Canada as a whole has always been a country I’ve wanted to visit. So when I found out I was flying to Toronto as part of a work conference, it was a no brainer to stay on for my first ever solo holiday. I quickly grabbed my big girl boots, camera and my Monzo card and I was ready to see the sights, eat ALL the food and explore this fantastic city!
Where to Stay…
Getting into Toronto city from Pearson airport is simple. Grab the Union Pearson Express Train (UP express), and after a quick 25 minute journey to Union Station you’ll find yourself in the heart of Old Toronto.
If you fancy a little slice of luxury I highly recommend the Omni King Edward Hotel. Situated on King Street East, the King Edward is perfectly located to get around the city and really feel that Toronto living vibe.
Now I’m not going to lie, it might not be £1200 a night for the royal suite at the Fairmont Royal York but the Omni King Edward at £160/night isn’t for those on a budget. In fact two days before I was supposed to leave, I found out I needed to move house and if I’d have known before I booked I would have thought twice but actually I’m glad I didn’t as it was such a lovely hotel and yolo right? Plus travelling alone, it was a big comfort to know I could go back to my room whenever I needed to relax and feel safe.
The rooms are spacious yet cosy with all the amenities you could need including a coffee machine for your morning caffeine hit. The coffee and tea pods are replaced daily along with bottled water which you’ll need with all the walking. A newspaper was delivered every morning as part of my stay and half way through the week a big bowl of fresh fruit was left on the desk. Along with 24 hour room service, where you can order from the delicious looking menu or choose your brekkie in advance for breakfast in bed or on-the-go, it’s these extra little perks that made the Omni King Edward the perfect place to stay.
I must finish off by mentioning the bed. Oh the bed! Those who watch my instastories will know I have banged on about the bed. I think it may be the most comfortable one I’ve ever slept in. Super cosy with soft full pillows and so much room you feel like a King at the King. I actually came very close to taking off all the sheets just to see where the mattress was from and if I could get one back home but I resisted and got myself out to get my tourist on.
Toronto Top Tip: Bluestone Lane coffee shop is on the ground floor of the King Edward and makes the best coffee. Strong but sweet, I’ve never tasted better so pick up a flat white on your way out.
What to Do…
Oh boy, you better grab a cuppa and sit down as this is going to be a long one! I stayed a total of seven days in Toronto and there was something to see and fill each and every single day. You can grab one of Toronto’s famous trams to get around the city but I had such beautiful weather, I opted for walking.
You can visit one of the many museums on offer including a shoe museum designed like a shoe box, catch a game of baseball with the Blue Jays or head to Ripley’s Aquarium for underwater fun. Here are some of my top Toronto picks…
CN Tower First things first, the CN Tower. Yes it’s an obvious one but a good’un. The queues move quickly so you’re not stuck waiting forever and you can see out of the lift on the way up to the top which is amazing. The view over the whole city and Lake Ontario is incredible and at £26 it is well worth the ticket.
If you’re like me and a little bit scared of heights, it can be daunting (I couldn’t even go right up to the glass haha) but I’d say force yourself if possible as it’s one of those memories you’ll have forever and if you’re a big daredevil, why not pay to go outside and have your photo taken dangling off the edge!!
Toronto Top Tip: If you have enough cash to splash, go for an extra night visit, as I think an evening trip with all the twinkling lights of the city below would be magical.
The Distillery District The Distillery District is set in several 19th century buildings that were once home to a large whiskey distillery. The cobblestone streets are lined with hip indie boutiques, unique restaurants and cafes. Grab some sweet treats from Soma Chocolate Maker or Greg’s Ice Cream Shop and take in all the outdoor sculptures and art work.
Graffiti Alley & Kensington Market Actually signposted as Graffiti Alley, this hidden gem is a great way to spend the morning. It takes about thirty minutes to walk there and I’d go early if you want to take people free photos of the sky-to-ground masterpieces.
