Hostelworld Guide for Toronto

By Rebecca Keenan

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Canada's largest city really is one of the most impressive destinations in the country. Boasting cultural attractions aplenty, Toronto is home to some of the best museums and art galleries in Canada. For those who are more inclined to spend most of their time outdoors, there are plenty of parks where you can hike or cycle. If the city gets a bit too hectic, the nearby Toronto Islands offer a naturally beautiful retreat. Landmarks are dotted all around the city, from the CN Tower which is the centrepiece of the stunning skyline to Casa Loma, Toronto's famous castle. A truly cosmopolitan city, it's no surprise that Toronto is full of chic yet affordable restaurants and lively bars. The city's diverse neighbourhoods ensure that whatever you're into, you'll find a place where you'll feel right at home.



In this Guide...      

Useful Information
After Dark
Places to Eat
Top Attractions
Budget Tips
Where to Shop

 The Essentials


Getting There

By plane: Toronto Pearson International Airport welcomes flights from destinations across the globe. There's a number of different ways to get from Pearson to the city centre like hopping on the 58A Malton bus.

By train: Rail services connect Toronto with a wide variety of Canadian destinations including Montréal, Ottawa and Niagara Falls. These trains are operated by VIA Rail Canada and arrive into Union Station, which is located at 65 Front Street.

By bus: Greyhound, Coach Canada and a number of other companies offer services connecting Toronto with a wide variety of destinations in both Canada and the US. The main bus station is the Toronto Coach Terminal at 610 Bay Street.

Getting Around

On foot: Toronto's various neighbourhoods can be explored on foot and the downtown area is quite manageable. Having said that, it's a pretty big city and you will have to use public transport at some stage.

By subway/streetcar/bus: Toronto has a really impressive public transport system which is easy to use and quite reasonably priced. Subways run on three lines, the streetcars cover 11 different routes and bus services criss-cross the city. If you think you're going to be using public transport a lot on any given day, pick up a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) Day Pass costing $10 which covers all of these different services.

By bike: This city is home to an ever-increasing number of bike paths so cycling is a popular way to get around.

 Toronto facts

Location: Toronto is located in the province of Ontario. The city is situated on Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes.
Population: Over 2.4 million people call Toronto home.
Area: The city of Toronto covers an area of approximately 630 square kilometres or 243 square miles.
Founded: Toronto was incorporated in 1834 but was actually established back in 1793 when it was known as York.

Toronto's humid continental climate brings hot summers and cold winters, while spring and autumn generally see milder conditions. January and February are the coldest months with average lows of around -9°C. At this time of year, and during the other winter months, Toronto can see quite a bit of snow. The hottest month is July. Temperatures average out at 26°C but they can get even higher, sometimes reaching above 30°C. July, May and September are usually the wettest months of the year as all of them see around 74mm of rainfall.

 Good to know...

Languages: English, French and Chinese
Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
Electricity: 110 Volts AC/60 Hz, 2-pin plug (flat) or 3-pin plug (2 flat & 1 round)
Area code: +1 (Canada), 416 (Toronto)
Emergency codes: Ambulance/Fire/Police 911
Time zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5)
Central Post Office: Canada Post, First Canadian Place, 100 King Street West, Downtown
Main Tourist Office: Ontario Tourist Information Centre, Atrium on Bay, 20 Dundas Street West, Downtown


USA: +1 416 5951700
Australia: +1 416 3231155
New Zealand: +1 416 9479696
UK: +1 416 5931290
Spain: +1 416 97716 61
France: +1 416 8471900
Germany: +1 416 9252813
Italy: +1 416 9771566
Ireland: +1 613 2336281*

*Embassy in Ottawa

Hostelworld Guide for Toronto

 Cheap Eats

 After Dark

Le Petit Déjeuner, 191 King Street East, St. Lawrence Market/Old Town A funky café with a really friendly vibe, Le Petit Déjeuner's menu is filled with affordable dishes like waffles, salads, stew and quiche. Breakfast is served until 3pm, so it's a great spot to go the day after a big night out. Open Mon 8am-4.30pm, Tues-Fri 8am-10pm, Sat 9am-3pm & 6pm-10pm, Sun 10am-3pm.

Rivoli, 334 Queen Street West, Entertainment District The patio here is often packed with chattering locals, while the interior has a more intimate atmosphere thanks to the liberal usage of mood lighting. Everything from burgers to pad thai to mac and cheese features on the reasonably priced menu. Open daily 11.30am-2am.

