Must see attractions in Toronto

  • Top ChoiceSights in Old Town, Corktown & Distillery District

    Distillery District

    Centered on the 1832 Gooderham and Worts distillery – once the largest distillery in the British Empire – the 5-hectare Distillery District is one of Toronto's best downtown attractions. Its Victorian industrial warehouses have been converted into soaring galleries, artists studios, design boutiques, cafes and eateries. On weekends newlyweds pose before a backdrop of red brick and cobblestone, young families walk their dogs and the fashionable shop for art beneath charmingly decrepit gables and gantries. Year-round the place is buzzing. In summer, live music and pop-up events fill the air. In winter, a festival of lights and a Christmas market lure people out from the warmth. History The setting is a beautifully preserved Victorian industrial complex – red brick, cobblestone walkways and imposing buildings. Though it now consists of 30 buildings, brothers-in-law James Worts and William Gooderham started out with the construction of a single 70-ft brick windmill in 1832 with an eye on creating an industrial empire in what was then the British-controlled town of York, soon to be renamed Toronto. Worts had recently moved there from England, bringing his 20 years of experience as a miller with him and seeking a new life for his young family. Though the mill prospered quickly, tragedy struck just two years later when James Worts' wife died during childbirth. The grief was too much for Worts who died shortly afterwards. Gooderham continued alone and established the distillery a few years later, which prospered immediately. He then brought James Worts' orphaned son in as a full partner once he was old enough and the two made a huge success of the family business. It survived prohibition and two world wars by ceasing production of alcohol and creating explosives for the government when required. The last drop of alcohol was produced on the site in 1990 and over 158 years after Gooderham and Worts started their industrial activity there. It lay dormant and decrepit for many years, with locals worried about the ultimate fate of this heritage site. The current owners moved ahead with plans to convert it into an arts and cultural center in 2001 and the result is the vibrant and beautiful Distillery District beloved by Torontonians today. Visitors drinking at an outdoor bar in the Distillery District © Gilberto Mesquita/Shutterstock Shopping and dining There are over 40 boutiques selling high-end and unique fashion, accessories, beauty treatments, and small-batch food-and-wine gifts. The emphasis is very deliberately on locally owned stores and products – the owners refuse to allow large corporations and franchises to let units in the district. This provides a lovely local feel to the area and supports small businesses who would otherwise struggle for retail space in a major city. There are a wealth of options available when it comes to culinary delights after some retail therapy. Several high-end restaurants are on offer if you fancy something a little more special. If casual and easy-going is more your thing, there are also charming pubs and pizza parlors offering delicious food made from locally sourced ingredients. Artisanal cafes are ready and waiting to whip up your preferred blend of coffee when you start to flag after a day of sight seeing. Events and nightlife The $14-million Young Centre for Performing Arts houses four performance spaces, used by theatrical tenants including Soulpepper and George Brown Theatre Co. There's an on-site bookstore and bar, too. Make some time to visit the various galleries showcasing the work of incredible artists – the best time to speak with them is in the early afternoon, when many will have their doors open or signs inviting visitors in. With 13 specialty beers made on-site, Mill Street Brewery are a leading light in local microbrewing. Order a sample platter so you can taste all the award-winning brews, including the Tankhouse Pale Ale, Stock Ale and Organic Lager. On a sunny afternoon the courtyard is the place to be. The beer-friendly food includes burgers and wraps. The Distillery District is at its festive best from mid-November to Christmas Eve during its European-style Christmas Market, showcasing hundreds of local handcrafted products, a carousel and photo ops with Santa.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Entertainment & Financial Districts

