Known for having the tallest building in Canada, and being the home to both the Blue Jays baseball team and actor-turned-rapper Drake, Toronto is one of the most popular cities to visit in Canada. This multicultural city has something for everyone from foodies to sports fanatics, shopaholics and museum enthusiests there is plenty to see and do in this busy metropolis. But what if you only have time for a short visit? Don’t worry, you can still see a lot of Toronto in 2 days. Here are my recommendations for a Toronto itinerary.
Getting to Toronto
There are four main ways to get into Toronto: flight, train, and of course bus or drive. Most people avoid driving in Toronto- the traffic is legendary, and travellers from out of town will stick to using public transportation instead. Especially for those who are only spending two days in Toronto.
Toronto has two airports. Pearson International Airport is located in Mississauga, about an hour from the city centre depending on traffic. From Pearson Airport visitors can take a car. Taxis in Toronto can be hit or miss in terms of cleanliness and normally charge by time or kilometre. Another option is to take a Limo- a nicer, clean car with a flat rate. Depending on what time you arrive, a limo may end up even being cheaper. There is also a bus and a train to Union Station from Pearson International Airport which are more budget friendly.
Toronto’s second airport is Billy Bishop, also known as the Island Airport. It’s located right downtown and is significantly smaller (and less busy) than Pearson but is serviced by fewer airlines and flights.
Toronto’s train station, Union Station, is also right downtown; just minutes from the CN Tower. It’s connected to the subway line making it easy for travellers to continue their journey into the city, or of course, you can grab a taxi outside. There are plenty of hotels close to Union Station as well for those wanting to stay nearby.
Visitors from Canada and the United States can also travel to Toronto via bus. Busses arrive and depart Toronto at the Toronto Coach Terminal located on Bay Street in the downtown core. There is a pedestrian PATH network from the bus station to the closest subway station.
Getting Around Toronto
Toronto is a large city and quite spread out. You will want to do some walking while sightseeing but don’t be able to walk through the whole city. You will need to rely on some sort of transportation to get around.
Getting around Toronto downtown is pretty easy. There are two subway lines that run North-South, East-West as well as city busses and street cars. You can buy individual tickets for the ride but if you plan on using public transit a lot in Toronto then it is in your best interest to purchase a pass. You can find up to date information on current fare rates as well as where to buy passes here.
If you are not comfortable taking public transit you can always use taxis or uber. However, keep in mind the warning about traffic!
Where to Stay in Toronto for 2 Days
Toronto is divided into a number of different neighbourhoods and areas so if you only have two days in Toronto, it’s best to do a bit of research and stay near what you are most interested in seeing.
The Entertainment District home to many of Toronto’s bars and clubs. Hotels in this area are very popular with bachelor/bachelorette parties. Another popular area to stay or those who like shopping is in the fashionable Yorkville area. As mentioned above, it’s easy to get around using public transportation so if you stay somewhere near a subway stop you are well connected.
For a luxury hotel try: The Fairmont Royal York
For midrange try: The Saint James Hotel
If you are more on a budget try: The Only Backpacker’s Inn
What to See and Do in Toronto in 2 Days
Toronto is a pretty big city with lots of interesting things, and two days in Toronto won’t be enough to see it all, but you can narrow things down based on your interests. Here are some of the highlights that you should consider adding to your Toronto itinerary.
The CN Tower
At one time the CN (Canadian National) Tower was the tallest building in the world. Today it’s been overshadowed by several other structures, but still remains the tallest building in Canada. Visitors can ascent 346m high by elevator to the viewing platform, and should they choose, pay a little extra to go up another 33 levels to the highest viewing platform where, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Niagara Falls and New York State. The CN tower also has a revolving restaurant (though reservations to need to be paid in advance) and a smaller bar-style restaurant. For those adventurists looking for a thrill, the is the CN Tower Edgewalk. Although this activity is weather dependent and should also be booked in advance. The CN tower is open till 10:30pm at night, so if you have a lot you want to see and do it might be a good idea to come in the evening to see the city lit up at night.
Estimated time needed here: 1-2 hours
A recent addition to Toronto, Ripley’s Aquarium has quickly become one of it’s biggest attractions. From typical Canadian sea life to tropical creatures, there’s plenty of weird and wonderful fish and sea creatures to be seen here. The highlight for me was the Dangerous Lagoon where you walk through a tunnel under the tanks and watch sharks and rays swim over you. Of course, being an aquarium, there is some controversy about visiting. From my visit I was pleased to learn that a lot of the aquarium is somewhat self-sustaining (i.e. breeding some species and culturing their own food for the smaller species.) however I was shocked to find that there were no hand wash stations before the touch tanks. As a scuba diver and eco-friendly enthusiast, I’ll admit I was a bit wary of the touch tanks, hand washing station or not, as touching sea life is one of the major don’ts in the scuba diving world.
