City guide: few days in Toronto

2 years ago I had prepared an article where you could find all the activities to do in Toronto and a city guide of Toronto but what you ask me very often is an article with a typical weekend, the essential activities, also very easy to share with family / friends who come to visit you and do not speak English very well. So here it is, here it is finally! My perfect weekend in Toronto has arrived! Prepare your sneakers the public transport network is not ideal we walk a lot here!

Before we start let’s review some practical information to simplify your stay, if you already live in North America some things will seem obvious but among you there are also people preparing a stay in Toronto from another country:

  • Let’s start with the basics but I have read so many times about it on different Facebook groups: here the currency used is the Canadian dollar! No American (yes it seems easy but we are never too considerate!)
  • Taxes are not included in the stores, they are added in cash.
  • Here we tip when there is a service: in the restaurant, bar, at the hairdresser, at the nails salon. It is customary to give between 15 and 20% more if you wish.
  • Be careful the plugs are not the same as France, they are the same as the USA, they look like that or that.
  • From the airport to Union Station (Toronto Central Station) since 2015 you have the possibility to take the Union Pearson Express, in 25 minutes you are downtown (with even 2 other stops possible in Weston and Bloor) for only $ 12 one way ($ 9 if you have a Presto card). Wifi available during the trip.
  • You’ll find Wifi everywhere: Starbucks, malls, Mcdonalds. You can enjoy just passing by and believe me there are many!
  • Open your eyes Toronto is often called the North Hollywood for a reason: there are always movie shoots or shows in the city! You could meet celebrities or see behind the scenes of one of your favorite shows!

I encourage you to read my newcomer guide to Toronto for more info and details!

Day 1

Distillery District:

  • It is an older and more historic part of the city, it is the former Gooderham and Worts distillery, it will cease its activities after the First World War. In the 90s it will host the filming of more than 1700 films being the second most important site after Hollywood. In the early 2000s a big project was launched: the restoration of the distillery to turn it into a pedestrian district. This is the neighborhood that you can visit today. Address: 9 Trinity Street, Suite 200, Toronto. Website.
  • Main events:
  • Tasty break: you will also find several shops and some cafes / restaurants. My recommendations for you:
    • Cluny Bistro: the place is French but not held by French, which does not detract from the character of the place and the quality of dishes but important to know as a French;) Website.
    • El Catrin: Mexican atmosphere, they have a great patio and the decor inside is gorgeous. Good not to mention that the aesthetic side is delicious!
    • Balzac Coffee: There are many in the city but the Distillery District really has a very nice space! Website.
    • Arvo Coffee: smaller than the first I like space too, hyper cozy. Website
  • Instagram moment:
    • A photo that you will surely see a lot on Instagram is this one in winter mode. The CN tower and buildings in the background, the basketball court with the nice graffity in front. It’s a short walk from Distillery District towards St Lawrence Market. The exact address to make your life easier: 252 The Esplanade, the park is called David Crombie.
    • The only way to get your picture without having half of the other tourists in town is to come early! The Love sign has become a staple of the neighborhood, it is surrounded by padlocks deposited by people who love each other. A small remix of our Pont des Arts Parisien, the Sein, less the view.
    • At the southern entrance of the neighborhood you will find a huge red heart, even fight here the tail can be long but it’s a nice memory!

St Lawrence market:

  • It is the city’s largest covered market, this beautiful building is located in the Old Toronto, a short walk from Distillery District. In addition to the usual vendors who offer products from around the world, it hosts a local farmers market on Saturday morning. I quickly told you about it when I arrived in 2014 in this article.  Address: 93 Front St E, Toronto. Website.
  • Be careful with schedules, it’s closed on Sunday and Monday and they close early the other days.
  • Mains events:
    • Farmer market: Saturday mornings
    • Flea market: Sundays.
    • More events here.
  • Tasty break: you have plenty of options inside the covered market, you can take several things indoors and put yourself on the tables outside. This is what I usually do with my visitors.

Gooderham Building:

  • Historic building built in 1892 (also nicknamed Flatiron Building, yet built before New York) shaped iron close to St Lawrence Market, it was built by architect David Roberts for the Gooderham family, the owners distillery Distillery District. On the east side you can see a beautiful view of the skyline in the background. Address: 49 Wellington St E, Toronto.
  • Instagram moment: When you cross the street you can stop on the central solid ground. From here you will have nice pictures centered with the buildings in the background. Like on this photo.

