Visiting Toronto: a 3 (or 4) day itinerary
Posted September 10, 2023 · 7 min read
I'm a bit biased, but I think Toronto is a city that's worth a visit! Although it doesn't have as many "attractions" as London or New York City, it has an amazing diversity of good food, vibrant green space, and distinctive neighbourhoods. In my opinion, this makes Toronto a strong candidate for an enjoyable 3 or 4 day trip — it's enough time to both see some of the main attractions and to just walk, eat, and explore different parts of the city.
I wanted to share my own experiences in Toronto by creating a guide for visitors, but I also wanted to leave lots of space for personal taste and preference to shape their decisions about their trip. I've left off some of the classic tourist attractions simply because I think there are more enjoyable ways you could spend your time in the city. And because there are so many restaurant options in the city, I've included suggestions based on personal experience (denoted by italics), recommendations from friends, and my own research to help narrow down the choices.
I've also created a Google Map with all the locations mentioned in this post, denoting which day they belong to by their colour.
This list has 2 structured full days, and then 4 suggestions for how you could spend your third day — so it's designed for a 3 day trip, but you could easily extend it to 4. Without further ado, here is my choose-your-own-adventure-style itinerary for a trip to Toronto!
Day 1: Downtown Toronto
For your first day in Toronto, I recommend exploring the downtown core of the city and seeing some of the major attractions. Because the downtown area is fairly dense, 6 km (or 4 mi) is my generous estimate of the amount of walking this day includes, not including the visit to the art gallery/mall.
- Start at Queen subway station (or Dundas, if you want to get brunch at The Senator before embarking on a long day).
- Visit Nathan Phillips Square to see City Hall and take a photo with the famous Toronto sign. The square often hosts cultural events, as well as a gigantic skating rink during the winter. You can also see the previous City Hall, creatively named Old City Hall, right beside the "new" one.
- From here, I recommend that you pay a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), which has an extensive collection of Canadian art along with its temporary exhibitions. (If you're really not into art, you could visit the Eaton Centre (a really big mall) and Yonge-Dundas Square instead.)
- Once you've had your art (or shopping) fix, head west to Chinatown for lunch: Anh Dao for Vietnamese, BIWON for Korean food, or Rol San for Chinese (dim sum).
- Kensington Market is right beside Chinatown and can be fun to stroll around and window shop, or pick up a light bite — I'm not a huge fan of markets, but Andrew really likes it!
Here are two suggestions for what you could do next:
- Continue to stroll around the area — visit Graffiti Alley to see some street art, explore some of the shops on Queen between University and Bathurst, or check out Trinity Bellwoods Park.
- Take the 510 streetcar to the Harbourfront and go to Ripley's Aquarium, the CN Tower, or Steamwhistle Brewery. If you're planning to visit multiple main attractions on your trip, it's worth looking into the Toronto City Pass, which bundles them together and can save you money on admission prices.
- For dinner in the Old Toronto or Fashion District area, you could go for: La Carnita for Mexican, Khao San Road for Thai, Loose Moose for "Canadian", or PLANTA Queen for Asian-inspired vegan.
After dinner, you have a multitude of options for how you could spend your evening! Here are some ideas, dependent on the season and your budget/hobbies:
- See a performance at Roy Thomson Hall, like the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, or get tickets to a Mirvish production (theatre).
- Go to a sports game — depending on the season, tickets could be easy to get and affordable (Blue Jays) or impossible and expensive (Maple Leafs)!
- Play arcade games and pool at the Rec Room — this is also a restaurant, so you could head straight here for the whole evening.
- Go out for drinks, live music, or both! Drom Taberna is a very cool spot for live music and Eastern European cuisine, and I've heard good things about Grossman's Tavern too. There are also lots of trendy bars and nightclubs on King St West — alas, I am not the right person to give specific recommendations for those.
Day 2: A Walk Across Bloor
For your second day in Toronto, my recommendation is that you explore some of the city's neighbourhoods — Yorkville, The Annex, Christie Pits, Little Italy, and Trinity Bellwoods — via Bloor Street. Your choices of neighbourhoods to explore will influence how much walking this day involves — it would land between 5 km (3 mi) and 8 km (5 mi).
- Start at Bloor-Yonge station, the intersection of the two main subway lines in Toronto. On all days other than Sunday, the Toronto Reference Library is open at 9 AM and is a cool spot to pop into because of the beautiful architecture!
- Get brunch at Flo's Diner or stop for coffee and a pastry in Yorkville, one of the upscale neighbourhoods in the city, at Goldstruck or Coco Espresso Bar.
