The Perfect Weekend In Toronto – 3 Day Itinerary
Home to just over 5 million people, Toronto is one of the fastest growing cities in North America. More and more people are flocking to this Canadian metropolis. Toronto is a city full of energy and enthusiasm, and with over 8000 restaurants, it’s a foodies dream!
I’ve been to Toronto on several occasions and I’ve been lucky enough to see it from a local’s point of view (thanks Adam!). This summer my parents were in town so we experienced it as first time tourists. Toronto is full of colourful, energetic neighbourhoods, each one different in it’s own right. There’s a lot to see in the city, from vibrant street art to it’s diverse food scene.
While three days in Toronto is a fair amount of time to see the main sights of the city, there is so much more to Toronto you could easily spend weeks here. This weekend in Toronto Itinerary will take you to the cities classic sights, hidden gems and delicious eats.
Just passing through? Have a long stop-over? You can still see Toronto’s top sights in a day!
How To Get To Toronto
Toronto Pearson International Airport is serviced by several major airlines, including: Air Canada, American Airlines, Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific & Emirates.
If flying from the United States, arrival into Billy Bishop Airport on the Toronto Islands may be a more effective route. Porter Airlines and Air Canada fly into this airport.
Getting From Toronto Pearson To Downtown Toronto:
The Union Pearson Express train is a stress free, easy & cost efficient option to get into Downtown Toronto from Pearson Airport. Trains run every 15-30 minutes and costs $12.35 one way for an Adult Fare. The train takes you directly to Union Station which is in the heart of Toronto. From Union Station you can hop on the Metro, Street Car or take an Uber.
Day 1: Italian Coffee & Fairytale Castles
Coffee At Sud Forno
Wondering where to start? A strong espresso from Sud Forno will be sure to keep you fuelled for the day ahead. A small local chain featuring rich, fragrant Italian coffee and the most mouth-watering pastries. Their Bombolini’s are a personal favourite of mine.
Casa Loma (Spanish for “Hill House”) was the idea and home of Financier Sir Henry Pellatt. Designed in the Gothic Revival style by architect E.J.Lennox the house now functions as a museum. Sitting at 140 metres above sea level this historic house is the closest thing to a castle you will find near Toronto.
Casa Loma has been a popular filming location for many films and television shows. During the time the home was occupied, Toronto had close to 200 phones, 50 of those alone were inside Casa Loma.
Upon entering the museum we were asked which part of the world we were visiting from, to which the employee replied “Well this is more like a stately home for you then”. While we may be used to hundred-year old castles in Europe, this stunning piece of historical architecture is well worth a visit. The conservatory gave me Haunted Mansion feels! (A Disney reference as always)
Duration: 2-3 hours to really experience the three floors, towers & garden
Nathan Phillips Square
After fulfilling your Canadian fairytale fantasies at Casa Loma, head to the iconic Toronto Sign. Located in Nathan Phillips square just in front of the Toronto Town Hall and beside the Old Town Hall. I’ve visited this sign on every visit. Why? Because I’m a massive tourist and love signs! If this is your first visit to Toronto, a visit to the sign is a must! It’s pretty neat when it lights up at night – and if visiting at Christmas there is free ice skating.
Duration: 10-20 minutes
Toronto Railway Museum At Roundhouse Park
Roundhouse Park is located just in front of the CN Tower. It sits in the former area of the John Street Roundhouse which is now home to the Toronto Railway Museum. I happened to stumble upon the Railway Museum on my way to Steam Whistle Brewing (it’s directly in front) and I couldn’t help but be amazed by some of the trains on display. The main museum is located inside and requires a ticket to enter. If you’re just wandering the area, the trains on display outside are cool to check out and gives you a brief overview of Canada’s railway history.
Duration: 30 minutes – 1 Hour
This particular train caught my eye as it reminded me of one of my favourite movies – the Polar Express!
Steam Whistle Brewing
No trip to Toronto is complete without checking out one of it’s many breweries. Steam Whistle Brewing is located inside Roundhouse Park and offers a biergarten style set-up. Founded in 2000, Steam Whistle is famous for it’s Pilsner Lager. The brewery also offers tours which you can book online. If you’re a real beer enthusiast why not book a tour of Toronto’s best breweries?
Duration: 1 Hour
The CN Tower
I can never explore a big city without visiting an observation deck! At 553 metres high, the CN Tower once held the record for the world’s tallest free-standing structure. Originally built as a TV & Radio communications platform by Canadian National, the CN Tower now features several observation decks and a 360 rotating restaurant. It is easily recognisable as an Icon of Toronto.
The tower features several elevators that transport you 342 metres high in 58 seconds – pretty impressive eh? On the lower observation deck is a glass floor, although it can hold up to three fully grown Orca whales, it still scares me!
Throughout the year, the CN Tower is lit up in different colours to celebrate annual events – for a full list check out their website.
The 360 restaurant inside the CN Tower gives you a 360 view of the city as it slowly rotates. If you visit the CN Tower nearer to sunset you’ll be able to witness the city in daylight and night time.
