Canada,  Toronto,  Travel in Wanderland

Must-See Sights in Downtown Toronto for First-Time Visitors

Share this post:

This blog post contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Disclaimer.



Booking.com

Today, I’m featuring some of the top downtown Toronto tourist attractions for first-time visitors. If you are staying in the area, you’ll have plenty of time to explore on foot and really get to know the city. Every tourist spot worth seeing is within walking distance.

We, unfortunately, did not have this advantage during our first visit to Toronto and was only able to see a few on our list which includes: Nathan Phillips Square, Old and New City Hall, CF Toronto Eaton Centre, St. James Cathedral, St. Lawrence Market and Gooderham (Flatiron) Building. Our itinerary for the first 5 days we were staying in Toronto was jam-packed and we can only spare a few hours to really explore the city center.

After a fun-filled two hours at the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, we headed over to Nathan Phillips Square. It was already lunchtime so we walked a couple of blocks towards CF Eaton Centre, passing by the Old City Hall of Toronto.

Old City Hall Toronto

Toronto Old City Hall

Address: 60 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2M3, Canada
How to get there: By Bus/Streetcar, get off at Bay St & Queen St W Stop and by Subway, get off at Queen Station (Yonge-University-Spadina-Line). We went there using a rental car that we parked at the Green P garage located under the Nathan Phillips Square. The Old City Hall is right next to it.

Right in the middle of the modern structures in downtown Toronto is this beautiful Romanesque building. The Old City Hall, a National Historic Site, is currently being used as a courthouse for the Ontario Government. Because of this, the Old City Hall is not exactly open to tourists, but you can always admire the building from the outside.

It is one of the most impressive structures I have ever seen. There are talks of how it would be transformed into a retail space and/or a museum in the future. I think turning it into a museum is a fantastic way to not only attract more visitors but also to preserve its charm.

Old City Hall Toronto

CF Toronto Eaton Centre

Address: 220 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5B 2H1, Canada
Hours of Operation: 9:00 AM – 9:30 PM
How to get there: By Streetcar, get off at Yonge & Queen St Stop or Yonge & Dundas Stop, and by Subway, get off at Queen or Dundas Station (Yonge-University-Spadina-Line).

Right next to the Old City Hall, is the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, a huge shopping center with just about any Canadian or International brand you can think of. But we are not here to shop, we are here to eat! We were happy to find that the food court here offers a good variety. Sorry, no food photos. I’m usually halfway through my food before I can even remember that I haven’t taken a photo!

The Flight Stop by the Canadian artist Michael Snow hangs in the glass galleria inside the Eaton Centre. The sixty Canadian geese appear to be mid-flight and are about to land. It has become some sort of tourist attraction, Eaton Centre’s icon.

Eaton Centre Ceiling

If you have spare time (or are staying in the area), be sure to stop by the Yonge-Dundas Square, which is commonly likened to New York City’s Times Square. Unfortunately, we did not have the time (or the energy, thanks to jetlag) to stick around and traverse the area but oh well, I’ll see you next time Yonge-Dundas Square!

Nathan Phillips Square

Address: 100 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2, Canada
How to get there: By Bus/Streetcar, get off at Bay St & Queen St W Stop and by Subway, get off at Queen Station (Yonge-University-Spadina-Line).

One of the most photographed spots in the city is Nathan Phillips Square. Right in the middle is the huge TORONTO sign that illuminates at night, and providing the perfect backdrop is Toronto’s New City Hall. All year round, events and festivals take place in this space. I wish we came at a later date when the water fountain is transformed into an ice skating rink.

On second thought, maybe not. I’m not exactly a winter person.

Nathan Phillips Square

After taking dozens of photos, we went on our way to St. Lawrence Market, another one of Toronto’s iconic landmarks.

St Lawrence Market outside

St. Lawrence Market

Address: 93 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E 1C3, Canada
Hours of Operation: Time varies. Usually opens around 8:00 AM and closes around 6:00 PM. Check the schedule here.
How to get there: By subway: from Union Station, then turn right from the front entrance and walk east along Front Street for 3 blocks. Or get off at King Street Station and take the King streetcar that stops at the corner of Jarvis Street. If you’re going by car, there are plenty of parking garages surrounding the market, you’ll have no problem finding one! We parked ours just outside at a Green P parking space (enter by the corner of Front St E & Market St) and paid the minimum 3 hours parking fee.

