Toronto photography spots and helpful itinerary - made by a local
I've spent the last 7 years of my life living in Toronto and have a deep love for this city. I also find it's pretty underrated. Not a lot of people chose to visit Toronto, it's more like, "I'm going because I want to see Niagara Falls" or "I've got a convention happening in the city". I understand the feeling, I'd lived there for so long but only decided to photograph it during my last month before moving. Needless to say, that is something I deeply regret.
People often ask me what's my favourite thing about the city, and I say, you feel totally relaxed being yourself. When you're in Toronto you're accepted for who you are, and that's what makes it such a warm and inviting place to be. It also means there's a ton of worldly flavours and while new restaurants are constantly being added, I've tried my best to capture a few of my favourites in my below map.
GO IF YOU LIKE:
LAKE VIEWS | ETHNIC FOODS | DIVERSITY | STREET ART | LGBTQ CULTURE | HIPSTERS
EXPAND THE LEGEND ON MY MAP FOR MY ITINERARY
Having lived here for over 7 years this is a tough section and it depends on seasonality. But OK, breath, here goes...
Summer Highlights in Toronto
I'm a huge fan of walking through outdoor spaces. When you only get a few months of summer a year you take full advantage.
At Kensington market you can grab tasty and ethnic foods and you're only a few minutes away from Trinity Bellwoods park and Queen West which is lined with boutique shopping and restaurants.
If you're looking to relax and enjoy the weather head over to The Beaches area and go for a swim at Woodbine Beach.
Another fun beach option requires a short ferry ride to the Toronto Islands. The most popular island is Centre Island where you'll find bike paths, park space, beaches and a mini amusement park for kids. You can also visit the Gibraltar lighthouse or go nude sun bathing at Hanlan's Point.
I love live entertainment so my personal favourite is Second City which showcases sketch and improve comedy. I go every year for my b-day and my entire group can't stop laughing.
Toronto also has a great performing arts scene, with The National Ballet of Canada, the Canadian Opera Company and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, you can get your culture on. If you're wanting something lighter Toronto has great musicals and theatre too.
Winter Highlights in Toronto
Perhaps a bit cliché but if you're around for the Christmas season then there's nothing that puts me more in the Christmas spirit than The Distillery District Christmas market. Note it's obscenely packed on weekends, so get there in the early morning to avoid crowds and long lines.
I also enjoy renting skates at the Harbourfront Center Ice Rink which has lake views and a live DJ on Saturday nights.
If you're not into the cold then check out the Royal Ontario Museum. In the summer, on Friday nights, they have fun events called "Friday Night at the ROM". You can eat and drink at the food stations and dance beside dinosaur bones.
Ideally allocating 3-4 days in Toronto will allow you to cover off a lot of the city. My itinerary in the above map has two days of easy walking destinations in addition to highlights which are a bit further out. The further locations can be accessed by public transit, Uber/Lyft or drive if you're renting a car.
If you are visiting Toronto and have the time I highly suggest checking out the Niagara region. My only advice to you is, visit Niagara Falls then quickly leave and spend the rest of your time in Niagara-On-The-Lake. NOTL is a charming city with boutiques and restaurants, surrounded by the vineyards of the Niagara Region. Read about Niagara in my Guide to the region and it’s wineries.
Fill That Belly
The greatest thing about Toronto is you can find all types of foods, from all different ethnicities.
All my favourite restaurants in Toronto are located in the above Google map. I've listed them by ethnicity so pick and choose based on your mood.
Visit Little India for dosas, Little Portugal for Portuguese BBQ or Little Italy for fresh pasta or pizza.
Grill your own meats at Korean BBQ or enjoy other excellent asian dishes like sushi... ramen... bibimbap...Vietnamese pho, Thai curries or dim sum.
Go for Caribbean... Middle Eastern... Peruvian...Polish... Pub fare... whatever ethnicity you want, Toronto has it.
If you're looking for Canadian, check out Boralia, where they take historical Canadian cuisine and put a modern twist on it. And of course try a good old fashioned Canadian poutine.
Toronto is a great street photography city. A good 35mm (23mm APS-C) will keep you discreetly shooting.
Note, if you're shooting in the winter you'll want extra batteries since those suckers drain fast in the Canadian winter. Keep them in pockets next to your body to preserve that juice.
You don't need a car in Toronto as everything is fairly central, in fact it will probably be a burden.
The Toronto subway is called the TTC and though Torontonians will argue it's unreliable, it's still a very economical and efficient way to get around the city. Here's a link to the TTC website for fare and route information.
Ride sharing and taxis (the signature orange Beck taxi) are also good ways to get around if you're in a hurry or it's late at night.
Where to Stay
Some links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a booking. As always, I only recommend products and services I trust.
If you stay in any area that's close to a subway or streetcar stop then the city is really accessible. Most hotels are downtown which is south of Bloor street, between Spadina (West) and Yonge St (East). There's also a ton of AirBnBs to consider in Toronto.
A few popular hotels are:
The Thompson Hotel - For a cool rooftop pool with a view. It's central and trendy (though some might argue too trendy if you know what I mean.
The Drake Hotel - For fun artsy rooms that don't feel like a hotel then The Drake is a good place to stay.
The Shangri-La - If you're looking for luxe, then The Shangri-La is your place. It's in the Entertainment District and attached to Momofuku so you can get your ramen on!
The Gladstone Hotel - A boutique hotel that has artist designed guest rooms.
The Broadview Hotel - Not as central of a location but easy enough to jump on the streetcar to get into the city. Lovely rooftop patio.
In 7 years of living there I've never had any major issues. Toronto is a very safe city, especially if you stay in the downtown core. I highly recommend it for solo female travel. Just be cautious at night time as you would in any large city.