Toronto

Toronto is considered a multicultural and cosmopolitan city and this is seen from all the different people happily living together. How do I know this? Well it was home away from home for me and my husband for almost a year. We saw Toronto in every changing season, at its best and also at its worst. I hold a very special place for Toronto in my heart. 

I met people who would find all sort of ways to stay in this beautiful country. It was sad at times to see people do odd jobs to make ends meet when they are far away from their homes. I guess that’s another reason why I had people helping me with a smile every time I needed it.

Being based in Toronto it also made our Canada excursions possible at ease. Since we are permanent residents of Canada we didn’t have to worry about visa and currency conversion.

TIME TO VISIT TORONTO

Best time to visit would be from June to September as it’s warm and humid.

Toronto has the worst possible winter according to me. Initially I loved it since it was my first snow experience but later my views changed. However it was our first Christmas where I enjoyed it with snow. I especially loved the spring and the autumn season and it was the best time for me. Longer days meant more exploring.

WHERE WE STAYED IN TORONTO

Our first visit to Toronto in 2013 we stayed in Hampton Inn by Hilton Toronto Airport Hotel. At that time we had to chosen this hotel as we needed to be near the airport. We found the rooms to be clean however, I wasn’t too impressed with the breakfast variety.

Before I did find an apartment I had stayed at Sandman Signature Toronto Airport Hotel for roughly a week. We stayed here in 2015 and were happy with the size of the rooms and the cleanliness of the hotel. However traveling was difficult as most of the places were far.

Our lovely apartment which was home to us for a year in 2016 was in Victoria Park. I loved the neighbourhood and had nice evening strolls walking along Danforth both during winters and summers. I had most of the public transports right at my doorstep so commuting during the winter wasn’t much of a challenge.

Toronto has many hotels to choose from. Based on your budget I would recommend opting for one which is close to public transport.

I also came across many houses which were giving their basement on short term basis. I wasn’t a big fan of basement stay so it’s really upon personal preferences.  However, basement renting can be lot cheaper than apartments.

Overall Toronto is a safe place but I did happen to come across some suburbs to be a little scary when I was looking for an apartment.

TRAVELING AROUND TORONTO

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is the best way to get around if you don’t have a car. There are three modes operational- subway, streetcar and bus. I have used all of them and loved it. I have used it along with my luggage also and had no complains. 

There are four main lines in Greater Toronto- Yonge-University line (yellow line), Bloor-Danforth line (Green line), Scarborough line (blue line) and Sheppard Line (Purple Line). 

I have mostly used tokens or monthly pass.  In the weekends there are also family day pass where two adults and up to 4 youth (19 or under) can travel together in one pass.

Another option is Presto card which is used as a smart card. You top up the card and tap for every travel. There is a one-time cost for the card which is recovered in the first travel and it also saves money on future travel. It can be used in the province of Ontario, especially in Greater Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa. Unfortunately I never used this but had friends who did and loved it.

Go transits are also available for connecting cities and towns across Greater Toronto. It reaches as far as Barrie, west to Hamilton and bit east of Oshawa. Niagara Falls can also be used for this.

THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO

ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

A museum of natural history, art and world culture. It is said to be the largest in Canada. I actually loved the building’s architecture and its creativity. There is a huge collection of dinosaurs, historical artifacts from Africa and Asia along with a huge collection of fossils. I also enjoyed the exhibits during my visit. This attraction is included in the city pass and you can spend quite a bit of time here if you go through each and every place. I’m not much of an art person but I wasn’t bored here.

Travelling tip: This is in Yonge-University line (Yellow). You have to get off at Museum station and walk

CN TOWER

When we read that for 32 years till 2007 it had a record of being the tallest standing structure we knew we had to see it. This communication and observatory tower is 553.3 m high. We did the morning view and love it, I am sure it would equally pretty at night. There is a glass floor which for me was fun but not for my husband as he has the fear of heights. This was also included in the city pass. 
You can also try the Skypod and edge walk, all inside CN Tour but with separate ticket cost. Should you want a restaurant with a view then there are couple of restaurants to try out inside. We didn’t experience because we went early morning. Due to it’s popularity it might get crowded during the day.