    CN Tower

    Dominating Toronto's skyline, the CN Tower is a marvel. At a height of 553 metres, the communications spire stands over the city like a beacon. Queues can be long and tickets are expensive, but the wait and the cost are worth it. Three observation levels reveal unforgettable views – even Niagara Falls can be seen on a clear day. There are floor-to-ceiling windows, glass floors, and an 'EdgeWalk' for those with the backbone to walk around the perimeter of the main pod, with no fence and no windows, just you, tethered to a track. Riding one of the glass elevators up what was once the world's highest freestanding structure (553m) is one of those things you just have to do in Toronto. Even if you don't, you're bound to catch a glimpse of the tower at night: the entire structure puts on a brilliant (free) light show year-round. It’s worth noting that on a clear day the vista from the top is astounding – a bird's-eye view of the city and lake, the falls in the distance, even helicopters flying below you; if it's hazy you won't see a thing. If you’d prefer to just check it out from the ground, the best street-level vantage point for the tower is at the intersection of McCaul St and Queen St W, due north. Walk along the outside of CN tower's on the Edgewalk © Patricia Burilli Fencz / Shutterstock CN Tower Edgewalk Daredevils aged 13 and up can do the EdgeWalk ($195), a 20-minute outdoor walk around the unbounded perimeter of the main pod (356m). It's not for the fainthearted. Tickets include a keepsake video and printed photos. Participants also get a Tower Experience Ticket which grants access to the LookOut, Glass Floor, and SkyPod levels. The tickets can be used once for up to two days after the Edgewalk. Tickets and other practicalities Queues for the elevator can be up to two hours long in each direction. Tickets start at $38 CAD for an adult. During summer, you can pay an additional $7 for a timed ride to the top…though not back down. Buying tickets online, or using the CN Tower app, saves 15%. There's the obligatory revolving restaurant (called 360°): it's expensive, but the elevator price is waived for diners. Opt for the SkyPod (447m; an extra $15) – though you may not notice much difference to the regular view.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Entertainment & Financial Districts

    Hockey Hall of Fame

    The mecca of Canada's national sport, the Hockey Hall of Fame is a Canadian institution. Even those unfamiliar with the rough, super-fast sport are likely to be impressed by this, the world's largest collection of hockey memorabilia. Check out the Texas Chainsaw Massacre –esque goalkeeping masks or go head to head with the great Wayne Gretzky, virtual-reality style. History This spectacular labyrinthine museum is located inside the rococo gray-stone Bank of Montreal building (c 1885) in the Financial District. Considered one of the most spectacular bank buildings ever constructed in Toronto, it was designed by architects Frank Darling and S. G. Curry. The extravagant and ornate Beaux Arts style was used to communicate a prosperous and successful image after a period of economic depression. Though the Hockey Hall of Fame was first created in 1945, it only took up residence in its current grand home in 1993 after the building had ceased trading as a bank for a few years. The sense of grandeur created by the imposing style gives visitors an idea of how seriously Canadians take their beloved hockey. Things to see and do With over 65,000 sq ft of space covered in hockey artefacts, there's something here for every fan. Inside, multimedia exhibits showcase the greats – icons and players of the game. Visitors can walk through a recreated Montréal Canadiens' locker room, watch documentaries and movies, and even shoot pucks at video-projected NHL goalies. And, of course, be sure to take a pic with the beloved Stanley Cup, located upstairs. The official store, Spirit of Hockey, is located at street level. It has a huge collection of fully licensed NHL and Hockey Canada apparel, merchandise and memorabilia for every budget. A highlight is the huge sculpture of Ken Danby's iconic painting, At the Crease, which is a perfect backdrop for a souvenir photo. How do I get there? The entrance is inside Brookfield Place, a massive office and shopping complex with a soaring glass thoroughfare called the Crystal Cathedral; look for the museum entrance in the basement level, just past the food court. The closest train stations are Union Station and the King subway stop.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Old Town, Corktown & Distillery District

    St Lawrence Market Complex

    Old York's sensational St Lawrence Market has been a neighborhood meeting place for over two centuries. The restored, high-trussed 1845 South Market houses more than 120 specialty food stalls and shops: cheese vendors, fishmongers, butchers, bakers and pasta makers. The Carousel Bakery is famed for its peameal-bacon sandwiches and St Urbain for its authentic Montréal-style bagels. Inside the old council chambers upstairs, the Market Gallery has rotating displays of paintings, photographs, documents and historical relics. Next door, cooking workshops and special events are held at the Market Kitchen. On the opposite side of Front St, the North Market building, a concrete bunker built in the late 1960s, was demolished after years of delays due to budget restraints and archaeological finds. Completion of the new North Market building is estimated for spring 2022. In the meantime, the temporary site for the Saturday farmers market (5am to 5pm) and the fantastic Sunday antique market is one block south at 125 The Esplanade. Just a few steps north of the construction site, check out the glorious St Lawrence Hall (1850), topped by a mansard roof and a copper-clad clock tower that can be seen for blocks; once a public gathering place, it now houses shops and city offices.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kensington Market & Chinatown

