Heading to Toronto? Get the inside scoop on the best places to eat, shop and visit from the Toronto locals at Vv Magazine.
So you’ve finally made it over to Canada’s largest city and you’re looking for something to do. If there’s one thing Toronto has, its options and sometimes having too many isn’t a good thing. But don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. We teamed up with our friends at Expedia.ca to narrow down the best places to sleep, eat, play, and shop, so that you can spend 48 hours in Toronto, stress-free.
Where to Stay
Luckily for you, many of the city’s best accommodations are within walking distance to everything you’ll want to do and see.
For those on a budget, consider staying at a hostel like Hi-Toronto Hostel in the Gay Village or College Backpackers Inn in Kensington Market. If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, the Gladstone Hotel on West Queen West has a number of quirky rooms for you to choose from. Best location? Well, you’ll want to stay somewhere like Hotel Ocho which is steps away from Queen West, Chinatown, and Kensington Market or for a little more lux, the Marriott by the Eaton Centre. For an even more upscale experience, you can’t beat the Ritz-Carlton in Yorkville or the Thompson Hotel, the latter of which also boasts the best view of the city.
What to Do
With your bags dropped off, it’s time to explore! Toronto has a wide (re: huge) range of activities to offer, depending on your preferences. Here are a few of our favorites:
Ripley’s Aquarium: For a highly Instagrammable experience, we suggest taking a tour of this downtown Aquarium. Discover 16,000 aquatic animals, 9 galleries, interactive dive shows, and touch exhibits featuring sharks, rays, and horseshoe crabs.
CN Tower Edgewalk: Live your life on the edge – literally. Take a walk around the circumference of Toronto’s tallest attraction. It’ll cost you a pretty penny ($195 to be exact) but it’s an experience of a lifetime.
Explore the Toronto Islands: If it’s warm enough, the Toronto Islands cannot be missed. Made up of three main areas; Centre Island, Ward’s Island, and Hanlan’s Point (the city’s only clothing optional beach), you’ll need to catch a ferry to cross beautiful Lake Ontario. Whether you feel like stripping down to your skivvies, renting bikes and exploring, grabbing a bite at the Rectory Café, taking the kids on some midway rides or just relaxing by the beach, there’s something for everyone of all ages.
Visit one of the city’s major art galleries: Soak up some culture and visit one of Toronto’s many art galleries. The Art Gallery of Ontario on Dundas West is open 6 days a week with their permanent gallery free to the public on Wednesdays from 6-9pm. The Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor St. is open all week long with over 30 galleries to explore. And located in the financial district, Design Exchange is dedicated exclusively to, you guessed it, design and is open Tuesday through Sunday with most exhibits offering free entry.
Where to Eat
If there’s one thing Torontonians love, it’s food and we’ve got some of the world’s most talented chefs to help feed our obsession. And while the city is jam packed with restaurants, if you’ve only got 48 hours in Toronto, these are the ones you must try.
Breakfast and Brunch: For the health nut, delicious acai bowls, smoothies and coffee can all be found at Toronto’s newest hotspot, Calii Love. Want to indulge your sweet tooth? The blueberry pancakes at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen are a must and over-the-top dishes at Old School are sure to please. Craving something savory and unique? Try Maha’s Egyptian brunch. And if all else fails, local favorites like Lady Marmalade, Emma’s Country Kitchen, School, and Rose and Sons won’t disappoint – just make sure to show up early or be prepared to wait in line.
Lunch: Toronto has a bevy of fast-casual restaurants that are anything but subpar. Our suggestions? The House Special from Porchetta & Co., a unique creation from Maker Pizza, a veal sandwich from California Sandwiches, a better-than-the-real-deal vegan Big Mac from Doomie’s, a hearty salad from The Baro, or a truly Canadian dish: a poutine from Poutini’s. For lunch with an activity, explore the vendors at St. Lawrence Market.
Dinner: For your last meal of the day, we suggest you go all out. If you’re a true carnivore, Electric Mud BBQ is the place to be for ribs and melt-in-your-mouth brisket. Gusto 101 is for those craving Italian (we suggest the Truffle Gnudi), while Bar Reyna is the perfect spot for mingling over share plates, snacks and cocktails, not to mention their crispy shoestring fries are some of the city’s best! And if you’re following the city’s hometown hero, you’ll want to drop by Susur Lee’s Fring’s for a possible Drake spotting and the seafood ceviche. Need a veggie or vegan options? Toronto’s latest plant-based eatery Planta is sure to suit your fancy or try a city favorite, Thai from Khao San Road.
Where to Shop
If shopping is the name of your game, you’ve come to the right city. Toronto has a number of distinct shopping areas and streets, that can be navigated by theme or budget.
Queen St. West: Located in the heart of downtown Toronto is the city’s most popular strip, Queen West. Here you’ll find a mixture of stores from big names like H&M, Club Monaco, Zara, and Gap; independent retailers like Get Outside, Te Koop, and Durumi; and Canadian favorites like Aritzia, Lululemon, ShoeMe and Neon. Head further east on Queen West and you’ll find the downtown core’s largest mall, CF Eaton Centre, complete with chain retailers galore. Head further west towards West Queen West and you’ll find a slew of unique-to-the-city shops like Sydney’s, Smoke & Ash, dutil. Denim, and Nomad; and popular names like Oak + Fort, Mendocino, Anthropologie, and Frank + Oak.
Ossington Avenue: While you’re heading west on Queen, be sure to mosey on up Ossington Avenue, where a variety of boutiques await. Shop name brands like Tiger of Sweden and Shinola; or uniquely Canadian troves like Loversland, Peace Collective, Jonathan + Olivia, I Miss You and neighboring Dundas West boutiques like Armed and Penny Arcade.
Yorkville: If money is no limit or you’re in the mood for window shopping, begin your journey at Yonge and Bloor and make your way west. Along the Bloor St. strip, also known as Mink Mile, you’ll find accessible retailers like Zara, COS, H&M, and Sephora, but also luxury stores like Chanel, Hermès, Holt Renfrew, Louis Vuitton and Coach. Deeper inside Yorkville, you’ll find even more luxury brands and unique boutiques like Pink Tartan, Uncle Otis, and Over the Rainbow.
Kensington Market: Vintage lovers, this hub is for you! Apart from being one of Toronto’s best areas for people watching, Kensington Market is a mecca of vintage stores and quirky treasures. A few of our favorite shops in this ‘hood include Blue Banana Market, Courage My Love, and Bungalow.
What else would you do if you only had 48 hours in Toronto? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.