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Welcome to Toronto


The most heavily populated city in Canada, Toronto is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city; the country's financial, commercial and cultural centre with a rich multi-cultural heritage of more than 80 ethnic groups, speaking more than 100 languages. It has a lively stock exchange, soaring futuristic architecture, museums, art galleries, performing arts companies, fine restaurants, large shopping complexes, a waterfront and hundreds of parks.

The city is situated on the north shore of Lake Ontario, and sports distinctive neighbourhoods as well as the longest street in the world, Yonge Street, as its main north-south artery. Toronto's main landmark is the CN Tower, which is the world's tallest free-standing structure with glass-fronted elevators that rise 1,815ft (553m) to indoor and outdoor observation decks. The city also boasts the 'Skydome', which is a multi-purpose entertainment complex with a retractable roof, billed as the world's greatest entertainment centre.

In the 17th century Toronto was a small French colony; then came the American Revolution which encouraged scores of British loyalist families to flee north. Many settled beside the lake establishing a town known as York, which slowly grew in importance as an administrative and manufacturing centre. In 1834 the name was changed to Toronto, an Indian word meaning 'meeting place'. The new name proved worthy when about a century later the city's English character began to be buried beneath the conglomeration of cultures brought in by a massive tide of immigrants from all corners of the world. Old English pubs and Victorian and Edwardian architecture survive among the skyscrapers, but Toronto is today a lively and cosmopolitan city and Canada's commercial capital.

It does get pretty cold over the winter months of November to March so if you are averse to chilly weather plan your visit over the mid-year period. Toronto just might be the destination that has it all - reason enough to visit and enjoy what has been described as Canada's 'world within a city.'

Information & Facts


The climate in Toronto is moderated by its proximity to the Great Lakes (in particular Lake Ontario). Summer tends to be hot and very humid, while winter is severe with heavy snowfall. The average maximum temperature in January is 28°F (-2 °C), while the average maximum temperature in July is 80°F (27°C). Rainfall tends to occur throughout the year, but summer, though the sunniest season, is also usually the wettest. Autumn is perhaps the best time to travel to Toronto, as temperatures are less extreme than summer or winter, with mild days and cool nights.

Eating Out

Toronto is home to Canada's most exciting restaurant scene, with over 5,000 eateries and a multitude of different cuisines reflecting the vibrant ethnic make-up of this city, Canada's largest. Great news for diners is that there is a high proportion of good quality, great value restaurants - especially those offering ethnic food. There are fewer top-end restaurants, but enduring favourites like Truffles and North 44 are on a par with the best on the continent.

Certain cuisines cluster in distinct areas: College Street, better known as Little Italy, is home to the city's best Italian restaurants and trattoria. For Greek food head to the Danforth area, while authentic Chinese joints are abundant in Chinatown. For a diverse selection of ethnic cuisine, check out King Street West, home to excellent Indian, Japanese and sushi restaurants, not to mention vibrant bars and nightclubs.

In general, Toronto offers good value dining. Tip 15-20% for good service. City law requires all restaurants, bars and pubs to be smoke-free, so don't even think about lighting up.

Getting Around

Public transport in Toronto is fast, safe and reliable consisting of an integrated system of subways, buses and streetcars that reach every part of the city, as well as a light rapid transit (LRT) line extending to the Harbourfront. The subway is easy to use, with only two major lines, and the buses and streetcar stations are next to every major stop, taking over where the subway leaves off. Fares are standard and a single fare will take you anywhere on a single trip; tokens can be used to avoid the hassle of having to pay with exact change. To freely change from one form of transport to another, get a transfer slip when and where paying for the fare. The subway operates from 6am to 1.30am, the buses and streetcars from about 5am to 12.30am (both start at 9am on Sundays), and the Blue Night Network services main street routes after 1.30am. The Request Stop Program allows women travelling alone late at night to get off the bus anywhere in between stops. Taxis are always available and ferries travel to the Toronto Islands. Driving a hire car is not recommended due to traffic congestion and expensive parking.

Kids Attractions

Boasting a multitude of attractions and activities, kids on holiday in Toronto will be kept busy for days on end. With great outdoor and indoor opportunities, Toronto is a family holiday paradise with wonderful activities and sights lurking round every corner.

Featuring the largest selection of roller coasters in North America, a great day out for the kids is Paramount Canada's Wonderland, a bit out of town but worth the trip. Ontario Place has the largest outdoor soft play area in Canada, while the CN Tower is a slightly different, yet equally thrilling attraction. When the sun is shining, head out for the day to High Park and explore all that this enormous park has to offer, including the Toronto Zoo, or take a trip out to Centre Island which features the fantastic Centreville Amusement Park. The Ontario Science Centre is also a great place for the kid to enjoy as well.

