Toronto is home to some of the best drinking, dining, shopping, and sightseeing in the country, but it can be a bit overwhelming to decide on what things to do in Toronto when you’ve only got a day. Here are some suggestions for how to spend a perfectly Canadian day out in downtown Toronto.
Fresh Start Coffee Company
People are serious about their coffee in Toronto. Head to Fresh Start, a cozy, little independent cafe on Bay Street just north of Dundas Street, for your morning cup of joe. In addition to excellent coffees, complete with some pretty impressive latte art, they feature local artists’ work on the walls. Fresh Start’s commitment to community goes even further too. Instead of throwing out old coffee grounds they donate them to local gardeners. That’s true Canadian spirit for you.
Just a short walk south of Fresh Start you’ll find Toronto’s busiest hub and most iconic intersection at Yonge-Dundas Square. This is Toronto’s beating heart. Something is always going on here no matter what day of the week or time of year. The square has a stage to present free concerts as well as a wide-open area for pop-up markets and impromptu gatherings. You’ll also find street performers, artists, and, typically stationed at the northwestern corner of the intersection, beloved Toronto icons. It’s an entertaining hub of downtown Toronto’s most distinctive people and goings-on.
One of Toronto’s favourite Canadian comfort food spots is just a few blocks away on Queen Street opposite the Old City Hall. Enter the cozy quarters of Bannock and head left to the intimate dining area to grab a table and enjoy a true Canadian lunch. If you’re tight on time, Bannock also has a grab-and-go cafe, but it’s worth treating yourself to a sit-down lunch if you can. They’ve got all the Canadian favourites, from poutine to brisket burgers made with High River Alberta beef, and some excellent Nova Scotian salmon. But it’s the Ontario harvest venison and pork shoulder Tourtière that steals the flavour spotlight here. The atmosphere is warm and rustic with antique pine and hemlock reclaimed from one of the Queen’s wharfs under the surface of Lake Ontario.
Hudson’s Bay Company
First established as a fur-trading business in 1670 to meet the English demand for beaver-fur hats, the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded almost 200 years before Canada became a country. It’s flagship department store in downtown Toronto pays homage to Canada then and now with several unique collections. The iconic colourful striped wool blanket, first commissioned in 1800, makes a perfect gift or souvenir. The colours of the historic HBC collections have come to be synonymous with Canada itself.
There’s no better way to finish the day than with dinner at The Chase, a renowned fine-dining and swanky dinner spot right in the heart of the city, and the perfect place to see and be seen amongst Toronto’s jet-set crowd. You’ll find the hidden entrance down a laneway off Temperance Street, and once inside you take the elevator to the fifth floor. The views from above are stunning and the contemporary North American cuisine is fresh and inventive. Order the avocado and the pearl seafood platter to start. They’re the most delicious and visually impressive plates on the menu. Of all the drinks on offer, you must give the bourbon cocktail a try. It’s quintessentially Canadian, made with maple and cedar, and comes garnished with a tiny cedar branch. Then, no matter if you have room or not, order the banana dessert. It may seem like an unusual choice, but a divine juxtaposition of crispy, sweet, rich, and fruity flavours make it a clear winner, perfect for sharing.
When planning your day out, there are endless things to do in Toronto, but the best way to soak up the authentic atmosphere and unique Canadian experience is to visit some of the local favourite spots on this list. After all, this is Canada, eh!