Duration: 2 Hours/ 3+ if dining
Price: $38 for general admission, $65 minimum for CN 360 Restaurant
Royal Ontario Museum
With over 6million items on display over 40+ galleries, it’s no wonder The Royal Ontario Museum (or ROM) is the largest and most visited museum in Canada. Bringing in over 1million visitors per year, the ROM features collections of Art, World Culture and Natural History. The ROM is a must do in Toronto so make sure you take a few hours out of your day to truly explore it.
On the third Monday of every month the ROM offers free entry between 5:30pm and 8:30pm.
Duration: 3+ Hours
Price: $23 or skip the line!
Dinner At Terroni
A favourite among locals, Terroni is a small chain of Italian restaurants in Toronto, owned and operated by the same guys over at Sud Forno. The original location is the one on Queen Street West, and my favourite location as it’s far quieter than their Adelaide location. Their pasta is freshly prepared and they use Olive Oil made made by a family friend in Italy.
Day 2: Niagara Falls & Wine Tasting In Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara Falls has to be one of the most amazing things I have seen in Canada, and is an easy day trip from Toronto at 1.5 hours each way. With over 168,000 cubic metres flowing through the falls every minute, it’s hard not to stare in awe at this natural wonder of the world.
Get up close and personal aboard the Hornblower with Niagara Cruises. The Hornblower takes you on a 20-minute journey and gets you as close to the falls as possible (while on a boat!) If that’s not close enough for you, the Journey Behind The Falls will get you even closer. and it’s exactly what it sounds like. This is an unguided tour that will take you through the tunnels directly behind Niagara Falls. Extending approximately 46 metres behind the falls, the tunnels allow you to view water cascading directly in front of the open cave. Head to the Fallsview Casino for incredible views of Niagara Falls from above.
A day trip will allow you to see the falls but there is so much more to do in the Niagara region so consider spending a weekend in Niagara Falls instead!
Getting to Niagara Falls from Toronto
There are several route you can take when taking a day trip to Niagara Falls. If driving from Toronto, you’ll take the QEW and follow signs to Niagara Falls. The total Journey time takes around 1 Hour and 45 Minutes.
Public transport is another option, but will limit your options. Both bus and train are available to book from Toronto to Niagara Falls. The Megabus offers several departures per day, and range in price from $18 to $22 for a one-way ticket. You can also opt to take the train. The GO train offers a season service with rices averaging $30 for a return ticket.
Niagara Falls tours from Toronto
If you don’t have a car, why not take a tour? A guided tour will plan your day for you, making sure you see all the top sights, give you an overview of the area, and you’ll get to relax instead of driving! There are several tours available depending on your personal taste, as well as time limit.
My go-to tour company is usually Gray Line, I’ve used them in Germany, New Orleans, and Quebec. They offer a full day tour from Toronto where you’ll get to ride the Hornblower, visit Niagara-on-the-Lake and sample a few wines.
Trius Winery Tour
Niagara-on-the-lake is a quaint small town 30 minutes from Niagara Falls. Niagara is one of Canada’s largest wine regions, you can’t come to this part of the world and not try Canadian wine!
The Trius Winery offers one of the top winery tours in Niagara, and a great way to get those insta shots! While on the tour you’ll get to sample a their famous red wine, as well as their Brut and Rosé wines. The tour in total takes around 45 minutes, and you leave with your very own Trius Winery wine glass. Trius Winery offers an amazing restaurant onsite as well as a Brut Bar offering appetisers and small plates.
Day 3: Distillery District, St. Lawrence Market & Toronto Harbour Cruise
Queen Street West is full of independent cafes and coffee shops. Rustic Cosmo Cafe features a menu with a wide variety of breakfast items including, Eggs Benedict, breakfast wraps, bagels & granola. This area of town is fantastic for finding small cafes, you’ll find everything from Hawaiian inspired cuisine to vegan.
The Distillery District
The Distillery District features some of best preserved Victorian Architecture in Toronto. This was once the site of the biggest Whiskey Producer in the world, Gooderham & Worts. Since 2003, the Historic Distillery District has been refurbished, retaining it’s 19th Century beauty. The Distillery District is now considered the ultimate destination in Toronto for Art’s, Culture, Entertainment and the Performing Arts.
Meander the alleyways and discover a myriad of public art work. The beautiful thing about the Distillery District is it’s run by artists, so there are always new installations being erected. Along with it’s permanent sculptures, the Distillery District has something different on every corner you turn.
The Distillery District is a must for any visit to Toronto, you can easily spend hours and hours here. This area is a pedestrian only district, filled with independent shops & eateries. This is a fantastic spot to take a time out, grab a beer at Mill St Brewing, cool down with gelato or enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants. If you only have a weekend in Toronto, take time to see this unique treasure.
There’s a lot to do in the Distillery District, make sure you allocate enough time to really see it. If you want a more in depth insider’s guide you can always opt to take a walking tour.
Duration: 3-4 Hours
Price: Entry to the Distillery District itself is free!
St. Lawrence Market
The history of St. Lawrence Market stems back to 1803 when the original market was built on Front Street. If you didn’t find anywhere that took your fancy in the Distillery District, St. Lawrence Market is a short 15 minute walk away. The Market is full of local vendors selling everything from freshly caught seafood to artisan cheeses.