Travelling tip: This is in Yonge-University line (Yellow). You have to get off at Union station and walk.

CASA LOMA

The name in Spanish is translated to Hill House and it belongs to former Toronto financier, industrialist and military man Sir Henry Mill Pellatt. We did take the pre-recorded audio guide which gave more information about the place. There were lots of things to do : a beautiful garden; fountain in the middle of the garden; unusual sculptures; underground tunnels; classic car museum and three floors of rooms to explore. Don’t miss climbing one of the towers to see the great view of the city. Also included in the city pass and works out a great deal instead of buying it individually.

Travelling tip: Easiest way to reach this is by getting off at Dupont station which is in Yonge-University line (Yellow).

ST LAWRENCE MARKET

A place for all food lovers. We would go to buy some fresh food and at times enjoy a bite when the weather is great. During summer the place is buzzing with people. The place is closed on Sunday and Monday so plan accordingly.

Travelling tip: This is 9 min walk from King station which is in Yonge-University line (Yellow)

HOCKEY HALL OF FAME

Unfortunately I only saw from outside. An ice hockey museum which is dedicated to the history of hockey. I have also read that there are exhibits about players, team’s records and trophies. If you are a fan of ice hockey then I would really recommend this as I have read it to be awesome.

Travelling tip: Another one which is easier to reach through King station by Yonge-University line (Yellow).

CF TORONTO EATON CENTRE

When you want to take a break from all the attractions then you can go for some shopping in Eaton Centre in Downtown Toronto. I especially enjoyed this place during the Black Friday and Christmas sales, but it was also very crowded.  It sure is one of the busiest malls as it has many well-known brands.

Travelling tip: This can be easily reached by getting off at Dundas Station in Yonge-University line.

YONGE-DUNDAS SQUARE

It’s in the corner of Yonge Street and Dundas right opposite Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. The place is surrounded by electronic billboards, shopping places and eat out joints. Weekend this place is usually packed with people enjoying the fun activities and entertainment offered. During summer there are lots of festivals, cultural and food also in play to spend a nice time with family.

Travelling tip: Easiest way to reach it is by taking the Yonge-University line (yellow) and get off at Dundas station and walk.

UNION STATION

National Historic Site of Canada since 1975 and a Heritage Railway Station since 1989. When I was there some construction work was also going around in the place. However, I did still see the architectural beauty of the building and especially loved the arched ceilings of the main hall. I had used it when I was traveling to Montreal via GO Transit and found it easy to use thanks to the sign boards and friendly staff.

Travelling tip: This is in the Yonge-University line (yellow).

TORONTO CITYHALL

It’s now called New City Hall. Popular place with tourists thanks to the famous Toronto sign. I have also loved the surrounding architecture and have enjoyed long walks around the vicinity.It’s a nice place to laze around in the evenings.

Travelling tip: Easiest way to reach this is to take the Yonge-University line (yellow) and get off at Queen station and walk.

OLD CITY HALL

A Romanesque civic building and court house which has a distinctive clock tower. In between all the new buildings the old city hall combines beautifully even after so many years. It’s close to the Cityhall and can be enjoyed while exploring Downtown Toronto.

Travelling tip: Easiest way to reach this is to take the Yonge-University line (yellow) and get off at Queen station and walk.

YONGE STREET

This is said to be the longest street in the world and until 1999 it held this in the Guinness Book of world record. Major landmarks like Eaton Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square and the Hockey Hall of Fame can all be found here. You can spend time walking along this street and enjoy the unique stores or stop in for a coffee or restaurant along the way. I have enjoyed strolling around this street with no set itinerary.

Travelling tip: This is between College St & Queen St. Can be visited while doing Old City Hall or Eaton Centre.

GOODERHAM BUILDING

I accidentally came across this on my way to Lawrence market. I was really fascinated by the building and only later found out it’s actually a historic office building. It is called the Flatiron Building and was completed in 1882. Another old building which is so well preserved and a great place to do some photography.

Travelling tip: Easiest way to reach this is by getting off in King station by taking the Yonge-university line (yellow).

