Cost: £££ – we spent a lot of money!!
Rating: 7/10 – very cool city to see as part of a longer trip
Flight prices from London vary depending on when you book / what time of year you travel. I just looked on SkyScanner for summer 2020 and most direct return flights are £775+. If you don’t travel during summer then you can more than half the cost (flights for Feb @ £315!!!)
We didn’t realise we needed an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) until we tried to check into our flight 24 hours before departure. Needless to say, there was a panic! However, if you’re from the UK you should get your request approved within minutes. Having said that I suggest you fill out the application in advance. It only costs CAD 7 (£4.40).
We stayed a gorgeous AirBnb in Cabbagetown, about a mile walk away from the city centre. The house was beautiful in a lovely neighbourhood made up of Victorian houses. We paid £356 total for 4 nights (£44.50 each per night).
Currency is the Canadian dollar… as I type, £1 = $1.61! Check conversion rates before you go.
We mainly walked around the city but there is an extensive transport network too (tram & bus). We also used Uber to get to and from airports. Lyft is a new app available in Canada which works like Uber and is apparently even cheaper.
*TOP TIP* – go to the app store and download MapsMe!
You can download a map of the area, plug in all the sights and restaurants you want to visit and then you can use it to map your journeys without using any data! It even has opening times and a paragraph of information about some places.
What we did…
– Niagara Falls
We booked a day-trip from Toronto to the Niagara Falls with the company ‘ToNiagara‘! The tour cost CAD 159 (£99) per person and included transport to and from Toronto, a ticket for the Hornblower cruise, stop offs at other tourist spots in Niagara-On-The-Lake AND a mini wine-tasting at a local winery! Ideal!!
It took about 2 hours to get to the falls from Toronto. When we arrived tickets for the cruise were quickly arranged for us and we joined the queue to get on (which took about 30 mins). I would definitely recommend this as it takes you right into the spray of the falls! The Hornblower goes from the Canadian side and the Maid of the Mist goes from the American side of the falls so book accordingly if you’re not visiting with a tour.
There are loads of options to get close to the falls – from zip-lining to a walking tour right next to them. Have a google and book whatever you fancy.
Whilst the falls are impressive, they’re a little ruined by the area surrounding… they have an amusement park-esque backdrop with Rainforest & Hard Rock Cafes dominating the eateries.
As part of the tour we stopped off at the whirlpools which were pretty cool…
And at the smallest chapel in the world… (Living Water Wayside Chapel).
And at a floral clock… which is one of the largest in the world but not the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen.
Finally we stopped off at a winery on Niagara-On-The-Lake for a quick tasting. If you’re into wine then you could spend days exploring Niagara-On-The-Lake and all its winery’s. Canada is famous for Ice Wines, Rieslings, Pinot Noirs & Sparkling Wines.
Here are some recommendations from a friend:
- Two Sisters – winery of the year 2018. They do an experience tour that lets you try a bunch of really nice vintages directly from the winery’s candlelit cellar. The restaurant there is pretty good too and serves a bunch of bistro style Italian food.
- Peller and Inniskillin (famous for Ice Wines) – amazing estate and top restaurant.
You can rent a bike and cycle between them all.
– CN Tower
Completed in 1976 at 553.3 metres high, the CN Tower is located in Downtown Toronto and is a must-see when visiting the city. It takes less than a minute to get to the top and enjoy spectacular views of the city…
- it’s the 9th tallest free-standing structure in the world
- in 1995 it was declared one of the modern Wonders of the World
- it held the record for the world’s tallest free-standing structure for 32 years until ’07
A ticket to go up to the observation level is CAD 38 (£23.50) / if you want to get to the SkyPod (highest level) it will set you back CAD 53 (£33). If you’re feeling adventurous then you can lean over the edge / walk along the outside of the tower for CAD 195 (£120.50).
