Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Toronto City Trip

The Toronto skyline and the CN Tower

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do

72 Hours in Toronto

Toronto is a city of diversity and culture. With 5.5 million inhabitants from all over the globe, colorful pockets of ethnic groups create a world within the city. The fifth biggest metropolitan area in North America, Toronto is also a city of fashion and fancy. Several top-of-the-line hotels have recently opened, and more are coming. Venues like the Canadian Opera Company, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Ed Mirvish Theatre give lovers of the arts many places to go. Among the ever-expanding sea of condominiums, vibrant, hip neighborhoods are springing up with cool eateries and galleries.

In the Entertainment District, edgy clubs and wild behavior are part of the fun, yet the streets are safe to walk all hours of the night. Parks dot the city, while major ravines run through neighborhoods, providing green spaces for residents and visitors to enjoy. Bikers, walkers and joggers use the ravine paths, a treasure of nature that many visitors miss. City streets feature more designated bike lanes and BIXI rental bikes are available for all to use.

Annual events like September's Toronto International Film Festival, the largest public film festival in the world, draw A-list celebrities and discerning international audiences. The Distillery District, The Brickworks and other former industrial zones have become cherished areas where locals and visitors can hang out, eat and enjoy various activities throughout the year. Noted architects have built and transformed cultural venues such as the Jack Diamond-designed Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts, Daniel Liebeskind's Crystal addition to the Royal Ontario Museum and Frank Gehry's graceful glass and Douglas fir remake of The Art Gallery of Ontario. Also adding to the vibrancy of the city are the completely new looks of The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Canada's National Ballet School and the Royal Conservatory of Music.

By the end of 2011, Toronto's billion-dollar, decade-long construction boom added 53 new towers, 4 million square feet of office space and hundreds of glitzy hotel rooms. The Hazelton Hotel, an ultra-deluxe Yabu Pushelberg-designed property, opened in 2008, and includes One restaurant by esteemed local chef Mark McEwan. The Ritz-Carlton opened in 2011, followed by the Trump International and a new Four Seasons in 2012.

Toronto's 200 distinct ethnicities add their diverse traditions, faith and cultures to the mosaic of the city. With more than 130 languages and dialects spoken, neighborhoods such as Corso Italia, Greektown, Little Poland, Via Azores and Gerrard India Bazaar reflect the diversity of the locals through bilingual signs, global restaurants and foods imported from different countries.

The city's standout landmark is still the 553.33-meter CN Tower, which held the title of the highest freestanding structure in the world until the recently completed Burj Dubai took that honor. Recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers, it will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2016. Underneath the city, PATH is a 26-kilometer web of tunnels that connects hundreds of skyscrapers, hotels and restaurants via subterranean passageways. Filled with shops and eateries, it holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for the planet's largest underground shopping complex. Visa is accepted at many restaurants, stores and attractions; but if you need cash, you can use your Visa Debit Card and get Canadian dollars at ATMs all across the city.

Where you stay depends on your tastes and budget. If you'd like to be at the heart of the action in a hip boutique hotel, Hotel Le Germain and the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel offer stylish luxury at the throbbing center of club land in the entertainment district. For sports and action lovers, Le Germain Maple Leaf Square — a sleek, urban hotel located at Maple Leaf Square — overlooks the arena for NHL Hockey and NBA Basketball.

The Algonquin Bedroom at the Park Hyatt Toronto

The Toronto Thompson Hotel, which is located in the art and design district of King West, is the prestigious chain's first foray outside of the U.S. The rooftop bar and pool with cabanas make it ultra-chic. The Westin Harbour Castle on Lake Ontario is serenely situated five minutes from the action on Toronto's waterfront. The Hilton Toronto has the advantage of being right across from the opera house, and in close proximity to the financial and entertainment districts. The Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, The Hazelton Hotel and the Park Hyatt are centered in fashionable Yorkville near the Mink Mile of shopping, while historic elegance and comfort can be found in the financial district's The Fairmont Royal York and The Omni King Edward Hotel. The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto brings glamour to the heart of downtown, right at the crossroads of the financial and performing arts districts.

Occupying the enviable corner of Bay and Adelaide streets is the 65-story Trump International Hotel and Tower, which has 261 rooms that boast an elegant cosmopolitan style.

If you're part of the artsy crowd, you'll no doubt love the urbane Gladstone Hotel with its 37 unique, artist-designed rooms in the funky Queen West area. Also consider the hip, nearby Drake Hotel — though be prepared for noise from trams, trains and neighborhood bars.

TORONTO DAY 1: Distillery District, TD Bank Tower and the CN Tower

For lunch, head to the Distillery District. If modern design is your interest, you might want to walk the first stretch along King Street East from Jarvis to Parliament Street. Here, you'll find the city's best modern design showrooms and pass by innovative Canadian furniture and design shops such as Ziggurat and Klaus (Nienkämper). A little further east and several blocks south is the Distillery Historic District at Parliament and Mill streets. Sitting on 13 acres, it's one of the largest and best-preserved collections of Victorian Industrial architecture in North America. The Distillery is made up of about 50 historic buildings that are linked by brick-paved streets running off a central courtyard. More than 800 films have been shot at this atmospheric 1832 locale. Sample some oysters, British Colombia salmon or Nova Scotia lobster at Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill, or enjoy Mexican cuisine at El Catrin Destileria, which boasts one of the top patios in Toronto. The quaint cobblestone streets lead the way to galleries, art studios, retail shops and the microbrewery. Sip a sample flight at Canada's first sake producer, the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, or re-energize with a freshly roasted coffee at Balzac's Coffee House. Be sure to drop in at SOMA, where amazing chocolate and gelato are made on premises. The smell alone will get you salivating.

At cocktail hour, head back downtown to the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower to Canoe Restaurant & Bar, where you can take in a bird's-eye view of the city with an excellent martini in hand. (It's also where you can mingle with the high-powered suits of Bay Street instead of tourists.) If it's a weekday, stay for dinner — the views are great, and the menu emphasizes Canadian ingredients and preparations. You might also want to check out the scene at Biff’s Bistro, a French restaurant with an excellent wine list and $1 oysters. Reds and Earl's are also happening after-work watering holes and dining favorites among the financial crowd.

The dining room and kitchen at Canoe Restaurant & Bar in Toronto

No tourist should miss the CN Tower. Views are breathtaking from three observation levels that include the Glass Floor Look Out and Sky Pod. Take the CN Tower's glass, paneled lift, introduced in 2008 — the world's highest glass floor-paneled elevator. The latest extreme attraction is the EdgeWalk at the CN Tower. The first of its kind in North America, EdgeWalk is the world's highest full-circle hands-free walk on a 5-foot (1.5 meter) wide ledge encircling the top of the CN Tower's main pod, 1,168 feet (356 meters; 116 stories) above the ground. This adrenaline-fueled experience allows thrill seekers to walk the edge of one of the world's greatest man-made wonders. If you dine at 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower, you'll bypass the long lines via a separate elevator. You'll also enjoy wine selections from the world's highest wine cellar (according to Guinness World Records), plus tasty Canadian seafood platters.

Continue to Day 2

* Top image courtesy of Toronto Convention & Visitors Associatio


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