Toronto is one of Canada’s most popular cities for visitors and for good reason. It’s stylish and modern with plenty to do and see. From sports to shopping, art to animals, there really is something for everyone. Not to mention, as one of the nation’s most multicultural cities, it has an amazing food scene. Toronto is definitely a contender for one of Canada’s coolest cities, so when Nicki of Eat Live Travel Drink asked me if I wanted to join her in a luxury girls’ getaway in the heart of this city, I jumped on the offer. Despite the frigid March temperatures, we had a great time. So if you and your besties are looking for a cool city escape, plan a girls’ getaway in Toronto.
Toronto is easily accessible whether you are coming from elsewhere in Canada or internationally. There is a prominent train station, Union Station, in the downtown core of the city as well as a bus terminal. There are also two airports that service the city: Billy Bishop on Toronto Island, which is minutes from downtown, and Pearson International Airport in Mississauga. Billy Bishop is a tiny airport that only a couple of airlines service, it also tends to be more expensive to land here. Pearson is one of Canada’s largest international airports, and is about 40 minutes away from downtown (depending on traffic). Driving is also an option, but visitors thinking of driving should be aware that city parking can be quite pricey and the traffic, while not quite on NYC level, is no joke either.
Toronto is easily accessible with plenty of modes of transportation available. In terms of public transportation, there is an underground metro system, city busses, and trams. Taxis are also easy to find and get a hold of, and they are usually pretty clean and safe. Uber is also popular in Toronto or, if you are adventurous and up for some exercise, bikes can be rented throughout the city centre. Assuming the weather is cooperating, much of the city is nice (and safe) to walk as well.
Where to Stay
Visitors to Toronto will want to make sure they stay downtown; close to the restaurants, attractions, and entertainment. Toronto attractions and sites aren’t all packed together, so one of the things to look out for is to make sure that you are near a metro station. If the distance is too far to walk, the metro makes most things easily accessible.
There are plenty of beautiful properties in the downtown core, however after our stay at One King West, it would be my top recommendation for a luxury experience. A historic building, One King West used to be a bank. Remnants of that era still exist through the hotel and parts can be explored by guests, including the massive vault in the basement below. Pairing the old with the new definitely adds to the charm. For photos and more on One King West, check my review here.
Another option to consider, especially if travelling as a larger group, is to check Airbnb. There are some great spaces in trendy neighborhoods to be found.
What to See/ Do
Toronto has something from everyone, and is great to explore. While you definitely can’t do everything in a weekend, here are some suggestions to consider:
The CN Tower
Once the tallest building in the world, the CN Tower is probably Toronto’s biggest attraction. A city icon, this is where you can find the best views and even walk on a glass floor.
Museums and Galleries
Toronto has dozens of museums, the most popular being the ROM which is filled with a variety of galleries ranging from dinosaurs to textiles, ancient Egypt to Chinese art. There is also a Bata Shoe Museum, a Textile Museum, and the Design Exchange to name a few. If you are into art, Toronto houses plenty of art galleries and for sports enthusiasts, be sure to visit Canada’s Hockey Hall of Fame.
Check out the Aquarium or the Zoo
Animal lovers should be sure to head to the Toronto Zoo or Ripley’s Aquarium. Right now the Toronto Zoo is home to two giant panda cubs, but only until 2018! Please note that the zoo is outside the city centre, but still easily accessible by public transportation.
Ripley’s Aquarium however is right downtown, beside the CN Tower. It’s an amazing place to explore and, as an ocean enthusiast, I was pretty happy with the conditions and education provided here.
Street art fans rejoice because Toronto has some incredible street art. While it can be found throughout the city, one of the best places to find it is the so-called graffiti alley which stretches about 1km from Spadina to Portland. Definitely worth a walk through.
Known as one of Toronto’s most vibrant and multi-cultural neighborhoods, Kensington Market is filled with shops, cafes, and plenty of cool sights. So be sure to bring your camera.
Toronto’s castle may not be that epic compared to the European ones, but it’s still a gorgeous building that is definitely worth exploring. It was built in the early 1900s as a dream home for a prominent Toronto business man. Today the beautiful home is open for everyone to explore.
If you love to shop, Toronto does not disappoint. There are plenty of places to browse including the above mentioned Kensington Market. For more upscale shops head to Yorkville. For some original and quirky boutiques check out the distillery district. Of course Toronto also has plenty of malls, flea markets and, if you are willing to do some searching, some great vintage shops as well.
