At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks


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Imagine a city where every nook, cranny, and neighborhood has its own unique beat. Well, that’s Toronto for you.

In this city, a simple stroll can lead to a thousand discoveries, and choosing where to stay is your first exciting step into ‘The 6ix’ – or the six municipalities that formed Metro Toronto before they were all joined in 1998.

From the trendy lanes of West Queen West to the iconic hustle of Yonge-Dundas Square, Old Toronto is the place to be. It’s where you’ll find those hidden gems that only the locals know about.

I’ve pretty much covered it all with these Toronto neighborhoods. You’ll get a taste of everything, from the sights to the sounds to the food to the fun!

So, stop your search for where to stay in Toronto here and get reading!

Yonges Dundas Square in Toronto

1. Yonge-Dundas Square – Toronto’s Own Time Square

Welcome to the beating heart of Toronto, where the buzz of the city comes alive – Yonge-Dundas Square. If you’re the type who wants to be right in the thick of it all, this is your spot.

Yonge-Dundas is like Toronto’s own little Times Square – a bit smaller, but packed with everything you need for a good time. Shopaholics, your ultimate playground is the Eaton Centre – endless shops, all the big brands… you’ll find almost everything you desire here.

Your days in Yonge-Dundas are like a buffet of Toronto experiences. With easy access to the subway and streetcars, you can zip around the city like a local. Plus, being in Downtown Toronto means you’re surrounded by restaurants galore and cool spots like St. Lawrence Market.

Catch a movie at the nearby cinemas or score tickets for a live show at the Wintergarden Theatres. And don’t even think about leaving without snapping a pic at the famous Toronto Sign in Nathan Phillips Square – it’s like the golden ticket of Toronto selfies.

As for the best hotels, there are plenty. The St. Regis is modern, 65 stories high, with a spa and a fancy restaurant. This is one of the best luxury hotels in Toronto. Or check out the Sheraton Centre for killer views of Toronto City Hall.

And if you’re watching your budget (more money for fun stuff, right?), Chelsea Hotel Toronto is close by and won’t break the bank.

Things to do, see, and taste in Yonge-Dundas Square

  • Shop ’til you drop at Eaton Centre: Dive into a shopping spree at Eaton Centre, a colossal mall with endless shops.
  • ·Foodie paradise at Ryerson: Just north of Dundas Square at Ryerson University, a block filled with food trucks awaits. Grab quick eats like pitas, crepes, or burritos to satisfy your taste buds on the go.
  • Watch a live show: Immerse yourself in live performances at the Ed Mirvish or Wintergarden Theatres on Yonge Street.
  • Taste local produce at St. Lawrence Market: Indulge in fresh goods and culinary delights at St. Lawrence Market – a food lover’s paradise that’s just a hop away.
  • Visit Nathan Phillips Square: Home to the iconic Toronto Sign, this square is a constant hub of events, including the famous New Year’s Eve celebrations.
  • Catch a hockey game: If you’re a sports enthusiast, catch a Toronto Maple Leafs game and explore the hallowed halls of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
  • Enjoy a traditional Toronto burger: Sink your teeth into the delectable bacon cheeseburger, known locally as the “banquet burger”, at Fran’s Restaurant and Bar on College Street.
West Queen West in Toronto

2. West Queen West – Hip & Trendy

In the ever-evolving landscape of Toronto, West Queen West proudly wears the crown as the trendiest neighborhood in town.

Originally, the hipster haven was just ‘Queen West’ until the big brands moved in. The cool crowd then decided to venture further west, giving birth to the now legendary ‘West Queen West’, stretching from Bathurst onward.

West Queen West isn’t just a neighborhood; it’s a vibe. It’s a place where every corner is bursting with unique shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants. Queen West itself is a lazy afternoon’s dream, offering a mix of boutiques, tattoo shops, and inviting patios.

This district is also a magnet for artists and trendsetters, thanks to its art galleries, open studios, and a myriad of chic eateries. Vogue even gave it a nod as one of the world’s coolest neighborhoods!

West Queen West’s lodgings are as stylish as the neighborhood itself. One of the most popular hotels in the area is The Drake Hotel. Smack in the middle of the art district, this trendy spot offers unique rooms, a hip bar, and a perfect home base to explore nearby hotspots.

While hotel prices can vary, keep an eye out for private and Airbnb-style rentals. They offer a chic and accessible alternative, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in the trendy, artsy vibe of West Queen West without breaking the bank.

