At first glance, Toronto may seem like a simple city with not much to see, as the C.N. Tower is the only thing that really stands out. However, you’d be surprised at just how much there is to see and experience in the city, which makes Toronto all the more special with these hidden gems. Whether you already reside in the city or just simply visiting as a tourist, these famous Toronto landmarks are a MUST.
1. C.N. Tower
Don’t roll your eyes, you knew this was coming. It’s kind of impossible to avoid the C.N. Tower when you’re in Toronto; it’s basically our own version of the Eiffel Tower. Standing at 553.3 m high, the Canadian National Tower was the world’s tallest tower at the time it was built. It serves as an iconic symbol of Canada, as well as being the signature of Toronto’s skyline. Located at the top of the tower is the 360Restaurant, where visitors can dine with an amazing view of the city above ground. There’s also the famous EdgeWalk, where daredevils can experience walking and leaning back from the ledge of the Tower’s main pod (not for the faint of heart of course!).
2. Ripley’s Aquarium
Located right beside the C.N. Tower in the heart of the Entertainment district is Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, which is one of the three public aquariums owned by Ripley’s Entertainment. Having just opened in 2013, this landmark is still considered fairly new but has attracted millions of visitors since it’s opening. Personally, I could watch the jellyfish all night long. While it might seem overrated, this is definitely a fun place to go with your date. (TIP: Go late on a week night. It’s practically empty to the point where you basically have the place to yourselves and there are no families with loud children or baby strollers getting in the way. You’re welcome).
3. Distillery District
Existing since the 1800’s, this historical neighbourhood is one of the most beautiful residential districts in the city, and is a favourite visiting site for both locals and tourists. Famous for preserving its Victorian-era industrial architecture despite the numerous new condos being built around the area, the Distillery District is home to the famous Gooderham & Worts Distillery, which was the world’s largest distillery at the time. The neighbourhood also features many cafés, restaurants, shops, and art galleries that are housed within the heritage buildings. The Distillery District has also been home to festivities such as the annual Toronto Christmas Market. And most recently, the Toronto Light Festival. Don’t forget to put a lock on the Love Locks with your significant other!
4. Casa Loma
Once the home of Sir Henry Pellatt, Casa Loma (Spanish for “Hill House”) is a museum that is now one of Toronto’s top tourist attractions and hospitality venues. This Gothic Revival-style castle has become a hot spot for both tourists and soon-to-be newlyweds because of it’s beautiful architecture and backdrops, and has even served as a filming location for films including Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, X-Men, and The Mortal Instruments. Casa Loma has many floors and levels to explore, as well as a 500-acre garden and an underground tunnel. Rumour has it that the castle is haunted, according to accounts from employees and even visitors of the site.
5. Yonge-Dundas Square
If you’ve been to Times Square in New York City, then Yonge-Dundas Square might seem a bit familiar to you. While definitely not as big as Times Square, there’s still a lot going on at Yonge-Dundas Square. Located at the downtown core of Toronto, this area is filled with shoppers and students running to their next class. The busy intersection is right in between the Eaton Centre and Ryerson University. Don’t be alarmed when you come across some people who might seem a little, well. Crazy.
6. Sugar Beach
This urban beach park that shares the home with Corus Entertainment is famous for it’s cute pink beach umbrellas, Muskoka chairs, and candy-striped rocks. While you can’t swim in the waters like you would at a normal beach, this waterfront public space serves more as a relaxation spot. Visitors can read books while lying under the sun, take strolls or bike rides along the path with the view of the boats, and play in the sand. If you work nearby, it’s a great place to enjoy your lunch in peace and quiet away from the office.
7. Nathan Phillips Square
Named after Nathan Phillips who was the mayor of Toronto from 1955 to 1962, the square serves as the forecourt to the Toronto City Hall (which you probably remember seeing in the first Resident Evil movie) and is Canada’s largest city square. The square is where all Torontonians gather for the local farmers’ market, art exhibits, concerts, rallies, and more. During the winter months, the reflecting pool is even converted into a skating rink. The square also holds the colourful 3D Toronto sign that was left from the 2015 Pan American Games.