Like the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium is open till later in the evening, so depending on what else you want to see and do it might be a good activity to leave till later.
Estimated time needed here: 1.5 hours
Toronto’s version of a castle may not be quite on par with those of Europe, however for castle and history lovers it’s a beautiful spot to visit. Once the home of a wealthy Canadian businessman, Sir Henry Pellatt, today Casa Loma is a historical museum and popular wedding venue. It has also been the setting for many movies including X-Men, Chicago, and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
Estimated time needed here: 1-1.5 hours. Get your advanced ticket here.
The Royal Ontario Museum
One of the largest museums in North America, and the largest museum in Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum has five floors of galleries and exhibits to explore. From dinosaurs to textiles, an ancient Egyptian mummy to Chinese Architecture there is a little bit of everything from around the world to be found here. A visit here is a good bet for a rainy day or a die-hard museum lover as you can spend all day exploring everything the ROM has to offer.
The Toronto Zoo
While the Toronto Zoo is quite a bit outside of the city centre, it’s definitely worth considering a visit. I was lucky enough to visit when the panda’s were on loan from China. I’m obsessed with panda bears and spent ages watching the cubs play.
Of course the zoo is home to many other amazing animals as well, and there are often come pretty adorable babies. From Canada to Africa, South America to Australia- there are animals from every corner of the world here and visitors could easily spend the whole day exploring the zoo.
The Hockey Hall of Fame
When in Canada- there’s always something hockey related! The Hockey Hall of Fame holds the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world and serves as both a museum and an entertainment destination. The highlight here? The Hockey Hall of Fame is home to the one and only Stanley Cup.
Estimated time needed for visit: about 2 hours.
Cool Neighbourhood to Add to Your Toronto Itinerary
While Toronto has lots to do in terms of tourist attractions like museums and the sites listed above, there are also come really cool Toronto neighbourhoods that are worth exploring as well. Here are some great areas to explore.
The Distillery District
Another great area in Toronto, the Distillery District is made of of old industrial style buildings that house a number of shops selling everything from art to clothing and more. There are typical art displays here and its a really popular area to come in the evening for dinner and/or a drink. Keep your eye out for any special events in this neighbourhood as well!
Shopaholics should skip the many Toronto Malls and head instead to the high-end shops of Yorkville. Even if it’s just to window shop, this area is akin to NYC’s Fifth Avenue or Paris’ Champs-Élysées. Designer stores to be found here include Holt Renfrew, Kate Spade, Dolce and Gabanna, Gucci, Hermes and more.
If you like to shop but don’t have the bank account to match the Yorkville price tags, head to Kensington Market instead. Known for it’s antique, vintage, and more creative shops it’s a fun place to check out. There’s also plenty of pubs, restaurants, and cafes in the area perfect for grabbing lunch or an afternoon drink. It’s a fun and multicultural neighbourhood so you can find a little bit of everything here. Try a walking tour of Toronto’s Kensington Market and China Town
Toronto’s Chinatown is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city and one of the most vibrant Chinatowns in the country. Established in 1878 it’s a lively place to explore with lots of markets and plenty of great foodie options ranging from traditional dim sum to Asian fusion dishes. Come hungry!
The St. Lawrence Market
Calling all foodies! If you are looking to eat then a visit to the St. Lawrence Market is a must. This market has hundreds of vendors selling all kinds of delicious food products. Its a great spot to go for lunch as they have lots of ready-to-go options. Try this 3 hour Canadian food tour at the St. Lawrence Market.
If You Have More than 2 Days in Toronto
Toronto is packed with things to do so depending on your travel interests and the weather you may also want to consider adding some of the following to your Toronto itinerary, especially if you have more time.
- Hit up a Toronto Blue Jays Baseball game or Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Game
- Take a Toronto Harbour and Islands cruise
- Visit the Art Gallery of Ontario
- Nerd out at the Ontario Science Centre
- Catch a broadway show at one of Toronto’s many theatres
- Grab a beer at the Steamwhistle Brewery
- Spend a day at Niagara Falls
Insider Tip: If the CN Tower, Casa Loma, Royal Ontario Museum, the Zoo, and the Ontario Science Centre are on your to-see list consider picking up a Toronto CityPASS. It’s a much better value than buying tickets individually and have further discounts (such as 50% off the price to go to the highest level of the CN Tower) inside.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Canada
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.