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13 Must-See Attractions in Toronto for Solo Travellers

31 May 2024 | Canada, Highlights, North America, Play, Toronto

Toronto’s top cultural attractions that won’t break the bank

Digital nomad in Toronto looking to get to know the city with your free time? While there’s a multitude of cultural attractions in Canada’s most-populous city, you can gain an insight into almost every aspect of this bustling metropolis’s unique character by visiting the most famous highlights and a few lesser-known hotspots.

In this guide, we detail 13 of the best attractions in Toronto that shed light on cultural aspects such as dining, shopping, history, entertainment, sport, outdoors, nightlife, and even wildlife.

Discover all the top Toronto attractions discussed below, and you’ll become an expert on Ontario’s Capital during your stay.

Toronto Highlights

A sneak peek at the best places to visit in Toronto

Here’s a quick look at the Toronto attractions discussed in this guide so that you can skip to the sections that best match your interests:

  • CN Tower – Toronto’s tallest structure with observation decks and a revolving restaurant
  • Royal Ontario Museum – Canada’s biggest natural history and world cultures museum
  • The Distillery District – Dining and shopping in the restored buildings of a former brewery
  • Art Gallery of Ontario – One of North America’s most extensive galleries
  • Hockey Hall of Fame – Museum dedicated to Canada’s national winter sport
  • Kensington Market – A bohemian neighbourhood and hive of multiculturalism
  • Casa Loma – North America’s only full-size castle
  • St. Lawrence Market – A centuries-old market and mecca for foodies
  • Toronto Islands – A chain of pedestrianised islands with beaches and diverse attractions
  • Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada – Home to over 20,000 animals plus rare endemic species
  • Nathan Phillips Square – A historic public square surrounded by architectural landmarks
  • High Park – The largest greenspace in Toronto
  • TIFF Lightbox – Entertainment complex and HQ of the Toronto International Film Festival
Things to do in Toronto

Our detailed roundup of the top attractions in Toronto

From iconic landmarks like the CN Tower to distinctive neighbourhoods such as Kensington Market, here are Toronto’s best attractions for those who want insights into every side of the city:

1. CN Tower

Rising to a dizzying height of 553 metres, the iconic CN Tower was once the tallest humanmade structure on the planet. It was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in 1994 by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

CN Tower

The CN Tower is visible from just about anywhere in the city, but the best way to experience this feat of engineering is to ascend to its four observation areas, including a revolving restaurant, that offer panoramic Lake Ontario and cityscape views.

The Lower Observation Level sits at a height of 341 metres and features an interactive art showcase. The Main Observation Level overlooks Toronto from an elevation of 346 metres, while the revolving 360 Restaurant resides 350 metres above ground level. At 447 metres high, the SkyPod is one of the world’s highest observation platforms.

CN Tower observation deck

If you’re feeling daring, embark on the EdgeWalk experience, giving you the chance to take on the world’s highest hands-free walk on the exterior of a building. As you encircle the top of the CN Tower’s main pod, you’ll soak up Toronto from 356 metres above the city.

General Admission ticket prices for the CN Tower start at CAD 43 per adult. For CAD 53, you can also visit the SkyPod. The EdgeWalk experience costs a minimum of CAD 199 per person.

The nearest transport interchange to the CN Tower is the Union Station. It takes about eight minutes to walk from the Union Station via the SkyWalk to the CN Tower.

2. Royal Ontario Museum

With over 13 million items in its collection, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada’s biggest museum dedicated to natural history and world cultures, from Ancient Egypt to the First Nations of Canada.

Royal Ontario Museum exterior
Photo © Penn State University Libraries (CC BY-NC 2.0)

In fact, this century-old Toronto staple has exhibits on topics that include art, archaeology, geology, mineralogy, zoology, palaeontology, and more throughout its 50 display spaces and galleries.

Highlights of the Royal Ontario Museum’s exhibits include genuine dinosaur bones, Chinese temple art, First Nations artefacts and Roman sculptures. There’s also a 25-metre-tall totem pole rising from the ground floor through the staircase to the roof.

Royal Ontario Museum interior
Photo © Maria Vasserman (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Since the 2007 installation of “Michael Lee-Chin Crystal” by architect Daniel Libeskind, the futuristic, geometric Queens Park entrance has also been one of the highlights of the ROM.

Ticket prices at the Royal Ontario Museum start at CAD 26 per adult. Alternatively, you can visit the ROM using a CityPASS.

3. The Distillery District

A historic industrial neighbourhood in Toronto, the pedestrianised Distillery District is made up of nearly 50 restored Victorian-era industrial buildings, most of which once formed the Gooderham and Worts Distillery.

Distillery District Toronto

Today, these heritage buildings host trendy restaurants, clothing boutiques, cafés, art galleries, performance venues, and a range of other cultural institutions, transforming the Distillery District into one of the hippest areas of Toronto.

Keeping the area’s history alive are a few smaller distilleries and breweries such as the Mill Street Brewpub and the Spirit of York Distillery Co. When it comes to leisure and entertainment, the Distillery District has you covered day and night.

