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Self-Guided Tour Ideas to Follow When in Toronto


Welcome to the vibrant city of Toronto, where the possibilities for exploration are as diverse as the communities that make up this dynamic metropolis. If you find joy in navigating the urban landscape at your own leisure, you’re in for a treat.

We’ll unveil exciting self-guided walking tours in Toronto, offering you the freedom to discover its diverse neighborhoods, iconic landmarks, and hidden gems. So, get ready to embark on a personalized journey through the heart of this bustling urban center.

1. Cultural Hotspot Tours

1. Historical mini tour at York Mills

Media: Heritage Toronto

Location: Yonge St. and William Carson Cres.

Estimated duration of the tour: 1 hour

Neighbourhood: York Mills

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Hoggs Hollow
  • C.W. Jeffreys House
  • St. John Anglican Church
  • Miller Tavern
  • George Pratt House
  • C.W. Jeffreys Memorial

You can explore the charm of Toronto’s past with the Historical Mini Tour at York Mills. This self-guided stroll unveils the city’s history through a collection of heritage buildings and artistic landmarks dating back to the 1830s.

Here, you’ll discover eateries nestled in historic structures and the residence of an artist capturing Canadian scenes. You can take the Line 1 Yonge-University subway to reach York Mills station, then proceed north on the west side of Yonge Street.

Pro tip:
Familiarize yourself with the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) system before your trip. It’s an efficient way to explore the city, and knowing the routes enhances your experience.

2. Strolling through Danforth’s tapestry

Media: The Six By Me

Location: Broadview Ave. and Danforth Ave.

Estimated duration of the tour: 1.5 Hours

Neighbourhood: Danforth

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Danforth Music Hall
  • Greektown of the Danforth
  • Carrot Common
  • Alexander the Great Parkette
  • Holy Name Church
  • Then & Now Mural (2016)
  • Coal Mine Theater
  • Allenby Cinema
  • East Lynn Park
  • Main St. Library

Danforth Avenue, a bustling urban tapestry, awaits exploration on this self-guided walking tour. You’ll traverse the vibrant streets, where diverse neighborhoods and local events converge, shaping the unique character of this renowned thoroughfare.

From the community-centric Carrot Common to the small Greek amphitheatre, and the celebrated Taste of the Danforth Festival, there’s much to uncover. You can begin your journey at Broadview Station, and meander through 150 meters of the iconic Danforth.

Pro tip:
The Danforth comes alive during events like Taste of the Danforth. You can check local calendars for festivals and plan your tour around them for a more vibrant experience.

3. Culture and nature walkabout at Milne Hollow

Media: blogTO

Location: Wynford Dr. and Garamond Ct.

Estimated duration of the tour: 2 hours

Neighbourhood: Milne Hollow, East Don River

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Aga Khan Park
  • Aga Khan Museum
  • Ismaili Centre
  • Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre
  • Flemington Park Community
  • High Water Mark
  • Salmon Jumping Point
  • Rainbow Tunnel Mural
  • Milne House
  • Milneford Mills

Once an industrial hub, Milne Hollow area now boasts a lush green space teeming with wildlife, public art, and cultural centers. Here, you’ll explore the remnants of the 19th-century industrial site as you embark on a self-guided journey.

For easy access, you can hop on either the 100 Flemingdon Park or 25 Don Mills bus. Then, take the 100 Flemingdon Park bus from Broadview station to the Aga Khan Museum on Wynford Drive and stroll five minutes eastward.

Pro tip:
For those who revel in the joy of bird-watching, don’t forget to bring a pair of binoculars. Milne Hollow boasts a vibrant avian population, creating a haven for bird enthusiasts.

2. Urban Walking Tours

1. Discovering University Avenue by foot

Media: Union Station

Location: from Front Street in the south to Bloor Street in the north

Estimated duration of the tour: 1.5 hours

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Union Station
  • Royal Alexandra Theatre
  • Osgoode Hall
  • The Grange
  • George Brown House
  • Women’s College Hospital
  • University College
  • Annesley Hall
  • Royal Conservatory of Music

University Avenue is a notable thoroughfare in Toronto, boasting expansive lanes that traverse from Union Station, through Queen’s Park, to Bloor Street. This self-guided walking tour along University Avenue unfolds a journey through Toronto’s rich history.

It reveals iconic landmarks now recognized as National Historic Sites. The exploration unveils enduring institutions like Union Station, University College, and the Royal Conservatory of Music, each weaving its historic significance into the city’s present.