STEAM WHISTLE BREWERY

Founded in 2000 a company which was bought out by three former employees of Upper Canada Brewing Company. They produce pilsner lager. There are tours which are fun giving insides on how beer is made and explains how Steam whistle is different to the rest. This is close to the CN Tower and if you enjoy beers then this won’t disappoint you. 

Travelling tip: This is in the Yonge-University Line (Yellow) and have to get off at St Andrew Station and walk 900 m.

SCOTIABANK ARENA

I only crossed this while I was exploring Union Station. I haven’t seen it from inside but read it’s the 12th largest hockey arena in the world for its seating capacity. It is the current home to Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Rock.

Travelling tip: From Union Station in the Yonge University Line (Yellow) it’s a 260 min walk.

QUEEN STREET

A long and vibrant street with lots of shops and restaurants to explore. Walking along the street you will hear lots of local artists and great music. I loved admiring the graffiti on the walks as well. I had explored this alley in the summer when the weather was pleasant and wasn’t disappointed.

Travelling tip: This is close to Eaton Centre, Chinatown & Kensington market. 

ROGERS CENTRE

Another one which I only saw from outside. It is one of the baseball’s iconic stadiums and home to Toronto Blue Jays. It is close to CN Tower. I had read there is also a tour about the place. 

Travelling tip: get off at St Andrew station by taking the Yonge-university line (yellow) and walk for 950 m.

BAY STREET

We accidentally stumbled in during our Sunday stroll. This is in the centre of Financial District and is referred to as the financial service industry. Compared to the other streets I found this street had less tourist. There are still many shops and cafes. I really enjoyed clicking photos next to the different status displayed on the streets. There are also some interesting architectural buildings along the way to admire.

 Travelling Tip : Get down at Dundas station by taking the Yonge-University line (yellow) and then walk for 6 mins.

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

It’s the famous art museum in downtown Toronto. It is said to have a huge collection of work from Canadians, First Nations, African and European. Unfortunately we only saw this from outside. If you are an art lover I would recommend seeing it.

Travelling Tip: take the Yonge- University Line (Yellow) and get off at St Patrick Station and walk for 450m.

TORONTO ZOO

What really impressed me about this zoo was how nicely they had geographically divided the region into sections namely Indo-Malaya, Africa, America, Tundra Trek, Australasia Pavilion, Eurasia and the Canadian Domain. Those with kids it’s sure to keep them busy throughout the time and gather lots of information during their visit. We visited this during the winter time but they sure were well cared for. It’s covered over a huge area so be prepared to do plenty of walking to cover everything. This one is also covered in the city pass. 

Travelling tip: This is a combination of train and bus. I had opted for Kennedy station which is in Bloor-Danforth line (Green) and then catch the 86A bus and get off at Meadowvale Rd at Zoo Rd.

ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTRE

This was an interesting one, we literally were reliving our schools days. It was filled with parents bringing their kids and teachers having school day trips. There are six levels each having interactive experiments. This was included in the city pass  and those with kids will definitely not be disappointed.

Travelling tip: This is a combination of train and bus. We took the Bloor-Danforth line (green) and got off at Pape station. Then took the 925 bus to Steeles and got off at Don Mills Rd at St Dennis Dr.

HARBOURFRONT CENTRE

I enjoyed both the quietness to the place in winter and all the fun activities in the summer. There are lots of events which takes place here: theatre; dancing on the pier; music; visual arts and craft; film and literature. I have enjoyed evening walks here as well. I did miss out on doing the cruise on Lake Ontario and visiting Toronto island.

Travelling tip: This is a combination of train and streetcar. You have to take Bloor-Danforth line (green) and get off at Spadina station and then take the 510A to Union Station and get off at Queens Quay West at Harbourfront Centre.

BATA SHOE MUSEUM

This was a funny one to do. Due to my love for shoes my husband decided to take me here. It’s a museum which actually tells you stories from the earliest to the latest trends on shoes. They had displays from the ancient Egyptian, Romans and Greek times too. Strange but I do recommend it, it’s interesting.

Travelling tip: Take the Bloor-Danforth line (green) and get off at St.George Station and walk for 2 mins to reach destination.