Toronto regularly has different events on, so be sure to check online or ask at your hotel if there’s anything special happening during your visit- could be worth checking out!
As I mentioned earlier, Toronto has a great food scene. From elegant restaurants with multi-course meals, to Instagram worthy cafes, and even the street food; Toronto is perfect for foodies. My top recommendations for a girl’s weekend include:
Dinner at Epic at the Fairmont Royal York
The Fairmont Royal York is one of Toronto’s most prestigious hotels, and the Epic restaurant is perfect for a gourmet meal. We enjoyed a mouth-watering three course dinner that I am still drooling over. I had a colorful beet salad, rainbow trout, and finished with a decadent piece of flourless chocolate cake. Not only was it delicious, but it was also beautifully plated; edible art. Nicki tried the Hungarian goulash, lamb, and crème brulee trio which looked equally tantalizing. Without a doubt, chef Graeme and the team really know that they are doing because our meals were phenomenal.
On top of the amazing food, Epic also has a sommelier, Chris, who won us both over with his wine recommendations. As a Canadian, I was especially pleased to see he highlighted local Ontario wines, all of which were delicious (yes, I tried three- his orders!)
If you are looking for a delicious, gourmet dinner. Epic is the place to go!
Dinner at The Bistro at One King West
On a cold, windy night there was nothing better than to just head downstairs from our suite for a meal at the One King West Bistro. There is a separate seating area away from the bar, but still within the large, open lobby area. It’s a relaxing atmosphere with a great food selection ranging from create your own pizzas to pasta to different cuts of meat. I tried the ribs which were to die for, though a very large serving so if you aren’t too hungry, or wanted to get an appetizer and dessert as well, you could easily share. A must try here, for any cocktail fan, is the pineapple melon splash. So good!
Afternoon Tea at the Ritz Carleton
Afternoon tea is one of my all-time favourite things, especially on a girls’ trip. The Ritz Carleton offers up a beautiful afternoon tea which is not only delicious, but a fun experience as well. Each month they have a different theme, and the theme for our visit was Haute Couture. This meant a red carpet into the tea room, fashion décor, and fashion inspired treats.
The teas offered at the Ritz Carleton are from a local tea shop, Sloane. There are 12 varieties to choose from, ranging from classic earl grey to more adventurous and fruity flavours. On top of the regular 12, the staff pick out two more options to fit the monthly theme. We both decided to try one of the recommended teas of the month: a fruity peach tea that didn’t require any dairy or sugar. It was delicious.
Paired with a glass of prosecco, a flaky quiche, delicious finger sandwiches, and of course scones and dessert, this afternoon treat (which was basically a meal) was fun, elegant, and tasty! Check Nicki’s post for more about our experience.
Lunch at Colette Grand Cafe
This Instagram-worthy café is off the beaten tourist track but the perfect spot for lunch. The elegant dining space makes guests feel more like they are in a Parisian café rather than on a quiet street in Toronto. Sandwiches and salads are the main focus on the lunch menu, and from personal experience I can tell you that the chicken club is delicious. Colette Grand Café is also open in the evenings for dinner, and has weekend brunch as well.
Ok so maybe not a luxury meal, but poutine is a Canadian classic and a must try for anyone coming to visit Canada. While the best poutines are known for coming from the province of Quebec, like any good Canadian city, Toronto has a few good spots too. We consulted this list of Toronto’s best poutine spots and decided to try the traditional poutine from Nom Nom Nom Crepes. It did not disappoint!
Toronto has a pretty cool night scene. For a more elegant evening, why not catch a show at one of the city’s theatres? If you are looking to dance, head to a club. Or for something more laid back, check out a local comedy club. There’s always something happening in Toronto’s entertainment district. Again, as mentioned earlier, also ask what’s going on in town while you are visiting. We happened to be in town for the final weekend of the Toronto Light Festival in the Distillery District and spent one evening out exploring the fun and colouful displays.
Toronto is a great city for all types of tourism, but the luxury hotels, food scene, shopping options, and attractions also make it perfect for a luxury girl’s getaway.
*I was a guest at Epic, the Ritz Carleton, and One King West Hotel. We were also provided with tourism passes by the Toronto Tourism board. However, all opinions are, as always, my own.