Got One Day in Toronto? Your Complete Itinerary From A Local!
So, you’re in Toronto and short on time? No problem. Whether you’re passing through while on your way to another city (like Ottawa, Kingston, or Niagara Falls) or you’re on a stopover flight, there are some must-do’s for how to spend 1 day in Toronto, Canada.
We love Toronto. Having lived there (in both Liberty Village and The Beaches), we have a pretty good idea of what a first-time visitor might be looking for when exploring Toronto in a day.
There are top attractions like the CN Tower and Casa Loma, plenty of activities to do and museums to visit, lesser-known places to eat and drink, and much more.
So, here’s our version of a Toronto day itinerary (for both the summer and winter seasons). We’ve also included various activities and food options to suit different interests along the way.
Toronto Tour Options
As the largest city in Canada, Toronto is a popular destination to explore. There are many great tour options to help you discover Toronto in different ways!
Table of Contents
Wake-Up Activity: Catch the Sunrise at Lake Ontario
Address: Aim for the Harbourfront Centre at 235 Queens Quay West
Good morning! If you are already in the city after spending the night, you might be interested in being up for the sunrise. If not, then you can just skip this section and head to breakfast when you are awake.
If you want to see the sunrise (or just enjoy a fresh morning walk), head down to the waterfront at Lake Ontario. If you go to Downtown Toronto, you’ll end up at the Harbourfront and look out across to Billy Bishop Airport towards the Islands.
There’s a waterfront pathway that extends for bikers, runners, and joggers. You might even see the planes come and go in the early morning sunshine.
The photo above was taken in Toronto – but over in the east end in a neighbourhood called The Beaches.
You could go there for sunrise (the views might be better) – but it’s a 40-minute streetcar rise, so that might not be a trip you want to make. Just thought we’d let you know!
Breakfast: Classic Toronto Breakfast
Now it’s breakfast time – and you are going to need a good meal to fuel up for the day of sightseeing!
Toronto prides itself on its ability to serve an amazing breakfast/brunch. We’ve been to several places for brunch across the city – literally across the city from the west end to the east end.
For a one-day visit, a breakfast in downtown Toronto is a good idea. You’ll get full and waste less time getting to your next stop.
We recently went to Cafe Landwer on University Ave (a very central location) and liked it. Lisa had the Belgian Waffles and Eric had their “Landwer’s Shakshuka” with eggs, a fresh salad, dips, and pita.
Some other classic options that always deliver would be Sunset Grill (there’s one at the corner of Yonge and Richmond) or OEB Breakfast Co. (the really popular restaurant from Western Canada. Had it in Vancouver and loved it).
One of our favourite places in the whole city is Lady Marmalade – but it is over in the east end (265 Broadview Avenue). If you did sunrise in The Beaches, then you could easily stop by on the way back to downtown.
Depending on the day you visit, the potential lineup is worth the wait (in our opinion) – they are known for their variety of Eggs Benedicts!
Getting Around Toronto
The city of Toronto (around downtown and near the water) is very flat – but it is pretty spread out. Many top areas/attractions around downtown are walkable – but you might opt for public transit to get around.
You can check out the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) website for subways, buses, and streetcars. You can tap your debit or credit card, or use a Presto tap card or Presto paper ticket to use the system. Day passes are available at a Presto self-serve Fare Vending Machine at all TTC subway stations.
Cycling is also an option. Bike Share Toronto has a decent network of stations and bikes for quick and easy rentals. You’ll need a ferry ticket (or water taxi) to get to Toronto Islands.
You can also use a Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour to get around and see the sights!
Morning Activities: Explore Toronto’s History, Culture, and Art
Okay, so once you are done with breakfast, it’s time to explore. We think it would make sense to spend the morning exploring the best areas and attractions further north of downtown and work your way down to the centre of downtown (for the afternoon).
There are numerous museums and attractions loosely clustered together around (and south of) Bloor Street, which makes for easy exploring. Just pick the things you want to see to fill your morning and take the subway or streetcar up there.
As for things to see in these areas of Toronto during your morning wander, we’ll give you a few ideas in the following sections. We’d suggest picking one or two and immersing yourself, rather than trying to see them all!
About Niagara Falls: If you absolutely must visit Niagara Falls when you’re in Toronto, you could also do that as a day trip. With a car, you can travel there yourself. Otherwise, we’d recommend an Early Bird Niagara Falls Day Tour.
