Our long weekend in Toronto was the perfect amount of time for us to get acquainted with the city. It’s a destination that offers great areas to explore but doesn’t have as stringent of a must-see list as some other cities around the globe (e.g. Paris, London, Rome). I would argue that the experience to be had in Toronto is less about seeing sites, per se, and more about delving into the local scene with a few attractions thrown in for good measure.
If you have three days in Toronto, you’ll likely leave as content as we did. It’s a sufficient amount of time to get a taste of the city, and enough of a brush with the offerings to encourage you to return for more.
Morning · Hit the road and begin exploring Toronto’s neighborhoods! When the weather is good, the city is easy to navigate on foot, and you’ll quickly begin to recognize the main thoroughfares that divide the city. For those that have a difficult time with a large amount of walking (you can easily rack up 8 to 10 miles a day walking), try out Toronto’s Bike Share program, which makes exploring the city a breeze. With bike locations scattered liberally around Downtown Toronto, you can easily venture to a range of neighborhoods within a short span of time.
If you’re based near the Financial District, start close to home if you want to get a taste for some iconic Torontonian musts: visit the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium or the Hockey Hall of Fame, all within close walking distance in the heart of Downtown Toronto. Grab a coffee for the road, and head to the nearby Waterfront to scope out the city’s more tranquil lakeside vibes before lunch.
Midday · No trip to Toronto is complete without a visit to the St. Lawrence Market, a food haven that’s the perfect stop for a drawn out multi-phase lunch. With only three days in Toronto and a market full of dining options, you’re best suited to make the market a lunch crawl vs. setting your sights on a single establishment. Alternatively, grab a bunch of your favorite treats to go, and take your loot as to a nearby green for a picnic lunch.
Evening · Toronto’s bar and restaurant scene is what you’d expect from a great city: vibrant and ethnically diverse, with innovative takes on traditional concepts. As summer approaches the sun sets quite late (in late May, we enjoyed sunlight until 9PM or later) so a later dinner allows for fuller day, plus a pre-dinner drink with a view if you’re so inclined.
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to a great dinner out. For a Spanish inspired evening, start your night with dinner and drinks at Bar Isabel on College Street in Toronto’s Little Italy district. The restaurant is well located on a street loaded with bars and restaurants, so you’ll be well positioned for a pre-dinner sip at a bar that suits your taste. After, head to nearby Bar Raval for great cocktails (including an impressive Sherry list) with a super cool vibe.
Morning · Grab a morning coffee and a quick bite at Bar Buca – great dine in or takeaway options in the morning – to get your day started. In true Canadian fashion, you can add buffalo milk to your coffee here in lieu of something more traditional if you want to up the ante. Fueled for a stroll, head down Spadina Avenue through Chinatown and Kensington Market for a burst of color and energy. You’ll see your share of street art along the way, and stroll past a host of eclectic shops to inspire any traveler. Like most Chinatowns, Toronto’s version is a feast for the senses, but their iteration is a bit less chaotic than some. You’ll see vendors doling our fruits and veggies along the way, including some varieties that you’d be hard pressed to find in a traditional grocery store. Kensington Market (an area of town, not actually a ‘market’) brings a cool bohemian vibe for those wanting to melt into a laid back setting.
Midday · Take a walk through the Distillery District (the walk from Kensington Market will build an appetite!) and pop in for lunch at one of the many great mid-day dining establishments. For a great French meal – complete with a Bloody Caesar, of course – try Cluny Bistro, which has a charming interior and a great patio for sunny days. For Mexican, El Catrin will fuel you with your choice of margaritas (the Mayan marg is on point), and guacamole prepared tableside.
Evening · Opt for a late dinner and head to Byblos, equally great for a date night or for a fabulous group outing. With a menu of small plates representing a range of Eastern Mediterranean specialties, the entire operation brings some major wow, from the setting to the service and the exquisite food and cocktail list.
After dinner – or before!, head to The Roof Lounge at the Park Hyatt for panoramic views of Toronto to pair with your nightcap.
Daytime · Enjoy a leisurely afternoon with brunch and a dose of culture! Brunch spots run the gamut in Toronto and locals will be quick to share their go-to favorites. A couple that were consistently given the thumbs up? Lady Marmalade and Saving Grace. For dim sum, try Pearl Harbourfront for pretty views of the lake.
Museums not your thing? Consider doing a day trip from Toronto to the nearby Toronto Islands or to Niagara Falls and wine country! If you’re okay with revisiting a fun area, head back to the Distillery District for great patio setups for drawn out lunches and people watching. During our recent trip, we visited the Distillery District three times in four days (seriously) and tried out a number of great establishments, each with their own vibes and character.
Evening · Stick with the dinner and drinks route to experience a few of Toronto’s finest establishments, but don’t discount theatre options if there’s something on while you’re in town!
How would you spend three days in Toronto? Any hot spots that are must visits during a long weekend in the city?