As the local airport is a popular layover destination, it’s possible you only have one day to explore Toronto. To make the most of your short time in this lively city, hop onto the Union Pearson Express train from the airport and take it directly downtown. This itinerary covers the Toronto city core and nearby neighborhoods, designed to give you a sampling of Toronto’s top tourist attractions and a few local haunts. Although it is possible to take on this itinerary by using a car rental, Toronto traffic doesn’t lend itself well to driving, so going on foot or by public transport is best.
Once you’ve arrived at Union Station Toronto, have a wander around to admire the early 20th-century architecture. Then, walk or take the subway to Kensington Market. The market is filled with great breakfast spots, but for a unique Canadian experience, head to Pow Wow Cafe, which serves Indigenous-inspired dishes. Be sure to try one of its fry bread tacos with veggie or beef chili. Once your taste buds are satisfied, spend some time wandering the streets of Kensington and check out the street art in the laneways, the vintage shops full of treasures, and the garden car — one of Toronto’s landmarks.
Next, get in a streetcar or walk for 20 minutes to go to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The AGO is large and full of amazing pieces, so devote some time to look through its galleries. You’ll be able to see Indigenous works, and there’s a gift shop with local artisan products including prints, ceramics, candles, and jewelry.
Chinatown is a 10-minute walk west from the AGO. There are plenty of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants to choose from for lunch, but we recommend you head to Pho Hung and try one of its delicious noodle soups. If you have a sweet tooth, pop into a Vietnamese bakery, or grab yourself a bubble tea.
Head to the Distillery District for an afternoon stroll with a side of art. Being the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial architecture in North America, you’ll get your fill of pretty buildings by just walking around. That said, pop in some of the galleries and specialty stores to get a feel for Toronto’s art scene. When you are ready to rest, head to Balzacs, a small, locally owned chain that serves delicious coffee. The Distillery location has a vintage aesthetic and cozy appeal, so it’s the perfect spot to round off the afternoon.
After your coffee break, visit Toronto’s largest indoor market, St. Lawrence Market. A 15-minute walk west from the Distillery District, the market is comprised of three buildings, the South Market, North Market, and St. Lawrence Hall. There you will find artisanal crafts, foods, and a farmers market (which has been in operation since 1803). It’s a good place to pick up souvenirs.
End your day in extravagance and dine atop the CN Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. The tower dominates the Toronto skyline and is only a 20-minute walk (or 13-minute streetcar ride) from St. Lawrence Market. A speedy elevator will take you up to the 360 Restaurant, where you’ll get to enjoy dinner as the restaurant slowly revolves, providing panoramic views. Touristy? Absolutely, but a worthwhile experience if you’re only going to be in town for a day. If you do want to eat more like a local, we have plenty of restaurant options for you.
Take a 15-minute walk around the downtown core and head to slick and fancy Drake One Fifty for a drink (or two) before bed. Hop on one of its comfy green-leather stools facing the marble-top counter and sip one of its inventive cocktails. For a true Canadian experience, indulge in the brown butter maple old fashioned. If you feel like stretching the night a little further, the Toronto nightlife guide has plenty more bars and clubs to satisfy your party needs.