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8. St. Lawrence Market
Another Victorian building that is a part of Toronto’s history since the early 1800s is the St. Lawrence Market, which holds 120 vendors of authentic food and other gems. This public market was named the world’s best food market by National Geographic in 2012. It contains two floors of grocers, food stores, and small shops of artisans. Cooking enthusiasts can experience a variety of different traditional foods, and even partake in culinary classes here. Famous for the Farmers’ Market, you can even get collectors’ items if you arrive early enough on a Sunday.
9. Royal Ontario Museum
One of the largest museums in North America and the largest one in Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum (or simply known as the ROM) is a museum showcasing works of art, culture, and world history. Located near the University of Toronto, the museum holds as many as six million items and forty galleries. There is a notable collection of dinosaur fossils and minerals contained, and also features a number galleries in the World Culture series, including Middle Eastern, East Asian, European, and more. And did you know the museum turns Friday nights into a club night experience? Check out Friday Night Live! at the ROM.
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10. Hockey Hall of Fame
What is Canada without a museum dedicated to our national sport, let’s be real here. This is the world’s one and only museum/hall of fame dedicated to the history of ice hockey, exhibiting players, teams, NHL records and memorabilia, and of course is home to the Stanley Cup. The hockey shrine showcases a collection of hockey artifacts from all around the world. And interactive spaces are also installed where guests of all ages can practice on their shooting and goalkeeping skills.
11. Princes’ Gates
Another one of Toronto’s architectural gems is the triumphal arch monumental gateway that stands at the front entrance to the Exhibition Place. Built to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation, you might also recognize seeing the gateway in the first Resident Evil movie like you did with City Hall. Above the central arch stands the “Goddess of Winged Victory,” holding a hero’s crown as well as a maple leaf to represent Canada. Near the end of summer, the area is most popular when the CNE takes place and thousands pass by under the gateway daily.
12. High Park
Famous for the beautiful cherry blossoms that bloom in the spring and the wildlife it contains, High Park is Toronto’s largest public park that features many hiking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, gardens, and even a small zoo. All of these are free admission, which is great considering you can do pretty much anything here. Great for family outings and dates, you can even bring your dogs and let them run wild as the park has specifically created an off-leash dog park where they can roam free without penalty.
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13. Rogers Centre
We all remember the days back when the Rogers Centre was called the SkyDome, right? Well since it is home to the Toronto Blue Jays who are also owned by Rogers Communications, it does kind of make sense that the huge stadium was renamed to what it is today. When it first opened in 1989, the stadium was the first one in the world to have a fully retractable roof. As a multi-purpose stadium, it serves to host not only the baseball games the Toronto Blue Jays take part in but also concerts, conventions, auto shows, and more.
14. Toronto Islands
If you want a great escape from the big city, then take the ferry down to the Toronto Islands located right in Lake Ontario! Rather than one large island, the area actually consists of 15 interconnected islands. You can walk from one end of the island to the other. Visitors can do many activities such as biking along the trails, canoeing, explore the 200 year old lighthouse, and even play at the amusement park. The options are endless, making this the perfect retreat from the busy city.
15. Old City Hall
Before it’s replacement from the present City Hall, the Old City Hall was home to the Toronto City Council from 1899 to 1966. While the famous court house is no longer seat to the municipal government, the building structure still remains prominent in the city particularly because of the distinctive clock tower. Built in a Romanesque Revival style, the interior is built with just as much fine detailing as the exterior. At one point, it even faced being demolished during the planning of the Eaton Centre.
These are just a few key spots that should be checked out when you’re in Toronto. But don’t think that this is all there is to see! There is so much more to see in Toronto than what’s on this list, which makes this city all the more interesting.
What are some other must see Toronto landmarks? Let us know down below!
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Student in Toronto studying New Media and Journalism. A Virgo baby who has a deep love for tea, getting lost in bookstores, and hanging out in retro coffee shops.