The official languages are English and French (predominantly in Quebec).

The currency used is the Canadian Dollar (CAD), which is divided into 100 cents. One-dollar coins are also known as loonies (due to the picture of a loon, a type of bird, on the coin), and two-dollar coins as toonies. Banks and bureaux de change will change money and travellers cheques, as will some hotels, but the rate will not be as good. Major credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are plentiful. US Dollars are largely accepted, though due to fraud, larger notes might not be and change is usually given in Canadian dollars.


Toronto has a very trendy nightlife offering bars, lounges, clubs and live music venues. The city's multicultural and cosmopolitan vibe extends into its nightlife, with a variety of entertainment options in various areas of the city. Toronto nightlife is buzzing on weekends, but the city is big and energetic enough that you'll find a party any night of the week if you know where to look.

Provincial law requires venues to serve food as well as alcohol, so many pubs and bars in Toronto are as much restaurants as they are party spots. Little Italy has a number of trattorias that double as bars, while Greektown has its own ethnic flair and party atmosphere. Bars and pubs close around 2am. Dance clubs stay open till dawn, but with late-night buses picking up after-hours commuters when the subway shuts down. Clubs come and go fairly quickly in Toronto, so check out local nightlife guides like the free weekly 'Now' for the hottest spots.

The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19, which is well below the 21 year old limit in the neighbouring USA, but is strictly enforced at most venues. Dress codes tend to be relaxed, but many will refuse entry for people wearing blue jeans or trainers.


Welcome to Canada's shopping capital! Toronto's shopping experience is like no other, combining the best of international brands with incredible local talent.

The most famous arcade is the Eaton Centre, which has everything under one roof including brand name stores, restaurants and various entertainment options. It's fun, but hardly an experience worth traveling all the way to Toronto to have. Vaughan Mills is another outlet option, but you are far better off seeking out some of the local stores that are unique to the city. If you like haute couture look out for Canadian labels such as Lida Baday, Ross Mayer, Crystal Siemens and Linda Lundstrom.

St Lawrence Market has an amazing array of local arts and crafts, plus excellent food to keep up your energy levels. Kensington Market is the place to go for vintage clothing and other eccentric paraphernalia; and the Heritage Antique Market has an amazing selection of vintage items if you can catch it while you're in town.

Queen St West is an essential stroll for the serious shopper. You'll find the best that young and trendy Toronto has to offer. Past Bathurst St you'll come across small, independent art galleries where discerning buyers can pick up a souvenir that just may grow in value! Yorkville, along Bloor Street, is the most exclusive shopping district, home to the boutiques and jewellers originating in Milan, Paris and London.

Hunting for souvenirs? Toronto does suggest some obvious choices like maple syrup, and gifts emblazoned with Mounties or maple leafs, while an alternate choice would be native American art, dream catchers or moccasins.

Shops in Toronto tend to open at about 10am, and close at 6pm Monday to Wednesday, 8 or 9pm Thursday and Friday, and 6pm on Saturday. Nearly all stores will accept all major credit cards.


Toronto has got a great mix of world-class attractions, seductive natural scenery, charming neighbourhoods and the world's highest tower from which to see it all. Its historic districts, such as the Distillery area, have been impeccably preserved while remaining vibrant centres of city life. Toronto so full of things to see and do that you'll never get to everything, but there is guaranteed to be something for everyone to enjoy.

Toronto has a range of fantastic museums, including the Royal Ontario Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the Canadian Air and Space Museum, the Ontario Science Centre, and the Hockey Hall of Fame. There are also numerous art galleries like the OCAD Professional Gallery, the Art Gallery of Toronto, and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.

There are also many distinct neighbourhoods to enjoy, like Toronto's huge Chinatown, which is home to the city's 350,000 Chinese-Canadian residents; Little Italy; the lively Art and Design District; Leslieville with its antique and vintage shops; and the funky West Queen West with boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. The Toronto Islands and harbour front areas are perfect places to relax without having to travel far from the city.

No visit to Toronto is complete without a trip up the CN Tower, which dominates the city's skyline and provides spectacular panoramic views of the city.

You can save money on many of Toronto's attractions by buying a Toronto CityPass, which has discounted tickets to places like the Ontario Science Centre, the CN Tower, and the Toronto Zoo. The CityPass is available online or at various museums and attractions in the city. You can also get more out of various site around Toronto by looking for signs that have a green ear logo and phone number underneath, which are part of the Murmur Toronto programme. Dialling the number will let you listen to a recording with interesting facts about whatever site you're currently looking at.

Canada covers six time zones, from GMT 8 in the west to GMT -3.5 in the east.

