If you’re visiting Canada for the first-time, your trip will likely involve discovering some of the best things to do in Toronto. As the largest city in Canada, Toronto has a diverse range of historical & cultural sites to explore.
No matter your interests, the top tourist attractions in Toronto will have you covered. Whether exploring Downtown Toronto or beyond, a wide array of points of interest await including museums, shopping districts, historic sites, parks, and even a zoo.
Not sure what to do in Toronto, Canada? Plan out where to go in Toronto with this guide to the best places to visit in Toronto…
Top tourist attractions in Toronto
Standing over 550 metres tall, the CN Tower is the most recognizable of the top Toronto points of interest and, still, one of the tallest towers in the world. At times, it can seem like it’s almost impossible to go any more than a few blocks in Toronto without seeing this gargantuan iconic landmark!
Visiting the CN Tower is one of the best things to do in Toronto for a variety of reasons.
The tower is near the southern edge downtown, making it a great place to start if you’ve only got one day in Toronto. It’s also steps away from Toronto’s most-visited commercial districts with hundreds of shops, restaurants, bars, and malls at your grasp.
Along with convenient access to shopping and dining, visiting the CN Tower is where to go in Toronto for the best view of the city. The observation tower gives you a panoramic viewpoint of Toronto’s skyline.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, test your resolve with a walk on the Glass Floor where you’ll feel like you’re suspended 342 metres above the ground. Even slightly more insane is the EdgeWalk, where you get to walk around the tower’s pod along a 5-foot-wide ledge at the 356-metre level. (Don’t worry: You’re tethered in!)
Once you’ve tested your fear of heights, there’s a slew of other family-friendly attractions & things to do in the CN Tower area including the amazing sea creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada or catching a Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre (or as it will forever be known to many Canadians, the Skydome).
A trip to the Distillery District has quickly become one of the best things to do in Toronto for travellers. It’s a unique destination in this modern city, due to the abundance of Victorian-style architecture. The brick-lined streets include many indie restaurants & small boutiques. It’s also a pedestrian-only neighbourhood, allowing you to wander around and leisurely explore the area.
In the winter, the Distillery District turns into a winter wonderland and is home to one of the best Christmas markets in Canada.
The Distillery District is home to many hip dining establishments, coffee shops, and art galleries.
While exploring the area, visit Arta Gallery to view a rotating collection of contemporary art exhibits. If you’re interested in abstract visual art, head over to Corkin Gallery.
The top points of interest in Toronto include various filming locations, some of which you may recognize from movies and television shows.
One of the most iconic locations is Casa Loma, a mansion that resembles a small castle. It was built in 1914 in Gothic Revival architecture style.
The mansion is located on the top of a hill overlooking the city. From the upper windows of the castle, you can see the skyline of Toronto.
The castle is now a museum. It’s open to the public during most of the year. Take the self-guided tour to see the interior and get a better view of the city.
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
You’ll find some of the top things to see in Toronto inside the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).
The ROM is the largest museum in Canada, containing over six million items and 40 different galleries. The diverse collection covers natural history, world culture, and contemporary art. In one section of the museum, you can scope out dinosaur bones; in another, world-famous paintings. It’s quite the ride!
With its immense size and scope, visiting the museum can easily turn into an all-day excursion.
Get a map of the museum when you enter or risk getting lost in the labyrinth of corridors and galleries. If you want to beat the crowds, try to arrive early in the day or in the middle of the afternoon.
High Park belongs on any list of the top tourist attractions in Toronto as it offers a variety of things to do. While you can spend a few hours walking the trails and enjoying the scenery, the park also has a zoo, playground, gardens, and various facilities.
The zoo isn’t very large, containing mostly farm animals and a few exotic species. You’ll see bison, sheep, cattle, peacocks, reindeer, and emus. If you’re travelling to Toronto with kids, make sure that you stop at the llama pen for feeding and petting.
Along with the zoo, the park has acres of gardens, including a landscaped ornamental garden area. The garden has a fairy-tale atmosphere with large trees and a colourful array of flowers and foliage. In the springtime, the park comes alive with cherry blossoms, and fills with locals who often picnic under the beautiful pink blooms.
CF Toronto Eaton Centre
If your Toronto travel plans include shopping, start at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre. Not only is Eaton Centre one of the largest shopping malls in Toronto, it’s connected to a variety of other Toronto attractions, including Toronto City Hall and some of the city centre’s other main shopping centres.
Eaton Centre also links to Toronto’s PATH, an underground walkway covering over 30 kilometres. The PATH connects the business district with dozens of nearby shopping and entertainment venues.