Suggested Tour: St. Lawrence Market and Old Toronto Food Tour

Foodies will surely enjoy spending a couple of hours at St. Lawrence Market. From meat, deli, bread and pastries, seasonal fruits, and just about every souvenir item you could think of, you’ll find it here.

Don’t go here with a full stomach (like we did!). That was a huge mistake. We did manage to pick up a couple of souvenir items though and enjoyed touring the market. It was surprisingly not crowded when we visited.

Just outside the market along Front St, you get a view of the Gooderham Building and yes, that’s the CN Tower!

Also in the area is the St. James Cathedral. We actually passed by it on our way to St. Lawrence Market but I was not able to take a good photo. Include this in your Toronto itinerary if you can!

Gooderham Building

Address: 49 Wellington Street East Toronto, Ontario M5E 1C9
Hours of Operation: Time varies. Usually opens around 8:00 AM and closes around 6:00 PM. Check the schedule here.
How to get there: By subway: from Union Station, then turn right from the front entrance and walk east along Front Street for 3 blocks. Or get off at King Street Station and take the King streetcar that stops at the corner of Jarvis Street. If you’re going by car, there’s plenty of parking garages surrounding the market, you’ll have no problem finding one! We parked ours just outside at a Green P parking space (enter by the corner of Front St E & Market St) and paid the minimum 3 hours parking fee.

Also known as the Flatiron Building, the Gooderham Building is one of Toronto’s iconic landmarks, also recognized as a National Historic Site. Be sure to check out as well the back wall of the building and admire Derek Michael Besant‘s The Flatiron Mural and take a stroll at Berczy Park to see the adorable fountain with the statues of dogs and a cat.

Gooderham Building

There’s so much to see in downtown Toronto and I would have loved to walk the streets and get to know the city better but we’ve got other things on our itinerary that deserves our attention too.

But if you’re luckier than me and have the time and advantage of staying within the heart of the city, consider stopping by the Hockey Hall of Fame (even if you’re not a hockey fan) and the Distillery District.

Hockey Hall of Fame

Address: 30 Yonge Street Toronto, Ontario Canada M5E 1X8
Hours of Operation: The museum is usually open from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM depending on the season. Check here for the schedule.
How to get there: By Subway, get off at either Queen or King Station (Yonge-University-Spadina-Line)
Website: HHOF

Admission Rates:
Adults (14 – 64) – $20
Youth (4 – 13) $14
Senior (65+) $16
Children (3 & under) – Free

Distillery District

Address: 9 Trinity Street, Suite 200, Toronto ON M5A 3C4
Hours of Operation: M-W 10AM – 7PM | TH-Sa 10AM – 8PM | Su 11AM – 6PM
How to get there: By Streetcar, get off at Distillery Loop. By Subway and get off at Castle Frank Station (Bloor line). Transfer to Bus 65A Parliament. Ride the bus straight down Parliament and get off at Front St. Walk one block south to Mill St.
Website: The Distillery Historic District

Suggested Tour: Toronto Distillery District Walking Tour


These must-see sights are just a few of Toronto’s treasures. We also went to the Royal Ontario Museum, Chinatown, Kensington Market and Graffiti Alley which you’ll all read about in my future posts, so check back soon!

If you want to make the most of your time and cover the highlights in one go, I suggest booking a ride on the Toronto Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. This is the perfect and most convenient way to see the city. You can always choose which of the sights you want to see up close and just hop on back to your next destination.

Like this post? Need it for later? Pin it!

What’s your favorite part of downtown Toronto? Share your experience by leaving a comment below! 


Check out my other posts about our Toronto, Quebec City, and Montreal Road Trip below:

Day 1: The Toronto IslandsCN Tower Experience
Day 2: Ripley’s Aquarium of CanadaMust-See Sights in Downtown Toronto for First-Time Visitors
Day 3: Niagara Falls, Canada: Hornblower Cruise, Table Rock Centre, and Outlet Collection
Day 4: Royal Ontario Museum | Kensington Market and Chinatown | Toronto’s Graffiti Alley

Day 6: Montmorency Falls | Old Quebec Town
Day 7: Musee de la Civilization
Day 9: Montreal Botanical Garden
Day 10: Mont-Royal Parc

Toronto Airbnb Review: Richmond Hill Townhouse
Quebec City/Levis Airbnb Review: Beautiful House by the Chaudiere River
Montreal Airbnb: Luxury Home in a Quiet Area

Toronto, Quebec City, and Montreal Itinerary


Viator

One Comment

Leave a Comment

shares