From the vantage point of Lake Ontario, the Toronto skyline rises like a mountain range of glass. But step inside the city’s vibrant neighborhoods bursting with lively cafés, street festivals, lush green spaces, and restaurants serving everything from Tibetan dumplings to Jamaican patties and you’ll find the true heart of Canada’s largest city.
After all, the Greater Toronto Area is home to more than 6.3 million people, making it one of the largest metropolises in North America. And with nearly half of its population made up of immigrants, Toronto is a meeting point for diverse food, culture, art, and natural attractions. Here’s how to spend a perfect weekend in Toronto.
Where to stay in Toronto
The Drake Hotel
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The Drake Hotel has been a cultural hub on Toronto’s trendy Queen Street West for nearly two decades. Its boundary-pushing contemporary art program has garnered international attention and its intimate concert venue is where many musicians—Billie Eilish and M.I.A. included—have made their Toronto debuts. Now, thanks to its new Modern Wing, which opened last December with 32 contemporary guestrooms, a rooftop suite, and a bijoux bar, travelers have a whole new base to explore one of the city’s coolest neighborhoods.
Even with a new building, the hotel has retained the beloved retro vibe of its historic art deco address. Design details like custom millwork, statement wallpapers, and terrazzo tiles can be found in every room and an impressive collection of original artwork (with a focus on women, Indigenous, and diverse artists), ensures your stay is as creatively energizing as it is restful.
1 Hotel Toronto
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Located beside the nightlife hub of King Street West, 1 Hotel Toronto is steps away from many of Toronto’s best restaurants, bars, and landmarks. Fortunately, its airy, nature-inspired interiors also offer a refreshing respite from the downtown hustle and bustle. Since opening in the summer of 2021, the first Canadian outpost of the 1 Hotels brand has quickly established itself with four on-site restaurants and bars (including 1 Kitchen, which favors Ontario ingredients thanks to a partnership with local food distributor 100km Foods), weekend events, and an atmospheric lobby bar overflowing with plants and reclaimed wood. As a rare bonus, the 112-room property also boasts a rooftop pool with cityscape views.
Where to Eat in Toronto
Dine at Toronto’s best restaurants
In Toronto, eating your way around the world is possible without taking a single flight (or even a streetcar, for that matter). For a taste of everything in one central spot, head to the King Street West area, where you’ll find many flagship restaurants of Canada’s culinary heavy-hitters. At Lee, celebrated Canadian chef Susur Lee blends the epicurean traditions of China with classical French techniques (his 19-ingredient Singapore slaw is a must-order). Nearby, restaurateur and Top Chef Canada judge Janet Zuccarini helms Gusto 101, an Italian eatery that’s garnered a cult following for its creamy truffle pasta, mafalde ai funghi, and a rooftop patio perched on the top of a repurposed industrial garage. Across the street, Jamaican-born chef Donavon Campbell leads the culinary team at Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen, which turns out home-style dishes like jerk pork, saltfish fritters, golden patties, and rum punch.
Take a trip to Turkey by walking a few blocks east into the entertainment district, where Byblos offers family-style dishes like Turkish manti dumplings, black truffle and cheese pide, and sweet jeweled rice. And down the street at Pai, Chef Nuit Regular pulls inspiration from her upbringing in Northern Thailand to create dishes that rival what you would find at night markets in the Land of Smiles.
The city is teeming with brunch options (and the line-ups to match) but those looking for something a bit more off-the-beaten-path can venture into Leslieville to Maha’s for an Egpytian brunch (think eggs paired with fava beans, falafel, and charred balady bread). You’ll also find several options on the hip Ossington Strip including Union, which serves seasonal Canadian classics like P.E.I oysters, bacon, and buttermilk pancakes doused in maple syrup. Nearby, the plant-forward Gia is the shining new star of Toronto’s food scene and serves vegan Italian dishes like panko-crusted meatballs and tortelloni made with wild Ontario mushrooms, black kale, and porcini crema.
Things to Do in Toronto
Spend a morning at the markets
Saturday mornings in Toronto are best spent alongside the locals at one of the city’s many bustling markets. First-time visitors to the city will want to head to the historic St. Lawrence Market in Old Toronto to peruse maple syrup producers and cheese purveyors packed into a centuries-old market hall. A short stroll east will bring you to the cobblestone streets of the Distillery District, a pedestrian-only pocket famed for its Victorian-era distillery buildings that have been transformed into art galleries, boutiques, and brewpubs.
The bohemian Kensington Market, located beside Toronto’s dynamic Chinatown, is worth passing through any day of the week. It especially comes alive on weekends (and in particular, Pedestrian Sundays, which take place between May and October). Grab a taco from Seven Lives y Mariscos or a jerk chicken dumpling from Rasta Pasta and wander the eclectic streets dotted with vintage clothing stores, eclectic cafés, and street performers.
Those looking to pair their market visit with a scenic hike or bike ride can head to the Evergreen Brickworks, a former quarry and industrial site that’s been transformed into a community environmental center. The site features a network of trails around ponds, forested ravines, and wildflower meadows, as well as a Saturday farmers’ market. Nature enthusiasts who want to further explore the ancient shorelines of the Don River Valley can choose a self-guided trail walk or explore more than 50 miles of mountain biking trails.
Dive into Canada’s contemporary art scene
A visit to Toronto wouldn’t be complete without spending a few hours at one of the city’s world-class art galleries or museums. The Art Gallery of Ontario is particularly noteworthy for its collections of Canadian and Indigenous art, as well as its $212 million architectural expansion led by Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry.
Relatively new to Toronto’s museum scene is the Aga Khan Museum, which opened in 2014 with a striking building by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki. Set on a 17-acre park in North Toronto, the museum focuses on the artistic and scientific contributions of the Muslim community and features a 1,000-piece permanent collection, as well as rotating exhibitions.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in an industrial heritage-listed factory in Toronto’s up-and-coming Junction Triangle neighborhood, also hosts a selection of rotating exhibits. A visit here pairs well with the area’s independent galleries such as Arsenal Contemporary Art Toronto, Daniel Faria Gallery, and Patel Brown Gallery—all of which showcase Canadian artists.
Explore Toronto’s natural side
Some of the best views of the city can be enjoyed from the Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 small islands that are easily accessible via a 15-minute ferry ride from the city’s harbourfront. Across them, you’ll find sandy beaches, bird nesting sites, a small theme park, and even a quaint residential area with cottage-style homes. Public ferries are offered from the mainland to Centre Island, Hanlan’s Point, and Ward’s Island with varying schedules.
For nature lovers, one of the most rewarding ways to experience the area is by getting out on the water. Kayaks can be rented in the city from the Harbourfront Kayak & Canoe Centre, which also hosts guided group paddles over to the islands. Paddleboards can be rented from Toronto Island SUP, which offers several eco-tours of the island’s wildlife-rich lagoons. If you want a truly spectacular experience, join one of their sunset safaris, where you’ll paddle into the evening with lights under your board or kayak and the option to control your own colors, patterns, and brightness. As the sun dips below the horizon and the city lights turn on, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the brilliance of Toronto’s skyline and the creative locals highlighting the city’s many sides.