 Peameal perfection

Carousel Bakery, 35 Front Street East, St. Lawrence Market/Old Town Crowds of people line up to get their hands on one of Carousel's famous peameal bacon sandwiches, a perennial Toronto favourite. Cured pork loin rolled in cornmeal is served on a soft white bap with a liberal dousing of mustard. Yum. Open Tues-Thurs 8am-6pm, Fri 8am-7pm, Sat-Sun 5am-5pm, closed Mondays.

Sneaky Dee's, 431 College Street, Kensington Market If you're looking for big portions of cheap, tasty food served up in a hip and laid-back atmosphere, Sneaky Dee's is the place to go. Some of the top picks on the mostly Mexican-themed menu include nachos, fajitas and burritos, along with all-day breakfasts and lots more. Open Mon-Fri 11am-late, Sat-Sun 9am-late.

Crêpes à GoGo, 18 Yorkville Avenue, Yorkville One of the more reasonably priced eateries in the trendy Yorkville neighbourhood, this comfy little crêperie has quite a European feel. It serves up a tempting selection of sweet and savoury crêpes. Open Mon-Sat 10.30am-6.30pm, Sun 10.30am-6pm.

Firkin on King, 461 King Street West, King West Taking up two floors, this large bar has plenty of seating both inside and out. Drinks specials are available from 4pm-7pm and are different every day. A relatively new bar on the scene, it gets a business crowd during the day and a trendy crowd at night. On Thursdays, live music is provided by a cover band. Open daily 11am-2am.

Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen Street West, Entertainment District Over the past 60+ years this lived-in bar and live music venue has played host to plenty of stars from The Rolling Stones to Willie Nelson. Today you'll still hear live acts every night from Monday to Thursday. These include established and up-and-coming bands, mainly playing rock or indie music. Open Mon-Sat noon-2am, Sun 3pm-2am.

Sin & Redemption, 136 McCaul Street, Chinatown Thirty-four draught beers, mostly of the Belgian and German variety, are offered here. Thanks to its great drinks selection and welcoming atmosphere, this bar attracts a mixed crowd who come to have a chat while they enjoy their drinks. On a fine night, the tables at the big, open windows are the place to be. Open daily 11am-2am.

Drake Hotel, 1150 Queen Street West, West Queen West A night out at the iconic Drake Hotel is a must as it boasts a fantastic selection of unique bars. Enjoy cocktails in the chic Lounge; catch an indie band, a poetry slam or a live DJ set in the Underground; or head up to the Sky Yard, the hotel's all-weather rooftop patio. Open daily, hours vary by venue; $10 cover charge includes whole building.

Fox and Fiddle, 106 John Street, Entertainment District Serving around 20 beers on tap, this friendly spot offers regular drinks specials covering everything from bottles or jugs of beer to 'bar rails' featuring cheap spirits. There's plenty of entertainment to enjoy as well, including stand up comedy, live music and karaoke. Open daily 11am-2am.

 Gay/Lesbian Toronto

Toronto boasts a pretty vibrant LGBTQ scene and there are plenty of gay-friendly bars and clubs to check out. One such place is Gladaman's Den (502a Yonge Street), a pub with an outdoor patio and drag nights. The Beaver (1192 Queen Street West) is another popular spot and if you're looking for a lesbian bar, try Slacks (562 Church Street).

 Don't Miss

 Mark Your Calendar

Toronto Islands Centre Island, Ward's Island and Hanlan's Point are all part of this small island chain. Spend some time at the Centreville Amusement Park, visit the beautiful beaches or simply stroll through the parkland. Ferries depart regularly, trip takes 15 mins approx; admission $6.50 return.

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Chinatown One of the most impressive galleries in Canada, the AGO is home to a remarkable collection. Exhibits include pieces by famous Canadian artists alongside masterpieces by Monet and Van Gogh. Open Tues & Thurs-Sun 10am-5.30pm, Wed 10am-8.30pm, closed Mondays; admission $22, Wed from 6pm-8.30pm free.

 Crystal clear history

Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen's Park, Bloor-Yorkville Affectionately known as the ROM, this museum dates back to 1912 with exhibits including fossils and gems. It's a hard place to miss thanks to the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, a striking building with no right angles. Open Sat-Thurs 10am-5.30pm, Fri 10am-9.30am; admission $24, Fri from 4.30pm-9.30pm $12.