Areas to Explore
- Kensington Market – An eclectic area with lots of history as well as street art, bars, eateries, unique shops, and so much more. You can explore the neighbourhood on a guided tour to truly appreciate its uniqueness.
- Chinatown – One of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods is bustling with lights, food, and things to check out. Consider a tour to learn more about it.
- Yonge-Bloor – If you want to do any shopping (particularly high-end shopping), this area (known as Bloor-Yorkville) is a great start.
- University of Toronto Campus – The University of Toronto is one of Canada’s oldest universities and has some nice architecture and green spaces. It touches Bloor Street and surrounds the Royal Ontario Museum (see below).
Attractions to Explore
- Royal Ontario Museum – The largest museum in Canada has something for everyone. Great for indoor activities/poor weather. You can get your ROM Ticket here.
- Bata Shoe Museum – A museum dedicated to the history of shoes. Get your Bata Museum Ticket here. It’s also right on Bloor Street for easy access.
- Art Gallery of Ontario – A world-class art gallery a bit further south (on Dundas Street West) and to the west of Kensington Market. You can get your AGO Ticket here.
- Casa Loma – “Toronto’s Castle” and one of the only “Castles” in Canada is a popular attraction in any season. It’s a little further north than the above attractions/areas (located north of Dupont Station), but is worth checking out. You can get your Casa Loma Ticket here.
Lunch on Queen Street West
So it’s now lunchtime and if you followed this itinerary, you might be back downtown and closer to Queen Street. If so, perfect – you can have lunch on/around Queen Street West. It’s also another really good shopping street, FYI.
Also known for its many, many shops, it’s loaded with eateries from all cuisines. We used to work around the corner on Richmond Street, so Touhenboku Ramen was often our favourite lunch spot!
Of course, you’ll find pretty much anything you’re craving – from burgers and fries to pizza, nice cafes, vegan places, and even a semi-famous hot dog stand that’s been there forever.
Depending on the weather and your hunger levels, you could walk the distance to Trinity Bellwoods Park searching for grub.
Otherwise, you can grab something to eat anywhere you fancy close to the heart of downtown. If you want a Canadian classic, you can try poutine (fries, cheese curds, and gravy) at Smoke’s Poutine.
It’s located on Adelaide (218 Adelaide St W) making it a convenient – and very filling – stop between morning and afternoon activities.
Afternoon Activities: Explore Old Toronto, Islands, or East End
Alright, so it’s the afternoon. You’ve had some lunch and now it’s time to explore more.
From the heart of downtown (Nathan Phillips Square – we’ll explore later), we’d generally suggest heading south towards the lake and/or east to explore less popular (but worthwhile) areas and attractions.
For this itinerary, we’ll give you three different options: Explore Old Toronto Attractions, explore the Toronto Islands, or explore The Beaches (in the East End).
Each of these options would be enough to fill an afternoon (and then some) on its own, so you kind of have to pick which one interests you. It also depends on the weather or the time of year you’re visiting.
Indoor activities in Old Toronto are better for winter whereas the Toronto Islands or The Beaches (East End neighbourhood) are nicer in the sunshine. Here are the afternoon options, in detail:
Discover Old Toronto Attractions
Address for Hockey Hall of Fame: 30 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5E 1X8
It’s no surprise that the area closest to the lake would have strong historical and cultural significance to the city.
There are quite a few really important places here that are great to see and historically relevant, so this is certainly an area you may want to explore in the afternoon! Many of the places below made our list of great places to visit in all of Ontario.
In order from west to east (all on foot), you can see/visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, The Gooderham Building, St. Lawrence Market, and the Distillery District.
- The Hockey Hall of Fame – If you’re a fan of Hockey – or want to learn more about one of Canada’s passions – visit the HHOF. We went again recently and loved it – but for the ticket prices you should spend a few hours as there’s a ton to see. You can get your HHOF Ticket in advance here.
- The Gooderham Building – Toronto’s iconic “flat iron” building makes for an iconic photograph. The Berczy Park Dog Fountain is right behind the building!
- St. Lawrence Market – The iconic Toronto market where you can taste (and buy) your way through the many different sides of Toronto. A guided food-tasting tour is a great way to explore it!
- The Distillery District – The classic, red brick area steeped in history and booze-making is now home to artisan shops, eateries, and a few beverage makers – like Mill Street. The best way to learn about the area’s rich history is to go on a Distillery District Walking Tour.
In December, the Distillery District transforms into one of the more picturesque Christmas Markets in Ontario.
