Last Updated on December 21, 2023 by Pamela MacNaughtan
A trip to Toronto, no matter the length, has endless possibilities; it’s a foodie haven, overflowing with an eclectic mix of vintage and high-end boutiques — and everything in between.
Thirty-six hours is never enough time in a destination, but if you find yourself booking a short trip to Toronto and want to experience what the city has to offer, here are some suggestions on how to spend 36-hours in Toronto.
getting into toronto
Getting into Toronto easier than ever with the addition of the UP Express, a train that runs from Toronto Pearson International Airport to Union Station in downtown. The train runs from 5:30 am to 1:00 am and costs $12 one-way, or $24 for a return ticket — more cost effective than taking a taxi, and a lot faster than taking a bus and the subway.
Drop your bags at the hotel and kick off your time in the city exploring Toronto’s Kensington Market, a neighbourhood with a deep, and eclectic, history — this was once the neighbourhood where new immigrants were settled when they arrived in the city: Portuguese, Irish, Chinese, to name a few. Now the neighbourhood is a mixture of vintage shops, funky cafés, bakeries, spice sellers, restaurants, and more.
Wander down Baldwin Street, grab a coffee at Jimmy’s Coffee (LGBTQIA2S+ safe space), then continue onto Augusta Ave. and wander a bit. To the right, you’ll find the House of Spice and little shops. Have lunch at Banh Mi Bar or head north and stop into Nu Bügel for a Montréal-style lox and cream cheese bagel. If you have a sweet tooth, stop by Jelly Modern Doughnuts on College St (about a block and a half west of Augusta Ave) and order a Maple Bacon doughnut — and be prepared for a #Yumgasm moment.
Taking the streetcar north on Spadina Road, hop off at Bloor Street West. Walking east you’ll soon find yourself in Yorkville — one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Toronto. Walk off your lunch and afternoon snacks by visiting the Royal Ontario Museum or doing a little shopping.
After an afternoon of wandering and shopping, it’s time to enjoy a delicious meal. Recently renovated, Café Boulud is a French brasserie — with a vintage vibe — located at the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville. Start your meal with Salad de Betterave (beet and quinoa, foie gras, frisée, goat cheese), and enjoy a delicious steak or roasted chicken as your entrée. Easily one of the best meals you’ll have in Toronto.
Leaving Yorkville behind, head back towards downtown for an evening of cocktails at Shangri-La’s lobby lounge (one of the best places to be on a Thurs, Fri, or Sat) or spend the evening bar-hopping in Toronto’s entertainment district along King Street West, between University Ave and Spadina Rd.
While many opt for staying in big brand hotels, staying in a small boutique hotel can offer a more immersive experience. Located in Toronto’s entertainment district, The SoHo Hotel is sleek and elegant, and a hidden gem.
Rooms have a serene feel, with teak wood, stone floors, floor to ceiling windows, and comfortable beds with crisp white linens. A Zen-like atmosphere, which is ideal after a full day of exploring the city!
Hopping onto a streetcar along King Street West and heading east, get off at Jarvis, walk a block to George Street, then up two blocks to the unassuming George Street Diner (women-owned + LGBTQIA2S+ safe space). Slide into a banquet or sit on a vintage stool along the counter; wherever you’re seated you are guaranteed to receive excellent service. A local favourite, servings are large, flavourful, and filling. I highly suggest ordering an Irish breakfast — complete with soda bread. Absolutely delicious.
After breakfast walk down George Street to Front Street and head over to St Lawrence Market. Established in 1803, it was then known as the Market Block. Today the market consists of three buildings: North Market, South Market, and St Lawrence Hall. On Sunday’s you’ll find a farmer’s market in the North Market, The South Market offers fresh veg, fruit, meat, fish and other culinary delights on two floors (main and lower), and St Lawrence Hall has a variety of retail spaces.
Spend the afternoon in Toronto’s famed Distillery District. Once known as the Gooderham & Worts Distillery, this trendy district features 47 buildings which have been restored and are now home to boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and bars, and theatre productions.
Enjoy lunch at El Catrin (LGBTQIA2S+ safe space), a Mexican restaurant where the decor is bold, colourful, and mesmerizing, and they make guacamole at your table — and If you’re a fan of tequila, they have an entire wall of tequilas to try!
After lunch pop into SOMA for some artisanal chocolate and possibly a shot glass filled with warm thick dark chocolate; because everyone needs to shoot chocolate at least once in their lifetime. Get lost wandering around the crowded aisles at Blackbird Vintage Finds (women-owned) or buy yourself a pair of John Fluevog shoes.
Are you ready to explore Toronto? The city is filled with things to see and do, some theatre, opera, and ballet to comedy clubs to rock climbing to museums to aquariums, and more! Whatever your travel style, you are sure to have a fabulous time in Toronto.