Toronto’s sights, activities and attractions are as numerous as they are diverse, with many of them centred around the city’s buzzing downtown district.
Canada’s largest and most diverse city, more than 140 languages are spoken in Toronto and nearly half the population was born outside of the country. This metropolitan melting pot has spawned an illustrious alumni of cosmopolites, artists, leaders, free thinkers, and adventurers down the years whose spirit still lives on today – and nowhere more so than in the city’s downtown neighbourhood. Here are 12 unique things to see and do downtown Toronto.
Explore world-renowned cultural institutions
Spanning everything from the age of dinosaurs to the art of the First Peoples to modern fashion, the world-renowned Royal Ontario Museum is a hotbed of art, global culture and natural history, attracting more than one million visitors every year. A jaw-dropping 13 million art objects and natural history specimens are spread over 40 gallery and exhibition spaces, with the museum hosting an ever-revolving schedule of exhibitions and events, including the summer-long Friday Night Live, which transforms its galleries into something closer to a nightclub than a cultural venue, complete with live DJs, food and drinks.
100 Queens Park / Weds-Sun 10am-5.30pm Closed Mon-Tues
In a city not short of prestigious arts institutions, the Bau-Xi Gallery certainly holds its own among a busy crowd. First established in Vancouver back in 1965 to provide much-needed exposure for Canadian artists on the US West Coast, it later expanded it reach, opening a location in Toronto and in doing so allowing for national representation for artists in two of the country’s largest cities. Situated in the growing art hub of Dundas Street West, now home to an array of renowned galleries, the venue showcases contemporary Canadian and international artists in three gallery spaces which are open free to the public seven days a week.
340 Dundas Street West / Mon-Sun 10am-5.30pm
Peer through the world’s first skyscraper glass floor
The tallest free-standing building in the Western Hemisphere, there’is no better vantage point for enjoying-taking views of Toronto than the CN Tower. But in contrast with the typical viewing platforms you find atop many tall landmarks, the iconic telecomms tower also features the world’s first ever glass floor to be fitted in a skyscraper. Some 1,122 feet off the ground, the see-through surface isn’t for the faint-hearted. Nor indeed, is another of the tower’s death-defying attractions, EdgeWalk, which sees participants in suits & harnesses circle the exposed top of the building.
290 Bremner Boulevard/ Mon-Sun 10am-10pm
Catch some live open-air entertainment
Often described as Toronto’s answer to New York’s Times Square, Yonge-Dundas Square is a perpetual hum of activity. At any time of night or day, visitors to the public open space will find some form of entertainment taking place, whether its street performers singing or telling jokes, live stage concerts, theatrical events, promotions, or peaceful campaigners petitioning for a cause close to their heart. There are also numerous cafes and restaurants lining the square that make for ideal people-watching spots.
1 Dundas Street East
Attend an arts extravaganza
The Toronto Biennial of Art is Canada’s leading visual arts event focused exclusively on contemporary art from around the world. For ten weeks every two years, local, national, and international Biennial artists transform Toronto and its partner regions with free exhibitions, performances, and learning opportunities. Grounded in diverse local contexts, the Biennial’s city-wide programming aims to inspire individuals, engage communities, and contribute to global conversations.
Venues across Toronto / 26 March – 5 June 2022
Join a downtown walking tour
There’s no better way of getting to know a place than by simply walking around it, taking in its sights, sounds and smells. Visitors to Toronto can join a guided walking tour of the city’s downtown district that takes in over 300 years of history. During the 2-hour tour you’ll get to see the district’s main landmarks and attractions while learning how it grew into the cultural and financial capital that it now is. The tour ends at the famous St. Lawrence Market where you’ll discover why Toronto got the nickname “Hogtown”. Both public and private tours are available.
Take in some theatre
At the heart of Toronto’s vibrant cultural scene, the Harbourfront Centre plays host to a busy programme of events and activities throughout the year. Encompassing a 10-acre strip of waterfront land, once-abandoned warehouses, charming piers, and an old smokestack, the venue always has something exciting going on, ensuring there’s something to satisfy every predilection. Come winter time, an outdoor ice rink takes centre stage, hosting skating combined with live DJ music every Saturday night.
235 Queens Quay West
Watch a Blue Jays baseball game
Toronto is a major sporting city and in the Blue Jays it lays claim to one of baseball’s most historic clubs. Still called the SkyDome by many fans, the Rogers Centre is where the Blue Jays play their home matches, with the impressive arena drawing bumper crowds who come to enjoy the on-field action, along with the lashings of beer, hot dogs, nachos, pretzels and other culinary treats that are a staple of any north American baseball experience. While members get first dibs on tickets, there are usually plenty left over for general sale, ensuring that a healthy portion of tourists make up the average match-day crowd.
1 Blue Jays Way
Check out a unique public space
Anchored under Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, The Bentway is a unique public space. Part park, part open-air gallery and concert venue, The Bentway invites you to come experience public art and connected urban life. Located a block north of the waterfront, between major landmarks – the Rogers Centre dome and Exhibition Place fairgrounds – The Bentway’s Phase 1 site is a great place to walk, bike or pause. In winter you’ll want to lace up and skate the figure 8 ice path between the tall pillars supporting the highway above.
250 Fort York Boulevard / Mon-Fri 5pm-9pm Sat-Sun 12pm-9pm
Discover Toronto’s underground city
Off the radar of many visitors to Toronto is the fact that the city is home to the largest underground shopping complex and network of walkways in the world. Connecting many of Toronto’s most important and historic sites, this unique subterranean grid can be explored by joining an Underground City Tour that guides you through this lesser-explored underbelly of the downtown district. Lasting for around 2 hours, the tours lets you experience how hundreds of thousands of locals navigate the city each day without ever reaching ground level.
Ride the longest streetcar route in North America
Torontonians who have to brave the 501 Queen streetcar to get to work day each day may not be so enamoured of it, but at 24.8km, the longest streetcar route in North America and one of the longest in the world remains a major attraction for tourists. Starting in The Beaches, you’ll move west through Corktown – Toronto’s old Irish neighbourhood – past Old City Hall, over to hipsterified Trinity Bellwoods Park and Parkdale, and finish out in the West End via High Park where the spring cherry blossoms and blue herons chirp. Forget the hop-on, hop-off tour – get a TTC day pass and learn why National Geographic named this one of the top 10 streetcar journeys in the world.