One Day in Toronto? Your Itinerary From A Local Canadian!
So, you’re in Toronto – hooray! You might be stopping through while on a Toronto stopover or maybe you are passing through from Ottawa, Kingston, Niagara Falls, or the United States.
Whatever the case, there are some must do’s for how to spend 1 day in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Having lived there for quite some time, we figured a complete 1 day itinerary for Toronto (with food and drinks) might be useful!
We’ve also varied up this guide so that it can be completed in the summer as well as in the winter. We tried to give indoor/outdoor options that work in any season! If this is your first time to Canada, you should also read or “What to pack for Canada in any season“-Guide!
If you do end up staying a night, you can check here for accommodations in Toronto. Check out The Beverley Hotel for a hotel and HI Toronto for a great hostel (both in the city centre) close to all the best attractions.
Also, we really love Toronto (spoiler: Eric is born and raised north of Toronto) – so here are a few other posts to help you plan your Toronto experience!
Wake Up Activity: Catch the Sunrise at the Lake
Good morning! If you are already in the city having spent a night, you might be interested in being up for the sunrise. If not, then you can just skip this section and head to breakfast when you are awake!
In the case that you want the sunrise (or just a fresh morning walk), you should head down to the waterfront at Lake Ontario. If you are in Downtown Toronto, you’ll end up at the Harbourfront and will look out across to Billy Bishop Airport. There’s a waterfront pathway that extends for biker, runners, and joggers. You might even see the planes come and go in the early morning sunshine.
The photo above was taken in Toronto – but over in the east end in a neighbourhood called The Beaches. You COULD go there for sunrise – but it’s a 40 minute street car so that might not be a trip you can make work! Just thought we would let you know.
Address: Aim for the Harbourfront Centre: 235 Queens Quay West
Breakfast: Classic Toronto Brunch
Now it’s breakfast time – and you are going to need a good meal to give you the fuel you need to survive the day of sightseeing! Toronto prides itself on its ability to deliver an amazing breakfast/brunch. We’ve been to a number of places for brunch across the city – literally across the city from the west end to the east end.
One of our favourites is Lady Marmalade which is over in the east end. If you did sunrise in The Beaches then you could easily stop by. The potential line up is worth the wait (in our opinion).
Another classic option that always delivers is Sunset Grill. You can find a handful of locations across the city and there is one right downtown on Richmond Street. We’ve been a few times and have never been disappointed with their breakfast.
Morning Activity: Explore Downtown West/North End
There is a ton to do and see in Toronto and you won’t be able to see it all. That said, with the right planning you can definitely cross off quite a few. That’s why in the morning, we think you should explore the best areas and attractions further up north of downtown and work you way down to the centre of downtown (for the afternoon).
As for getting around, Toronto is a pretty walkable city. It’s SO flat… but it’s actually pretty spread out. If you are walking everywhere downtown over the course of a day you’d get pretty sore feet. So, we outline how to get around in the transportation box below. As for things to see in these areas of Toronto during the morning, we’d recommend the following:
Areas to check out:
- Kensington Market
- Queen Street West
- Queen’s Park
- Trinity Bellwoods Park
- Royal Ontario Museum
- Art Gallery of Ontario
- The Bata Shoe Museum
- Casa Loma
- The “Toronto Sign” at Nathan Phillips Square
Pro Tip: Time depending, if you want to take the stress out of organizing everything, you could always look into an ultimate Toronto day tour that includes the CN Tower, a harbour cruise (season depending), and more!
Getting Around Toronto Options
If you want to use public transportation, you will need a Presto Card or a Day Pass to use the TTC (streetcars, buses, subway). Honestly, the TTC is fine buy payment systems are not always great. Our advice is to go to a little Presto machine at a subway station, buy a Presto Card, load it with like 15 CAD, and off you go for the day.
You might still be able to buy a “day pass” for the TTC but it says that’s sold from Vendors and we thought they closed most vendors (at subway/bus stations) to make way for the Presto Tap system. Honestly, it’s not clear if this day pass is still an option. We’d go with a Presto Card.
You could also buy a 24-hour hop-on hop-off red bus ticket and use it as a way to get between top attractions in Toronto. Just an idea and quite honestly probably better logistically for you than the Transit System!