Visit the Toronto Islands
Address for Jack Layton Ferry Terminal: 11 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON M5J 2H3
The next option on the list is to get out of the busy city and see it from a different perspective: Toronto Islands. As North America’s largest urban car-free zone (great for walking and biking), these 15 islands make for a nice mini-adventure.
There is a lot to do once you’re on the Islands: relax at various beaches (Hanlan’s Point and Centre Island, among others), visit the amusement park for kids (Centreville), play disc golf, enjoy the green space, places for food and drinks, rent canoes or kayaks, and more.
To get there, you can book a return ferry ticket to one of the three docks. You can also consider a private water taxi which makes frequent crossings (usually a little more money but faster overall to get there).
We went to the Islands a few years back and had a great day just exploring. We went to the beach, sat in the grass by the water had a mini picnic, and ate a Beavertail (sweet Canadian treat), among other things.
Explore the East End
Address for Woodbine Beach: 1675 Lake Shore Blvd E, Toronto, ON M4L 3W6
Lastly, if you want to use the afternoon to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, you could always see a completely different side of Toronto. For this, head to the east end of the city – a neighbourhood known as The Beached awaits!
We used to live in The Beaches – and still visit often – so we know it well. Named after the many rocky/sandy beaches along Lake Ontario, it’s a very nice neighbourhood with shopping, places to eat, and a few green spaces – including waterfront parks (Kew Gardens) with some walking paths.
Head for Woodbine Beach as a starting point – you can then just follow the large wooden “Beaches Boardwalk” as it snakes along the waterfront heading east.
Early Evening Activity: CN Tower or Nathan Phillips Square
Depending on how busy you made your afternoon – and how busy you plan to make your evening after dinner – there’s time for an early evening activity.
For this, we’ve thought of two iconic Toronto attractions you can check out: visit the CN Tower (and potentially catch a sunset) or visit Nathan Phillips Square (can do ice skating in winter).
Address: 301 Front St West, Toronto
The first option has you heading up the most iconic structure in the country – the CN Tower. Standing at 533.3 metres tall, the CN Tower was the world’s tallest structure for a few decades.
These days, it’s still pretty tall and offers amazing views of the city and the lake below. There are several attractions up there like the different observation decks, a glass floor, and the Edge Walk – where you hang over the edge on the outside ring.
If you know you want to go up there, you can check out tickets for the elevators up and the different observation areas on the official website for the CN Tower. Eric has been up once or twice, while Lisa is yet to get up there.
You could combine your evening experience at the CN Tower with dinner at the restaurant at the top of the CN Tower. Known as the 360 Restaurant, it rotates while you eat and won numerous awards serving Canadian dishes with Canadian ingredients!
You should plan ahead and make a reservation if you do want to do dinner this way. Otherwise, we list many dinner options below.
Nathan Phillips Square & Toronto City Hall
Address: 100 Queen St W, Toronto
The other option for a nice evening activity in the winter is to head up to Nathan Phillips Square for ice skating. The public rink in the famous Square (where you find iconic Toronto City Hall) is free for all.
If you have skates, you can just change and hop on. If not, there is a skate rental shop right beside the rink with lots of rentals available.
There are also food stands nearby, but that’s just a side note. It’s a very classic Toronto winter activity – and with the “Toronto Sign” all lit up it makes for a great photo opportunity.
If you haven’t passed by during the day already, this would be the time to go.
Dinner at a Classic Toronto Restaurant
Address: 101 Portland St, Toronto
Dinner time in Toronto – and again, you will be overwhelmed by the options!
Toronto prides itself on being one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities on the planet.
For this itinerary, we’ll suggest three places that we’ve been to for dinner (and really like). They are all different cuisines, so you can choose.
If you haven’t already noticed, Toronto prices can be a little higher than you might be used to – and the same goes for a good dinner out. Many eateries are Toronto staples and are worth it, though.
If you’re ever in a pinch, just head for the intersection at King Street West and Portland – there are so many good food places here – French, Spanish, Caribbean, etc. – serving up their dishes.
Address: 101 Portland St, Toronto
Gusto is a very popular place for brunch, lunch, dinner, or drinks. It’s primarily Italian cuisine – but there are a few menu items that might catch you by surprise.
Located in an old auto repair shop, they added a rooftop patio space and the place is always a hit. Eric has been there before – and honestly, Gusto is great.
The food is great, the drink selection is great, the servers are great. If you know you want to go, try to reserve just in case!