You could spend nearly the entire day visiting many of the top tourist attractions in Toronto without stepping outside or onto a major street. (Not a bad thing if you happen to be visiting Toronto in winter.)
When you’re trying to decide what to do in Toronto at the end of the day, visit Yonge-Dundas Square.
This large public square, lined with skyscrapers covered in neon lights and multi-storey billboards, is the nucleus of downtown Toronto. At night, the billboards transform the square into Toronto’s version of Times Square. As you walk through the centre of the square, watch out for the array of fountains spread across the main walkway.
Yonge-Dundas Square is also one of the best places to visit in Toronto to get your shopping fix. In & around the square, you’ll find a wide range of shops catering to every interest. Browse the area for electronics, clothing, art, and more. It’s also surrounded by several other landmarks, including Eaton Centre and the CityTV Building.
Yorkville is a popular Toronto sightseeing destination, mostly known for its collection of high-end shops.
It’s home to the Mink Mile, a stretch of road containing many top brands. It’s become one of the most expensive streets in Canada and the third most expensive retail space in the world.
While the shops may be too costly for some travellers, it’s still a great place to stroll and window shop.
Yorkville tends to be a little quieter compared to other parts of Toronto, giving you a break from the crowds in the downtown area further south. Browse the luxury shops and stop at one of the coffee shops to relax or warm up in winter.
Ontario Science Centre
One of the most famous museums in Canada and one of the top family-friendly attractions in Toronto, Ontario Science Centre is a must-visit if you’re visiting Toronto with kids.
This innovative science & technology museum has been operating for over 50 years. It features several hundred interesting & interactive exhibits strewn across its eight exhibition halls.
Some of the highlights of visiting the Ontario Science Centre include scoping out galaxies in the Space Hall planetarium, discovering the intricacies of the human body at AstraZeneca Human Edge, and exploring Ontario’s natural habitats at the Cohon Family Nature Escape.
The Ontario Science Centre is open year-round, 7 days a week.
Located just 10 minutes by ferry from Toronto’s harbourfront on Lake Ontario, the Toronto Islands offer a wonderful escape from the city. On the three main islands—Centre, Ward’s, and Algonquin—you’ll be able meander across a series of interconnected paths & boardwalks that sweep alongside parks, summer cottages, and beaches.
The most renowned of the Toronto Islands, particularly with families, is Centre Island. The island is home to one of the top-rated kid-friendly attractions in Toronto, Centreville. This small amusement park features a handful of fun things to do for kids including a petting zoo, pony rides, swan boats, and about 30 rides.
For escaping the bulk of the islands’ crowds, head to Ward’s Island or Algonquin Island where you’ll find an array of quaint old summer cottages and picturesque English gardens.
If letting it “all hang out” is on your Toronto travel agenda, escape to Hanlan’s Point, one of only a small handful of clothing-optional beaches in all of Ontario.
Regular ferries to the islands depart from Queen’s Quay at Bay Street.
Hockey Hall of Fame
If you’re visiting Canada for first-time (or from here), visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame is almost a rite of passage. Toronto is arguably the world’s most crazed hockey city (Montrealers feel free to argue this one), so there’s no better place to host hockey’s Holy Grail than in Ontario’s capital city.
The immense 65,000 square foot Hockey Hall of Fame is more than just a run-of-the-mill sporting museum. Besides hosting the world’s most impressive collection of hockey artifacts and memorabilia, the HHOF is an exciting immersive experience that’s a hit with kids and parents alike.
Among the interactive exhibits you’ll get to enjoy are the NHLPA Game Time rink (where you can be either the goalie or shooter—or both!) and the TSN Broadcast Zone play-by-play press booth where you can try your hand at hosting your own hockey broadcast.
Oh, and let’s not forget the main reason for visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame: Catching a glimpse of the Stanley Cup
For most of the year, the museum is home to hockey’s most prized possession (or its replica when its out & about in celebration). Don’t miss your chance to pad your Canadian travel experience with your own Instagrammable selfie moment with the world-famous Stanley Cup.
The HHOF is located at the corner of Yonge Street and Front Street at Brookfield Place.
Featuring over 5,000 animals and 450 species, the Toronto Zoo is one of Toronto’s must-see attractions especially for families with younger children.
The award-winning zoo, still the largest zoo in Canada, is split up into zoogeographic regions representing nearly every corner of the earth including Indo-Malaya, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Eurasia, Canadian Domain and the Tundra.
One of the most popular areas in the Toronto Zoo is the indoor African Rainforest Pavilion, home to its recently-born Western lowland gorilla. Elsewhere, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of species as wide-ranging as giraffes to polar bears to lemurs.
