend a few minutes admiring the view of the city and the surrounding region. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Niagara Falls and the state of New York.
Right next to the CN Tower is Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. It’s an impressive aquarium with hundreds of marine species. Unfortunately, 24 hours in Toronto doesn’t leave a lot of time.
If you plan a longer trip, check out the aquarium and some of the other sites in the area, such as nearby Roundhouse Park and the Toronto Railway Museum.
Stroll along the Toronto Waterfront and enjoy the fresh air
After planting your feet back on solid ground, walk south to the harbour. You can’t skip the waterfront during your Toronto itinerary. It’s home to a wide selection of seafood restaurants, parks, shops, and public venues.
It also offers a unique perspective of the Toronto skyline. When you reach the waterfront, you’ll be on the western edge of the harbour. Admire the waterfront sites and the skyline as you walk east.
Other than the shops and restaurants, there isn’t a whole lot to do along the waterfront. The city is currently working on several revitalisation plans for the area. For now, it’s simply a pleasant place to take a stroll.
Fill your stomach with fresh fruit purchased at St. Lawrence Market
As you work your way east across the waterfront, turn left on Lower Jarvis Street to head toward St. Lawrence Market. It’s a couple of blocks away from the harbour, located inside a large hall.
The inside contains over 120 vendors selling a wide variety of fresh produce and other foods. You can find artisan cheeses, baked goods, meat, and various prepared foods.
The market also contains multiple levels. The ground floor houses specialty vendors selling organic vegetables and fruits, seafood, and snacks. The second floor contains the Market Gallery with rotating exhibits that explore the history of Toronto.
The market opens at 8 am on weekdays and 5 am on Saturdays. It should be open by the time you arrive and will also likely be crowded. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid the crowds.
Spend half an hour or so exploring the market and checking out the various vendors. Grab something to eat as you walk around, such as a fresh Montreal-style bagel or local seafood.
Shop the underground at Toronto Eaton Centre and the PATH Network
St. Lawrence Market is south of downtown Toronto and the sprawling Eaton Centre. The Eaton Centre also provides access to the PATH network of walkways and underground tunnels.
The network that connects the Eaton Centre houses the largest underground shopping mall. You’ll find hundreds of shops, restaurants, and even a few hotels.
The PATH connects some of the top things to do & see in Toronto. In fact, you could travel from the CN Tower to the Eaton Centre and about half of the other sites on this itinerary without stepping outdoors.
Over 1200 stores and services are connected via the various tunnels and elevated walkways. Spend the rest of the morning browsing the shops and travelling through the underground tunnels.
The only drawback is the size of the complex. With over 30 kilometres of tunnels and walkways and a large portion of time spent underground, it’s easy to get turned around or lost.
Whenever you see a map, stop to get your bearings before continuing your trip.
Catch a glimpse of yourself in the reflecting pool at Nathan Phillips Square
If you don’t get lost in the Eaton Centre, travel west to Nathan Phillips Square. It’s just a couple of blocks away and connected via the PATH network.
The huge public square is the main meeting spot for locals and the site of various concerts and a weekly farmers’ market. Depending on the time of the year, you may also find an art exhibit or rally happening in the square.
The square includes several attractions, including a large reflecting pool in the centre. In the winter, the pool becomes a skating rink. If you’re visiting during the warmer months, you can stop and catch your reflection in the water.
After passing the pool, stop at the Peace Garden. It’s a memorial to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Rest at the pavilion and enjoy the views of the surrounding plant life.
Browse priceless paintings at the Art Gallery of Ontario
A few blocks west of Nathan Phillips Square stands the Art Gallery of Ontario. The interesting blue building combines modern and older architecture to create a unique addition to the skyline.
The bottom half of the main wing retains the original façade, featuring Georgian architecture that was popular in the 19th century. The top half is completely modern with a large blue surface.
The museum originally opened in 1900 and has expanded several times, resulting in the odd combination of architecture on the exterior of the building.
Inside the gallery, you’ll find over 95,000 pieces of art, including paintings from European masters and various examples of contemporary art. The museum has a modern art exhibit, mostly containing sculptures.
It also holds one of the largest collections of work from Canadian artists, including pieces from many indigenous artists.
Browse original artwork with a trip through Graffiti Alley
After a tour of the gallery, cut across Chinatown to reach Graffiti Alley. It’s a complete contrast to the art that you saw inside the Art Gallery of Ontario. Instead of priceless paintings, the alley contains an endless collage of graffiti from local artists.
Graffiti Alley runs between Queens Street and Richmond Street. It’s a narrow pedestrian alley with brick and concrete buildings on each side. The exterior of these buildings provides the canvas for graffiti artists.
The art pieces and murals constantly change as artists regularly paint over older works and add new creations. It’s an interesting place to visit and often overlooked by tourists.
If you’re feeling a little peckish, the adjacent street is lined with cafes, bars, restaurants, and shops. Queen Street West is just north of the alley and is one of the main shopping streets in Toronto.
Catch a show or grab dinner in the Entertainment District
When you finish admiring the local graffiti or shopping on Queen Street West, walk a few blocks south to search for food and drinks in the Entertainment District.
The Entertainment District of Toronto is mostly found along King Street, just east of Graffiti Alley and south of the downtown area. It’s hard to miss, thanks to the bright displays and neon signs outside of the various theatres and performing venues.
To go along with the entertainment, this area includes a wide range of dining options including some of the finest establishments in Toronto.
Finish off your tour of Toronto in one day with entertainment. Walk King Street looking for a place to eat or drink. You could also enjoy a play, musical, or concert. Of course, you may need to book tickets ahead of time.
Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Toronto
As Canada’s biggest city, choosing where to stay in Toronto can sometimes be tough. For most travellers with a quick layover in Toronto, however, the answer is quite simple.
The best areas to stay in Toronto for travellers are those in & around the downtown core including the Entertainment District, Yorkville, and West Queen. Here are a few top hotels to start your search…
- Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel: Located next to Nathan Phillips Square on Queen Street, this 4-star hotel features spacious rooms with marble bathrooms and rich wood furnishing. It’s connected to the underground PATH walkway, making it easy to get to some of downtown Toronto’s top landmarks without a fuss. (You’ll love this if you’re visiting Toronto in the winter.)
- Marriott Downtown at CF Toronto Eaton Centre: Close to both city hall and Yonge-Dundas Square, this centrally-located hotel is a fantastic choice whether you’re taking in a hockey or baseball game or wanting to spend your days eating & shopping. The seasonal rooftop pool is great for cooling down on a muggy Southern Ontario summer day.
- Four Seasons Hotel Toronto at Yorkville: One of the top luxury hotels in Toronto, this delectable 5-star offers some of the best views in the city through its floor-to-ceiling windows. As with any Four Seasons hotel around the globe, the service here is legendary.