Top Toronto Sightseeing: Winter Edition
It’s no secret that Canada sees some frosty winters, but don’t let that stop you from heading to the Great White North outside of its summer months - Toronto can be a great urban getaway in the winter. Thanks in part to the city’s sports teams (the Raptors & Leafs) in full playoff contention, we are seeing an increase of visitors looking to check out the city this time of year. Luckily Toronto’s must-see sites are still in full swing from November to March, and visiting them during the off-season comes with some perks, like fewer line-ups, cool photo opportunities (frozen lakes and fluttering snowflakes make for some dreamy snaps) and a guilt-free reason to stay indoors huddled around a pint or cocktail.
So grab your parka, put on your toque and bundle up — and make the visit to the city to check out Toronto top sites. Here’s our list of what you should check off during a weekend winter visit.
Navigate Toronto via its underground
To make your way between sites, you can get pretty well anywhere in the downtown core without ever having to step outside. Toronto’s underground pathway, known officially as the PATH, offers over 30 kilometres worth of shopping, food and drink and connects to some of the city’s main attractions, including the Air Canada Centre, CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame and Rogers Centre.
You’ll find entrances to the underground at various locations between the Queens Quay up to College Street — just keep your eye out for the PATH logo.
Get your comfort food fix at the St. Lawrence Market
Named by National Geographic as the “Best Food Market in the World”, the St. Lawrence Market is a top destination for foodies any time of year, but its selection of rich and warm comfort foods (think: cabbage rolls, perogies and the best breakfast sandwich in the city) make it a popular place to escape from the cold. (Plus, it's a great spot to fuel up before kicking off your winter weekend adventure!)
On top of its delectable array of prepared dishes, you’ll find artisan goods and plenty of fresh produce, meat and dairy for if you want to whip something up back at your apartment. But before heading back, check out the neighbourhood. Known as Toronto’s Old Town, the area dates back to around 1815 and is brimming with lovely Victorian Era architecture and pedestrian-friendly streets.
View Canadian landscapes at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Marvel at quintessentially Canadian outdoor scenes from the comfort of a heated gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where paintings of mountains, lakes and forests by legendary Canadian artists, the Group of Seven, line the walls.
Constructed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, whose notable works include Bilbao’s Guggenheim and the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, this stunning building also houses other artworks and artifacts from around the globe and often receives world-renowned exhibitions.
The VIEWS from the CN Tower
Visiting Toronto’s most iconic landmark is a must year-round, but wintertime is particularly exceptional when the bird’s-eye view over an ice-covered Lake Ontario and the city’s snowy streets prove to be a dazzling sight.
While you’re here, its definitely worth doing lunch or dinner amid the clouds at their 360 Restaurant and perhaps indulge in a glass of Canadian vino from their wide selection.
See incredible displays at the Royal Ontario Museum
It’s impossible to miss the Royal Ontario Museum, a striking glass building (which, appropriately, looks like a giant ice crystal) seated on Toronto’s Bloor Street. Inside Canada’s largest museum, find permanent and temporary exhibitions on a range of themes — from ancient civilizations to natural history to archaeological discoveries.
The museum’s most notable displays include massive dinosaur fossils and a gallery of glittering rare stones. For those interested in learning more about Canadiana, the Royal Ontario Museum also does an excellent job at representing the art, culture and history of our First Nations.
Lace up your skates at Nathan Phillips Square
Located in front of Toronto’s City Hall, the Nathan Phillips Square ice rink is a favourite spot among locals and visitors alike come wintertime. And with a colourful ‘TORONTO’ sign as its backdrop, it also makes for an Instaworthy shot of your visit to the Six.
If you don’t have skates, there’s a shop beside the rink where you can rent a pair for 10 CAD for adults and 5 CAD for the kids.
Winter romance in the streets of the Distillery District
Stroll amid charming 19th-century buildings in the pedestrian-only Distillery District. Each holiday season, it serves as the setting for an outdoor Christmas Market, where you can pick up local crafts, sample mulled wine and nosh on ice cream filled waffles and bacon grilled cheese.
As for the rest of winter, you’ll find a fantastic selection of restaurants ranging from a French bistro to a Mexican cantina, plus independent galleries, clothing and houseware boutiques, and some of Toronto’s best craft beer at the Mill Street Brewhouse. If your visit happens to fall in late January to early March, don’t miss the Festival of Lights when the district is set aglow with illuminating installations.
Eat and drink through Toronto’s neighbourhoods
Whether you choose to explore Parkdale’s west-side grit, Junction’s eclectic charm, swanky Yorkville or easygoing Riverside - you’re sure to find some great gems. One of the classic areas to explore is the Ossington Strip, between Queen Street to Dundas, a hub for nightlife, restaurants and cafés, all conveniently one after another, so you don’t have to spend much time outdoors making your way between them.
Start your day with a coffee (Crafted and Pilot are some of our favourites) before lunch and a pint at the Bellwoods Brewery. You can then do some shopping before enjoying dinner somewhere like the Canadian-French bistro, Union, or for something more casual, a steaming bowl of Pho at the Golden Turtle. Why stop there - end the night with a Japanese style nightcap and sweet miso ice cream dessert at Hanmoto.
Pack the most of Toronto’s top winter sights into your stay and let us show you the ropes with our full-day Best of Toronto tour. We’ll take you between destinations with an expert guide and private driver who knows how to navigate the streets & give you the insider intel of the city.