Things to do, see, and taste in West Queen West

  • Take in the art at the many art galleries: Art geeks, you’ll want to head to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) or the Koffler Centre of the Arts to see some of the best local artwork.
  • Visit the famous Graffiti Alley: Strike a pose in Graffiti Alley. You know, the spot where Rick Mercer did his rants? Yeah, that one. It’s just south of Queen at Agusta.
  • See the cherry blossoms in High Park: Spring is simply magical at High Park. With the cherry blossoms on full display, It’s like walking into a floral wonderland.
  • Drinks at Sweaty Betty’s Dive Bar: Fancy a drink in a cozy spot? Sweaty Betty’s is the place. It’s got this rustic charm that makes sipping your favorite drink even better.
  • Have a picnic at Trinity Bellwoods Park: Need a break from the city buzz? Trinity Bellwoods Park is the spot for picnicking, playing tennis, and just hanging out.
  • Have one of the best facials in the city at Laya Spa: We all need a little pampering now and then, and Laya Spa is THE go-to. Plus, they’re famous for the “Best Facial” in the city.
  • Indulge in Italian cuisine at Terroni: For a slice of Italy in Toronto, Terroni is your spot. It’s been around since the ’90s so you just know their thin-crust pizza is heaven.
Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto

3. Bloor-Yorkville – Lavish & Laid-Back

Yorkville went from hippy to high-end, with Mink Mile’s posh boutiques and swanky dining. Walk these streets, and you might just rub shoulders with the chicest crowd. If your idea of a good time involves expensive boutiques, high-end salons, and fancy food joints, you’re in the right place.

Bloor-Yorkville has this charming vibe with Victorian houses that got a glow-up to become cozy cafes. It’s that perfect blend of old-world charm and modern chic.

Fun fact: Yorkville started as Potter’s Field. Fast forward to the 1960s, and it was THE spot for hippies. Times have changed, but the good vibes? They’re here to stay.

Sure, it’s glam, but there’s substance too. Galleries and museums sprinkle this neighborhood, giving it an artsy flair. And here’s a little insider tip: when the Toronto International Film Festival hits, this place turns into a whirlwind. Booking ahead is a must!

Bloor-Yorkville is fancy, no doubt, with luxury hotels. But there are budget-friendly options too! If you’re up for a taste of the high life, check out the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. Celebs dig it for its on-site restaurant, bar, and spa. Looking for a sweet deal? The Town Inn Suites keeps it budget-friendly.

The best part? Easy subway access at Bloor and Yonge, ensuring you’re well-connected to explore Toronto. The downside is that prices are on the steeper side, but hey, you’re in the lap of luxury. Plus, the subway ensures you’re never far from the city’s pulse.

Things to do, see, and taste in Bloor-Yorkville

  • Visit the Royal Ontario Museum: You can’t stay in Toronto without visiting the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). It’s like a huge attic filled with wonders, from dino bones to Egyptian mummies and so much more.
  • Learn about shoe history: A museum dedicated to shoes? Bit of a weird one but hey, why not! The Bata Shoe Museum takes you through the history of shoes, one step at a time.
  • Indulge in retail therapy: If your idea of heaven involves shopping bags and designer labels, Mink Mile on Bloor Street is where you should head. Also, be sure to check out the upscale boutiques and gourmet goodies at Yorkville Village.
  • Browse the art galleries: Take a stroll down Cumberland and Yorkville Avenue. You’ll find galleries like Loch, Mira Godard, and Canadian Fine Arts.
  • Dine at a rooftop patio: Want a laid-back rooftop experience? Hemingway’s Restaurant and Bar is your spot. It’s a New Zealand-style pub that serves up a smorgasbord of pub food and craft beer.
  • Take in the Church of the Redeemer: If buildings could tell stories, the Church of the Redeemer would have a bestseller. It’s a Gothic Revival building with stunning interior visuals and a fascinating history.
  • Sip and savor at Sassafrazz: Dine and people-watch at Sassafrazz – a Yorkville classic. The patio is your front-row seat to the busy happenings of the area.
  • Chill on the Yorkville Rock: Ever hung out on a giant rock? Besides Earth, of course. Find the iconic granite rock by Bay Station, plonk yourself down, and just chill. It’s the best seat in the house for some casual people-watching.
Toronto Neon Sign in Chinatown

4. Chinatown – A Foodie Paradise With Budget Stays

For a real taste of Toronto’s vibrant soul, set your sights on Chinatown – where the culture buzzes and the budget stays cool. This spot in central Toronto is for those who want to dive into the heart of the city without breaking the bank.