4. Art Gallery of Ontario

Opened in 1900 and expanded in 2008 based on designs from Toronto native and renowned architect Frank Gehry, the Art Gallery of Ontario is an intriguing architectural landmark as well as one of the most extensive galleries in North America.

Art Gallery of Ontario exterior
Photo © mksfca (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The gallery houses more than 95,000 works of art spanning over two millennia, including iconic pieces from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Artists on display include Picasso, Rembrandt and Rubens.

Highlights include a collection of First Nations art as well as one of the world’s largest collections of works by the famous Group of Seven. After perusing the local art, discover works from across the globe by exploring the extensive European collections and the African Art Gallery.

Art Gallery of Ontario interior
Photo © Jeff Hitchcock (CC-BY-2.0)

Admission tickets for the Art Gallery of Ontario start at CAD 30 per adult. You can explore the gallery for free on the first Wednesday of every month between 6 pm and 9 pm. Resident Ontarians under 25 years of age can enter for free with a valid ID.

The nearest subway station is St Patrick Station, located just 400 metres away. You can also ride the 510 Spadina streetcar to Dundas Street and walk about five minutes to the gallery.

5. Hockey Hall of Fame

A 65,000-square-foot museum dedicated to Canada’s national winter sport, the Hockey Hall of Fame is home to the nation’s largest collection of hockey artefacts and memorabilia, including the prestigious Stanley Cup.

Hockey Hall of Fame exterior

Each year since 1945, the Hockey Hall of Fame has been inducting sporting legends and officials into its ranks. As of May 2024, 430 people have been inducted, which includes several on-ice officials and builders in addition to nearly 300 players.

Included in the museum’s exhibits are gloves, sticks, nets and other items from legendary games. Famous relics include Max Bentley’s stick and the goalie gear of Terry Sawchuk, one of the first goaltenders to wear a mask and a custom chest protector. Don’t forget to check out the Puck Wall, which displays over 1,000 pucks from a variety of international tournaments.

Hockey Hall of Fame trophy room
Photo © stu_spivack (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Besides the display items, highlights of the Hockey Hall of Fame include interactive exhibits such as a replica NHL dressing room, movie viewings and state-of-the-art games that allow you to test your skills against animated, life-sized hockey pros.

Ticket prices at the Hockey Hall of Fame start at CAD 25 per adult. Doors are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, and you can usually beat the crowds by arriving before 11 am or after 2 pm. Union Station is only a five-minute walk away.

6. Kensington Market

Kensington Market is the name of a neighbourhood rather than an actual market, although its plethora of eclectic stores and eateries that spill out onto the streets from Victorian-era homes with characteristic street-front extensions gives the area a marketplace atmosphere.

Kensington Market

Today, on top of its bohemian vibe and almost limitless food options, Kensington Market is best-known for representing the epitome of multiculturalism in Toronto.

Cuisines served from the neighbourhood’s grocery stores, restaurants and holes-in-the-wall include Jamaican, Ethiopian, Vietnamese… you name it, you’ll probably find it here.

In between courses, you can discover Kensington Market’s shopping scene, which includes indie boutiques, vintage shops and specialty stores selling goods from around the world.

7. Casa Loma

One of Canada’s most unique architectural gems, the Gothic Revival-style Casa Loma is North America’s only full-sized castle. You may recognise it from big-screen hits such as The Tuxedo, Chicago and X-Men.

Casa Loma

This distinctive mansion that overlooks Toronto was built by castle-fanatic, former soldier and Canadian businessman Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, who went bankrupt shortly after the castle was completed in 1914.

Besides 98 opulent rooms and an extensive library, Casa Loma boasts turrets that offer cityscape views, secret passageways and a carriage house that hosts a collection of vintage cars. You can follow a hidden 800-foot tunnel from the main mansion to the stables. Outside, there are five acres of pristine gardens complete with fountains, sculptures and flowers.

When you need to give your feet a rest, you can order food and drinks from the Liberty Café. The Terrace Grill is a seasonal outdoor restaurant overlooking the gardens and city skyline.

Admission tickets for Casa Loma start at CAD 40 per adult. The castle is open daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm, with last admission at 4:30 pm.

8. St. Lawrence Market

One of Toronto’s best attractions for foodies is St. Lawrence Market in the heart of Toronto’s Old Town. While the market dates back to 1803, the current main building was constructed in 1902 with the Old City Hall (1845) incorporated into it.

St. Lawrence Market

Today, the market consists of three distinct buildings that represent a different era in Toronto’s architectural heritage: South Market, North Market (currently being redeveloped) and the iconic St. Lawrence Hall.

On top of a traditional farmer’s market with stalls displaying fresh produce, cured meats and tangy cheeses, St. Lawrence Market is home to vendors selling goods ranging from handmade jewellery to clothing and souvenirs. Plenty of restaurants rustle up specialty delights for every palette.

While you’re here, you might want to learn how to create incredible dinners using ingredients from the market during a cooking class at the Market Kitchen.

St. Lawrence Market is open every day except for Monday; Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to 7 pm, Saturday from 7 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.