Another good way to get around Toronto in by bike – and there are great Toronto bike tours that will show you the sights. Biking is actually a good option because Toronto traffic can be awful. Remember, street cars move with traffic. Only good for the hot months of the year but an option nonetheless.
Lunch: Smoke’s Poutinerie
So it’s lunch time and you might want a classic Canadian food that will fill you up and leave you begging for more. Folks, that’s why you’re going to try poutine – the Canadian dish of fries, cheese curds, and gravy! There is no better place than the poutine chain Smoke’s Poutine for this to happen.
When you go, you can get the Original which is just classic Quebec-style poutine… or you can add things like pulled pork! Smokes made a point of having crazy add-ons to their poutine so feel free to try them out.
You will not leave hungry – let’s just say that. The location on Adelaide is central for you to begin the afternoon, as well! We really like Smoke’s – and have eaten at this exact location countless times. Here’s the website to learn more!
Address: 218 Adelaide St W, Toronto
Afternoon Activity: Explore Downtown South/East End)
Alright, so it’s the afternoon. You’ve had a hearty poutine lunch – and now it’s time to explore more! We’re heading south of where you had lunch to keep exploring downtown Toronto – but more to the south (waterfront) area, and the east side of Downtown.
There are quite a few really important places here that are great to see and historically relevant so this is an area you want to explore in the afternoon! Here’s a rundown of a few of the highlights:
Areas to check out:
- St. Lawrence Market
- Distillery District
- The CN Tower – (if you don’t get the chance later in the evening/dinner)
- Toronto Islands Cruise – Check out the Toronto Island Ferry Schedule here.
- The Hockey Hall of Fame
- Steam Whistle Brewery
- Amsterdam Brewhouse
- The Gooderham Building – a classic Toronto photograph
- You could even go out to The Beaches/Leslieville for shops, breweries, and the beach. However, that’s 40 minutes on the Queen Streetcar (#501) one way. Your call!
Now, if that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is! If you want to make sure you see the best attractions and learn about the rich history, food, beer, and more – then you might consider a walking tour. There are a few that specialize in those parts of the city:
- Here’s a Distillery District walking tour to learn about the rich history of the factories and the area if that interests you. If you want more of a beer tour, you could go on a Beer and History Tour of the city. This one ends in the Distillery District!
- St. Lawrence Market is great for food, history, and Canadian souvenirs so you can wander through or take a tour through Old Toronto, food, and the market.
Afternoon Break: Quantum Coffee or Boxcar Social
So you’ve explored more of Toronto – and you might need a little fuel or just a sit down before you continue on for the evening. It’s break time! For this, we suggest you grab a coffee, light snack, or even a full-on alcoholic beverage, if you want one! We’ll suggest two different food/coffee spots: Quantum or Boxcar Social.
Either of these locations bring you back to the centre (from wherever you just were) for your next activity (whatever you choose) so we thought they were a good choice!
Quantum Coffee is a great coffee/light snack place at the busy corner of King and Spadina. It’s a trendy place that does a great job of artisan coffees from good quality beans. It can be pretty popular in the mornings… and in the afternoon… any time, really.
They have window stools, seating in the back (people are usually working at those tables), and a small outdoor patio area where you can sit if it’s warm out. We like Quantum (we’ve been quite a few times) – you get a good beverage every time. Here’s the website if you want to learn more.
Address: 460 King St W, Toronto
For a different choice than above, you can head to Boxcar Social. Located closer to the “centre” and kind of hidden on Temperance Street in the Financial District, you get coffee food, wine, whiskey – whatever you want, really! It’s usually pretty quiet during the day which is a great time to go.
After 4:00 pm the offices start to clear out and the place gets PACKED so watch your timing. It’s definitely trendy and a cool atmosphere – but a nice place with super friendly staff that have always been awesome. They have more locations but the one on Temperance is most central. Here’s the website!
Address: 70 Temperance Street, Toronto
Early Evening Activity: CN Tower or Skate in Nathan Phillips Square
Now that you’ve had a coffee/drink/snack, it’s time to catch the early evening. Depending on the season and the weather, we’ve given you two options: visit the CN Tower (and potentially catch the sunset) or go ice skating at Nathan Phillips Square!
The first option has you heading up the most iconic structure in the country – the CN Tower. Standing at 533 metres tall, the CN Tower was the world’s tallest structure for a few decades.