    Art Gallery of Ontario

    The AGO houses collections both excellent and extensive (bring your stamina). Renovations of the facade, designed by the revered Frank Gehry and completed in 2008, impress at street level: it's like looking at a huge crystal ship docked on a busy city street. Inside, highlights of the permanent collection include rare Québecois religious statuary, Inuit carvings, stunningly presented works by Canadian greats the Group of Seven, the Henry Moore sculpture pavilion, and restored Georgian house The Grange. There's a surcharge for special exhibits, but visits to the permanent collection on Wednesday evenings are free. Several highly recommended – and free – tours are offered throughout the week, all leaving from the Walker Court. The most popular? Daily one-hour tours leaving on the hour from 11am to 3pm and on Wednesdays and Fridays at 7pm. If you don't want to commit that much time, 10-minute pop-up 'On the Dot' art chats are held in front of different works every day on the half-hour from 11:30am to 3:30pm and on Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:30pm.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Entertainment & Financial Districts

    401 Richmond

    Inside an early-20th-century lithographer's warehouse, restored in 1994, this 18,500-sq-meter New York–style artists collective hums with the creative vibes of more than 140 contemporary galleries, exhibition spaces, studios and shops representing works in almost any medium you can think of. Speaker series and film fests are held throughout the year. Grab a snack at the ground-floor cafe (open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday) and enjoy it on the expansive roof garden, a little-known oasis in summer.

  • Top ChoiceSights in East Toronto & Rosedale

    Evergreen Brick Works

    Famed for the transformation of its once-deteriorating heritage buildings into a prime location for all things geotourism, this dynamic, LEED-certified environmental center and park hosts interactive workshops and community festivals on the themes of ecology, technology and the environment. There's a garden market, an ice rink and lots of nature trails, which can be explored on foot or by bike (rentals are available). Check the website to see what's going on. Take the free shuttle bus from Broadview subway station. If you're traveling with little ones, don't miss the Children's Garden, a wonderful hands-on area where kids can garden, build using repurposed materials or just play in the water and sand features. For food, stop in at the coffee shop or the restaurant, specializing in local and organic food.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Beaches

    Tommy Thompson Park

    A 5km-long artificial peninsula between the Harbourfront and the Beaches, Tommy Thompson Park reaches further into Lake Ontario than the Toronto Islands. This 'accidental wilderness' – constructed from Outer Harbour dredgings – has become a phenomenal wildlife success. It's one of the world's largest nesting places for ring-billed gulls, and is a haven for terns, black-crowned night herons, turtles, owls, foxes and even coyotes. It's open to the public on weekends and after 4pm on weekdays; vehicles and pets are prohibited. Summer schedules offer interpretive programs and guided walks, usually with an ecological theme. At the end of the park there's a lighthouse and great city views. To get here, take any streetcar along Queen St E to Leslie St, then walk 800m south to the gates, or follow the Martin Goodman Trail.

  • Top ChoiceSights in East Toronto & Rosedale

    Riverdale Farm

    On the site of the Riverdale Zoo, where from 1888 to 1974 prairie wolves howled at night and spooked the Cabbagetown kids, Riverdale Farm is a downtown rural oasis. Now a working farm and museum, it has two barns, a summer wading pool, and pens of feathered and furry friends. Kids follow the farmers around as they do their daily chores, including milking goats and collecting eggs. Visitors can learn about a particular animal during the daily 'Farmer Demo' at 11:30am. From June to October there's also a Tuesday farmers market from 3pm to 7pm.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Entertainment & Financial Districts

    Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

    Arguably one of Toronto's best attractions for both young and old, it has more than 16,000 aquatic animals and 5.7 million liters of water in the combined tanks. There are touch tanks, a glass tunnel with a moving walkway, educational dive presentations…and even live jazz on the second Friday of each month. Open 365 days a year. Peak hours are 11am to 4pm.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Toronto Islands

    Ward's Island Beach

    Arguably the prettiest beach on the Toronto Islands, this is a long, curving shoreline with tawny sand and views of boats sailing past. Lifeguards are on duty from 11:30am to 6:30pm daily (May to September). It's on the south side of Ward's Island.