St.Lawrence Market is open Tuesday to Saturday so if you are visiting Toronto on the weekend, keep in mind that it won’t be open Sunday or Monday.
Duration: 1-2 Hours
Price: Entry to St.Lawrence Market is free!
The Gooderham Building AKA Flat Iron Building
Toronto’s “Flat Iron Building”, located at 49 Wellington Street, is one of my favourite building’s in Toronto. Named after the Gooderham Family, who owned one of the biggest distilleries in the world, Gooderham & Worts. The Building was designed by architect Davids Roberts Jr. and originally built in 1891. It was once the most expensive office building in all of Toronto.
Duration: 10 Minutes
Not necessarily a must-see but the Dog Fountain in Berczy Park is one my favourite things in Toronto. Maybe it’s the animal lover in me, but I think the park looks super cute and quaint. Berczy Park was refurbished a few years back and the fountain was a new addition. A lot of locals will bring their furry friends to this park, so the dog fountain fits in perfectly! It’s even designed so that they can drink from the trough. The fountain is just behind the Gooderham Building and about 5 minutes from St. Lawrence Market, it’s a nice place to sit, chill and people watch.
Duration: 30 Minutes
Toronto Harbour Cruise/ Toronto Islands
Spend your afternoon cruising the Toronto Harbour on a boat tour. The Toronto skyline is arguably one of the most recognisable, with the CN Tower dominating the surrounding buildings. A harbour cruise is a great way to soak in those iconic views and learn a little bit about the area’s history. On our boat tour we spotted Swans which were a gift to Canada from Great Britain and in return Canada gifted the UK with Canada Geese.
If you have a few spare hours, exploring the Toronto Islands by bike is a great way to escape the concrete jungle.
Duration: 1 Hour
Try A Beavertail
Sink your teeth into one of Canada’s most famous desserts: The Beavertail. No, it’s not a real Beavertail but it is inspired by real Beavers, when aboriginals would cook the tails of Beavers.
Thankfully this Canadian style donut contains zero beaver and 100% of yummy goodness. The texture is very similar to that of a cronut, but longer, wider and comes topped in an array of toppings. The maple-pecan topping was a-mazing!
Duration: 15 Minutes
One of Toronto’s most eclectic neighbourhoods, Kensington Market is the go-to place for vintage finds and the most unique food scene in the city. You’ll find street art on every corner, alongside local artists selling their work. Even playful sculptures such as The Garden Car takes residence here.
Kensington Market is a great place to people watch, wander to your hearts content and try some unique food. A food tour in this part of town is a must in Toronto – you won’t find food like this anywhere else in the city!
Price: Entry is free!
Duration: 1-2 Hours
One of my favourite discoveries in Toronto is the famed Graffiti Alley. This often pops up on Toronto travel guides but I happened to stumble upon it purely by chance. I never miss an opportunity to get some insta-shots and take in some street art and Graffiti Alley is the perfect place for both. Graffiti Alley is just that, an alleyway filled to the brim with graffiti on every corner.
Since graffiti became legal in certain areas this particular street has blossomed into one of the best places for artists to leave their mark. Unlike some cities where the only graffiti you’ll see is tag after tag, this little gem is full of some of the best artwork I’ve seen on public streets. The alleyway is ever-changing, with artists painting over old-existing work so there’s always something new to see.
Duration: 30 Minutes – 1 Hour
Bar Hop In Queen Street West
A neighbourhood full of zest, Queen Street West offers a multitude of quirky bars and eateries. Several of my favourite bars are in this part of town, which makes it the perfect place to bar-hop!
The Shameful tiki is my absolute favourite, and I’ll be honest, I’m biased for a reason. It reminds me of Trader Sam’s in Walt Disney World, except more adult. The Shameful Tiki also cooks the best crab wontons I’ve ever tried in my life. Other food items on the menu include kahlua pork tacos and coconut shrimp.
Similarly Miss Things is a Hawaiian style bar & eatery without the tiki aspect. Once again I fell in love with their Dole Whip Cocktail They have a similar menu to the Shameful Tiki with items such as poke bowls and Loco Moco.
If Hawaiian style bars just don’t do it for you, there is an abundance of places to grab a drink with friends.
Here a few others:
Duration: 2-3 hours
Where To Stay In Toronto
My favourite part of Toronto is the Parkdale and Queen Street West neighbourhoods. This is where I’ve spent most of my time but I like it because it has a unique identity and is a little more “gritty” than the main areas of Downtown Toronto. You’ll find this is where a lot of local’s hang out. Not only is there an abundance of amazing bars and restaurants but it’s also home to some of the quirkiest shops! There are some fabulous boutique hotels in this area including The Drake and Gladstone Hotel. If you’re looking for hostels the Parkdale Hostellerie is a good option.
Alternatively if you’d like to stay further out of the city to save some $$$ the Holiday Inn Yorkdale is another great option. I’d only recommend this hotel if you have a car because public transport in this area is scarce, but it does have fantastic shops including the Yorkdale Mall.
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