Address: 609 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1M5
Very close to the intersection of King Street West and Portland, you’ll also find WVRST. This is the original location – serving up meat-heavy eats and fries with various beers from around the world to pair with your food.
As a German/European-inspired place, you’ll find lots of different kinds of sausages (known as wurst in German). They also make schnitzels, sandwiches, Belgian fries (in duck fat), and other things like fondue, pretzels for snacking, and more.
Eric has been a few times and it’s always great. The big open atmosphere and beer hall-style tables make it a lively place. It’s been some time since we went last and Lisa – our German – has never been so we need have to change that.
Address: 18 Duncan St, Toronto, ON M5H 3G8
Last, but certainly not least, one of Toronto’s most famous Thai places: PAI. Having been a few times, it’s always good. The pad thai is excellent – but so are many other dishes.
It’s also a cool place to eat. Nothing too fancy, just good food and good vibes.
If you like Thai, there’s an ongoing debate about whether Khao San Road is better. We like them both (trying not to ruffle any feathers).
For a trendier but upscale Toronto restaurant, make a reservation at Richmond Station. Eric has been and it’s an experience, to say the least.
Evening: Drinks, Music, Show, Sports, or Evening Tour
Alright, so it’s the evening now and if you are still in Toronto and looking for the perfect way to end your day, you’ve got options!
For this post, we wanted to provide you with a handful of options to suit different interests.
So, at the end of the day in Toronto, here are some ideas for things you might want to do: Take a Night Tour, Find Live Music, Have Drinks Out, Attend a Toronto Sports Game, or Go to the Theatre.
Toronto Night Tour
If you still want to play tourist, there are a few ways to do so that show off the city’s night vibes, haunted past, and/or pretty lights:
- Guided Night Tour (w/ CN Tower visit)
- Toronto Haunted Walk
- Guided Night Van Tour (w/ Harbour Cruise)
If live music is your thing, you might be able to find it at a bar or pub downtown. There are also a few concert halls and smaller venues that are known for their music on any given night.
Check out these places – we’ve been to almost all of them and had a great experience:
- Horseshoe Tavern
- Massey Hall
- The REX Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar
- The Opera House (east of downtown in Riverside)
Toronto Sports Game
If you’re into sports and you want to attend an evening game while in Toronto, you could.
Depending on the season you are visiting in (and the schedule of the teams), you could theoretically have an early dinner downtown and squeeze in:
- A late-starting Blue Jays Game (Baseball) at Rogers Centre
- A Maple Leafs Game (Hockey) at Scotiabank Arena
- A Raptors Game (Basketball) also at Scotiabank Arena
As a Toronto sports fan (this has proven to be a semi-unfortunate life choice), Eric has seen these teams play numerous times. But there’s nothing like live sports in a city that loves their sports. Toronto is one of those cities.
There are so many places to go for a drink in downtown Toronto (we have a whole post on bars and pubs downtown).
If you want specific recommendations (both in the District and outside it) we like:
- Bar Hop (cool place, with a massive beer selection in two great locations)
- The Loose Moose (a classic watering hole on Front Street)
- CRAFT Beer Market (very large selection, a solid chain for a reason)
- The Ballroom Bowl (fun bowling alley, bar, restaurant, and more)
- The Broadview Hotel’s “The Rooftop” terrace (not downtown, but worth it)
Theatre lovers will be happy to hear that Toronto is home to quite a few theatres and quite a few excellent shows (partially thanks to Ed Mirvish).
There’s always something on – from large-scale productions to lesser-known smaller works. So have a look at some of the top theatres downtown and their schedules: Princess of Wales Theatre, Royal Alexandria Theatre, CAA Theatre, CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre.
We love and know Toronto – so here are a few other posts to help you plan your Toronto experience:
- 11 Must-Knows When Visiting Toronto
- 27 Top Tourist Attractions in Toronto
- Where to Stay in Toronto (Areas & Accommodations)
- 17 Great Day Trips from Toronto (& How To Get There)
- 9 Coffee Shops in Toronto We Love
- The Best Ice Cream Spots in Toronto
- Great Bars in Downtown Toronto
And there you have it, our sample itinerary for one day in Toronto. In the end, we could only mention so much but we are pretty happy with this guide. It’s a full day – but at least you can go home or travel onward knowing you made the most of your day in the city.
We’re always in Toronto, so let us know what you get up to – we’d love to add great food spots or activities to this Toronto itinerary!
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?