  • Sights in Entertainment & Financial Districts

    Graffiti Alley

    Possibly the most popular place to check out street art in Toronto (and there are many), this back alley has a magnificent collection of colorful murals and street art. Spanning three blocks (about 400m), the alley was popularized as the location of Rick Mercer's rants on CBC comedy program the Rick Mercer Report. Great for photo ops.

  • Sights in East Toronto & Rosedale

    Todmorden Mills Heritage Site

    In an idyllic setting by the Don River, Todmorden Mills is a late-18th-century grist mill turned saw mill, then brewery and distillery, then paper mill. Historical relics are on display inside. Enthusiastic guides show visitors around old millers' houses and the petite Don train station. To get here, take the subway to Broadview station, then board any bus. Alight at Mortimer/Pottery Rd (Dairy Queen), turn left and walk down Pottery Rd. The renovated Papermill Theatre and Gallery showcases the work of local and emerging artists. Nature paths start near the bridge and wind back to the secluded Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve (www.hopscotch.ca/tmwp), 9 hectares of wildflowers growing on former industrial wasteland, complete with boardwalks and viewing platforms.

  • Sights in Old Town, Corktown & Distillery District

    Flatiron Building

    An iconic sight in the heart of the old town, the Flatiron is impossible to miss. Built in 1892, it's a five-story iron-shaped building with a steep copper roof and turret; in the background, Toronto's skyscrapers provide a beautiful contrast. Be sure to check out the mural on the building's western side; created by Canadian artist Derek Michael Besant, it integrates with the existing structure to make it appear that a curtain of windows has not been properly tacked up. A long-time office building, the Flatiron was originally built for the Gooderham and Worts Distillery's administrative offices (notably, its repurposed factory serves as the central building of the Distillery District).

  • Sights in Toronto Islands

    Hanlan's Point

    West of Centre Island, the island of Hanlan's Point is named after world-champion sculler 'Ned' Hanlan (1855–1904), a member of the first family to permanently settle here; his statue overlooks the ferry dock. Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run here in 1914 while playing minor-league baseball in the long-since-demolished stadium – the ball drowned in Lake Ontario, the ultimate souvenir lost forever! The island is also home to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and a clothing-optional beach.

  • Sights in Toronto Islands

    Ward's Island

    The most residential of the Toronto Islands, Ward's has funky old houses crowded together and narrow pedestrian- and cyclist-only streets. At the island's western end is an 18-hole Disc Golf Course. An old-fashioned boardwalk runs the length of the southern shore, starting at Ward's Island Beach and passing the back gate of Riviera cafe with its lovely patio.

  • Sights in Toronto Islands

    Centreville Amusement Park

    From Centre Island ferry terminal, wander past the information booth to quaint Centreville's antique carousel, goofy golf course, miniature train and little-kids' rides. Far Enough Farm petting zoo presents plenty of opportunities to cuddle something furry and step in something sticky. There's no admission fee to the park, but you need to purchase a pass to use the rides. It's most fun for families with kids aged seven and under.

  • Sights in Toronto Islands

    Gibraltar Point Beach

    Gibraltar Point is a pleasant little beach backed by small sand dunes and beach grass. It's less frequented than other island beaches, making it a bit more tranquil. Stop by the 1808 Gibraltar Lighthouse as you arrive; it's the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes and said to be haunted by its first keeper, JP Rademuller, who was allegedly killed for his bootlegged beer. It's at the southwestern corner of Hanlan's Point.

  • Sights in East Toronto & Rosedale

    Allan Gardens Conservatory

    Dating from 1858, Allan Gardens is one of Toronto's oldest parks. The highlight is its indoor botanical garden and conservatory, filled with plants from all around the world (and even some turtles in the orchid section). Housed in a stunning, historical cast-iron and glass building, it's a lovely little escape in the city, especially on a cold winter day.

  • Sights in The Beaches

    Kew Beach

    Of all the beaches, Kew is the most popular stretch of sand, with a wide boardwalk running east to Balmy Beach and west to Woodbine Beach. Restrooms and a snack bar in adjacent Kew Gardens make it easy to spend the day here. For more food options, head to nearby Queen St E for picnic supplies and restaurants.