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Toronto is the largest city in Canada, and therefore, a popular tourist destination in North America. A lot of people visit Toronto as a stop on their way to Niagara Falls, but this city is also a good option for a longer roadtrip or even a weekend getaway.
As for me, on my most recent 3 days in Toronto escape, I was very excited to see the Hockey Hall of Fame and eat at allllll the markets. St. Lawrence Market has been on my bucket list for awhile, considering it is one of the most famous markets in the entire world. The thought of getting lost for hours as I ate food from a hundred different vendors was super appealing. Obviously.
Furthermore, I tend to love unique neighborhoods that thrive in larger cities, so I had no doubts about visiting Toronto, especially since I had a United flight credit that covered the costs (yay).
However, even though I was excited, I was warned by some Canadian friends that Toronto was underwhelming and expensive, and that I ought to focus on other areas in Canada instead for a better experience.
Buuuuut I love a good “underdog” city, though, so I was excited to explore Toronto on a solo trip and ended up loving my time there.
Is Toronto Worth Visiting? It’ Depends
I loved Toronto, but my travel preferences aren’t everyone else’s preferences. So, answering the question “is Toronto worth visiting?” truly depends on your travel style and priorities. There’s no one correct answer.
At the end of the day, Toronto can be worth visiting. Maybe.
Personally, I think if you’re the type of traveler who loves big cities and don’t mind a little bit of “normal big city” grittiness, then Toronto would be the perfect fit for you.
In Toronto, there is plenty to see and do in all types of weather, so you don’t have to fret about the forecast. I visited Toronto in November, for instance, and even though I didn’t make it out to the islands (way too cold), I still had a very fun visit with a variety of activities packed into each and every day.
However, if you’re a traveler who’s more interested in Canada’s nature, then there are plenty of other options for a trip to Canada. Depending on the season, you might be far better off taking a long weekend to Banff National Park or traveling solo in New Brunswick.
Furthermore, travelers who don’t like cities obviously won’t have the best time in Toronto, and should focus on small cities or even little towns instead. After all, the bustling environment of large cities aren’t for everyone and that is okay!
At the end of the day, whether or not Toronto is worth visiting depends on you and your feelings.
The Pros of Visiting Toronto
I’m a positive person, so I decided to start with the pros of visiting Toronto. Toronto is such a wonderful city for food, arts, culture, and (of course) hockey. I really liked it and would definitely go back again in the future!
So, if you want to add a dose of excitement on your trip to Canada, then Toronto is one-hundred percent a wonderful choice for you! Here are some reasons why you should visit Toronto.
Fantastic (and Diverse) Food
Toronto’s food is so, so, so good. You’ve all the Canadian classics, as well as an abundance of food options from all over the world. Every type of taste bud will find a scrumptious meal here.
St. Lawrence Market is one of the best markets in all of North America. So, obviously, a visit here is almost like a pilgrimage for foodies. One of the most famous items here is a Peameal bacon sandwich on a bun. Not the healthiest breakfast ever, but soooooo good. The ingredients are simple, but filling in the best possible way.
St. Lawrence Market is big, though, and might feel overwhelming, especially on weekends. Fortunately for you, Toronto also has plenty of food tours if you want to maximize your time. Toronto Secret Food tours has a lot of fun stops including St. Lawrence Market. Plus you’ll make new friends over delicious food which is great for solo travelers in Canada.
In addition, Kensington Market is another neighborhood well known for its international food scene. I took a guided food tour of Kensington, and it was absolutely amazing. Almost every national is represented here, and you won’t run out of delicious things to eat and drink.
Toronto has many unique neighborhoods that make it a worthwhile city to visit.
As someone who loves cities, I always enjoy reading about unique and local neighborhoods ahead of time, and then just walking through them to discover shops, coffee houses, theaters, street art, and more. Using these neighborhoods as a base is a great way to build a little bit of spontaneous fun into your trip to Toronto.
I’ve listed a couple of wonderful neighborhoods to help plan your adventures around the Toronto’s coolest corners. At the end of the day, you don’t want to spend all your time and money downtown.
