It’s painful to see pretty generic guides to Toronto floating around the internet.
Instead of complaining about it – well maybe there was some – we did something about it. This is the result: Our sort-of non-touristy Toronto itinerary for anyone who wants to spend an amazing day in the city like a local, CN Tower and City Tour Bus-free.
While we all have different suggestions and travel styles, one thing is for certain, there are countless things to do in a city that has consistently ranked as one of the best in the world to live in.
From our favourite activities to the best local spots to eat at, here are our versions of a perfect day in Toronto.
For the active tourist who wants a bit of touristy things
Kris Pangilinan‘s ultimate day in Toronto takes you across the city and back, whether it’s by cycling or paddling a kayak, with several iconic and delicious pit stops along the way.
A perfect day for Kris would start at the touristy St. Lawrence Market, and eat one of the most touristy things in the city which has to be Carousel Bakery‘s famous peameal bacon sandwiches and a side of Portuguese tarts.
While known for their chicken sandwiches, Kris argues Cabano’s Comfort Food just might have the best smash burger in the city.
For the perfect meal to complete your day, Kris recommends Maru Japanese Bistro in Leslieville for its sushi and aesthetically beautiful interior, top-notch service, and “quintessentially-Toronto” views of TTC streetcars passing by as you eat your meal.
Toronto’s lakeside cycling path is one of Kris’s favourite places to spend the day biking along the water. The Waterfront Trail stretches for thousands of kilometres, so you can easily bike from one end of the city to the other in a few hours taking in views of Lake Ontario.
He also suggests renting a kayak along the Lakeshore and paddling your way over to Toronto Island.
“It might seem hard at first, but this might be one of Toronto’s most underrated activities as the city skyline and the warm summer breeze of the lake surrounds you during your paddling adventure,” Kris says.
For the urban explorer
Becky Robertson‘s perfect Toronto itinerary will have you fitting right in with the locals, bringing you to some of the city’s most beloved hidden gems and embracing the local culture.
Becky recommends starting the day with breakfast at The Federal, a cozy spot in Dundas West which has some of the best breakfast potatoes around.
For lunch, she loves Java House for its affordable yet delicious menu and inviting outdoor space during the warmer months. She vouches for their tasty rice paper veggie rolls and insists that there should be pitchers of sangria for the table.
Even locals eat at hotels, right? The Broadview Hotel Rooftop is Becky’s favourite destination to take someone new to the city for dinner. With epic 360-degree views of Toronto’s skyline, the space also has well-crafted drinks. She also loves how the luxe interior pays homage to the location’s past life.
After dinner, head to the bustling Lower Ossington or Dundas West for drinks at one of their many dive or cocktail bars. Bellwoods Brewery, Get Well, Paris Paris, Hanmoto, Mahjong Bar and Bar Mordecai are her top suggestions in this area for anyone visiting for the first time.
Seconding Kris’ love of Toronto’s waterfront, Becky suggests starting the day by grabbing a coffee on the Lakeshore anywhere between Harbourfront and Humber Bay.
She also loves thrifting and antiquing in Parkdale, with some of her favourites including Public Butter, House of Vintage, Common Sort, and Parkdale Antique & Collectibles Market.
Later, take in the city skyline at sunset from Riverdale Park, followed by catching a concert at History or Danforth Music Hall, or a smaller venue like Drom, Bovine Sex Club or The Duke.
For the laid-back wanderer
Jack Landau‘s ideal itinerary takes you out of the crowded areas of the city to explore some of Toronto’s most stunning architecture and natural settings. In between, grab some cheap eats at his tried-and-true favourites.
Egg Bae is Jack’s pick for the best morning fuel. He guarantees your hunger will be quelled by one of their scratch-made gourmet egg sandwiches served all day long.
Specializing in brunch and only brunch, Jack loves MIA Brunch Bar on Yonge, which offers a range of sweet and savoury options from classic breakfast plates to cornflake-crusted French toast.
While Jack admits it’s not the most balanced meal, Chungchun Rice Dog is one of his favourites for a quick bite for dinner. The Korean-style hotdog chain specializes in corn dog-like fast food that’s made using sticky rice and has some outrageous coatings such as dried ramen noodles or chicken nuggets.
For architecture lovers, Jack suggests taking a leisurely stroll through The Allen Lambert Galleria, commonly called as the ‘crystal cathedral of commerce.’
The 130-metre-long atrium is a stunning six-storey-high pedestrian thoroughfare, housing a variety of shops and retail spaces, and is typically a quiet escape during non-work hours.
Taking the ferry over to Ward’s Island is another one of his favourite pastimes for a peaceful retreat from the city. While the island’s other beaches can get jam-packed during the summer months, Ward’s is usually calmer, with sandy beaches perfect for a picnic.
For the nature lover
My perfect Toronto itinerary shows off some of the city’s most beautiful natural escapes, paired with a mix of local favourites for comforting meals and evening activities.
Head to Dirty Food Eatery in The Junction for some of the best home fries you’ll ever try. The buttery layered potatoes definitely play a role in the cozy spot’s long lines on weekends.
There’s nothing quite as comforting as an aromatic big bowl of pho, and no one does it better than Pho Tien Thanh on Ossington. If you like heat, their bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup) is also incredible.
Housed in a former multi-level courthouse, Terroni on Adelaide Street might be a bit touristy but it’s still one of my go-to’s for casual but incredible Italian eats. Besides their fresh pasta, don’t miss the insanely creamy burrata with fresh cherry tomatoes. It’s served with grilled bread and a drizzle of olive oil.
I love a good hike, and Scarborough Bluffs is one of those places in Toronto that feels like you’re transported to somewhere entirely different with its breathtaking vistas, beaches, and striking blue waters when the sun hits it.
Within the city, grab a flaky croissant from Cosette and stroll through the expansive High Park that has lakefront views, gardens, flowering trees, and so much more. Later, head to play some vintage arcade games at FreePlay, or catch an indie film at the historic theatre The Royal.