Alternatively, you can do what we did and book lunch / dinner at the 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower. Whilst the 2 course lunch menu costs CAD 60 (£37) per person, you immediately get to the front of the lift queue to the top (which was pretty big when we were there) and you can take in the views whilst sitting down having a glass of wine. You’re really not paying much more than the standard entry for this luxury.
We went down to the standard observation decks after the meal and it was a bit chaotic and views obscured by dirty windows / railings.
The tower was built on a former railway and its name (CN) refers to Canadian National – the rail company that built the tower!
– Distillery District
Very cool area a short walk from our Airbnb… set in an old whiskey distillery are a variety of cool boutiques / restaurants / galleries / coffee shops.
We definitely would have spent a lot more time here if it hadn’t poured it down with rain!! Would certainly visit again if we were to go back.
– City Hall
An impressive building home to Toronto City Council. It’s also right next to Nathan Phillips Square which was hosting a food festival whilst we were there.
The square is also home to the TORONTO Sign. Enjoy trying to fight off other tourists for a spot in O!
More than 200,000 Chinese people are based in Toronto and the size of its Chinatown reflects that. It is MASSIVE with loads of artwork on buildings and plenty of cheap restaurants and bars.
– Kensington Market
You’ll likely walk through Chinatown to reach Kensington Market, a super hipster area – the bohemian heart of Canada. Again, fab place for food and drink… but it’s not a market!
Soho is another cool area of Toronto! Again, loads of places to eat / drink… my boyfriend was addicted to the nitrogen coffees at Starbucks as we don’t have them in the UK!
– Rogers Centre
If you’re into sport then you might want to book to see a game at the Rogers Centre – it’s home to the Toronto Blue Jays.
– Casa Loma
It doesn’t compare to European castles but it’s still impressive. The entrance fee is CAD 30 (£18.50) per person & it might be worth booking in advance as there was a queue.
It was built in 1911 and has been a popular location for filming – X-Men, Chicago, the Titans etc.!
– Art Gallery
If you’re into art then the Art Gallery of Ontario comes highly recommended.
As we walked from place to place we walked through many cool areas – Queen Street West, Dundas West, Yorkville etc. I was surprised at the number of homeless people around… many were quite confrontational (I think they are on the drug spice which makes them like that). I don’t think they’re actually dangerous, it’s just sad to see and something to be aware of.
Food & drink…
Toronto is full of places to eat and drink! Here’s where we went…
Really cool coffee shop in the Distillery District.
– Asahi Sushi
Amazing and super cheap sushi restaurant near to Soho. The restaurant itself isn’t much to look at but it’s worth going for the food. Definitely try a sushi pizza – unreal!
– R&D Restaurant
Cool and tasty restaurant in Chinatown. Very popular so book in advance!
– Cibo Bar
Wine bar in Yorkville. Lovely indoor and outdoor seating.
Located behind City Hall & great for brunch. Nice food (even though they got my order wrong).
I really loved our time in Toronto. It’s a cool and vibrant city with a ton of trendy places to eat / drink. There are plenty of interesting neighbourhoods to explore and whilst Niagara was slightly underwhelming, I’m really glad we got to see it.
Here are some other recommendations which we didn’t have time to go to:
Places to see:
- St. Lawrence Market
- Eaten Centre (a big shopping centre)
- Toronto Islands
- Royal Ontario Museum
- Science Centre
- Harbourfront Centre
Places to eat / drink:
- Carribean Queen on Bloor
- Island Foods on King
- King’s Noodle
- Pho Linh on College for best pho in the city
- Bairrada Churrasqueira on College (Portuguese)
- Imanishi Japanese Kitchen
- Bar Isabel (high end Portuguese)
- Bar Raval (high end Spanish)
- El Rey in Kensington
- Pearl Morisette for splurge meal @ Niagara-On-The-Lake
- Backhouse @ Niagara-On-The-Lake
& make sure you try a Beaver Tail / Butter Tart – Canadian pastries!