Out of Graffiti Alley and another 30 minute walk through China Town and you’ll come to Kensington Market. Giving off similar vibes to Camden Market, London, it’s full of stalls selling clothes and souvenirs. It’s also great if you’re vegan as there’s plenty of vegetarian and vegan cafes.
Toronto Top Tip: If you walk to Graffiti Alley along King Street West, right before Spadina Avenue on the left is Calii Love, a beach themed cafe that has some great graffiti art that’s off the main road for quiet, no hassle, insta-worthy pics.
Yonge-Dundas Square & Shopping Yonge-Dundas Square is Toronto’s answer to New York Times Square. Think bright lights, video billboards and Brooke Lynne Hytes. What? Yup! I got to see Drag Race season 11 runner-up and Toronto native Brooke Lynne perform on stage to Billie Eilish Bad Guy and it was everything! There’s always something happening on the main stage as well as other street artists showing off their skills in this lively party square.
Escape from the hustle and bustle of the streets and get out your credit card for a spot of shopping in Toronto Eaton Centre right next door. This mall has over 250 retailers including my favourites Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Sephora.
Toronto Top Tip: There’s actually another Sephora on Bloor Street just off Yonge Street, which is much more quiet than the main one in the Eaton Centre. Highly recommend after a visit to the ROM if you fancy some stress-free makeup shopping.
Toronto Top Tip: Surprisingly there aren’t a lot of wifi spots around the city and at £6 a day I was reluctant to use my data. However, Nordstrom, Sephora and Starbucks are great places to stop for free connections in case you need a map.
ROM &Casa Loma I love museums, they’re always the first thing I look up when I’m going on holiday and brace yourself… the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is THE best museum I’ve ever been to! I managed to use my student card so my ticket was only a tenner but £14 for a standard ticket is worth it.
They have pretty much everything inside the ROM from Egyptian, Chinese and African history to natural history including the best dinosaur collection. Plus my favourite section, Mineralogy with tonnes of swanky glittering gems. They even have a bat cave! It’s the perfect way to spend the day, no matter your age.
Casa Loma is a pretty spectacular a gothic revival style mansion and garden in midtown Toronto. Built in 1914, if learning about the history of the castle and Toronto’s history is your thing then you’ll love it here. Tickets cost £18, so I do think it’s a little on the pricey side although you do get a self-guided audio tour as part of that price. The gardens were smaller than I expected but still pretty and you can even go to the top of the castle turrets (careful if you’re claustrophobic). Inside the castle is architecturally beautiful and you can really see how the rich half lived back in the 1900s.
Toronto Top Tip: Visit Casa Loma on a sunny day. Whether you’re a blogger or not, nice photos to remember your visit are a must and a beautiful blue sky to contrast against the grey stone of the castle really does make pictures pop!
Toronto Top Tip: If you fancy a little stroll after Casa Loma head to Black Camel for truly mouth-watering sandwiches filled with steak, brisket and more.
City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour At another £26 for a ticket, this was by far one of my favourite things to do and well worth its bang for your buck. Get on at any of the twenty stops around the city and listen to all the interesting facts and history of Toronto whilst taking in the sights in a comfortable way. The bus ticket is also valid for 48 hours so don’t worry about trying to fit in everything at once. In fact I recommend you spread it out over the two days and really give the whole hop-on and hop-off thing a go and further explore each stop.
You also get a free ride on the ferry as part of the ticket price, which takes you around the islands on Lake Ontario and provides the most fantastic view of the city shore line. Plus unlike the bus, the boat tour ticket doesn’t expire so you can use it at any point in your current trip or your next trip ten years from now.
Toronto Top Tip: Use the bus tour as a means of travel to visit Casa Loma, otherwise you’re looking at a 1.5 hour walk! After all you can always hop-on again afterwards.