9. Toronto Islands

Just a quick ferry ride from Toronto’s downtown core are the Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 vehicle-free islands that provide an oasis away from the urban sprawl.

Toronto Islands

The largest islands, Centre, Ward’s and Algonquin, are connected by a series of bridges and pathways, ideal for a relaxing stroll or bike ride.

Comprising an area of about 820 acres, the Toronto Islands are home to a range of tourist attractions as well as scenic sites. Centre boasts beaches, paddleboat and kayak rentals, picnic areas, and over 30 rides and a petting zoo at the Centreville Amusement Park.

For a more relaxing day trip, explore the English gardens and 1920s-style cottages on Algonquin Island and Ward’s Island. From here, you can take in sprawling views of Toronto’s towering skyline behind Lake Ontario.

The ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal in Downtown Toronto to the Toronto Islands takes about 15 minutes. Three ferries are available (each arriving at one of the three main Toronto Islands) and depart every 15 to 30 minutes. Return tickets for adults start at CAD 9.11. Water taxis are also available for those who want to splash out on a little extra comfort and convenience.

10. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

Home to over 20,000 marine creatures from over 450 species in tanks holding over 1.5 million gallons of water, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is one of North America’s largest aquariums.

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada exterior
Photo © Larry Koester (CC-BY-2.0)

Here, you can discover over 80 of the nation’s rarest endemic fish species in the Canada Waters exhibition. Recreated habitats include freshwater wilds, kelp forests and local fisheries. Keep your eyes peeled for giant Pacific octopus and sturgeon.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada also provides a home to hundreds of incredible species from across the globe. Notable highlights include the underwater tunnel that takes you through the Dangerous Lagoon and an interactive stingray experience. Those who dare can dive with the aquarium’s extensive collection of sharks.

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada underwater tunnel
Photo © Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0)

During your stay in Canada, you might want to give this aquarium’s calendar of events a periodic check. Popular events include yoga sessions and live jazz nights (every second Friday of the month), when you can peruse the aquarium’s exhibits to the sound of live musicians.

On top of being Toronto’s most impressive aquarium, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is also a modernist architectural landmark in itself, conveniently located at the base of the CN Tower in the heart of Downtown.

General admission tickets at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada cost CAD 45 per adult, and you can get a CAD 5 discount by choosing a Sharks After Dark ticket that grants you entry after 5 pm. You can also gain access to the Aquarium using a CityPASS, which could knock up to 50% off the admission fee.

11. Nathan Phillips Square

Nathan Phillips Square is the main public square in Toronto, where you can admire some of the city’s best-known architectural landmarks, gain a glimpse into the local culture and dive behind the scenes of Toronto’s governance.

Nathan Phillips Square

One of the square’s most striking landmarks is the modernist Toronto City Hall (aka the New City Hall). You can explore public spaces in the building such as the mayor’s office and the council chambers for insights into the inner workings of Toronto’s local government.

Located on the roof of the Toronto City Hall is the Podium Green Roof, a unique greenspace that offers sprawling views of the cityscape.

Other famous landmarks in Nathan Philips Square include the Toronto Sign, the Osgoode Hall, the Textile Museum of Canada, the Canada Life Building and the US Consulate General.

Winter ice rink at Nathan Phillips Square

During winter, the fountain in Nathan Phillips Square is transformed into an outdoor ice rink. The glass-roofed performance pavilion hosts concerts, festivals and seasonal events throughout the year.

12. High Park

Within the 400 acres of greenspace that make up High Park are themed gardens, manicured lawns, untouched nature, and attractions that include the High Park Zoo.

High Park Toronto

The park’s facilities include playgrounds, waterfront vantage points, tennis courts and an outdoor swimming pool. In winter, the frozen ponds become ice skating rinks. Visit during spring to see the park’s cherry blossom trees in full bloom.

13. TIFF Lightbox

Occupying the first five floors of the Festival Tower is the TIFF Lightbox cultural centre, a must-visit institution for cinephiles.

TIFF Lightbox
Photo © The City of Toronto (CC BY 2.0)

TIFF Lightbox is most famous for being the headquarters of the prestigious annual Toronto International Film Festival. But this modern venue also screens movies from classic blockbusters and foreign indie films to brand-new releases year-round.

Besides five state-of-the-art cinemas, TIFF Lightbox has facilities such as a restaurant, a gallery space and a film reference library.

Any more top Toronto attractions to add?

We hope that the variety of attractions and activities detailed above will provide you with deep insights into Toronto’s iconic landmarks, rich history and diverse culture. We’ll keep updating this article with more fascinating things to do in Toronto and the latest developments – and we’d really appreciate your help.

Have we missed any of Toronto’s best attractions that visitors simply must visit during a short stay? Are there any quirky attractions that highlight aspects of the city most visitors never know about? Do you have any money-saving tips for our community of digital nomads? Let us know in the comments below.

Josh Saunders

Josh Saunders

I've been writing my way through Europe, Asia and Oceania for just over a decade, providing SEO copywriting, editing and content strategy services to travel-industry clients ranging from startups through to Fortune 500 giants. Now, I'm on a mission to connect digital nomads with the world's best destinations for work and leisure.


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