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There are so many great things to do in Toronto, but where do you start? Here’s a one day in Toronto itinerary with all the top sights.
Planning Your One Day in Toronto Itinerary
If you plan to spend a day in Toronto, Ontario, you’ve made a wise choice. Since no fewer than 25% of Hollywood movies are filmed in this city, it’s (almost) as exciting as Hollywood. Well, at least 25% as exciting.
But hey, during TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, held every September, it’s even more exciting than Hollywood.
Top Toronto Attractions
Top attractions include the CN Tower, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, Harbourfront and the Rogers Centre – one of the world’s first stadiums featuring a completely retractable roof.
When the sun is shining, it’s an ideal time for visiting the Toronto Islands. They’re easily reachable via ferry or water taxi from the Toronto Harbour.
I’m partial to the swanky shopping and gallery district of Yorkville, with its hippie past (hello, Joni Mitchell!), haute hotels and stroll-able avenues … and because I’ve lived here for years.
Toronto in 24 Hours
If you only have 24 hours in Toronto, you’ll have to make some hard choices. Maybe either the Royal Ontario Museum or the Art Gallery of Ontario. Explore trendy Queen Street West or posh Yorkville. The Islands may have to go.
I’ve tried to add in enough options that you can pick and choose – or try to squeeze it all in. If you have two days in Toronto, you can easily spread this itinerary out. If you have three days, even better.
How to Get Around the City
On Your Own
You can walk between many of these Toronto attractions. Other options for getting around are Uber, Bike Share Toronto, or taxi. There are a lot of cabs available and it’s usually easy to flag one down.
The Toronto Transit Commission, known as the TTC, is a quick and easy way of travelling around downtown or for excursions farther afield. You can buy a PRESTO Day Pass for $13.50.
How to get a PRESTO Day Pass: You can get a pass from a vending machine in the subway stations, and at Pearson Airport near the public transport area. The pass includes the street car and buses as well as the subway.
Hop On Hop Off Bus
You can also do a Hop On Hop Off Bus. If you want to go to some popular tourist attractions that aren’t as central as others, such as the Distillery District and Casa Loma, it’s a good option.
For 48 hours, prices start at $63 CAN. Book the Hop On Hop Off Bus.
Toronto Day Tours
If planning isn’t your thing, you can make your Toronto day trip easy with a 5-hour Ultimate Toronto Tour that includes a hotel pickup, entry to the CN Tower and a Harbourfront Cruise (in season).
Things to Do in Toronto in a Day
Start at Harbourfront
Toronto’s Harbourfront overlooks Lake Ontario and is a bustling tourist hub.
It’s a 10-acre spread of various indoor and outdoor spaces. Throughout the year there is a full program of events with theatres, outdoor stages, lakeside restaurants and a skating rink in winter.
There used to be better shopping, and I don’t know what happened there, but I’m hoping it will one day be revived.
From May to October, one of the most popular things to do here is to take a sightseeing cruise.
Check prices and availability for a Harbourfront and Islands tour here.
If the weather is unforgiving (hey, it’s Canada), you can visit the PowerPlant, the city’s leading contemporary art gallery. Bonus: Entrance to the PowerPlant is free.
Harbourfront Centre is at 235 Queens Quay West. You can take the 509 Harbourfront streetcar from Union Station.
Looking for cold weather fun? Check out Things to do in Toronto in Winter.
Visit the CN Tower
The lofty CN Tower is Toronto’s top tourist sight – at least the 1.5 million people a year who visit seem to think it’s worth the trip.
Famous for being the tallest freestanding manmade structure in the world – until the even higher Burj Khalifa in Dubai knocked it off its pedestal in 2008 – Toronto’s CN Tower can withstand winds of over 400 km/h and an earthquake of 8.5 on the Richter scale.
That’s safer than the White House.
Soar up the glass-fronted elevator, enjoy sprawling views of Toronto and Lake Ontario, and stand on the glass floor and look down.
If you’re planning to visit the CN Tower along with many other Toronto top attractions, you might want to consider a CityPASS. It gives you discounts on admissions to places like the CN Tower, Casa Loma, the Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and more.
Where to Eat at the CN Tower
You can splurge on a meal at the 360 Restaurant – I still think longingly of the tenderloin I once had there. You can easily guess why the restaurant is called 360 – it makes a complete panoramic rotation every 72 minutes letting you admire the city 300 metres below.
Extreme Adventure at the CN Tower – Try the EdgeWalk
Daredevils can do the CN Tower’s most extreme attraction, the EdgeWalk. It’s a death-defying (except apparently it’s safe) outdoor walk from an impossible height. And I am totally going to do it … as soon as pigs can fly. (Kidding. I really do want to do it.)
