Welcoming over 40 million visitors annually, Ontario’s capital, Toronto, is the largest city in Canada. It is one of the world’s most diverse cities, with over half of its citizens having been born outside of the country. From the world’s third tallest tower, the CN Tower; to the first stadium in the world to have a fully retractable roof, the Rogers Centre; Toronto is home to many popular and unique attractions. In this post I will be writing about my suggestions on what to do in Toronto if you only have a day in the city, by giving you a one day itinerary on what to do to see as much of the city as you possibly can in one day. I lived just outside of Toronto for about a quarter of my life, and both sides of my family have lived in Toronto and in its suburbs for a combined total of about eighty years, so I know the city pretty well.
Disclaimer: If you’re looking to follow this itinerary, remember that it can be adjusted to fit your circumstances.
8:30AM – Tim Hortons
To start off the day similar to most Canadians, head to Tim Hortons, Canada’s most popular coffee/donut shop, for breakfast. You can find a Timmys on pretty much any corner of any street in the city, so you don’t have to go anywhere out of your way to visit one. If you’re feeling like a true Canadian, make sure to order a donut and a double double, Canadian slang for a coffee with double cream and double sugar.
9AM – Harbourfront
Next, check out Toronto’s Harbourfront, an upscale waterfront neighbourhood on Lake Ontario. This is a great place to head in the morning as it is very relaxing, seeing as it is separated from the rest of the city due to the Gardiner. There are many parks, shops, and restaurants that can be found throughout the district, so you can never get bored while there. I wrote about Harbourfront more in depth in my ‘Best Waterfronts on Lake Ontario’ post, so definitely read that post if you want more info on the neighbourhood.
(10 min walk)
9:45AM – CN Tower
After spending some relaxing time near the lake, head on a 10 minute walk from Harbourfront over to Canada’s most recognizable landmark… the CN Tower! This 553.3 metre tall tower is one of the seven wonders of the world, and it is definitely a must visit spot in Toronto. At the “top” (not the actual top, but the spot where the elevators drop you off at) of the tower you’ll find the best views of Toronto that you can’t find anywhere else, as well as the tower’s famous glass floor, positioned 342 metres above the ground. I also wrote an entire separate post about the tower, including everything from its history to its ticket prices, which I would recommend you read if you’re planning on going up the tower. Check it out here.
(20 min walk)
11AM – St. Lawrence Market
Now that its time for lunch, a twenty minute walk down Front Street from the CN Tower will bring you to St. Lawrence Market. The market itself is actually made up of three buildings, the North Building, currently closed for renovations; the South Building, home to the main market; and the hall, an office building. Throughout the South Building (and before, the North Building as well), you will over a hundred different vendors and stands selling the best version of pretty much anything you could think of. I think this is one of the best spots to go for lunch as it is very interesting to walk around, and because there is so much choice as to what you’d like to eat. Plus, on the walk to the market, you’ll pass by the Gooderham Building, Toronto’s beautiful version of the flat iron building that almost every city has.
(15 min walk)
12:15PM – Distillery District
Another short walk down Front Street will bring you to Toronto’s historic Distillery District, a neighbourhood once owned by Canada’s largest distiller, Gooderham & Worts. It was closed in the 90s, and before becoming the popular tourist spot it now is, became a popular spot for film shoots. The district is now full of trendy and photogenic shops and cafes, perfect for anyone looking for a cool place to explore and shop. I wrote an entire neighbourhood guide on the Distillery District with more info on what to see, do, and eat there that you can read here.
(15 min drive)
1:30PM – Nathan Phillips Square
To save some time, hop in an Uber or taxi and head to your next destination of the day, Nathan Phillips Square, for some sightseeing. There you’ll find the iconic ‘Toronto’ sign, as well as the city’s old and current city halls. The square itself is actually named after Toronto’s 52nd mayor, Nathan Phillips, the mayor of Toronto from 1955 to 1962. Nathan Phillips Square is one of my favourite spots in Toronto, and definitely one that I suggest visiting, as although it is very touristy, it is a very picturesque and important place with both city halls surrounding it.
(15 min drive)
2:15PM – Kensington Market
Being one of the most unique spots in Toronto, Kensington Market is the perfect place to spend an hour or two exploring. There are many interesting businesses that can be found here, from food markets to thrift shops. Lots of one of a kind art can be found here, as many artists come to the area to share their art with the city. While you’re there, I’d suggest stopping at one of the district’s many cafes for a snack, since its been a few hours (and a bit of walking!) since your lunch. A great dessert shop that can be found in Kensington is Wafels & More, a Belgian waffle shop with delicious desserts. I elaborated on Kensington Market a bit more in my ‘Hidden Gems in Toronto, Ontario’ post, if you’d like more info on the neighbourhood.
(10 min drive)
3PM – The ROM
Just a 10 minute drive away from Kensington you’ll find Canada’s largest museum, the Royal Ontario Museum. The ROM, for short, is home to dozens of galleries and exhibits displaying everything from dinosaur to mummies, from everywhere from Greece to Mexico. I allotted two hours of time in the ROM into this itinerary, which should be enough time (although it is cutting it close) to explore most of the museum. For more info on the museum check out my blog post titled ‘Toronto’s ROM’, where I guide you through all of the museum’s floor and the special exhibit that was on display when I visited, the Blue Whale ‘Out of the Depths’ exhibits.
5PM – University of Toronto St. George’s Campus / Queen’s Park
Pretty much right outside of the ROM you’ll find the University of Toronto’s downtown campus, St. George’s campus. Near the university campus you’ll also find Queen’s Park, an enclave of the campus to the city of Toronto. Both of these parks are stunning, and they’re a great place to head for a relaxing walk.
(10 min drive)
5:45PM – Maple Leaf Gardens
Once home to the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1931 to 1999, part of Maple Leaf Gardens is now owned by Ryerson University. Ryerson’s part of the building is now the Mattamy Athletic Centre, an athletic centre for the university’s students. On the third floor of the centre you’ll find part of the original hockey arena that was once the Leafs’ main arena. This is one of my favourite spots in the city because it is often very deserted, seeing as many tourists don’t ever visit the arena as it isn’t exactly clear that the arena is actually inside the building. I also elaborated on Maple Leaf Gardens in my hidden gems post, which you can again read here.
6PM – Loblaws
Right next to the Mattamy Centre you’ll find one of Toronto’s many Loblaws, a Canadian grocery company, making up the other part of the original Maple Leaf Gardens. This Loblaws in particular is a lot nicer that any average Loblaws, and it actually sells some pretty good meals. It may not be the fanciest place to stop for dinner, but it is very convenient as it is right next door to your last stop and it is very fast.
Spending more than a day in Toronto? Check out some of my other posts on the city for some more ideas on what to do with your other days in the city.
That’s it for my one day itinerary for what to do in Toronto. I hope you enjoyed! I did say that I had finished all my posts on Toronto back in August, but I recently came up with the idea of this new series and I really wanted to do one based on Toronto. I’m planning on writing many more one day itineraries for a bunch of other cities as well, so look out for those coming soon! Have you ever been to Toronto? If so, leave me a comment below letting me know what your favourite spot you visited in the city was. If not, what spot would you most like to visit in the city?
Thanks for reading.