For a city of about 6.4 million people, it can seem daunting trying to figure out how best to spend a weekend in Toronto. There are a lot of things to do in this bustling city, from catching a baseball or hockey game, to visiting the museums, and even taking a stroll along one of the paths in Toronto’s great parks. You could spend a long time here and not see it all! But recently, my fiancé and I took a quick weekend getaway to Toronto, and I’m here to break down how to best see this lovely city in just a couple of days.
First, let’s break down where to stay. If you want to just stick to downtown and see the museums, then by all means grab a hotel or Airbnb downtown. However, I actually recommend staying west of downtown. There are a lot of cute pockets and neighborhoods with amazing restaurants and coffee shops. It’s also about half the cost. We stayed at an Airbnb in Junction Triangle and walked to quite a few places from where we were. It was a safe area that was close to the subway for a quick way into downtown. It was also within walking distance of High Park, a very popular park among Torontonians.
Now that we’ve nailed down where you should stay, let’s talk activities!
Day 1: Explore downtown and the markets
Upon arriving in Toronto with a Tim Horton’s cup of joe in your hand, it’s time to explore! Hop on the subway toward downtown. It’s time to discover a gem for all food lovers: St. Lawrence Market. This two-story marketplace has fresh fruits and veggies, meats, and the ever-so-famous bacon on a bun. And that’s just the first floor! The basement has cute trinket stands for souvenirs as well as various food stands and, my favorite, dessert. Grab a Portuguese tart or chocolate mouse and indulge while venturing around this massive but delightful establishment. Gaze at the passerby sifting through the perfect apples, or the employee stuffing that delicious bacon into a soft, chewy bun then handing it off to the customer. It’s the perfect spot for both scrumptious food and people watching. For authentic Toronto food, check out this spot!
Next, head over to the Distillery District. It’s always good to eat prior to drinking right? Hence, the market above. The Distillery District is in the historical part of the city, with charming, dark red bricks lining the streets as well as the buildings. Wander along the shops and be sure to head into Spirit of York Distillery. It’s pretty new, but brewing up awesome spirits. Check out the building, where you can see the equipment used in brewing up the alcohol through the glass. You can also have a tasting of what they’re offering. At the moment, they’ve got some gin and vodka. No mixers needed for these, as they are smooth and tasty. The gin is amazing with a hint of lavender and juniper. Bring some money- these are so good, you may want to bring some home!
After the Distillery District, a visit to Kensington Market is necessary. It’s not a traditional market like St. Lawrence. Rather, this market is a series of small shops next to each other with quirky, bright-colored graffiti everywhere. Walk through the crowds and into an empanada shop immediately. Trust me, they’re not hard to find! There are so many South American take-away spots that it is impossible to ignore the scent of minced beef, chicken, peppers, and spices in the air. We dipped into Latin Taste and had the jalapeño and beef empanada. The taste of spiced beef with the kick of jalapeño was amazing, but combining it with the flaky crust of the dough? I wish I had more of them!
After exploring two markets and having a little booze for the day, head over to the west side for dinner and drinks. I recommend Honest Weight for the freshest, most delicate seafood in the city. Upon entering the establishment, you smell the prepared seafood wafting through the kitchen. Turn to your left, and there’s a guy shucking freshly caught Canadian oysters and serving it beside horseradish and pickled onions. You’ll want to try them all. My fiancé and I split the fish sandwich and the Okonomiyaki. The fish sandwich changes with whatever the catch is, but on this particular day, we had the rockfish.
Upon entering the establishment, you smell the prepared seafood wafting through the kitchen. Turn to your left, and there’s a guy shucking freshly caught Canadian oysters and serving it beside horseradish and pickled onions. You’ll want to try them all.
Aside from the rockfish seemingly melting in your mouth upon each bite, pay particular attention to the tarter sauce. With fresh picked dill, it gets folded into mayo and compliments the fish perfectly. The Okonomiyaki combined rockfish and cod with cabbage, yams, and bonito flakes that sizzle and curl as your dish is brought to your table. Combined with the eggy goodness of the omelet and it was a show-stopper. Just be sure to savor each and every bite.
What’s my only complaint? They don’t take reservations. But if you go in and put your name down, they’ll call when your table is ready to go. Take that time to head over and grab a pint (or two) down the street at Indie Ale House. We decided to split two flights and try almost all of the beers here and they did not disappoint. The Iconoclast IPA, combining just the right amount of fruit and hop flavors, is a must-try. I also enjoyed the Love Triangle, which includes 3 hops in this delicious brew: Amarillo, Columbus, and Simcoe.
After feasting on amazing seafood and sampling great beer, grab some drinks at The Lockhart– the spot for Harry Potter fans. They’re serving up drinks like Better Beer (their take on butterbeer) and the Inferi. The Better Beer was hands-down the best, with flairs of ginger and frothy marshmallow; it’s perfect for catching up with old friends, and solemnly swearing that you’re up to no good. The Inferi was citrusy and sweet, arriving at the table in a skull glass with an inflamed lime. You’ll be ready to fight off the living dead (at least for the evening) after this.
Day 2- Option 1: It’s a sunny day after all
So you wake up in Toronto and it’s amazing outside. Do you really want to be stuck inside museums all day? Nah… there’s so much outside to explore! Grab a latte or cortado at Hale Coffee Roasters, and sit outside in the sunshine. Both drinks are creamy and delicious, and the atmosphere is perfect for relaxing with your coffee or working on your laptop.
Then, be sure to head to High Park. It’s like the Central Park of Toronto, complete with a small zoo, loads of walking paths and trails to get lost in, and a large area that is dogs off leashes. We decided to wander along the dogs off leashes area and found a stream where we saw these pups have the time of their lives. You could spend quite a lot of time watching the puppies playing and splashing about! Then, go head into the zoo to watch reindeer, bison, and other animals resting in the shade. If you’re feeling up for it, donate a small amount to the zoo and be rewarded with a cup of food to feed the llamas!
Next up, bike around the Toronto Islands! Roughly a 15-minute ferry ride from the shore, these islands are close yet expansive. You can rent bikes and bike along the islands, witnessing the best views of the city and Lake Ontario. Be sure to bring along a picnic! I’m so sad we didn’t get to do this, as they shut the islands down due to flooding. But, everyone I talk to who’s been here has said this is the thing to do!
Day 2- Option 2:You’re here in the winter, or it’s raining 🙁
If it’s a rainy day or too cold for biking and hiking, then it’s time to hit up some museums. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is a world-class museum, and it’s also one of the largest museums in North America. With it’s awesome exhibits, and super cool dinosaurs, it’s worth a trip, especially on a rainy day!
Then, head over to the Art Gallery of Toronto. Right now, they’ve got an exhibit on Georgia O’Keefe for the art fans reading this. But, they’ve got an expansive collection of masterpieces to check out if you love the arts.
Last, but not least, of the museums, the Hockey Hall of Fame. If you’re a fan of this sport, whether it’s the Maple Leafs or Canucks, this is the spot to check out all things hockey.
So 48 hours well spent in this expansive Canadian city. Enjoy the food, the history, and the sights of Toronto! Have you been before? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments!