What makes Toronto so unique? A lot of things, really. It’s a city of neighbourhoods, so wherever you are in Toronto, you’re bound to find yourself surrounded by shopping, dining, arts and culture experiences unique to that specific area. Toronto is world-renowned for its safety, culture, green spaces and infrastructure–in fact, the city was ranked fourth in The Economist’s 2012 list of the world’s most liveable cities.
For tourists who have just a day to spend exploring Toronto, follow this itinerary to discover some of the places, people and attractions that make Toronto a unique and exciting place.
The Fairmont Royal York Hotel is one of Toronto’s oldest and most storied hotels and a good choice to spend the night before your one-day journey through all things uniquely Toronto. Since opening in 1929, it’s stood as one of the largest hotels in the British Commonwealth with 1,600 rooms. It’s also home to more than 300,000 bees, who live in hives on the hotel’s rooftop and produce honey for the Fairmont Royal York’s dining facilities.
St. Lawrence Market - voted the world's best food market — Photo courtesy of jsmjr
Get up early and walk just a few blocks east of the hotel to St. Lawrence Market, another downtown site that’s served as a gathering place for generations of Torontonians. Voted the world’s best food market by National Geographic magazine in 2012, the St. Lawrence Market complex consists of two buildings. The north building plays host to weekly Saturday farmer’s markets, where shoppers interact with local producers selling their fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. In the south building, open every day except Sunday and Monday, you’ll find more than 120 vendors selling meat, produce, baked goods, flowers, jewelry and so much more.
But the reason to start your one-day itinerary at the market is to sample one of Toronto’s most iconic breakfasts–the peameal bacon sandwich. If Toronto has a signature dish, this is it. Brined pork loin is rolled in corn meal, sliced thin and grilled, then piled on a Kaiser roll. Some top their sandwich with tomato, mayo, mustard, or for an extra-indulgent breakfast treat, a fried egg.
After breakfast, it’s time to burn off some calories with a short walk south of the market to the ferry dock at Yonge St. and Queen’s Quay, located just behind the Westin Harbour Castle hotel. Catch the ferry and enjoy a 10-minute ride across the harbour to the Toronto Islands. North America’s largest urban car-free community offers plenty of green space and beaches for visitors of all ages–perfect for those looking to play some volleyball, swim or just relax and take in the sun. Those looking for exercise can explore the islands by bike while checking out the amazing views of Toronto’s skyline; visit the rental facility near the Centre Island ferry dock.
Toronto's iconic CN Tower — Photo courtesy of seamusiv
Take the return trip to the mainland, where it’s time to explore one of Toronto’s most iconic symbols: the CN Tower. For more than 30 years, the tower has dominated the city skyline. It’s one of the world’s tallest structures at 1,815 feet–and the glassed-in elevators that travel the tower’s length offer visitors a sense of just how high that is. The CN Tower’s observation decks, glass floor and 3D movie theatre are sights worth seeing during your visit. And plan to have lunch in the tower’s 360 Restaurant. Diners sit on a floor that performs a full rotation every 72 minutes, guaranteeing different views of the city with each bite of your meal. Plus, if you order an entrée at the restaurant, your entry to the CN Tower is free.
If you still have the energy to keep going after all the history, exercise and food, there’s no better way to wind down than to explore some of the shops and art galleries of one of the city’s most iconic retail districts, Bloor-Yorkville. Wander the upscale, tree-lined streets while checking out the latest fashions in the neighbourhood’s high-end clothing stores. While in Bloor-Yorkville, stop to marvel at the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the glass-and-metal extension to the Royal Ontario Museum building designed by world-famous architect Daniel Libeskind. As the sun sets on your uniquely Toronto day, find a patio seat or a cozy indoor table in one of Bloor-Yorkville’s many bistros and enjoy a leisurely meal before retiring to your hotel.