- Admire the fancy stores along Bloor as you make your way to Philosopher's Walk, which will take you into the University of Toronto campus. Spend some time wandering around the old buildings, like Hart House, and then head back up to Bloor to visit the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) for natural history or the Gardiner Museum for ceramics.
- Make a stop at BMV Books to browse through their extensive, great value collection of books, and then pick a restaurant for lunch! Some ideas in the area: Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria for Italian, Kibo Sushi or Sushi on Bloor for Japanese, Korean Village Restaurant for Korean, or Future Bistro for affordable cafe fare with a large patio.
From here, I have three ideas for an afternoon activity:
- If the weather isn't great, you want some time off your feet, or you love games, you could nab a table at the Annex location of Snakes and Lattes and while away the afternoon playing board games.
- Grab a snack (walnut cakes from Hodo Kwaja, taiyaki from PAT Central, or bubble tea from your fave BBT chain or The Alley) and then head to Christie Pits or Bickford Park to chill and people-watch. Christie Pits is bigger and has more activity, but I think Bickford Park is one of my favourite parks in the city — it's shaped like a valley, so if you bring a picnic blanket and find a section on the hill it's great for just watching everything that's going on.
- Keep the energy going and walk south through Little Italy to Trinity Bellwoods Park (~30 minute walk), maybe with a detour to wander along College Street for a bit (and stop for gelato or ice cream). For a beautiful walk through a residential area, I'd opt to meander down Shaw Street.
Here are two possibilities for where to go for dinner and drinks in the evening:
- Stay on Bloor Street near Ossington and get dinner (Lalibela for Ethiopian, Little Sito for Lebanese, La Bella Managua for Nicaraguan) followed by drinks at Civil Liberties (bespoke cocktails), Paradise Grapevine (wine), or Tallboys (beers) and possibly a show at Comedy Bar. All of these suggestions are close together, so this evening itinerary would require very little walking.
- From Trinity Bellwoods (or Bloor), head to the "Ossington strip", a trendy stretch of Ossington Avenue between Queen and Dundas, which is full of restaurants and bars. I haven't been to many of the restaurants, but I liked Pho Tien Thanh (Vietnamese) and La Cubana (Cuban), and I've been eyeing Soos (Malaysian) for my next visit. There's also a popular ice cream place, Bang Bang, where you could pick up an ice cream sandwich if you're there before 8:30 PM. For drinks, you could either head south to Sweaty Betty's or Bar Poet on Queen, or northwest to Black Dice Cafe or Project Gigglewater on Dundas. These suggestions are a bit more spread out — think a 15 minute walk to the bar from the restaurant.
Day 3: Natural Attractions
I have four different suggestions for how you could spend your third day, which are all parks- or nature-focused. You could definitely do more than one of these if you had the time, but these are just some ideas about how to enjoy Toronto's natural attractions! Since some of these are neighbourhoods/areas I'm less familiar with, I'm going to provide more of a bare-bones structure from the day that you could fill out with your own research.
What to do: enjoy a nature walk through Evergreen Brickworks; walk through the Don Valley via the Lower Don River Trail; window shop on the Danforth; see a show at Danforth Music Hall; visit Riverdale Farm; watch the sunset over Toronto at Riverdale Park East
What to do: explore High Park, including a visit to the zoo or the amphitheatre; walk along the Sunnyside Boardwalk; check out the Humber Bay Arch Bridge or rent a bike from Toronto Bikeshare (you can get a day pass for $15 that covers unlimited 90 minute rides) and ride along the lake to Humber Bay Park; visit the Museum of Contemporary Art; watch a film at Revue Cinema
What to do: spend the day at Woodbine Beach; rent a bike from Toronto Bikeshare and ride through Tommy Thompson Park; rent a kayak at Cherry Beach and kayak on Lake Ontario; window shop and eat in the Distillery District; see a performance at Berkeley Street Theatre
Where to eat nearby: The Beaches (Delina Restaurant for Mediterranean, Breakwall for BBQ, Restaurant Tiflisi for Georgian), Distillery District (Cluny for French, Madrina Bar y Tapas for Spanish, Arvo for Australian coffee)
What to do: catch the ferry (or a water taxi) and spend the day on the Toronto Islands — rent a tandem bike or quadricycle and traverse the islands; visit the Centreville Amusement Park (for kids); chill on Ward's Island Beach
Where to eat nearby: there are restaurants on the islands, but they might be busy or expensive — if I didn't want to try my luck, I would probably opt to pack a picnic for this day trip
As you can see, Toronto has a lot to offer! I hope that this post has provided you with some useful ideas about how to spend your time in Toronto, and that you enjoy your time there as much as I do.