Ontario Science Centre, 770 Don Mills Road, Flemingdon Park A multitude of interactive exhibits make the Ontario Science Centre well worth the trip from downtown. The displays cover everything from space to the human body and there's also an IMAX theatre. Open daily 10am-5pm; admission €20.

CN Tower, 301 Front Street West, Entertainment District Soaring above the rest of the buildings in the Toronto skyline, the CN Tower is one of the tallest structures in the world at a total height of over 553m. Zoom up to the top in a partially glass-floored lift and you'll find incredible views awaiting you from three different observation levels - the Look Out, the Glass Floor and the Sky Pod. Open daily 9am-10pm; admission $22.99 for basic package.

March - Canada Blooms This celebration of all things green takes place across six acres and features a collection of gorgeous gardens. Plenty of garden-related items are on sale from numerous stalls.

June - North By Northeast Held over the course of a week, this film and music festival features more than 650 bands and 40 movies. North By Northeast or NXNE events are held in a selection of venues throughout Toronto.

June-July - Pride Toronto Toronto's popular Pride Festival runs for 10 days and features plenty of different events from the spectacular Pride Parade to the well-attended street fair.

June-July - Toronto Jazz Festival Over the course of its 10-day run, this festival attracts a large number of spectators who come to see jazz greats from around the world perform.

July - The Toronto Fringe Festival Featuring almost 150 different productions, this is Toronto's biggest festival dedicated to theatre. Shows take place in venues across the city and include performers from Canada and beyond.

July - Just for Laughs Some of the world's top comedians take part in Just for Laughs, a popular annual festival. Plenty of other events, including outdoor concerts, are held alongside the stand up shows.

August - Toronto's Festival of Beer In excess of 120 beers from around the world are featured at this festival. Throughout the event you'll be able to taste all these beers, enjoy live music and more.

September - Toronto International Film Festival Also know as TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival is one of the highlights of the city's annual calendar. Attended by lots of stars, this event features premieres aplenty and lots more.

October - Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Each year, approximately one million people check out Nuit Blanche, a celebration of contemporary art in public spaces. Taking place from sunset to sunrise, it's a completely free event.

October - Halloweek Taking place on Church Street at the centre of the Church Wellesley Village, this popular festival is held every Halloween. Some of the fun Halloweek events include pumpkin carving contests and a street party, which is a lively, well-attended affair.

Hostelworld Guide for Toronto

 Neighbourhood Watch

 Retail Therapy

Chinatown One of the largest Chinatowns in North America, the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood is the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West. The area boasts a plethora of stores selling great value clothing and other items. It's also home to a huge selection of restaurants serving authentic Chinese cuisine.

Church-Wellesley Village Centred on a stretch of Church Street and encompassing many neighbouring streets, this is the largest LGBTQ neighbourhood in Toronto. You'll know as soon as you've hit the Village when you see rainbow flags proudly flying from a first-rate selection of stores, restaurants and cafés. Unsurprisingly, this area is also home to some of the city's best gay-friendly bars and clubs.

Kensington Market Hugely popular with locals, this is one of Toronto's more alternative neighbourhoods. It's a great area for shopping, especially if you're partial to vintage and independent stuff. Along with lots of funky boutiques, Kensington Market also has plenty of places to eat and drink from cool cafés to noisy bars. Car free Sundays provide a great opportunity to stroll the streets at your leisure.

The Beach Hop on a streetcar heading east and you'll eventually find yourself in this well-liked neighbourhood on the shores of Lake Ontario. It's one of the best areas to head to on a fine day as it has four beaches. Two of these, namely Woodbine and Kew-Balmy, have been awarded Blue Flags. Another popular draw is a stretch of Queen Street East filled with shops and eateries.

 Bella Italia

Little Italy Located on the west side of the city, Toronto's Little Italy is focused around College Street between Shaw Street and Euclid Avenue. Traditional trattorias are in abundance in this neighbourhood, alongside coffeeshops, cafés, chic restaurants and lively bars.

