This Toronto Weekend Guide Is a 3-Day Dive Into the Best of the 6ixBy Sandra MacGregor
As Canada’s largest and most multicultural city, Toronto is a veritable treasure-trove of vibrant neighborhoods, foodie adventures, cultural discoveries and verdant green spaces just waiting to be explored. So grab a good pair of walking shoes and get ready to discover a welcoming metropolis that just loves to (politely) show off.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
It may be touristy, but there really is no better way to start your Toronto adventure than with a visit to the top of the iconic CN Tower. The views of the city and surrounding Lake Ontario are spellbinding and help give you a good sense of just how big, bustling and green (Look at all those parks!) Toronto really is. Looking for an adrenaline rush? Try the EdgeWalk, which takes you on a hands-free walk outdoors and around the ledge of the tower — 1,168 feet (116 stories) above ground.
Get your head out of the clouds and regain your sea legs right across from the CN Tower at Ripley’s Aquarium, one of the city’s newer attractions and a big hit with the kids.
If you’re not feeling too waterlogged, head to Toronto’s urban beach park, Sugar Beach. Named for its proximity to the city’s Redpath Sugar Refinery, the beach has complimentary lounge chairs and umbrellas. Or take a peek at the historic (and oft-photographed) Leuty Lifeguard Station in Toronto’s East End.
End your first day in one of Toronto’s most captivating neighborhoods, the pedestrian-only Distillery District. Once home to a 19th-century distillery, the area and its Victorian-style buildings have been completely restored.
Here you’ll be charmed by winding cobblestone streets, trendy local shops and hip art galleries. Grab dinner at Madrina Bar y Tapas to chow down on authentic Spanish tapas and sangria.
In Toronto, Saturday mornings belong to St. Lawrence Market. Operating for over 200 years, this historic food market is an homage to all things edible with more than 200 vendors selling fresh items from every corner of the globe. Bite into a tasty Torontonian breakfast with a peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery.
Work some of that food off with a walk to Toronto City Hall, where you can take a selfie in front of the colorful “Toronto” sign. Keep moving onward to one of the best museums in the city, the Art Gallery of Ontario. The AGO has more than 90,000 works of art, including works by the country’s famed Group of Seven as well as pieces from Indigenous Canadian artists.
If you’re looking for something a little quirkier, ride the “Rocket” (what Torontonians call their streetcar network) a few blocks north to the Bata Shoe Museum, where you’ll find an intriguing array of more than 13,000 shoes spanning 4,500-plus years.
Next, head to Toronto’s beloved and funky Kensington neighborhood. The area is a cornucopia of indie stores, vintage clothing boutiques, jewelry shops and art spaces, as well as an incredibly diverse range of grocers, restaurants, bakeries and coffee spots.
If you’re feeling flush, grab lunch at upscale Grey Gardens or enjoy a meal at any number of Kensington’s delicious hole-in-the-wall eateries, like Rasta Pasta, which combines the flavors of Italy and Jamaica.
After lunch, discover Toronto’s Fashion District by shopping along trendy Queen Street West, where unique, locally owned clothing boutiques sit comfortably beside big brand-name clothing stores.
Don’t leave the area without marveling at the street art along Graffiti Alley, which is spread over three city blocks. Wander over to Bathurst Street to check out Toronto’s newest shopping option, Stackt Market. Canada’s largest shipping container marketplace features an eclectic collection of clothing and furniture stores, eateries, galleries and brewpubs.
You’ll find plenty of dinner options in the area, including local favorite, Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen; Bar Buca for casual Italian fare; or Lee for elevated Asian fusion. End the evening with a drink at Barchef, where cocktails are interactive art experiences as much as they are delicious beverages.
Torontonians love their Sunday brunches, so do as the locals do and book a table at a brunch hot spot like retro restaurant Aunties & Uncles or Saving Grace (where you have to try the espresso and avocado shake).
Afterward, amble over to the Toronto Music Garden. This ethereal green space was designed by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy. Each of the gardens represents a movement from Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello.
From the Music Garden it’s just a leisurely 30-minute walk to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, where you can catch a ride to the little-touristed Toronto Islands, a series of about 15 islets accessible only by boat. While away your last afternoon in the city by exploring this picture-perfect urban oasis.
The islands feature bucolic biking trails, beaches (including a clothing-optional beach), a theme park with rides, paddleboarding, Frisbee golf and more. There are also lots of dinning options, like the popular Island Café (with the city’s best butter tarts), or grab a beer and enjoy the sun on the huge outdoor patio at Toronto Island BBQ & Beer Co.