Toronto’s Chinatown is the largest in North America; it’s a melting pot of East Asian delights. Beyond the realm of Chinese cuisine, you’re in for a treat of authentic Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese flavors.

And if you’re a fan of offbeat shopping and eclectic markets, you’ve hit the jackpot. From quirky souvenir shops to lively flea markets, Chinatown and its neighbor, Kensington Market, offer a shopping adventure like no other.

Accommodations here lean toward practicality, but you’ll find a few stylish, boutique hotels embracing the artsy, hipster vibe. For a cozy stay in the heart of Chinatown, check out Hotel Ocho. This boutique gem offers a restaurant and bar for your dining and drinking pleasure and is just a short walk from Kensington Market and the trendy Queen Street.

Why choose Chinatown? Well, if you’re on a budget, love exploring bustling markets, crave an urban atmosphere, and appreciate diversity, this is your spot. Plus, with easy access to the streetcar service, Downtown Toronto and Harbourfront are just a short ride away.

Things to do, see, and taste in Chinatown

  • Explore Kensington Market: If there’s one thing you should definitely do during your stay in Toronto, it’s explore Kensington Market. Artsy shops and tasty eateries are aplenty here!
  • Delight in the best dumplings at Mother’s Dumplings: Hungry? Mother’s Dumplings is calling. Classic, adventurous, you name it. It’s a dumpling party, and you’re invited!
  • Bite into Baja-style tacos: Let’s taco ’bout Seven Lives. Flavors that dance on your tongue, prices that make you grin – taco heaven, basically.
  • Taste Toronto with a food tour: Follow a local foodie guide for a 3-hour feast of Chinatown and Kensington Market’s best flavors with the Kensington Market International Toronto Food Tour.
  • Get your karaoke on at 8090Karaoke: Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a little karaoke? Well, if you do, then hit up 8090Karaoke at Dundas and Spadina where you’ll find private rooms, chart-toppers, snacks, and a full bar!
CN Tower in Toronto

5. Entertainment District – Buzzing In Every Sense

If Toronto had a beating nightlife heart, it’d be the Entertainment District, and let me tell you, staying here is like having the city’s excitement at your doorstep 24/7.

This area is the city’s cultural epicenter, sandwiched between the Financial District and midtown. Think Broadway style, iconic theaters like the Princess of Wales, and the legendary CN Tower standing tall in all its glass-floored glory.

Here, it’s a showdown of nightlife, sports, and top-notch dining. From cheering on the Toronto Blue Jays to exploring the Hockey Hall of Fame, this spot hits all the right notes. And did I mention the CN Tower Edgewalk? Adrenaline junkies, take note!

If there’s a magical time you should stay in the Entertainment District, it’s during the Toronto International Film Festival – which typically takes place in September each year. As one of the most prestigious events, it offers daily screenings and media exhibits in its permanent theater.

Theatre geeks will absolutely love it here. Stroll down King Street, the district’s main drag, lined with elegant theaters like the Princess of Wales, Royal Alexandra Hall, and Tarragon Theatre. Broadway and East End shows often debut here.

When the sun sets, the district comes alive with an array of bars and restaurants catering to every taste. While mainstream dishes are popular, there are plenty of gastronomical experiences to seek your teeth into.

As for where to stay, The Ritz Carlton, with its luxurious charm, or the modern 1 Hotel Toronto are top-notch choices. If you prefer a more intimate boutique experience, check out Le Germain Toronto Mercer tucked away on a charming street in the heart of the Entertainment District.

Things to do, see, and taste in the Entertainment District

  • Visit the famous CN Tower: The CN Tower looms right over the Entertainment District, so you have to visit it. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, then you definitely need to do the EdgeWalk!
  • Dive into the nightlife: When the sun dips, the Entertainment District lights up! Clubs, bars, and the kind of nightlife that dreams are made of. Lavelle and SPIN Toronto are basically your passports to a night you’ll be talking about for ages.
  • Have a date at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada: Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada isn’t just a cool place to learn about diverse sea life, it also makes for a great date destination.
  • Watch a game at Rogers Centre: Rogers Centre, home of the Blue Jays, is your go-to for sports, concerts, and maybe even monster truck madness!
  • Walk along the Canadian Walk of Fame: Ever wondered which famous faces are secretly Canadian? Jim Carrey, Shania Twain, Ryan Reynolds – you’ll find all their stars on King Street.
  • Enjoy a chill night at the Antler Room: The Antler Room, housed under Loose Moose on University Avenue, is a popular laid-back, local spot with an impressive beer and pub fare selection.
  • A classy evening at Roy Thompson Hall: Head to Roy Thompson Hall for some of the most amazing live music in the world. From Toronto Symphony Orchestra to Star Wars symphonies, it’s music at its finest.
Harbourfront in Toronto

6. Harbourfront – Beachy Vibes & Nature’s Wonders

Nestled on the northern shore of Lake Ontario and on the southern edge of Downtown Toronto, urban lakefront bliss beckons you at the Harbourfront.

