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With immigrants making up almost half of Toronto’s three million residents and 52 percent of the population identifying as visible minorities, Canada’s largest city is known for its diversity. International cultures are celebrated throughout the “The Six,” and you can see them reflected in neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, and museums. This is a major draw for tourists who crave a little something different without having to travel too far — especially when you’re crunched for time on a three-day weekend.
We recommend tailoring your itinerary to the season — warm summer days allow for long outdoor strolls and attending cultural festivals. In the winter, you’re likely to spend more time inside. But don’t worry, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained no matter the season. Here are some ideas to inspire your Toronto weekend.
Start with breakfast at the Drake Hotel, and then stroll through West Queen West, named one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world. Relish the array of locally owned shops such as Gravitypope, Fawn, Kotn, and numerous vintage stores along the way. Grab a cup of coffee from White Squirrel Coffee Shop, named after the rare albino squirrels that inhabit Trinity Bellwoods Park across the street.
Have lunch at modern French diner Le Swan or go for a light meal at Fresh (the Crawford location), a beloved local chain serving plant-based food since the ’90s. After lunch, take in the street art along Graffiti Alley, and then proceed south to snap a selfie on the Sir Isaac Brock Bridge with the iconic CN Tower in the background. Check out Stackt, a hip indoor/outdoor market of shops and services located in a complex made of shipping containers. In the evening, proceed to King Street West, where you will find some of the city’s most cherished dinner spots, like Buca, Lee, and Le Sélect Bistro.
Start in Koreatown and grab a morning snack from Hodo Kwaja — this family-run spot is known for its famous walnut cakes. Continue to The Annex, a lively area with many local businesses, cafes, and indie stores, like A Different Booklist, a unique spot specializing in multicultural books. You could even watch a film at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema — a year-round venue screening documentaries (it’s also home to North America’s largest documentary film festival).
Arrive in the ritzy Yorkville neighborhood, where you’ll find designer brands and several museums, including the Bata Shoe Museum, the Gardiner Museum, and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) — one of the largest museums in North America.
Next, head to Baldwin Village, where you can refuel in one of the quaint restaurants housed in old Victorian homes; we recommend stopping at Omai, a small Japanese-fusion izakaya. You could also walk to nearby Chinatown for lunch — Asian Legend, Mother’s Dumplings, and Rol San are especially popular with locals. After lunch, continue your journey through Chinatown to Kensington Market — a multicultural, bohemian village bursting with specialty food vendors and shops.
End your day with dinner and drinks at Louix Louis, located inside The St. Regis Toronto, and sip one of the more than 500 dark spirits available in the restaurant’s two-story-high Grand Bar. Save room for dessert and order the unforgettable 13-layer “king’s cake.”
If you visit during the summer, stroll along the city’s waterfront to take in the beautiful views of Lake Ontario. Start at the Toronto Music Garden, then enjoy climbing up and down the award-winning Toronto Waterfront Wavedecks, whimsical wooden structures designed to mimic the shoreline of the province’s Great Lakes.
Walk to Toronto City Hall and snap a selfie with the iconic Toronto Sign, or ice-skate in the winter at Nathan Phillips Square. Learn about the city’s history by visiting Old Town Toronto, the founding neighborhood of Toronto that has the largest concentration of 19th-century buildings in the province, including Toronto’s First Post Office.
Break for lunch at St. Lawrence Market, a culinary destination home to 120 specialty vendors. Here, grab a classic Canadian peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery or a lobster roll from Buster’s Sea Cove. Spend the afternoon exploring the market and surrounding neighborhood. Take pictures of the iconic Gooderham Flatiron Building or the Berczy Park dog fountain, and if you’re willing to walk 20 minutes for one of the best desserts in Toronto, head to Corktown for an afternoon treat at Roselle.
Conclude your experience in Toronto by walking to the cobblestone Distillery District, a national historic site and arts hub. This unique location is home to art galleries, shops, and restaurants where you can toast to the end of your trip. Check out stunning El Catrin for Mexican dishes, or try Cluny Bistro, a modern French restaurant.