Canada’s Second City is busy, bustling, full of excellent food and entertainment, and has one of the most iconic skylines. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Toronto

Toronto is a beautiful, vibrant city that holds far too much to do in one weekend. It is famously proud of being Canada’s second city because, despite that, it is an international center of business, arts and culture. We’ve put together our thoughts on what to do in 48 hours in Toronto.

The city was founded by the British in 1793 as the Town of York. They had taken the land from the Mississauga people, who have lived in the area for 12,000 years, in the disputed Toronto Purchase. The site is strategically placed on one of the great trade routes of North America. After a series of wars and rebellions, Toronto’s financial and mining industries drove the city to grow quickly.

Friday night — Try Tourtière and Stroll Along Queens Quay West

The Toronto skyline lit up at night as seen from Queens Quay West. There are a number of pleasure boats docked in the foreground
One of the best places to view the Toronto skyline at night is from Queens Quay West

Once you’re checked in and settled, you’ll be hungry. Tourtière is a traditional, filling and delicious local pie that you need to try. The pie was originally a Christmas dish but it has become so popular that it is now possible to find it all year round. It should be made with minced meat and potatoes, although some places will use cubes and you should be able to find a vegetarian version. 

Often tourtière will be large enough to feed a family and found in bakeries, such as Ma Maison and the Cliffside Hearth Bread Company, or butchers, such as Sanagan’s Meat Locker and Cumbrae’s. However, House on Parliament in Cabbagetown does an excellent tourtière that’s enough for one person, and Biff’s Bistro is excellent. If you’re not visiting in the winter, check the menu before you go.

Queens Quay West on the harbourfront is one of the most beautiful locations for an evening stroll through the city. It has been redeveloped to become one of the city’s destinations and is lively, and full of cafés and shops. It’s also easy to join the Martin Goodman trail from here, which runs along the edge of Lake Ontario, and you won’t have any difficulties spotting the CN Tower lit up brightly.

Saturday Morning — The Best Bacon Sandwich Followed by a Niagara Falls Cruise

A tourist boat cruises towards the Horseshoe at Niagara Falls. The thundering water is spraying mist everywhere
A cruise to the base of Niagara Falls is a must-do when in Toronto
Water tumbles of the top of Niagara Falls in the autumn. The picture is an aerial shot and the falls are surrounded by fall foliage

Discover the beauty of niagara falls

A peameal bacon sandwich will more than fill a gap for breakfast. This is Toronto’s most famous sandwich and it’s best eaten in the morning. Peameal is a lean, unsmoked bacon that is linked to Toronto. The story goes that William Davies was sending pork to family in England and packed it in ground peas to preserve it. It worked well and Davies became one of the largest pork exporters in the world. 

The sandwich dates to the 60s and the Carousel Bakery in St Lawrence Market. Everyone chose the center cut of the bacon, and the ends were left. So as not to waste these, they were fried and put in sandwiches. A phenomenon was born. The sandwich should be simple, with just the meat, some mustard, and maybe an egg. The Carousel is the home of the peameal bacon sandwich, but you will be able to find it across the city.

Niagara Falls is one of the most iconic day trips that you can enjoy from Toronto. This group of three waterfalls are near the city and a must-see. Getting up close to the Horseshoe and in the mist of the falls is easy with a boat cruise and experienced guides will provide all the information you want to know. The falls are 160 feet high and the most powerful in all of North America.

As well as a cruise, it is possible to see the Journey Behind the Falls or Niagara Power Plant, which are visited when the cruise is not operating. The Journey Behind the Falls takes you through the tunnels, where you can feel the vibration of the thundering water, to the Lower Observation Deck. The 13 generators of Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant opened in 1961. It stores water in the Lewiston Reservoir, which is emptied over the turbines during the day when power is required.

Saturday Afternoon — A Michelin Guide Lunch and an Excellent Choice of Museums

A Street sign in Toronto saying Kensington Avenue, with the same in Chinese
Chinatown can be found near Kensington market, and has some of the best food in the city

Toronto is a large, multicultural city and has great food from all over the world. The city has several Chinatowns, but the one in downtown is one of the largest in the world. It’s one of the most dynamic areas of the city and is full of the most incredible cuisine from all over Asia. The district’s not just for foodies, it’s a must-visit when in the city.

Mother’s Dumplings on Spadina is small, authentic, and listed in the Michelin Guide. The restaurant opened in 2005 and quickly gained a reputation as serving some of the best food in the city. It didn’t take long before they needed to find larger premises. As well as being delicious, Mother’s Dumplings isn’t going to break the bank.

Whatever you’re interested in, Toronto has a museum for you. Whether it’s the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Museum of Contemporary Art or the Bata Shoe Museum, there’s something for everyone. The Hockey Hall of Fame is the home of the Stanley Cup and can be found in Downtown Toronto. Every year, new players are honored and the excellent interactive exhibitions explore and celebrate the history of ice hockey.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA, can be found in the Junction area and is an excellent showcase of the cutting edge of the art world. There is always a range of exhibitions held in the huge spaces of the important Auto BLDG. As well as curating, the museum runs workshops and programs for children to learn about contemporary art.