HIGH PARK

There are many parks you will find throughout Toronto. We passed it when we were looking for apartments. It’s a beautiful park where you can walk and even enjoy a nice picnics during summer times. Although I only spent a brief time here I was totally in love with it and would recommend going here to relax out in the nature.

Travelling tip: we had used the train and bus option for this. Take the Bloor-Danforth Line (Green) and get off at Keene Station. Then catch the 80 bus and get off at Parkside Dr at The Queensway and walk across. 

KENSINGTON MARKET

You can reach the market either through Spadina Avenue, Dundas Street, Bathurst Street and College Street. Having a wide range of bakeries, speciality groceries and cheese shops makes the market a fun place to try out your pallets. If that’s not enough there are also restaurants from casual and fine dining along with cafes and bars. It is a nice place to catch up with friends.

Travelling tip: I had used the bus and train option to reach here. Get off at Spadina station by taking the Bloor-Danforth line (green) and then take the 510A bus to Union Station and get off at Spadina Ave at Nassau St South Side and walk 300 m.

GREEKTOWN ON THE DANFORTH

During summer time we would walk along this street. It’s a lovely Greek town which is filled with Greek shops and restaurants. This place is known for its Greek food so I would recommend trying out a place. During the weekend the place is filled with people enjoying themselves.

Travelling tip: Take the Bloor-Danforth Line (Green) and get off at Pape Station and then walk 280 m

CHINATOWN

When you pass restaurants and see ducks hanging in the windows you will know you are in Chinatown. A very busy area which is filled with restaurants and cheap souvenir shops. We had been here to see how the place would be and weren’t surprised to see many of the Asians shopping here for their groceries or just chilling with their friends in a restaurant. There are also a wide range of Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese restaurants along with the Chinese ones.

Travelling tip: Get off at Spadina Station by taking the Bloor-Danforth line (Green) and then either take 510A or 510B streetcar. For 510A get off at Spadina Ave at Sullivan St.

LITTLE ITALY

Another place we enjoyed during the summer. Walking along the street there were many Italian restaurants and fresh produces being sold. You will witness the usual cheerful Italians vibe here.

Travelling tip: Can be reached by using the Bloor-Danforth Line (Green) by getting off at Christie station and walking 1.2km. In order to avoid walking you can get off at Bathurst Station and take the 511 streetcar to Exhibition and get off at Bathurst St at College St and then walk for 550m.

DUFFERIN MALL

Another mall to do some shopping. This one is not as huge mostly visited by the locals in the areas. I was exploring the nearby area when I stumbled into this one.

Travelling tip: This is near Dufferin station which can be reached by catching the Bloor-Danforth Line (Green) and then walk of 600 m.

ISKCON TORONTO

I had visited the temple when I was missing home during one of the festive times. Most Iskcon temples across the world are huge and this one was no different. For me all temples are the same, a feeling of awakening my spiritual side. I also did get to witness the singing, dancing and meditating as I had visited on Sunday. It was my way of reconnecting to my roots during special occasions.

Travelling tip: Take the Bloor-Danforth Line (Green) and get off at Warden Station. Then take 102B bus Markham Rd to Steeles and get off at Mariam Rd at Mcnicoll Ave and walk 280m

SCARBOROUGH TOWN CENTRE

The largest shopping mall found in Scarborough. What is not to like in a mall especially the ones which has most of the stores? I have mostly shopped here over the weekends hence always found it busy.

Travelling tip: This is in the Scarborough to McCowan Station Line (Blue) and you have to get off at Scarborough Centre.

OUR ITINERARY FOR TORONTO

Since I have doneToronto over a span of time below is a rough guidelines on some of the locations which can help plan your trip.

Map courtesy Grayline Toronto

THINGS TO NOTE IN TORONTO

  • Weather can be really tricky here so if you are not someone who loves the snow visit Toronto during spring or autumn.
  • During the winter if using public transport be careful with your health.
  • Since the place is huge restaurants are all spread out. You really have to look to find your favourite cuisine. I struggled with this.
  • Toronto City Pass is your best bet should you wish to save some money. When I visited in 2013 it covered CN tower, Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, Toronto Zoo and Ontario Science Centre. This keeps changing now I thing Ripley Aquarium is added and you have to choose between Toronto Zoo & Ontario Science Centre.