The CN Tower is located at 290 Bremner Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3L9.
Visit Ripley’s Aquarium
Another top attraction is Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. It’s a good sightseeing activity to combine with the CN Tower as it’s right at the tower’s base, and is a great thing to do in Toronto with kids. Jellyfish! The Dangerous Lagoon! What’s not to like?
Slide on Over to the Hockey Hall of Fame
From Ripley’s Toronto Aquarium you can walk to the Hockey Hall of Fame, a museum devoted to all things ice hockey. Located near Union Station, the Hockey Hall of Fame is where the Stanley Cup lives when it’s not jet-setting around the world.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is at Brookfield Place, 30 Yonge Street, in a beautiful old banking building.
Visit the Toronto Islands
For a bit of nature, one of the best things to do in Toronto for a day is to visit the Toronto Islands. They’re just a 20-minute ferry ride from the lakeshore. Many people don’t realize you can visit the islands in wintertime too.
To reach the Islands you can catch a ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal between Bay Street and Yonge Street at Queens Quay.
You can also hop a private boat taxi for about $10 per person just west of Harbourfront. I usually do this to skip the lines at the ferry.
There are three stops at the Islands. If you’re a first time visitor aim for Centre Island, especially if you’re looking for things to do in Toronto with children, because there are Swan Boats and other kid-friendly activities there during summer.
What Can You Do on the Islands?
Stroll around, rent a bike, eat a hot dog, rent a kayak, or visit Toronto’s only nude beach at Hanlon’s Point.
The truth is, you’re probably only going to want to visit the Islands on a nice day and, if you only have 24 hours in Toronto, and none of those hours are sunny, read on for better things to do.
(If the weather is great and you want more things to do outdoors here are some other places to hike near Toronto.)
Shop at the Eaton Centre
No matter how short your Toronto visit is, it’s hard to resist a wee bit of shopping – especially as it’s an all-weather sport.
The most popular shopping destination in Toronto is the Eaton Centre, a glass-covered mall housing a huge array of shops including high-end department stores like Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Don’t miss Canada’s own department store in the mall, Hudson’s Bay at the south end. (Interesting note: the Bay bought Saks in 2013. Think about that next time you’re having an iconic shopping experience at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.)
Where to Eat in the Eaton Centre
If you’re looking for a good restaurant at the Eaton Centre, check out Leña Restaurante at the corner of Richmond and Yonge at Saks. This South American all-day restaurant is getting rave reviews.
By the way, I’m told the Eaton Centre attracts more visitors than Disneyland. (I’m having trouble believing that but there’s no arguing with rumour.)
The Eaton Centre is at 220 Yonge Street.
Walk Yonge Street
At 1,896 km in length, Yonge Street is the world’s longest street according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s not the most elegant shopping destination in the world. In fact, some major (and much needed) revitalization is being planned, but it’s always busy and it’s definitely long.
Okay, honestly, it’s not my favourite street in the world, but it connects the downtown core and the Eaton Centre to the ‘Mink Mile’ shopping area at Bloor Street, so you may find yourself walking it whether you want to or not.
(Am I making this day in Toronto sound fun or what?)
Tip: An alternative route north towards Yorkville is University Avenue.
Visit Nathan Phillips Square
Across from the Eaton Centre at Queen and Bay you’ll find Nathan Phillips Square, the courtyard to our space-age-looking Toronto City Hall.
You can skate in Nathan Phillips Square in the winter and attend events here year round.
Fun fact: When the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors (sorry, California) in the 2019 NBA Championship, the insanely massive Victory Rally was held here. We’re talking more than a million people. It was bedlam.
Check out Hip Queen Street West
If you walk farther west on Queen West, you’ll find plenty of hipster hangouts and shops around Queen and Spadina Avenue. If you keep going all the way to West Queen West (yes, we really call it that) you’ll find the happening hubs of the Drake Hotel and the Gladstone Hotel.
A word of advice: If you can only spend a day in Toronto and want to cram it all in, it’s best to hop on the streetcar to get this far west rather than walk.
Itinerary tip: While West Queen West is a fun Boho neighbourhood, if you want to focus on the top Toronto attractions and you only have a day to sightsee, you may want to give it a miss.
Cruise Through Graffiti Alley
While you’re in the Queen West area, a unique thing to do is to check out Toronto’s Graffiti Alley, an Instagrammer’s dream.
Located just south of Queen Street, in what is called the Fashion District, Graffiti Alley is an eye-popping strip of street art that runs between Spadina Avenue and Portland Avenue.
Just a note: The name Fashion District comes from the area’s past, when a number of warehouses and garment factories were located here, not because the shops are particularly fashionable.
Graffiti Alley is called Rush Lane and runs for about three blocks.