If you’re the outdoorsy type who enjoys a mix of stunning lake views and vibrant city life, Harbourfront is your sweet spot. Wide-open spaces, lakeside trails for runners and cyclists, and a slew of al fresco dining spots dot the area.

Summertime here is nothing short of a fiesta, with cultural festivals at Harbourfront Centre and free concerts filling the air. Nightlife? Oh, it’s a year-round affair, making Harbourfront the go-to spot for those who love a good time after dark.

You also have the opportunity to explore the Toronto Islands from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, which offers a welcoming escape from the city buzz.

Everything from shopping and dining to live performances is at your fingertips, making Harbourfront the go-to spot for those wanting to experience Toronto within walking distance.

Need a day of relaxation? Sugar Beach is calling your name. Feel like immersing yourself in art? Harbourfront Centre has you covered. And for the explorers, a stroll along the Waterfront Trail is a must.

Now, where to lay your head after all the lakeside excitement? The Westin Harbour Castle offers classic charm and amazing views.

Things to do, see, and taste in the Harbourfront

  • Suntan on Sugar Beach: The sun on your skin, a good book in hand, and the sound of lapping waves – sounds like a perfect day to me!
  • Mill around the Harbourfront Centre: If you’re into artsy adventures, Harbourfront Centre is your playground. Expect everything from glass-blowing shows to funky events that’ll light up your creative side.
  • Ferry off to the Toronto Islands: Need a break from the Toronto hustle and bustle? Hop on the ferry to Toronto Island. Whether you’re biking, kayaking, or just beach bumming, it’s a city escape. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy killer skyline views!
  • Ride along the Waterfront Trail: Rent a bike and cruise the Waterfront Trail. Find hidden beaches, Cherry Street gems, and the Leslie Spit. It’s like a local’s guide to the best-kept secrets.
  • Eat at some of the best restaurants: When hunger strikes, steak lovers should head to Harbour Toronto 60. For some of the best East Asian cuisine, grab a table at Kinka Izakaya for sake and Japanese fried chicken.
  • Get busy at HTO Park: Spot those yellow umbrellas? That’s HTO Park saying, “Come chill.” Perfect for lazy picnics, frisbee fun, or just lounging about.
Pride Flag at a parade

7. Church-Wellesley – Lively, Loud, & Liberating

Welcome to Church-Wellesley, or as the locals call it “The Village” – where the streets burst with color, people, and unbridled fun! Turning from Bloor Street onto Church Street, you’ll step into a vibrant world that’s as central as it gets, sandwiched between the energy of Yonge and Dundas and the sophistication of Bloor-Yorkville.

Known as Toronto’s Gay Village, the area is home to the city’s LGBTQ+ community where every day feels like a festival. Toronto Pride might be the crown jewel, but the fun never stops here.

Cafes, restaurants, LGBTQ+ shops, entertainment, and nightlife – The Village has it all. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre sets the stage for queer theater year-round, while Crews & Tangos nightclub turns every night into a dazzling drag show.

Pegasus on Church offers drinks in a queer-friendly setting, and the Hair of the Dog Pub is your go-to for craft beer and pub fare.

From Charles Street to Gould Street, Yonge Street to Jarvis Street, every corner welcomes you with endless fun and exploration.

For your stay, consider checking out Gladstone House, an artsy and inclusive spot with a lively atmosphere.

