A Weekend Guide to Toronto, Canada

Hungry for a weekend filled with world-class art, diverse restaurants, and beautiful nature? You have come to the right place.

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FFrom the viewpoint of Lake Ontario, the Toronto skyline rises like a mountain range of glass. But step inside the city’s vibrant neighborhoods filled with vibrant cafés, street festivals, lush green spaces and restaurants serving everything from Tibetan dumplings to Jamaican pancakes and you’ll find the true heart of Canada’s largest city.

After all, the Greater Toronto Area is home to more than 6.3 million people, making it one of the largest metropolises in North America. With nearly half of its population being immigrants, Toronto is a meeting point for various foods, culture, arts, and natural attractions. Here’s how to spend the perfect weekend in Toronto.

Below in the lobby of 1 Hotel Toronto, you'll find lush plants and locally sourced wood furniture.

Where to stay in Toronto

Drake Hotel

Book now: Drake Hotel

The Drake Hotel has been a cultural hub on Toronto’s trendy Queen Street West for nearly two decades. Its boundary-pushing contemporary art program has received international attention and the intimate concert venue is where many musicians – including Billie Eilish and MIA – made their beginnings in Toronto. Now, thanks to the new modern suite, which opened last December with 32 contemporary guest rooms, a rooftop suite and a Peugeot bar, travelers have an entirely new base for exploring one of the city’s coolest neighborhoods.

Even with a new building, the hotel has retained the beloved old feel of its historic Art Deco address. Design details such as custom mills, wallpapers, terrazzo tiles can be found in every room and an impressive collection of original artwork (with an emphasis on women, Aboriginal, and diverse artists), ensuring that your stay is as creatively invigorating as it is relaxing.

1 hotel in Toronto

Book now: 1 hotel in Toronto

1 Hotel Toronto is adjacent to the center of nightlife on King Street West, steps away from many of Toronto’s best restaurants, bars and landmarks. Fortunately, the airy, nature-inspired interiors also provide a refreshing respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Since opening in the summer of 2021, the first Canadian location for the 1 Hotels brand has quickly established itself with four on-site restaurants and bars (including 1 Kitchen, which prefers Ontario ingredients thanks to a partnership with local food distributor 100km Foods), weekend events, and a lobby bar. The atmosphere is overflowing with plants and reclaimed wood. As a rare bonus, the 112-room property features a rooftop pool with city views.

Restaurants like Pai showcase the diversity found in Toronto's dining scene.

Where to eat in Toronto

Dine at Toronto’s best restaurants

In Toronto, you can eat the way you want around the world without taking a single trip (or even a tram, for that matter). For a taste of it all in one central place, head to the King Street West area, where you’ll find many of Canada’s leading restaurants. At Lee’s Restaurant, celebrity Canadian chef Saussure Lee blends the epicurean traditions of China with classic French techniques (the 19-ingredient Singapore slaw is a must). Nearby, restaurateur and Top Chef Canada judge Janet Zuccarini Helms Gusto 101, an Italian restaurant that has earned a cult following for creamy truffle pasta, mafalde ai funghi, and a rooftop patio perched on top of a repurposed industrial garage. Across the street, Jamaican-born chef Donavon Campbell leads the culinary team at Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen, which serves home-style dishes like bacon, salt fish pies, golden pies, and rum.

Take a trip to Turkey by walking a few blocks east into the entertainment district, where Byblos serves up family-style dishes like Turkish manti, black truffle cheese, and sweet, jewel-encrusted rice. On Pai Street, Chef Nuit Regular draws inspiration from her upbringing in northern Thailand to create dishes that rival what you’d find at night markets in the Land of Smiles.

The city is brimming with brunch options (and proper combinations) but those looking for something off the beaten path can venture into Lisleville to Maha for an Egyptian brunch (think eggs paired with fava beans, falafel, and charred baladi bread). You’ll also find several options on the Ossington Strip including Union, which serves seasonal Canadian classics like PEI oysters, bacon, and buttermilk pancakes dipped in maple syrup. Nearby, Gia is the shining new star of Toronto’s dining scene and serves up vegetarian Italian dishes like panko-crusted meatballs, tortelloni made with wild Ontario mushrooms, black kale, and cream of porcini.

St. Lawrence Market is a staple in Toronto and a must try for the first time.

Things to do in Toronto

Spend your morning in the markets

A Saturday morning in Toronto is best spent alongside the locals at one of the city’s many bustling markets. First-time visitors to the city will want to head to the historic St. Lawrence Market in old Toronto to see the maple syrup producers and cheese suppliers stacked in a centuries-old market hall. A short stroll east will take you to the cobbled streets of the Distillery District, a pedestrian-only enclave known for its Victorian-era distillery buildings turned art galleries, shops, and bars.

The bohemian Kensington Market, which sits alongside Toronto’s dynamic Chinatown, is worth a visit any day of the week. It comes alive especially on weekends (and in particular, pedestrian Sundays, which happen between May and October). Grab a taco from Seven Lives y Mariscos or jerk chicken dumplings from Rasta Pasta and wander the eclectic streets filled with vintage clothing stores, eclectic cafes and street performers.

Those looking to pair their visit to the market with a scenic picnic or bike ride can head to Evergreen Brickworks, a former quarry and industrial site converted into a community environmental center. The site features a network of trails around ponds, wooded valleys, and wildflower meadows, as well as a Saturday farmers market. Nature lovers who want to explore more of the ancient shores of a river valley without choosing to walk a self-guided trail or explore more than 50 miles of mountain biking trails can.

Immerse yourself in Canada’s contemporary art scene

A visit to Toronto would not be complete without spending a few hours at one of the city’s world-class art galleries or museums. The Art Gallery of Ontario is particularly noteworthy for its collections of Canadian and Aboriginal art, as well as a $212 million architectural expansion led by Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry.

The Aga Khan Museum is relatively new to the Toronto museum scene, which opened in 2014 with a stunning building by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki. Set in a 17-acre park in north Toronto, the museum focuses on the artistic and scientific contributions to the Muslim community and houses a permanent collection of 1,000 objects, as well as rotating exhibitions.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a heritage-listed factory in Toronto’s up-and-coming Junction Triangle, hosts a selection of rotating exhibits. A visit here pairs well with the region’s independent galleries such as Arsenal Contemporary Art Toronto, Daniel Faria Gallery, and Patel Brown Gallery – all featuring Canadian artists.

Explore the natural side of Toronto

Some of the best views of the city can be enjoyed from the Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 small islands that are easily reached via a 15-minute ferry ride from the city front. Across it you’ll find sandy beaches, bird nesting sites, a small park, and even a quaint residential area with cottage style homes. Public ferries from the mainland are served to Center Island, Hanlan Point, and Wards Island with different schedules.

For nature lovers, one of the most rewarding ways to experience the area is to get out on the water. Kayaks in town can be rented from Harbourfront Kayak & Canoe Center, which also hosts group guided paddle boards to the islands. Paddle boards can be rented from Toronto Island SUP, which offers several eco-tours of the island’s wildlife-rich lagoons. If you want a truly amazing experience, join one of the sunset safari, where you will paddle in the evening with lights under your board or kayak and the option to control colors, patterns and brightness. As the sun sinks below the horizon and the city lights come on, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the brilliance of the Toronto skyline and the creative locals who highlight the city’s many sides.

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