Children of all ages will love the African Lion Safari where they can take a drive through the game reserve, cruise on the 'African Queen' boat, watch bird and animal performances, experience an 'elephant round up', pet some baby goats, or even enjoy the Misumu Bay Wet Play area.

Canada's own castle, Casa Loma, is today owned by the City of Toronto and draws plenty of interest standing in medieval splendour on its hilltop site. The castle was formerly the home of Canadian financier, Sir Henry Pellatt, who engaged the noted architect E J Lennox to help him realise a life-long dream of building a castle. Construction started in 1911 and it took 300 men nearly three years to complete the impressive Casa Loma. Inside visitors can see the magnificent decorated suites, secret passages, and 800ft (244m) long tunnel, while outside it is possible to stroll through the beautiful five-acre estate gardens. Self-guided audio tours are available and the castle is open every day.

Standing 1,815ft (553m) high, Toronoto's landmark CN Tower is the world's tallest building, a celebrated icon, an important telecommunications hub and the centre of tourism in Toronto. About two million people visit the tower each year to take in the panoramic view and enjoy all its attractions. The tower was built in 1976 by the company Canadian National, who undertook the project simply to prove the strength of Canadian industry and solve the city's communication problems. Since then tourist attractions and facilities have been added, and the revitalised tower opened to the public in 1998, proving a hit with locals and visitors alike. The tower has four look out levels. At the first at 1,122ft (342m) is an outdoor observation deck with a spectacular glass floor; somewhat higher at the next level is an indoor observation deck and the Horizon's café, offering light meals high in the sky; at the 1,150ft (351m) level is a revolving restaurant, which rotates once every 72 minutes, allowing a stunning view of the city below while dining on the award-winning fare; finally comes the top level, at a dizzying 1,465ft (447m), known as the Sky Pod. At the top of the CN Tower visitors stand on the world's highest public observation deck. The tower is situated in the heart of Toronto's entertainment district, on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

The brick-paved streets of the pedestrianised village have been designated a National Heritage Site, containing the finest collection of Victorian era industrial architecture in North America. The historic Distillery District, spread across 13 acres (5 hectares) in downtown Toronto, is a development dedicated entirely to arts, culture and entertainment with its plethora of art galleries, restaurants, bars and live music venues. Founded in 1832, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery became the largest distillery in the British Empire until it ceased operations in 1990 after 153 years of production, and was opened in 2003 as the pedestrian-only village it is today. It is also a popular film location and its numerous festivals and special events attract thousands of people every month.

Housed in an attractive building across from the Royal Ontario Museum, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramics is one of the city's finest examples of modernist architecture. Giving visitors a glimpse into a universal art form that has spanned centuries, the Gardiner Museum exhibits over 3,000 historical and contemporary ceramic pieces. With earthenware of all different shapes and sizes from the ancient Americas, China, Japan, the Italian Renaissance and more, a tour through the museum will shape visitors' understanding of the development of the ceramic process. On Friday evenings visitors can try their hand at sculpting and wheel throwing in the open clay studio or attend free films and seminars.

With an idyllic setting right beside the lake, the Harbourfront Centre is the spiritual heart of the city where locals gather on weekends for some gallery hopping, shopping, biking and concerts. Used as an industrial docklands for decades the abandoned warehouses and disintegrating factories have been transformed into a treasured recreational and cultural public space. Stroll along the waterside promenade, indulge in theatrical performances and browse craft boutiques or head to Queen's Quay Centre for some superb shopping. Year round events at this urban playground include film, dance, theatre, music, children's events and marine events.

High Park is Toronto's largest park and features sporting, cultural and educational facilities, gardens, playgrounds and a zoo. A great place for a stroll or a family picnic, High Park also features two children's playground, a communal swimming pool which is manned by lifeguards, and plenty of open space to tire the little ones out.

Any avid hockey fan must make a turn at Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame, an ode to hockey's greatest players and most prized teams. A shrine to Canada's national sport, visitors can learn about the history of the game through memorabilia from every era, hockey artefacts from around the world, interactive exhibits and images of great moments in hockey history. Marvel at Terry Sawchuck's goalie gear, Newsy Lalonde's skates and the stick used by Max Bentley. The Stanley Cup never fails to delight visitors and most fun is had trying a hand at shooting or goalkeeping in the interactive displays. You won't be disappointed.

Just 45 minutes east of Toronto on Highway 115, Jungle Cat World Wildlife Park is one of Ontario's most popular tourist attractions. The Park is home to a diverse collection of mammals, such as wolves, skunks, lemurs and chimpanzees - though it is the collection of big cats that truly makes Jungle Cat World Wildlife Park special. When it opened in 1983, the purpose of the Park was primarily recreational; however, in latter days, Jungle Cat World has taken on a more pronounced environmental education role. Housing rare and endangered cats - such as snow leopards and Siberian tigers - the park runs a variety of fun, kid-friendly programs, designed to further the ends of wildlife conservancy, by educating visitors about the dire need to protect the lives and habitats of the magnificent animals on display. Be sure not to miss the Park's Feeding Tour, which occurs at 1.30pm daily.

