I’d never been to Toronto before, but I’ve now been twice for work since May, with the most recent trip affording me a bit of time to explore the city. I definitely want to go back for a long weekend and check out some of the other hotspots I’ve heard about (let me know if you have any favorites!), but I’m impressed with the fact that I managed to see as much of the city as I did. So, if you find yourself in Toronto for a short amount of time or with a schedule that doesn’t give you much room for exploring, here are some places I’d recommend checking out!
Both times I’ve been to Toronto, I’ve stayed at the Park Hyatt in Yorkville. It’s a really cute area, right off of Bloor (one of the main streets), and just a couple of minutes walk to tons of great Yorkville restaurants. Even if this hotel is above what you’re looking to spend, I’d recommend staying somewhere nearby – the proximity to everything is really key!
I’m a big fan of morning walks as a way of exploring a new city, so during this most recent trip, I did just that. The first day, I woke up and walked along Queens Park, through the University of Toronto. It really reminded me of being in Europe – the buildings were beautiful, and there’s greenery everywhere (quite unlike NYC unless you’re near Central Park). The nice thing is that you can turn down side streets to make the walk a little longer and more scenic, or you can just go the Queens Park loop which will get you a little over a mile worth of steps for your FitBit!
I also usually try to steer away from the “super touristy” things, but my travel partner really wanted to go up the CN Tower, so I obliged and joined her one morning. We did the main floor as well as the Sky Pod at the top, and I’m really glad I joined. The views were great from the main level – you really get a 360 view of the city and lake. I’d recommend going early (it opens at 8:30am, so we went right around 9am and there was no line). The other perk of going early is that the restaurant isn’t open, so you have free reign of the main floor and really do get the 360 degree view. While the Sky Pod was interesting to see, the view wasn’t as clear, so I’m not sure it was worth the extra money.
I also walked through the St. Laurence Market one AM. The building is beautiful, and it’s in a really fun part of Downtown (just down Front street about a mile from the CN Tower). There are a lot of meat, cheese, and fish stalls, but there were a few bakery/breakfast spots on the lower level, so we grabbed some breakfast and sat at one of the picnic tables outside. If you’re a fan of indoor markets, it’s definitely worth checking out, and you don’t need to spend a ton of time there to enjoy it.
Ah, the most important part of a trip in my mind! Given the fact that I was in Toronto for work, I was a little more restricted in my options and neighborhoods (they’re all in Yorkville), but we still managed to eat very well.
- Trattoria Nervosa (Yorkville): super yummy Italian food. We had the Caprese salad to start, and it was probably the creamiest mozzarella I’ve ever had. The pizzas were also delicious (and huge!), and it was really reasonably priced. It’s located in an old townhouse, so the vibe is very trendy
- Holt’s Cafe (Bloor): located on the mezzanine floor at Holt Renfrew, this place is definitely where you go if you’re a lady who lunches. The food was delicious (I had the copped salad with jerk shrimp on top, and I was so hungry that I didn’t even stop to take a photo first…gasp!). The service was pretty slow, but the biggest thing was that it felt a bit pricey for lunch. Definitely delicious though, so if you have time and aren’t against spending $25 on a salad, I’d check it out!
- The Oxley (Yorkville): this place was great. Like Trattoria Nervosa, it’s located in an old townhouse, and it really felt like you stepped right inside a London pub as soon as you walked in. Our server was really friendly, and we all ordered dishes we ended up loving based upon her recommendation. Pretty reasonably priced, too!
- Summer’s Ice Cream (Yorkville): I walked past Summer’s on my way to dinner my first night, and I was immediately intrigued when I saw the sign with “Toronto’s best homemade ice cream since 1984.” So obviously I had to try it! They have probably 30 different ice cream, fro-yo, and sorbet flavors, and it was definitely delicious. A little more expensive than I’d imagined for ice cream, but I ate every bit of it without an ounce of regret, so I’d recommend checking it out for a little tasty treat!
Have a restaurant, activity, or hotel that you recommend in Toronto? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!