Don’t Miss the Art Gallery of Toronto – the AGO
This booming Canadian city is rich in culture and one of the top things to put on your Toronto 1 day itinerary is the AGO.
The art gallery holds 80,000 artefacts going back to the first century AD, and the collection includes work by famous artists like Cézanne, Goya, and Matisse. They also have blockbuster traveling exhibitions.
For a taste of serious Canadian culture check out the phenomenal landscape paintings by the Group of Seven.
(My favourite things to see at the AGO is the Bernini bust of Pope Gregory XV.)
The AGO is located at 317 Dundas Street West, about a 10-minute walk west from the Eaton Centre.
Book your AGO tickets online.
Hang Out in Funky Kensington Market
From the Art Gallery of Toronto you can walk to Kensington Market. It’s one of the liveliest and earthiest neighbourhoods in the city. To get here head west on Dundas from the Art Gallery towards Kensington Avenue and turn right.
This fun pedestrian-friendly area fights hard to keep its local flavour, and you’ll find fishmongers, fruit and vegetable stands, health stores, cafes and vintage shops galore. (Plus the not uncommon whiff of pot.)
Where to Eat in Kensington Market
You’ll definitely want to take a break in one of the many indie coffee shops in Kensington like Wanda’s Pie in the Sky or Moonbeam.
For a casual lunch a solid vegetarian option is the Urban Herbivore at 64 Oxford Street, right across from Wanda’s. (You’ll probably see my husband there, as he’s a devoted regular.)
Go to the Royal Ontario Museum
Now head north to Bloor Street and University Avenue. If you’re fascinated by science, history and nature, stop in at the Royal Ontario Museum (the ROM).
Children love the dinosaurs in the Libeskind Crystal Wing. And who wouldn’t? It’s one of the best dinosaur collections in North America, and a great thing to do in Toronto with kids. Don’t miss Gordo, the largest dinosaur skelton ever to be displayed in Canada.
The ROM was built in 1912, and is home to a controversial modern addition that looks like a stylish meteor has crash-landed into the traditional brick building. Locals are divided between love and hate, with most people I talk to firmly on the hate side. (I’m on the love side.)
The ROM is conveniently located across the street from the luxury neighbourhood of Yorkville, so it’s just a hop and a skip away.
Get your ticket for the Royal Ontario Museum in advance here.
Insider’s Secret – Philosopher’s Walk
Right behind the ROM is Philosopher’s Walk, a lovely walking path that is part of the University of Toronto’s St. George Campus.
It’s a refreshing place to sit on a bench and rest your legs before heading into Yorkville. Not only is Philosopher’s Walk a place of tranquility, it follows the route of a buried waterway called Taddle Creek.
Spend Time in Yorkville, Where the Rich People Play
Another shopping destination of note if you’re visiting Toronto is Yorkville. This swanky neighbourhood is bordered by Bloor Street West, Avenue Road and Bay Street.
Here you’ll find many of the city’s high-end designers, especially on Bloor Street. In fact, the stretch of Bloor Street between Yonge and University is referred to as the Mink Mile (by whom, I don’t know, certainly not by me).
Yorkville and Cumberland Avenues are a delight to walk around with their blue chip art galleries, stylish boutiques, 5-star hotels, restaurants and bars. You can also access the upscale Yorkville Village mall from Hazelton Avenue or Avenue Road.
And don’t miss our cool Village of Yorkville Park on Cumberland Street, with its contemporary interpretations of Canada’s diverse landscape.
Where to Eat in Yorkville
Hungry? One option in Yorkville is Planta, an upscale ‘plant-based’ restaurant, which, I assume, means ‘vegan only more expensive’. And if my husband wants to know where he should take me on my birthday, Planta will do nicely. It’s at 1221 Bay Street.
(Update: He took me to Sofia instead.)
Sofia Restaurant, at 99 Yorkville Avenue, has an exuberant and ornate decor and offers upscale Italian cuisine in a glam atmosphere.
My Top Pick: A great restaurant option in Yorkville is AloBar at 57A – 162 Cumberland, which is tucked into a little courtyard. The small plates are divine, the clientele chic and it’s quickly become one of the best restaurants in Toronto.
Explore Toronto’s Castle – Casa Loma
Not quite as central as Yorkville, but certainly eye-catching is Casa Loma. This lavish Toronto landmark was built in 1911 by the wealthy Sir Henry Pellatt, a businessman who dreamed of living in a massive Edwardian castle.
He commissioned the famous architect E.J. Lennox to design the most palatial residence North America had ever seen.
It took 300 people and three years to erect the majestic assortment of 30 restrooms, 98 rooms, and 25 fireplaces atop of the hill overlooking the city.
