Over reading week in February my boyfriend came to visit me in Canada, and we spent 8 days in Toronto together. As usual with our travels, we booked an Airbnb, and ended up staying in a lovely apartment in the Parkdale area. Hopefully this post will give you some good ideas for picture-taking spots, places to see and spend time at, and general tips for a successful time in the 6ix!
BOOK AN AIRBNB
I’ve had nothing but success with Airbnb – it’s efficient and convenient, and saves you a lot of money. The company states that it is built on “trust and reputation”, which means that the more positive reviews you have as a guest, the more people are likely to host you – sort of like how if a kid does their chores, they get a reward.
There are several options on Airbnb – you can book a shared room, a private room, or the whole apartment/house. Here are some tips when you’re looking for accomodation:
- Be friendly when sending a message to your host – start with a brief introduction of yourself and show that you’re interested in staying at their place.
- Don’t settle for a place straight away – there may be cheaper/better options if you scrounge a little more.
- Reduce your price range to check out cheaper options – even though the average price for Toronto is $76 for example, you’re likely to get something a lot cheaper than that.
- Take note of the amenities listed.
- Ensure that check-in/out time isn’t strict, and if it is, make sure you’re able to make those times.
- Take note of the location – is it close to where you want to be?
SAVING MONEY: COOKING MEALS
My boyfriend and I are definitely foodies that love to splurge a little on food, but we managed to save a significant amount of money, and a significant amount of ‘getting hungry’ by making breakfast at home most days and cooking dinner a few times. (We booked an entire apartment)
We were fans of the Independent City Market – they’re dotted around the city and depending on what you buy, the groceries won’t be expensive at all. Over the week we used hash browns, avocado, steel-cut oats, different sort of bread, blueberries, and tea for our morning meals.
As I mentioned we booked the entire apartment, but not having a kitchen can’t stop you from getting some bread and spread for example.
NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE
If you’re going to Toronto during the winter months, rent some skates ($10) and skate around the rink at Nathan Phillips Square. But take note – it can get crazy busy during the Christmas holidays. This is also where everyone takes their pictures in front of the Toronto sign, and it happens to be in front of city hall. We managed to be there at an unpopular time and snapped this photo on the ice.
How to get there: Take the TTC Queen street car (501), the Yonge Line subway (get off at Queen station), or the University line (get off at Osgoode Station)
PUENTE DE LUZ (Bridge of Light)
If you want some cool pictures that boast a city vibe then the Puente de Luz with all the skyscrapers in the background is a great backdrop. The bridge was designed by Chilean sculptor Francisco Gazitua and is a significant functional art installation for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Location: 524 Front Street West
Although this was my boyfriend’s first time in Toronto we decided not to go up the CN tower, but to each their own. Personally I think it’s more worth it to get a great view of the tower itself from several points in the city, rather than a view of the city from up high – there are plenty of skyscrapers around where you can take the elevator and look at a similar view you’d get if you paid $36 dollars for a general admission adult ticket. As far as I know there isn’t a completely outdoor area like the Empire State Building has in New York.
MARILYN BELL PARK
We found this gem for sunsets on the first day. We stopped by a little coffee shop (there are tons of these around Toronto, all very unique with their own little quirks) which later became our go-to morning coffee stop, and took a stroll down to “the water”. It isn’t a skyline of Toronto, more so the Greater Toronto Area, but the still water and the beautiful sunset is definitely worth checking out (depending on the weather!).
Location: 851 Lake Shore Boulevard West
Toronto would probably be somewhere at the top of the list for most Vegan-friendly cities in the world. This was my second time eating at Doomie’s and it surely didn’t disappoint. If you’re looking for Vegan “fast food” this is the place – they offer several different sorts of fries, burgers, mac and cheese dishes, and a couple of sweet treats. They do get busy, but while you’re waiting they have an arcade machine with Street Fighter on it.
Location: 1263 Queen St W
This is the place you’re going to get a perfect view/picture of the Toronto Skyline. It’s not far away from the city at all; you can either take a long walk, or just hop on the bus.
Location: Polson Street
SNAKES AND LATTES
My boyfriend and I spent over 5 hours here playing word games (it’s kind of our thing) and Jenga, and chowing down on some vegan treats for dinner (most of they’re menu isn’t vegan, but there are some select options – everything is delicious really). We both got hazelnut hot chocolates and I’d confidently say that that was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my entire life. Snakes and Lattes is a board game cafe with a really vast range of games ranging from Catan to some sort of 3D building game you’ve probably never heard of before. At the low price of $6, you can stay for as long as you want and play as many games as you want, as many times as you want. You could probably spend an entire day here in all honesty.
Location: Two locations – 600 Bloor St W, and 489 College St
NU Bügel offers some delicious wood-fired bagels that range from a simple cream cheese bagel, or more artisan bagels like the ones that we got. The store is located in Kensington Market and has a cozy atmosphere. This was my boyfriend’s first bagel ever, like ever in his life, and we both agreed that he’d probably never have a better bagel as this one set him up for expectation.
Location: 240 Augusta Ave
If you’re into art of any sorts I’d recommend walking through these alleys. In my opinion, street art, especially graffiti, is underrated – when I see graffiti I automatically think about how much talent it requires to create art like this out of a can!
Location: South of Queen St W from Spadina Ave to Portland Street beginning at 1 Rush Lane
THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT
A must-go. This was my second time going to the Distillery District, but my first time taking photos at the heart structure! Apart from this area including the most popular picture spot in Toronto, it is also a historical site that had been transformed into a creative and exciting place where people experience new ideas, foods, and designs.
Location: 55 Mill St
The perfect all-day brunch spot. They combine an artistic atmosphere and the best tasting breakfast food, and support local artists by hanging up their work on the walls for display, and for purchase. If this ends up being a destination on your Toronto to-go list, make sure you get the potato waffles and ask for fresh fruit as your side!
- Almost everything we did that I included on this list was free! It’s not difficult to find free things to do or see even in a big city.
- Toronto isn’t a huge tourist city – there aren’t tons of tourist attractions, so spend a fair amount of time at each one, or find alternatives.
- Apart from big tourist attractions, Toronto is also known for being quite quirky. There are a lot of hidden gems that require your research
- Check out BlogTO
- The multiculturalism is most evident in the food you can find around the city – don’t leave without trying Canadian staples like Poutine or Date Squares, but check out all the other delicacies too.
- Use the TTC as much as possible – it saves you time getting from place to place – one token will last you a full journey on the train and a transfer onto the bus.