CN Tower:

  • The emblem of the city doesn’t need to be introduce anymore. From its height of 553 meters it is also a visual landmark for newcomers and tourists. Two possibilities: eat at the restaurant 360 and enjoy the view by eating (dinner reservation includes a ticket to the tower) or buy a ticket for a simple visit. It is also possible for the most courageous to go around the tower .. from the outside by being held by a cable:  Le Edge Walk (Between $195 and $225/person). Price max $48 (enjoy a discount with your AirMiles card). Address: 301 Front St W, Toronto. Website.
  • Instagram moment: the pretty pictures of the CN tower are far from the CN to have it in the background. At the bottom it is difficult to make pretty pictures. You can go on the roof of the parking lot located at 7 Lower Simcoe St for a better view!

Harbour Front:

  • This is the neighborhood along the lake in the city center, a getaway at the water’s edge: you can walk, bike, rollerblade, land in the grass, stroll in front of the vastness of the lake with the Rogers Center, the CN tower and a whole series of buildings. If you come from the west you can start the walk by Bahurst and Queens Quay, otherwise from the East you will start at York and Queens Quay.
  • Tasty break:
    • Amsterdam Brewhouse: the queue is long from 16h and the weekend to have a place on the patio but if you get to have a table enjoy this little parenthesis away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
    • The Slip: this bar only open during the summer also offers a beautiful view of the lake in a very summery atmosphere with large wooden tables.
    • Pie Bar: I did not go there often but their pizzas are good!
    • BeaverTails: on the edge of the water you can test beaver tails, it’s not the lightest thing in the world, nor the thing you want to eat when it’s very hot but if you’re just passing through you should ! It’s very Canadian.
  • Instagram moment:
    • The easy and effective photo facing the lake with the islands in the background. You can take it from anywhere.

The One Eighty:

To finish the day, one of my favorite places to take my friends to visit. Located on the 51st floor on Bloor and Bay Street, the restaurant offers 360-degree views of the city. At night it’s magic. You pay a little sight but it’s pretty good. To the south you will see a series of buildings as to the north you will become aware of the extent of the city. I advise you to book online and arrive a little before the hour to have a chance to choose a well placed table.

Gooderham Building

Day 2

Kensington Market

  • Do not expect to find a market, it is a neighborhood of the city. Known to be very cosmopolitan, he has seen several immigrant communities succeed each other over the decades. Today it is a mix of art and independent shops that you will find there.
  • Tasty break:
    • Torteria San Cosme: Mexican specialties at the eastern entrance of the neighborhood, tested and approved!
    • Jimmy’s Coffee: the space is so cozy, the small terrace on the back is nice in summer, in winter you could see racoons that make their market in the trash (if you are tourists you may find it cute to see some racoons in truth !)
    • Bacon Nation: for a small traditional brunch rather nice with a terrace.
  • Instagram moment:
    • The pale pink house: it is often photographed, it is a shop Cocktail Emporium. Address: 20 Kensington Avenue.
    • The walls are changing all the time, you will undoubtedly find a good spot for your photos!

Graffity Alley:

  • This is not his original name but it’s the name everyone knows. This parallel alley at Queen Street West between Portland and Spadina is one of the most visited corners of the city. Fans of street art you have to go for a ride. Some walls change regularly, others like the big wall aquarium has been there for years. The city has put in place a program so that artists can express themselves and try to ward off vandalism.
  • Instagram moment:
    • Each wall will surely give you want to take pictures.
    • The famous aquarium wall window: first you have to sit on the edge, do not slip and then you can be added to the long list of people who have their photo memories of Graffity Alley comme la mienne !

Queen West:

  • It is the hypster shopping street of the city. So do not plan to do it all because it is still more than 14 km long. It begins close to the city hall (and Toronto sign) and runs west. You will find on the first kilometers of restaurants, Zara ready-to-wear signs and then find more independent shops, small shops highlighting local designers.
  • Tasty break:
    • There are so many choices in this area that I will only give you a few suggestions and I invite you to watch my map on the Maptsr app (pseudo: fringinto) for more suggestions!
    • The Gaarden: all new their patio is top among plants and white furniture you will feel good! To have a drink or eat.
    • Milagro: Mexican restaurant that I highly recommend!
    • Café Néon: very good brunch!
  • Instagram moment:
    • There is not one place in particular but the street is full of spots to immortalize its passage in Toronto.