Casa Loma’s Decline
For Sir Henry Pellatt and wife, Lady Mary, the money wasn’t too much of a stretch as he controlled a quarter of the economy of Canada. Yet only 10 years later, the couple’s fortune was ruined by the loss of the electricity monopoly in favour of the government. Yikes.
Casa Loma is located in a residential neighbourhood at One Austin Terrace near Davenport Road and Spadina Road. If you’re not using the Hop On Hop Off Bus, you’ll probably want to take a taxi.
Toronto in Two Days
To explore any of these attractions in detail, you’ll probably want to spread this itinerary out over two days in Toronto – or more.
You could also add in the St. Lawrence Market, a fun and lively food market on Front Street East, or Chinatown, which rubs shoulders with Kensington Market.
Another fun place to visit in Toronto is the Tiff Bell Lightbox complex at 287 King Street West. This is where the Toronto International Film Festival magic happens.
Toronto in Three Days
If you’re spending three days in Toronto, you could add in a visit to the University of Toronto, a leafy campus with plenty of Romanesque and Gothic Revival architecture built between 1857 and 1929.
High Park: Another place I’d recommend is Toronto’s largest park, especially if you’re here during cherry blossom season in the spring. There are wooded trails, ducks and swans along Grenadier Pond and a restaurant that makes excellent french fries and gravy.
You can take the subway – the Bloor Line will take you to the High Park Station.
What to do in Toronto at Night
If it’s a straight 24 hours in Toronto you’re here for and feel sleep is overrated, the choices for things to do in Toronto in the evening are endless.
Take in a Game or a Show
Sports fans can check out what’s on at the Rogers Centre – you might catch a Blue Jays game – while at the Scotiabank Arena you can see a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game or watch the Raptors play basketball.
Stage fans can see a Broadway show in one of the city’s many theatres. King Street West is the main theatre hub.
Try a Meal in One of Toronto’s Ethnic Neighbourhoods
You can opt for dinner in one of Toronto’s unique ethnic neighbourhoods such as Greektown on the Danforth in the East End, or Little India even farther east. Admittedly, Little India is pretty far if you only have a day in Toronto but you can get there by streetcar.
There are a lot of great places to eat on Toronto’s East Side.
Closer to the city centre is Little Italy, which runs west from College and Bathurst Street. Here, in addition to Italian restaurants you’ll find lively bars and a young fun vibe. In the summer, the Cafe Diplomatico has a terrific outdoor patio.
Check Out Some of Toronto’s Other Happening Areas
For ultra hipster bars and restaurants hit up Ossington Avenue between College and Dundas. It’s Toronto’s epicentre of cool.
The bars and nightclubs in the Entertainment District around King Street downtown are more mainstream. There are plenty of popular restaurants around King and Bathurst such as the Italian eatery Oretta.
Another great place to visit in Toronto is the Distillery District, a pedestrian-only collection of cobbled lanes and heritage buildings, restored to loving perfection. There are a number of restaurants here to choose from.
Do a Toronto Night Tour
Check out a Toronto night tour, where you’ll see the sunset either from the CN Tower or on a Harbour Cruise and get plenty of photo ops.
Check out a Toronto Night Tour out here.
Getting into Toronto from the Airport
Taxi: Taxis and limos are the easiest way to get into Toronto’s downtown from Pearson Airport, but it will cost you $60 and up. Just follow the signs in the airport to find the stands.
Ride Share: To take Uber or Lyft, you need to go to the correct pickup spots. You can find the pick-up locations on the Toronto Pearson website.
Bus The cheapest option for getting into Toronto from the airport is to take the 192 Rocket Bus. For $3.25 it will deposit you at the Kipling Subway Station. At Kipling Station hop on the subway (it’s free to transfer) going east to Yonge and Bloor. You can get off there, or transfer to the Yonge Line and head south towards Union Station. I would budget at least an hour, maybe 75 minutes, to get downtown.
Train: A quicker route in from the airport is to take the UP Express to Union Station, the train station downtown. The adult fare is $12.35 and it takes 25 minutes. Trains leave every 15 minutes. You can also get off at Bloor West.
If you’re doing a day trip to Toronto and coming in by train, Union Station is central, and you can start your 24 itinerary from here, by walking or taking the streetcar to Harbourfront.
Can You See Toronto in One Day?
After reading this guide, when someone asks you what to do in Toronto, you should have some good answers. Whether you’re visiting on a girls weekend getaway, a romantic Ontario escape or here for a family vacation, Canada’s largest city has activities for you.
The downside is that there are are so many different sides to the city that no matter how much you fit in, you’re not going to see it all on a quick visit. But hopefully this Toronto one day itinerary will get you on your way.