Toronto Eaton Centre, 220 Yonge Street, Downtown Spanning two full city blocks, this huge mall will tempt everyone from the die-hard fashionistas to the more casual shoppers. Its big, bright interior attracts huge numbers of visitors each year and is home to in excess of 250 stores. These include Abercrombie & Fitch, Best Buy, Lacoste, Nike, Fossil, Zara and Sephora. Open Mon-Fri 10am-9pm, Sat 9.30am-7pm, Sun noon-6pm.

Bloor Street West, Bloor-Yorkville The section of Bloor Street West which stretches from Yonge Street to the ROM is filled with first-rate shopping opportunities. Big name brands like Guess, Body Shop, GAP, and HMV all have stores here. World-renowned designers are well-represented too, among them Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

 Shop all the live Yonge day

Yonge Street, Downtown One of the longest streets in the world, the shopping on Yonge is particularly good in the downtown area. Around 600 different stores all compete for your attention, offering a great selection of clothes, shoes, accessories, cosmetics and more. You'll also find a concentration of music shops and jewellers in this part of town.

Queen Street West, Entertainment District Shopaholics will be delighted with the huge array of stores awaiting them in this area. Major retailers like Zara, Footlocker, H&M, Lush, Adidas, Guess and Mexx all have shops here so be prepared to get your cash out and spend, spend, spend.

PATH, Downtown PATH is Toronto's underground walkway which connects lots of the city's top attractions by means of a series of subterranean tunnels covering 28km in total. Not just an easy way of getting around in bad weather, it's also one of the best shopping areas in the city. A wonderful variety of chic boutiques rub shoulders with top brands like La Senza, Banana Republic and more.

 Toronto for Free

 A Day in Toronto...

Check out the Allan Gardens Conservatory Located at the heart of the beautiful Allan Gardens, this large Victorian-style conservatory is well-worth a look. It is home to a huge collection of plants such as palm trees, cacti and all kinds of flowers. Seasonal plants give the place a real splash of colour, especially in spring. Open daily 10am-5pm.

Wander through Queen's Park This quiet park near the ROM is the perfect place to take a bit of a breather from the fast-paced city. Established back in 1860 and dedicated to Queen Victoria, it's also the site of the Ontario Legislative Building. Along with lots of green grass to lie around on, it has plenty of picnic tables and a couple of cool monuments.

 A day at the beach

Go for a stroll along Woodbine Beach One of the highlights of The Beach neighbourhood, this Blue Flag beach is extremely popular in fine weather. Go for a swim, sunbathe on the sand or simply stroll along the beach as you look out across the expanse of blue that is Lake Ontario. Woodbine Beach is also where you'll find the start of the Boardwalk, which stretches out for 3km and is popular with joggers.

Have a look inside St. James' Cathedral The Gothic-style house of worship you see here today was opened back in 1853 and stands on the site of Toronto's first church. Take a look at the beautiful collection of stained glass windows, some of which feature the cathedral's history. Other points of note include the elaborate organ and the eagle lectern. Open Sun-Fri 7.20am-5.30pm, Sat 9am-5pm.

Explore High Park Covering 400 acres, this is the largest park in Toronto and it boasts a huge array of attractions for you to enjoy. Walk along the trails, visit the free mini-zoo, stroll around Grenadier Pond or check out the Chinese Gardens. Plenty of sports facilities are provided here, along with lots of places where you can sit around and enjoy a picnic.

Start the day with a filling breakfast at one of the city's popular cafés like Le Petit Déjeuner on King Street East.

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Hop on a ferry and head out to the Toronto Islands, making sure to have your camera at the ready for great photos of the city's skyline (above).

After you've finished exploring the Islands, head back to the city and grab a peameal bacon sandwich for lunch at Carousel in the St. Lawrence Market.

Hop on the subway and head to the ROM where you can marvel at Crystal, see the dinos and fulfil your daily cultural quota.

Check out the quirky exhibits in the nearby Bata Shoe Museum or have a stroll through beautiful Queen's Park.

Walk along Bloor Street West and then down Yonge Street, checking out the shops on your way to Dundas Square.

Get back on the subway and head for the Entertainment District where you can enjoy panoramic views from the top of the CN Tower.

Have a delicious dinner at Rivoli on Queen Street West and if it's a nice night, try to get a table on the patio.

After you've eaten, wander down a few doors and enjoy cheap beer and live music at the Horseshoe Tavern.

Make your way out to The Drake, where you'll find lots of bar areas and entertainment to keep you going into the wee hours of the morning.

Hostelworld Guide for Toronto