Niagara Falls This is obviously outside of the city but since you’re so close to the border, it would be rude not to visit Niagara Falls. I was lucky enough that my supervisor hired a car and drove us down there, so I can’t recommend ways to travel only that you must.
Seeing the waterfalls in real life is not an experience to be missed and if you spend money on anything it would be a Niagara Falls boat trip. Some think it’s tacky or touristy but it was next level fun. We went with Hornblower Niagara Cruises and even on a Sunday the queues were more than manageable and we got on the ferry straight away.
Tickets cost £20 each and include a much needed waterproof poncho and funicular ride. The boat travels right across the water and up to one of the biggest falls allowing you to get the real Niagara waterfall experience, spray and all. Make sure you wear sturdy shoes and an extra waterproof if you want to stay super dry but don’t stress about the water as I even took my camera on there and it was absolutely fine.
Toronto Top Tip: Relax. People can get quite agitated and pushy to get to the edge of the boat to get the “best” view but once you get up top it doesn’t matter where you stand as you’ll still see everything as you get up close and personal with the waterfall.
Where to eat…
Toronto is expensive. Fact. With lots of money going on activities, factoring in three square meals a day plus tax, plus 20% tip and your moula can start to run out fast. That doesn’t mean you should skimp on food, so I’ve scoured the city for great places to eat that don’t cost you the earth but allow you to try somewhere new.
Breakfast for me was spent at St Lawrence Food Market. Just round the corner from my hotel, this world famous food market sells fresh fruit and veg, so many fancy cheeses, wine and lots of other unique eats. I opted for a St Urbain bagel breakfast most days, around a fiver for a filled bagel, there are numerous fillings and cream cheese flavours that are delicious. A short stroll back up Jarvis Street and you can enjoy your breakfast in the sun at St James Park.
Toronto Top Tip: Buy an extra plain bagel and cream cheese for a couple quid more and a great snack when you’re peckish later in the day.
Wvrst on King Street West as well as Union Train Station sells the most delicious traditional hotdogs and fries. I recommend the beef sausage with warm saurkraut as well as chips and truffle mushroom dip – divine! I found one hotdog with regular fries more than enough and only £14 including tip.
Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen on Portland Street off King Street West is another great place for evening dining. I’ve always wanted to try proper Jamaican food and it did not disappoint. The curried goat and jasmine rice was beyond flavourful and the Sorrel Punch was a perfect thirst quencher.
Everyone loves doughnuts right?! Well what about mini ones, that are served hot with either original or maples glazes or cinnamon sugar? Cops Treats is a tiny little pink hut off Adelaide Street West opposite a big yellow store and the only place to get your mini doughnut fix. Made fresh daily, eaten with rich filter coffee, they are pure melt in the mouth goodness.
Toronto Top Tip: Wvrst, Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen and Cops are just a street away from Graffiti alley so plan your visit with those in mind to minimise walking and any chance of hanger arising.
Planta Queen and Planta Burger two more fantastic restaurants that serve entirely plant based food. The classic planta burger and fries is delicious with a peanut butter, chocolate and banana milkshake and although pricier than other options mentioned, Planta Queen serves incredible asian cuisine that really don’t make you even think about let alone miss meat.
I unfortunately didn’t have the time to visit these next couple of places but I have it on good authority from someone who I trust completely to know good food that Byblos (middle eastern), Mira (Peruvian) and Bang Bang Bakery are all great spots to dine.
Finally, possibly saving the best until last is Holy Chuck on Yonge Street. Their motto is “Our Business is Burgers” and that is the truest statement I’ve ever read. It’s so good, I went there three times. Need I say more?
Toronto really is a magical city. The people are friendly and welcoming with an infectious positive attitude. I was lucky enough to visit during Pride and I’ve never been to such an openminded and supportive city. Plus going just after the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship added to the excitement and fun-loving atmosphere of this amazing place. There’s plenty to see and do and I could go on about the food forever. So don’t you think it’s about time to get your flight booked to Toronto ey?!