Toronto’s Cool Neighborhoods
- Chinatown: One of Toronto’s oldest neighborhoods that’s also home to the Art Galley of Ontario, which is a very popular museum. Eating and drinking your way through this neighborhood is a ton of fun.
- Distillery District: A historic area of Toronto that’s fun to explore. Go at night and see the area lit up by lots of twinkling lights. You’ll also find some cool art galleries. The Distillery District is also pedestrian only, making it lovely to walk.
- Kensington Market: Hands down, this was my favorite neighborhood in Toronto. I loved sampling all the international foods, as well as shop for adorable vintage clothes and quirky earrings. This neighborhood felt inclusive and welcoming toward many different identities, so I felt very safe here. Well worth exploring. I truly loved this area’s bohemian atmosphere.
- West Queen West: This area is always highly recommended by locals, and is hailed as one of the greatest and coolest places in Toronto to eat and shop. West Queen West is just … super cool. And whatever you do — don’t miss Graffiti Alley! Street art lovers will have a great time checking out the ever-changing graffiti here.
- Yorkville: This is a very posh and upscale area of Toronto (the beautiful Park Hyatt is in this neighborhood!). If you want a pricier dining and shopping experience, then you will want to spend your time here.
Plenty of Museums
Toronto is also perfect for travelers who like spending hours inside museums. You’ll find a wide variety of museums here that specialize in diverse topics, whether its art, fashion, natural science, sports, and more.
It’s impossible to see all of Toronto’s museums in one visit, so I’ve listed a couple of my favorites in this post. Without a doubt, Toronto’s vibrant museums make this city worth visiting for any traveler seeking out arts and culture.
Museums to See in Toronto
- Art Gallery of Ontario: I truly feel like one of the best ways to learn about a new place is through its art. I absolutely loved AGO (or the Art Gallery of Ontario), because this extensive 90,000 work collection was so thoughtfully and beautifully done. Weekends are crowded, so if you want a quieter visit, opt for mid-week.
- Casa Loma: Toronto’s Castle or Casa Loma is one of the most popular attractions in the entire city. You will feel as if you’ve been transported to a magical countryside castle smack in the middle of one of North America’s largest cities. I adored Casa Loma. Plan to spend at least a half day here if you want to listen to the entire audioguide, and explore the towers and carriage houses. I absolutely recommend climbing the towers if you’re physically able to in order to see a sweeping view of Toronto’s skyline.
- The Hockey Hall of Fame: This museum is dedicated to the history of ice hockey. I was a huge hockey fan growing up, so visiting here was very important to me. Very important. Even if you don’t follow the sport, don’t miss a chance to pose with the Stanley Cup. Yup, I’m serious.
- Royal Ontario Museum: This amazing museum has vast collections of Egyptian Art, Chinese Art, earth sciences, and so much more. Personally, I suggest visiting here to check out the dinosaur bones. I am not a “dinosaur person,” but this museum has the best collection that I have ever seen in my life. Totally worth it.
The Cons of Visiting Toronto
Okay, so even though Toronto has a ton of great qualities, I also want to discuss the downsides a bit. Like I said, if big cities aren’t your favorite, then you might want to plan a different trip to Canada. There’s no shame in it. I promise.
Overwhelming Big City Vibes
A lot of travelers dislike big cities. And that’s okay! We’re all allowed to have travel preferences.
Honestly, if you’re not a big city person, then Toronto isn’t for you. You’ll encounter crowds on the metro. You’ll have to wait in line at the most popular attractions. If your heart is set on a certain restaurant, then you’ll have to make reservations well in advance.
You’ll have people approach you on the streets asking if you want to sign a petition or join a protest (haha, this happened to me), and if you’re not good at wearing a Big City Poker Face, then this might get on your nerves.
Know yourself and what annoyances you’re able to handle before booking your trip to Toronto.
Expensive, Expensive, Expensive.
Toronto isn’t cheap. Hotels, food, attractions, all come at a premium.