A National Historic Site, Kensington Market embodies Toronto's multicultural society. Founded in the early twentieth century by eastern European Jewish immigrants and Italians, the area was renowned for its open-air market, evocative of those found in Europe. Home to immigrants from the Caribbean, China, East Africa and Vietnam War veterans, Kensinton Market is an infusion of world cultures, all of whom have left an imprint in the music, shops and restaurants of the area. A hybrid of cheap eclectic clothing retailers, fresh produce stores, cheese merchants, fishmongers, cafés and general bric-a-brac stores, the Kensington Market area offers a rambunctious downtown atmosphere. The most prominent streets are Augusta Avenue and Kensington Avenue.

The largest theatre for young audiences in Canada, the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People is also a drama school, creating theatre for the youth, by the youth. The productions put on here aim to have a lasting emotional and educational impact on the youth of today. Children will love watching performances here.

Formerly the Art Gallery of North York, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art opened its doors in 1999 keen to display modern Canadian art that addresses current Canadian narratives. Situated in trendy downtown Toronto, Mocca boasts a collection of 400 artworks by 140 different Canadian artists, despite its small size. With most works created since 1985, Mocca offers great insight into contemporary Canadian society. A country once renowned for its loose immigration laws, Canada is home to a mix of cultures, which makes for a stimulating art world. Look out for group exhibitions with international artists and the annual Mocca Award in Contemporary Art.

Straddling the Canadian-United States border and sited between the province of Ontario and the US state of New York, the awesome Niagara Falls attracts about 12 million tourists a year. It makes a spectacular day's outing from Toronto. The Niagara River has been flowing for about 12,000 years but the eroded escarpment over which the falls flow today is much older, having been formed during the ice age. The river plunges over a cliff of dolostone and shale to make it the second largest waterfall on earth, after the Victoria Falls in southern Africa. Apart from appreciating the mighty torrent of the falls itself, perhaps from a spray-filled boat tour, there is plenty more to see and do on the Niagara peninsula, including indulging in some wine-tasting at one of the local wineries; visiting the exotic butterfly conservatory, marvelling at the floral clock in the Niagara Parks Greenhouse; visiting the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, or playing a round of golf on one of the 34 courses that dot the peninsula.

A fantastic day out for the kids and the family, Ontario Place offers hours of action packed entertainment and some exhilarating rides that kids of all ages will enjoy. Attractions at Ontario Place include the

0 Generation Station, the Atom Blaster, First Flight, Free Fall and Super Slide, to name a few.

Boasting over 200 attractions and more than 65 exhilarating rides, Splash Works and a huge variety of roller coasters, Paramount Canada's Wonderland is Canada's favourite theme park. Kids will enjoy the fastest and biggest roller coaster, the Behemoth as well as carousels, train rides and Canada's only flying roller coaster, the Time Warp. This park is a must for a great day out with the family.

The pride of this large and varied museum is the golden mosaic ceiling inside the main entrance to the building in Queen's Park, Toronto. The ceiling is adorned with patterns and symbols representing cultures from around the world throughout the ages, and is made from cut squares of imported Venetian glass. The museum consists of three buildings housing 200,000 square feet (18,581 sq m) of galleries and exhibitions. The more than 40 galleries showcase art, archaeology and science exhibits. Among the most popular are dinosaurs, galleries of Chinese Art, a bat cave, a gem and gold room, exhibits about Ancient Egypt and Nubia, and the Samuel European Galleries.

A chain of small Lake Ontario islands just offshore from the city, the Toronto Islands were created from a series of continually moving sandbars connected to the mainland by a frail peninsula, which finally disintegrated after a major storm in 1858. Only a short ferry ride from the mainland, the Toronto Islands provide a peaceful green refuge from the hubbub of the city and afford attractive panoramic views of downtown Toronto. Hire a bike or relax on the beach, take the kids for a day at Centreville Amusement Park or have a languid picnic in one of the many designated leafy areas.

The Toronto Zoo covers 710 acres (287 hectares) and is divided into 'zoogeographic' regions. It features four major tropical indoor pavilions and several smaller indoor viewing areas, plus numerous outdoor exhibits with more than six miles (ten km) of walking trails. The zoo houses more than 5,000 animals representing more than 450 species; it draws more than 1,2 million visitors each year. It is located north of Highway 401 and is easily accessible by public transport.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selction of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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