Things to do, see, and taste in The Village

  • Participate in the Pride Parade: June is the month to be here! Join the spectacular Pride Parade and witness the whole village come alive with color, joy, and unity.
  • Go bar hopping: Start your adventure with a drag show at Crews & Tangos, relax on the patio at The Churchmouse, or hit up Woody’s, Toronto’s iconic gay bar.
  • Have a blast at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre: Experience the magic of one of Toronto’s oldest queer theaters. On Saturdays, it transforms into a buzzing nightclub with themed parties that’ll keep you grooving all night.
  • Get spooked at the Keg Mansion: Drive your fork into a delicious steak at the Keg Steakhouse, housed in a stunning mansion from 1867 – rumored to be haunted. Pro tip: Ask to see the “Ghost Book” when you head to the upstairs bar.
  • Watch a show at Mirvish Theatre: The Ed Mirvish Theatre, named after Toronto’s beloved entrepreneur, is the perfect spot for an affordable yet fabulous theater experience.
  • Escape the buzz at Riverdale Farm: Need a break from the buzz of downtown Toronto? Head a few blocks east to Riverdale Farm, a peaceful working farm nestled in the heart of Toronto.
University of Toronto Aerial View

8. Midtown – A Cozy & Slower-Paced Nook

Lastly, there’s Midtown – with Toronto’s charming mix of old-school cool and a modern atmosphere. High-end shopping, foodie havens, and some really impressive museums are all here up north of the city center. 

Tucked away from the downtown frenzy, Midtown is a cozy nook where the locals kick back and where you’ll get a taste of everyday Toronto life.

Sure, you’re a bit away from the main tourist attractions, but Midtown has its own gems. Parks, greenspaces, and the University of Toronto’s campus create a setting that’s more local and less tourist.

You won’t want to miss Moore Park Ravine, Don Valley Brick Works Park, and the artsy Gardiner Museum. And, of course, there’s the impressive Casa Loma – because who wouldn’t want to explore a castle in the middle of the city?

Midtown likes to do things differently when it comes to nightlife and entertainment. Trendy bars and cool cocktail joints are what you’ll find, not the usual club scene. But it’s perfect for those who want to keep the party going but with a dash of style.

Accommodation options are also plentiful in Midtown. I highly recommend the elegant Park Hyatt Hotel for a stay that combines comfort with Toronto’s unique allure.

Things to do, see, and taste in Midtown

  • Explore Casa Loma: Did you know that North America only has one castle? It’s this very castle! See this spectacular Gothic Revival mansion in all its glory and you explore the century’s old grounds.
  • Have a drink at a traditional Ontario tavern: Feel the charm of old Toronto at The Rebel House, a laid-back tavern in Midtown where you’ll enjoy good drinks and good times.
  • Sip exotic cocktails at Proof Bar and Patio: If you enjoy the taste of vodka (and don’t mind feeling hungover the next day), then you’ll certainly enjoy a night at Proof Bar and Patio. Here, you can taste over 50 varieties of vodka – but not all in one go!
  • Experience movie magic at the Regent Theatre: Catch a film at the Regent Theatre, where the cozy atmosphere meets a rich history dating back to 1927.
  • Learn intriguing facts at the Ontario Science Centre: Located in the northern area of Midtown, the Ontario Science Centre is definitely worth a visit if you have a curious mind.
  • Hang out at Eglinton Park: You don’t always need to be busy! Many of Midtown Toronto’s parks, including Eglinton Park, invite you for a lazy day.
Toronto Skyline at Night

FAQs

Where to stay in Toronto for the first time?

For first-timers, Downtown Toronto is the go-to spot. Its central location puts you right in the heart of the city. You’ll be within walking distance of major attractions, restaurants, bars, and shops, making your Toronto experience super convenient.

The entertainment district also offers a great place to stay in Toronto for new tourists. The hotels are near numerous attractions, and there’s plenty of eating and nightlife here.

Where to stay in Toronto on a budget?

If you’re on a budget in Toronto, Chinatown is a great choice. It’s a lively neighborhood, full of colors, aromas, and sounds that’ll make your stay delightful. Plus, there are some cool and wallet-friendly hotels to choose from.

When is the best time to stay in Toronto?

Plan your Toronto stay from late April to May or September to October. Summer is lively but pricier, and winter is budget-friendly but chilly. For a sweet spot with fair prices and comfy weather, aim for spring or fall.

How long should you stay in Toronto?

To see and experience Toronto, it’s worth spending at least a week on vacation. But a long weekend can be enough to see all the highlights, including a day trip to Niagara Falls.

Toronto Sign at Night in the City Center

Final Thoughts

Whew – talk about a tour of Toronto’s neighborhoods! But now you’re in the know of all the best places to stay in Toronto. From the hip and happening West Queen West to the vibrant Village, there’s a cozy part of town waiting for you to dump your bags.

Next on the agenda: Finding the best hotel in Toronto. My next guide takes you through all the top accommodations in this Canadian city!

Where to Stay in Toronto - 8 of the Best Toronto Neighborhoods
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