Until the end of World War II, Bata was a Czech shoe manufacturer, but as Czechoslovakia fell under communism, their factories were seized and the family fled. In the 60s, they built a new headquarters in Toronto and built a global business. Sonja Bata, the wife of the owner, was a businesswoman, philanthropist, and a collector of shoes. In 1995, the museum was founded from her personal collection and now includes at least 13,000 pairs. Some of these date back more than 4,500 years, while others are valued at 160,000 Canadian dollars ($117,000).

Saturday Night — Dine in the Entertainment District

The Rogers Stadium in Toronto is lit up at night. The end of the sunset is still in the sky
The Rogers Stadium, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, is at the heart of the Entertainment District, which has been redeveloped from an industrial center
A tram runs through the center of Toronto

Explore the vibrant city of toronto

Toronto’s Entertainment District is located in what used to be known as the Garment District. This area used to be full of industry and holds the Royal Alexandra Theatre. A local businessman bought the theatre in the 60s and began to open restaurants nearby to attract more business. One of these, now shuttered, was Ed’s Warehouse, which became one of Toronto’s leading eateries.

In the 70s, the area began to decline as manufacturing left the area and the CN Tower was built, which brought more tourists to the area. Nightclubs began to fill the factories and warehouses and soon the Roy Thomson Hall became the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, followed by the SkyDome sports arena, now called the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. The transformation was completed in the 90s when the area had one of the highest concentrations of nightclubs and theaters on the planet.

King Street West in the district is the place to go for food. The area is now glitzy and glamorous in its industrial setting and full of fine dining and food stalls. You’ll find Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen, another Michelin Guide restaurant in Toronto. This warm, humble and traditional place serves the best dishes in the city. Gusto 501 is incredibly stylish with fantastic Italian food and is far from cheap. It’s also one of the best places to have a few cocktails before a show.

Sunday Morning — Pancakes before Climbing the CN Tower

People sit on park benches on the edge of Lake Ontario. The distinctive shape of the CN Tower can be seen through the trees
The iconic CN Tower holds a rotating restaurant, panoramic viewpoints and a terrifying EdgeWalk

You’ll need a filling breakfast before a day of sightseeing. Pancakes might not be the most traditional local dish but you’re going to find some excellent flapjacks. If you don’t have much time, Wimpy’s Diner, a chain spread throughout Toronto, will have a big and tasty plate in front in no time. Dirty Food in the Junction has an odd name but one of the best reputations. It’s more upmarket than Wimpy’s and their pancakes are a standout in the city. Le Petit Dejeuner is close to St Lawrence Market and brings a Belgian take to Canadian cuisine. Expect to wait a bit longer before eating here, but it’ll be worth it.

The CN Tower has become an icon of Toronto. This needle skyscraper with a bulbous viewing platform and restaurants at 1,150 feet was built by the Canadian National Railway Company in 1976 as a TV and radio tower. Until 2007, when the Burj Khalifa was constructed, it was the world’s tallest free-standing structure. The excellent 360 The Restaurant slowly rotates so that you can see the whole city while you are dining on regional Canadian cuisine. There is also a bistro on the viewing deck and a cafe at ground level. You can also do the EdgeWalk. This is a hands-free walk around the circumference of the Tower and it looks terrifying.

Sunday Afternoon — Try the Poutine and Wile Away the Afternoon in the Distillery Historic District

People walk past the old Gooderham and Worts Distillery, which has now been converted into the Distillery District
The Distillery District is home to a large number of independent cafés, restaurants and boutiques
Exterior view of the historic Alamo in San Antonio shortly after sunrise

Learn the stories of The second city

You can’t leave Toronto without trying some poutine. While the dish of fries, cheese curds and gravy has more of an association with Quebec, it has spread across Canada and you’ll find some of the best in the Second City. Utopia in Little Italy will help you to build your own. There’s a huge range of toppings to choose from in this delightful little place. Oddseoul on Ossington is a fusion of Canadian and Korean, so you’re guaranteed to find something interestingly delicious here. Instead of fries, you’ll be served squash, and the gravy has been replaced by a curry.

The Distillery Historic District is the perfect place in Toronto to wile away a Sunday afternoon. This fully pedestrianized area is full of shops, and cafés, and, on Sundays, there is a market between May and September. No chains or franchises are allowed to open a shop or restaurant in the district, so you are guaranteed that everything, from the jewelry stores, art galleries and breweries are boutique. The area used to be the home of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. This produced huge quantities of whisky for export. The distillery suffered the same fate as the factories in the Entertainment District in the late 20th century. 

The CN Tower stands alone against a blue sky

Make the most of your 48 hours in toronto

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