These days, it’s still pretty tall and offers amazing views of the city and the lake below. There are a number of attractions up there like the different observation decks, a glass floor, and the Edge Walk – where you hang off the edge on the outside ring. Seriously.
If you know you want to go up there, you can check out tickets for the elevators up and the different observation areas at the official website for the CN Tower. Eric has been up once or twice while Lisa is yet to get up there – next time we are home we will!
Address: 301 Front St West, Toronto
The other option (in the winter time) is to head up to Nathan Phillips Square for ice skating! The public rink in the famous Square (where you find Toronto City Hall) is free for all. If you have skates, you can just change and hop on. If not, there is a skate rental shop right beside the rink with loads of rentals available.
There are also food stands but that’s just a side note. It’s a very classic Toronto winter activity – and with the “Toronto Sign” all lit up it makes for a great photo opportunity! If you didn’t pass by during the day, this is the time to go!
Address: 100 Queen St W, Toronto
If you didn’t want to walk or take the streetcar across to where we suggest for dinner (see below) you COULD merge your evening experience at the CN Tower with dinner at the restaurant at the top of the CN Tower.
The place is called 360 Restaurant and you should definitely plan ahead with a reservation and security/line pass to get to dinner. It’s pretty cool because it rotates while you eat and won numerous awards serving Canadian dishes with Canadian ingredients! Find more information here.
Dinner: Gusto 101
Dinner time in Toronto – and again, you will be overwhelmed by the options! Toronto prides itself on being one of the most (f not the most) culturally and ethnically diverse cities on the planet. This means that you can find food from basically any place across the globe in the city.
For this itinerary, we’d suggest a place that is back over on Portland Street. Just up the street from Portland Variety (where you ate brunch) is Gusto 101. It’s not our fault the area (King Street West) has so many good food places!
Gusto is a very popular place for brunch, lunch, dinner, or drinks. It’s primarily Italian cuisine – but there are a few menu items that might catch you by surprise. Designed in an old automotive repair garage, they added a rooftop patio space and the place is always a hit. Eric has been there before – and honestly Gusto is great.
The food is great, the drink selection is great, the servers are great. If you know you want to go, try to reserve just in case! You can learn more about Gusto 101 at their website.
Address: 101 Portland St, Toronto
Evening: Drinks at Bar Hop, The Ballroom or Fifth Pubhouse
To end off you day, there is no better place to go for drinks than the famed Entertainment District. This area is littered with bars, pubs, clubs, and other great places to have a drink in the style and atmosphere that you desire! For this itinerary, we thought we’d give you the option for a classic sit down or a bit of fun: Bar Hop, The Ballroom, or Fifth Pubhouse!
Bar Hop is a classic place to head for drinks. The outside might look a little normal but when you walk in, the atmosphere is trendy, intimate, and super lively.
There are two locations downtown pretty close to one another. They both have a massive beer menu and their eats are really, really good, too. The location on Peter Street (not pictured above) has two floors AND a rooftop patio for the summer. Both locations are great – here’s the website!
Address for Bar Hop: 391 King St West (pictured above) OR Bar Hop Brewco: 137 Peter St (rooftop patio, not pictured above)
If you want to have a bit more active fun, heading to The Ballroom would fit that description. Located right in the heart of the Entertainment District, the Ballroom is known for the bar, club, live music, sports bar, rooftop bar, and… bowling alley! Yes, Te Ballroom has it all – honestly.
Once inside (no cover), you can grab a lane for 10-pin bowling or just go upstairs to enjoy a pint with friends. It’s a lively place – so go with your gut and how you’re feeling at the end of the day. Here’s the website!
Address: 145 John St, Toronto
If you wanted to maximize the Canadian experience, then you could also head to the Fifth Pubhouse. This Canadian-themed bar is a great place to indulge in Canadian beer and decor. You can also feel like a local just watching the game or hanging out. It’s a place Eric went to a few times and always had a nice time. Here’s the website if you want to learn more!
Address: 221 Richmond St West – right on the corner with Duncan Street
And there you have it, our sample itinerary for one day in Toronto. In the end, we could only name so much but we are pretty happy with this list! It’s a full day – that’s for sure – but at least you can go home or travel onward knowing your made the most of your day in the city. Let us know what you get up to exploring our city – we’d love to make this itinerary the best it can be!
As always, Happy Toronto Day Waddlin’,
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