You can’t say you’ve visited the Great White North without spending at least one day in Toronto. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the capital of the province of Ontario. The city is one of the world’s most diverse and is home to world-famous attractions like the CN Tower. Toronto is among the most popular travel destinations in Canada, receiving hordes of visitors from around the globe.
Of course, with 24 hours in Toronto, you can’t see it all. Any time-crunched Toronto itinerary leaves plenty aside. The city is chock-loaded with museums, art galleries, and unique boutique shops. Foodies will find thousands of restaurants reflecting the over 200 ethnic groups that call Toronto home. There’s also a thriving nightlife scene in Toronto. On top of that the city hosts a variety of seasonal street festivals & markets to keep things interesting all year round.
Not sure where to get started with visiting Toronto in one day? Plan your trip with this complete 1-day Toronto itinerary.
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Where to go in Toronto in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
Experiencing Toronto in 24 hours won’t be easy. Toronto is a massive city; even spending one week in Toronto won’t do it justice!
This 1-day tour includes stops at some of Toronto’s top attractions and whisks you through the most-visited parts of the city. You’ll shop in the world’s largest underground mall. You’ll witness Canada’s most impressive skyline from the top of one of the world’s tallest freestanding towers. You’ll taste some of the city’s finest food. Your journey will merely scratch the surface of this fascinating Canadian city.
This itinerary for one day in Toronto stays mostly in the city centre with its easy-to-navigate streets. Most of the stops are within walking distance of each other. 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 1-day Toronto itinerary and is the most famous landmark in the city. The CN Tower stands 553 metres high, providing a panoramic view of the city’s skyline.
As the most famous site in Toronto, the CN Tower becomes extremely crowded as the day wears on. It should be the first place that you visit in the morning.
When you arrive at the tower, ride the elevator up to the main observation deck. (Technically, you’ll 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 Toronto. While it’s too early for lunch or dinner, you could grab a snack before continuing your trip.
You could also wait until you get back to ground level. The streets around the 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 the 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, continue your first day in Toronto by walking south to the harbour. You can’t skip the Toronto Waterfront during your Toronto trip 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 revitalization plans for the area. For now, it’s simply a pleasant place to take a stroll.
Fill your stomach with fresh fruit at St. Lawrence Market
As you work your way east across the waterfront, turn left on Lower Jarvis Street. Head toward St. Lawrence Market. The market is a couple of blocks away from the harbour, located inside a large hall.
St. Lawrence Market 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 spreads out over multiple levels. The ground floor houses specialty vendors selling organic vegetables & fruits, seafood, and snacks. The second floor contains the Market Gallery. It hosts rotating exhibits that explore the history of Toronto.
St. Lawrence 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 at St. Lawrence Market. Grab something to eat as you walk around, such as a fresh Montreal-style bagel or local seafood.
Shop the underground at CF Toronto Eaton Centre and the PATH Network
St. Lawrence Market is south of downtown Toronto and the sprawling CF Toronto 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 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 1,200 stores and services are connected via the various tunnels and elevated walkways. Spend some time in 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. It host regular 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.
Nathan Phillips Square includes several attractions. The most famous are the Toronto sign and the 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. It features the Georgian architecture style that was popular in Canada in the 19th century. The top half is completely modern with a large blue surface.
The Art Gallery of Ontario originally opened in 1900. It’s 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. The collections include paintings from European masters and various examples of contemporary art. The museum also has a modern art exhibit, mostly containing sculptures.
The Art Gallery of Ontario also holds one of Canada’s largest collections of work from Canadian artists. The collection includes 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 Queen 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. 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
Finished 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 found along King Street, east of Graffiti Alley and south of the downtown area. It’s hard to miss. You’ll spot bright displays and neon signs outside of its theatres & performing venues.
To go along with the entertainment, this area includes a wide range of dining options. The selection includes 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 with 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. They include the Entertainment District, Yorkville, and Queen West. Here are a few top hotels to start your search…
- Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel is 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 is a superb centrally-located mid-range hotel. It’s close to both city hall and Yonge-Dundas Square. Whether you’re taking in a hockey or baseball game or want to spend your days eating & shopping, it’s a fantastic choice. The seasonal rooftop pool is great for cooling down on a muggy Southern Ontario summer day.
- Four Seasons Hotel Toronto at Yorkville is 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.
More Toronto itinerary ideas
If you’re extra ambitious, try to stuff in a visit to the Distillery District. The historic neighbourhood is about a 15-minute walk east of St. Lawrence Market.
The Distillery District is one of Toronto’s coolest areas to wander around. Here, cobblestoned streets are lined with handsome Victorian architecture. Inside the buildings, you’ll find a slew of hip eateries, cafés, boutiques, and art galleries.
Looking to scope out Toronto’s diversity? Carve out time to visit Kensington Market. The eclectic area sits just a few blocks north of Chinatown west of Spadina between Dundas and College.