Due to the new social distancing regulations, you’ll need to pre-book your Toronto Zoo experience in advance on their website.
Art Gallery of Ontario
As one of the most renowned art museums in North America, visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the best things to do in Toronto for art lovers and culture-seekers alike.
The AGO is home to a whopping collection of more than 100,000 artworks, spanning everything from classic European painting to edgy modern art by well-known local, Canadian, and international artists.
Among the many highlights at the Art Gallery of Ontario are the Canadian First Nations exhibits featuring paintings, photos, and sculptures from some of Canada’s emerging Inuit, Métis, and Indigenous artists. Also on display at the gallery are several works from Canada’s famous Group of Seven landscape painters.
Located just west of Spadina between Dundas and College, Kensington Market is not just one of the most interesting places to go in Toronto but one of the top markets in North America.
This warren of streets and alleyways, flanked by elegant Victorian houses, was once one of Toronto’s most predominant Jewish quarters. The current market dates back to the 1920 when families would peddle their wares to neighbours within their quaint downtown neighbourhood.
Today, Kensington Market is one Toronto’s most diverse corners. As you wander about the market, you’ll encounter shops with goods from every corner of the planet including Europe, the Caribbean, Middle East, and Asia.
St. Lawrence Market
Located in Old Town Toronto, St. Lawrence Market is the city’s premier destination for foodies. Iconic enough to score a spot on National Geographic’s list of world’s best food markets, this popular market has been a fixture in the Toronto food scene for over two centuries.
The spacious St. Lawrence Market sprawls across two buildings: North Market & South Market.
In the South Market, you’ll roam amongst restaurants and food vendors with dishes circumnavigating the entire gamut of world cuisines. The building also hosts the Market Gallery, featuring a series of rotating exhibits that accent Toronto’s art & culture scene. Aspiring chefs will also find an opportunity to perfect their cooking skills with the variety of culinary classes offered here.
If you happen to visit Toronto on a Saturday, set your sights on the North Market. Every Saturday farmers from around the GTA set up shop to sell their fresh produce, meats, and cheese to Torontonians. It’s always a lively atmosphere with plenty of great fresh food on offer!
No visit to Toronto is complete without enjoying a stroll or a night out on the town in the Entertainment District.
Taking up a large chunk of Toronto’s bustling downtown, the Entertainment District centres around trendy King Street West. Along this iconic boulevard, you’ll find a smattering of bars & restaurants along with a number of performing venues that form Toronto’s theatre district including Roy Thomson Hall and the Princess of Wales Theatre.
Every September, King Street West also plays host to the world-famous Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Centred around the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the film festival is the best chance to rub elbows with your favourite celebrities outside of Hollywood as they descend upon Ontario’s capital to promote their latest films.
If shopping is more your thing, head up to Queen Street West. Long considered one of the coolest hangout spots in Toronto, the street is home to a wide array of hip boutique shops selling everything from vintage clothing to vinyl records.
Queen West is also home to several legendary Toronto live music venues including The Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar, Cameron House, and the Horseshoe Tavern.
Toronto is famous for its cultural diversity, and one of the best places to see it in action is in Chinatown.
Centred around the corner of Spadina and Dundas West, Chinatown is a small Asian enclave within Ontario’s capital. It’s chock-loaded with a large selection of authentic Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese restaurants along with bustling food markets and electronics shops.
While you’re bound to find some delectable dim sum, bubble tea, or Peking duck any day of the year, the most colourful time to visit Toronto’s Chinatown is during Chinese New Year when the area bursts into a cavalcade of festivities.
Where to stay in Toronto for sightseeing
As the largest city in Canada, figuring out where to stay in Toronto can be a challenge. If you want to check out the top points of interest in Toronto, the best areas to stay in Toronto are those in & around the downtown core including the Entertainment District, Yorkville, and West Queen West. Here are a few great hotels to start your accommodations search…
- Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel: A stone’s throw away from Nathan Phillips Square, this 4-star hotel offers large elegant rooms in a fantastic central Queen Street locations.
- Marriott Downtown at CF Toronto Eaton Centre: With Yonge-Dundas Square close by, this mid-range hotel is a great choice for travellers looking to tackling Toronto’s restaurant & shopping scene. There’s a great outdoor pool here if you happen to be visiting Toronto in the dead heat of summer.
- Four Seasons Hotel Toronto at Yorkville: Hands down one of the best luxury hotels in Toronto, this 5-star hotel charms guests with everything from offering some of the best skyline views in the city to its legendary customer service.