24 Hours in Toronto


Toronto is often referred to as “the city of neighborhoods”, reflecting how each part of the city is unique, distinct and shaped by its ethnically diverse inhabitants. This makes it an especially interesting place to visit, as it’s possible to experience the rustic charm of a local Scottish pub and then dine at a modern Asian fusion restaurant in a nearby neighborhood that feels a world away.

From trendy neighborhoods like Kensington Market and Yorkville to the city’s very own Little Italy and Chinatown, Toronto is definitely a city worth exploring! In an ideal situation, a traveler would spend at least a few days in the city, however, let’s take a look at the food, sights and activities that can be experienced in Toronto in only 24 hours.

The CN Tower literally towers over the skyline of Toronto and Lake Ontario.

The CN Tower literally towers over the skyline of Toronto and Lake Ontario.

Breakfast at La Societe

After opening in 2012, the Parisian-inspired La Societe, on the second floor of the Colonnade, has quickly become one of the city’s top brunch spots. Restaurateur Charles Khabouth’s attention to detail – a framed vintage cover of Vogue, the oversized round leather dining booths and breathtaking multi-colored stained glass ceiling – transports patrons back in time to the glamorous era of 1920s Paris.

While the feeling of being pampered is not lost on the guests, breakfast items are surprisingly inexpensive and the affordable side dishes allow patrons to sample a little bit of everything. Along with a separate bar space painted in black, a moody counterpoint to the light and airy dining room, there is also an outdoor patio on the ground floor and a small heated terrace on the second floor that overlooks Bloor St, which is one of Toronto’s high-end retail strips.

Check out the Exhibits at the ROM

After brunch, walk the few blocks to the Royal Ontario Museum or ROM to check out its fantastic exhibitions. The museum, Toronto’s answer to London’s British Museum, attracts roughly one million visitors each year and for good reason, as it has a number of expertly curated exhibits on a range of different topics including art, historic artifacts and natural history. Kids will appreciate the dinosaur section and its skeletons, while architecture lovers should take note of “The Crystal.” Designed by Daniel Libeskind, this structure leads visitors into the main entrance of the ROM and combines glass, aluminum and steel to create a one-of-a-kind architectural design that looms over visitors.

Reading Suggestion: This blog lists the ROM as one of Toronto’s ten must-see attractions!

"The Crystal" by Daniel Libeskind at Toronto's ROM. Photo credit Randy.

“The Crystal” by Daniel Libeskind at Toronto’s ROM. Photo credit Randy.

Lunch at Pho Xe Lua

There is no better way to refuel after a morning visit to the museum than with some authentic Vietnamese food. There are a bunch of pho places in Chinatown (Pho Hung is a local favorite), but Pho Xue La is just as good and is usually less packed at lunch. They offer a number of variations of pho, including beef and vegetarian options, and their soups are reasonably priced at $5.50-8.50.

Shopping on Queen Street West

Once everyone’s bellies are full, make sure to check out Queen Street West, which is Toronto’s most famous retail strip. No one will leave empty handed, as its eclectic mix of high-end stores and local thrift-store favorites makes it a true shopping adventure.

Reading Suggestion: Take a look at this cool blog post for more things to do in Toronto’s West End.

A street performer on Queen Street West. Photo credit Ryan.

A street performer on Queen Street West. Photo credit Ryan.

Visit the CN Tower

The CN Tower, named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the ASCE, is Toronto’s landmark destination and, at 1,800 feet tall, one of the world’s tallest freestanding structures. Taking the elevator to the tower’s observation deck and walking along its glass floor is a sure way to test one’s fear of heights, while daredevils can go even further and try the “Edge Walk,” which is a hands-free walk on the rim of the tower! Otherwise play it safe and simply enjoy the tower’s panoramic views of the city skyline.

The shadow of the CN Tower over downtown as seen from the tower's observation deck. Photo credit David Warrington.

The shadow of the CN Tower over downtown as seen from the tower’s observation deck. Photo credit David Warrington.

Dinner at Japango

End the night by going to Japango, a hole-in-the-wall-sushi restaurant near the Eaton Centre. It only seats about twenty patrons at a time, but it has the most delicious fresh sashimi in the city. Their signature “Japango” roll – a California roll topped with a layer of lightly seared salmon and scallop – is a must try. It’s an intimate dining experience best reserved for small groups, so be sure to make reservations in advance.

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Frances is a travel writer and foodie. As a native Torontonian she loves exploring her city, but also has a soft spot for Montreal, NY and Hong Kong. Connect with her @frannywrites