Kensington Market is just one of Toronto’s coolest places to see; it’s one North America’s most interesting markets. Sprouting from its elegant Victorian buildings, the markets found their roots in the 1920s. At the time, the neighbourhood was downtown’s most predominant Jewish quarter.
Today, Kensington Market is one of the most diverse places in Toronto. Among its shops, you’ll find vendors selling wares from Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Whether you’re a bonafide Canadian hockey nut or new to the game, a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame is a must. This ain’t your typical stuffy sports museum. The Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) is an immersive experience that’s a blast for the entire family.
At the HHOF, you’ll peruse the entire history of the game of ice hockey. More than that, you’ll live the game. Fancy yourself a future NHLer? Try your hand as a goalie or a shooter at the NHLPA Game Time rink. Think you’ve got broadcasting chops? Host your own hockey broadcast at the TSN Broadcast Zone play-by-play press booth.
Of course, the real reason to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame is for a glimpse at hockey’s Holy Grail: the Stanley Cup. For most of the year, the museum hosts the Stanley Cup in all its glory. (Or its replica when it’s otherwise in use during the celebrations.)
Royal Ontario Museum
With over six million items and 40 galleries, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada’s largest museum. Visiting this massive museum could exhaust an entire day on its own!
The diverse collection at the ROM spans natural history, world culture, and contemporary art. You’ll scope out everything from dinosaur bones to paintings from world-famous masters. If you want to see it all, you’ll need to start out early.
Loonies and toonies burning a hole in your pocket? Slink up to the upscale district of Yorkville. The neighbourhood is located just north of downtown.
Yorkville is famous for its ritzy fashion boutiques. The area’s Mink Mile is famous for its stretch of high-end shops. It’s one of Canada’s most expensive streets—both for shoppers and tenants!
While budget travellers might scoff at the prices, Yorkville is still a great place for a stroll. It’s quieter and more relaxing than much of the city centre. Grab a coffee at one of its trendy cafés to unwind and experience Yorkville —without having to take out a second mortgage.
Toronto isn’t as well-known for its architecture as cities like Quebec City, Montreal, or even Ottawa. One exception is Casa Loma. This eye-catching mansion sits just north of The Annex at Davenport and Spadina.
Casa Loma was built in 1914 in a striking Gothic Revival style. The mansion resembles a castle in Tarragon more than a residence in Toronto. Perched on a small hill, Casa Loma offers beautiful views of the Toronto skyline.
The castle is home to a museum accessible year-round. Take the self-guided guided to explore its history and enjoy its glamorous architectural details.
Ontario Science Centre
The Ontario Science Centre is far enough outside the city centre to preclude it from a quick visit. But if you’ve got your own wheels are are visiting Ontario’s capital with kids, it’s a fantastic stop.
One of Canada’s most famous museums, the Ontario Science Centre offers hundreds of unique exhibits. Kids and adults alike will love them. Peer into the galaxies at the Space Hall planetarium. Explore the human body at AstraZeneca Human Edge. Or explore the natural habitats of Ontario at the Cohon Family Nature Escape.
The museum is open 7 days a week year-round.
Need to escape the buzz of the city? Hop on a ferry to the Toronto Islands. The islands are accessible with a short 10-minute ferry ride from the harbourfront.
For visitors, the most famous of the three islands in Centre Island. If you’re travelling to Toronto with kids, it’s a particularly worthy addition to your trip plan. Toronto Centre Island is home to the Centreville amusement park. To be sure, it’s not Canada’s Wonderland. But the small park offers about 30 rides for younger children. Kids will also enjoy the petting zoo and pony rides.
When to visit Toronto
The best time to visit Toronto is between late April and October. The shoulder seasons of late April to May and September to October are most pleasant to travel here. Although the summer months between June and August are pleasant, Toronto is also at its busiest. The tourist crowds are at their highest in summer. Accommodation prices rise as availability falls.
If the prospect of cold weather doesn’t bother you, winter isn’t such a bad time to visit either. Toronto is a tad milder in winter than other Canadian cities like Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, or Edmonton. If you visit Toronto in winter, be sure to squeeze in a Toronto Maple Leafs game at Scotiabank Arena. Attending a hockey game in Toronto, the mecca of ice hockey, is one of the ultimate Canada travel experiences!
How to get to Toronto
Toronto is served by Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). The airport is located 22.5 kilometres from the city centre. By passenger traffic, Pearson Airport is the busiest airport in Canada.
Several major airlines fly into YYZ from Canadian and international gateway. Toronto is a major hub for Air Canada, WestJet, and AirTransat.
For most travellers, travelling to Toronto by car is the best option. Long distance buses and trains (with the exception of a few routes) tend to be more inconvenient and slower than travelling by car. Sample driving times to Toronto include:
- Niagara Falls (1h25m)
- Ottawa (4h20m)
- Montreal (5h27m)
- New York City (8h8m)
- Chicago (8h3m)
- Detroit (3h49m)