For example, to go to the top of CN Tower costs roughly $50 CAD. That’s a lot of money for a single person, let alone a family of four or five. When in Toronto, you need to be mindful of your budget, or you could end up in a bit of trouble, haha.
However, as of this posting, the US dollar was strong, and therefore Toronto felt surprisingly affordable compared to New York City or San Francisco.
Create a budget beforehand and try to stick to it. I should also mention Toronto is mostly cashless, even the metro and street car. Some coffee shops won’t even accept cash! While it is convenient, a primarily cashless city makes it much easier to ring up a big credit card bill by the end of your visit.
Stay mindful with your money.
Signs of Poverty
Last but not least, it would be disingenuous not to mention the signs of poverty that I saw on my trip to Toronto.
Currently, Toronto is in the midst of a serious housing crisis. Keep in mind that this problem isn’t unique to Toronto, and many cities in Canada and the United States are dealing with huge increases in rents and mortgages that are devastating to the lower and middle class.
It’s nearly impossible to live in Toronto as a low wage worker, unless you live far on the outskirts or share an apartment with tons of roommates, and it’s important to know this so you’ll emphasize with your barista at the coffee shop or your cashier at the airport. Income inequality is stark here (and not too dissimilar to New York City, which I live close to), which is difficult to see.
Additionally, as a result, you will see many homeless people in Toronto. Partly due to the housing crisis, but also due to mental illness and addiction. Even as a solo female traveler, most of the homeless left me alone, but their suffering was still sad to witness. It’s hard seeing people in pain.
Like I said, these problems aren’t unique to Toronto, but you need to be aware of them regardless.
Toronto Travel Tips
I hope this post helped you figure out whether or not Toronto is worth visiting for your next trip to Canada.
If you want to go to Toronto, I’ve included a couple of travel tips below to help you plan your vacation. Toronto is a fun city. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with whatever activities you decide to do.
What to Bring to Toronto
You don’t really need to pack anything “special” for Toronto, but here are a couple essentials that you want to bring on your trip.
- Appropriate Clothing: Toronto’s weather wildly varies depending on the season. In winter, obviously bundle up with a heavy coat, hat, and gloves. However, in the summer, the weather is quite warm and moderate, so don’t overdo it with the layers. Just because Toronto is “in Canada” doesn’t mean it is chilly all year round.
- Comfortable Footwear: You’ll be clocking a lot of steps in Toronto. So take good care of your feet! I love cozy walking shoes for city trips but in winter, maybe opt for a comfortable pair of boots to keep your feet happy and warm.
- Lightweight Day Bag: A lightweight day bag is perfect for a solo trip to Toronto. Pacsafe bags are awesome if you’re worried about keeping your belongings safe and sound.
- Lonely Planet Pocket Toronto: As a blogger, I always love travel blogs, but there’s something to be said for a traditional guide book. Lonely Planet has the perfect pocket Toronto guide to help you plan the the perfect city adventure.
- Travel Insurance: Canada has universal healthcare for citizens, but for travelers, medical care is a fortune if an emergency happens. Protect yourself and purchase travel insurance to keep your health and wallet safe. I always use World Nomads on my trips.
Where to Stay in Toronto
- The Anndore House: This is a hip and upscale little hotel that’s part of the Hyatt chain. I absolutely loved my stay here. It was safe and cozy, and very welcoming for solo travelers. Plus you’re only a quick two minute walk from the Bloor-Yonge station. See prices on Booking.com and Expedia.com.
- The Annex Hotel: This hotel has a wonderful location (5-minute walk from Spadina subway station) and a wonderful price. Plus you’re not too far from the Bata Shoe Museum, which is one of Toronto’s most unique attractions. See prices on Expedia.com.
- The Hazelton Hotel: Do you want a bit of luxury? Then stay in this 5 Star boutique hotel located in Yorkville, which is Toronto’s high-end neighborhood. You can’t go wrong here. See prices on Booking.com and Expedia.com.
What do YOU think? Is Toronto worth visiting? Of course only you’re able to make that decision, but I personally think there are worse places to spend a fun weekend!