Toronto Islands

  • Toronto’s small haven of peace: the Toronto Islands. We love to escape for a few hours or for the day.
  • Main events:
    • Electric Islands, series of shows during the summer season. More info here.
  • Suggestions for activities:
    • Rent a bike to ride around the islands
    • Play frisbee in dedicated grass spaces
    • Visit the mini ferme
    • Canoë/paddle
    • Paddle Yoga (3 summers that I’m saying I would try..)
    • Get a tan on the nudist beach (Hanlan’s Point)
    • Get a tan on the other beaches
  • Tasty break:
    • You can try the restaurants on site but the best option in my opinion is the picnic or the barbecue (you have it available in several places, you only have to come with your coal)
  •  Instagram moment:
    • You will have a beautiful view of the skyline from almost everywhere!
View from the CN Tower

Day 3

Toronto Sign:

  • Installed in July 2015 for the Pan American Games, the sign quickly became an attraction for tourists. What had to be a temporary installation remained permanently and changed color according to the events.
  • Instagram moment: you have several options to make your photos with the Toronto sign in the background but you can also climb on the bridge to have a bird’s eye view of the sign.

Dundas Square

  • Open to the public in 2013 this space has been completely redesigned to become a living space. It is nicknamed the small Times Square because of its multiple giant advertising screens but the square is also a place that hosts events throughout the year.
  • Main events:

University of Toronto

  • The University of Toronto is the largest university in Canada, located in the city center with a campus that stretches around St George Street (between Bloor and College). North of Bloor Street you can even find some houses of fraternity with the Greek letters on the front, yes as in the movies;). The buildings are very old and the particular architecture makes it a place of passage even for non-students but also a popular place for film shoots.
  • Instagram moment:
    • The Front Campus, in addition to offering a large green space in the middle of the buildings for a short break, offers an unobstructed view of the CN tower.

Yorkville

  • One of my favorite neighborhoods. It’s one of the city’s most upscale neighborhoods, yet in the 1960s it was far from the image of today’s musicians and hippies. It is today the district of Christian Louboutin and Chanel. A few years ago Yorkville hosted the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) before it moved to King Street West.
  • Instagram moment:
    • All the small cobbled streets lend themselves to the game of photos.
    • The little pink door at the corner of Yorville and Belair has become a must-see picture in recent months (I also followed the trend .. haha)
    • The old blue Citroën truck transformed into a coffee shop at the entrance of the Yorkville Village shopping center is also a must in the neighborhood.
    • The Chanel shop has almost a queue to take a photo in front of the pretty yellow brick building that was originally a hospital.
    • Old York Lane is a nice passage between Cumberland and Yorkville Streets. A nice photogenic passage.

Day 4

Niagara falls

  • Too bad to come to Toronto without making a quick detour to see Niagara Falls. Several ways to get there: the car or buses (Megabus, Safeways Tour). Only an hour and half drive they are on the border between the United States (New York State) and Canada (Province of Ontario). I’ve seen them many times now, in the rain, frozen in the snow, in the middle of summer and each time it’s a different charm. Be careful if it’s cold take shelter: with the power of the water you will be soaked even walking only to the side.
  • I never plan the whole day round the falls is done quickly enough, then you can take a ride in the small town center that looks like a mix of Disney and Las Vegas, between casinos, attractions and hotels.
  • Count $ 25 to park the car for the day.

Niagara on the Lake

  • A stop that I always recommend because finally the Niagara Falls are done quickly enough and as much optimize the trip. Niagara on the Lake is a small village about twenty minutes away, the buildings are old, the small independent shops line the main alley.
  • You can go for a walk on the shores of the lake, if you are lucky and the sky is clear you will see in the distance the skyline of Toronto.
  • Tasty break:
    • Fournos: a Greek restaurant that offers parking to its customers, 2 in 1!
    • Corks Winebar & Eatery.
View from the One Eighty

This is an example and will not allow you to comb the city but it is a program that I often propose to my visitors, to adapt to the tastes of everyone, of course, it is a good starting point. I wish you an excellent stay in Toronto.

Find me on Instagram for your daily dose of Toronto: @fringinto 🙂

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