Pro tip:
You can make a pit stop at the coffee shops on College Street. It’s a chance to recharge and soak in the eclectic vibes of the area.

2. Exploring architectural jewels around downtown Toronto

Media: Jason Nabico

Location: from Bloor Street in the north to Queen Street in the south

Estimated duration of the tour: 1.6 hours

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Eaton’s 7th Floor Auditorium and Round Room
  • University College
  • George Brown House
  • The Grange
  • Osgoode Hall
  • Old City Hall and York County Court House
  • Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres

This walking tour invites you to discover the silent storytellers of the city – its historic buildings. You’ll stroll through Toronto’s iconic neighborhoods, where architectural gems stand as timeless witnesses to the city’s evolution.

These structures, deemed National Historic Sites, showcase the city’s rich history as well as unveil the artistry, materials, and purpose behind each carefully crafted edifice. In every facade, it offers a glimpse into Toronto’s fascinating architectural narrative.

Pro tip:
For a magical twist, you may consider extending your tour into the early evening. Many of these architectural gems are beautifully illuminated, offering a different charm as the day transitions into night.

3. Culturally-significant National Historic Sites

Media: CanadianVisas

Location: around downtown Toronto

Estimated duration of the tour: 1.5 hours

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Eaton’s 7th Floor Auditorium and Round Room
  • St. George’s Hall (Arts and Letters Club)
  • Massey Hall
  • Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres
  • St. Lawrence Hall
  • Royal Alexandra Theatre
  • The Grange
  • The Studio Building
  • Royal Conservatory of Music

This self-guided exploration brings you to Toronto’s culturally-significant National Historic Sites. You’ll immerse yourself in the artistic heartbeat of the city, from the iconic Massey Hall to the Studio Building where the Group of Seven shaped Canadian art.

You’ll also discover the Royal Conservatory of Music, linked to the legendary Glenn Gould, and other sites that have left an indelible mark on Toronto’s cultural legacy. These essential stops on your journey unravel the rich cultural tapestry of Toronto.

Pro tip:
Planning your tour during the late afternoon is also a good idea. You’ll be able to catch the soft glow of the setting sun on these historic sites, adding a touch of magic to your cultural exploration.

4. Traversing Toronto’s Queen Street

Media: Jason Paris

Location: Queen St. E. and River St.

Estimated duration of the tour: 1 hour

Neighbourhood: Riverside, Leslieville

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Don Station
  • Queen Street Viaduct
  • Sunlight Stadium, Toronto’s First Baseball Grounds
  • Echo in Joel Weeks Park
  • Broadview Hotel
  • The Opera House
  • Ralph Thornton Community Centre
  • Poulton Block
  • Jimmie Simpson Park and Recreation Centre
  • Red Sandcastle Theatre
  • Duke of York Inn
  • Maple Leaf Forever House

This walking tour along Queen Street East threads through the historic neighborhoods of Riverside and Leslieville. From humble working-class communities, they have evolved into vibrant districts seamlessly merging tradition with modernity.

Riverside and Leslieville now house repurposed commercial and factory buildings. These two neighborhoods are also renowned for their diverse culinary scene, artisan markets, lively street festivals, and the presence of bustling film studios.

Pro tip:
Leslieville is known for its lively festivals. You can check the local events calendar – if there’s a festival or street fair during your visit, it’s a fantastic chance to join in the festivities.

3. Discovery Tours

1. Uptown Toronto discovery walk

Media: Royal Ontario Museum

Location: northern Toronto area

Estimated duration of the tour: 2 hours or more

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • Philosopher’s Walk
  • University of Toronto
  • St. Michael’s College
  • Ontario Provincial Legislature
  • Provincial Government Offices
  • Toronto Police Headquarters
  • Allan Gardens Conservatory
  • Ryerson Polytechnic University

In Uptown Toronto’s blend of residential, commercial, and institutional structures, this walking tour reveals a diverse tapestry of parks, gardens, and charming streetscapes. These green havens showcase a blend of design styles from pastoral to urban.

You’ll explore iconic sites like Allan Gardens with lush horticultural displays, and Queen’s Park, providing a serene backdrop to Parliament buildings. You’ll also witness the transformation from quiet neighborhoods to parks like the Village of Yorkville Park.

Pro tip: 
Uptown Toronto is dotted with picturesque parks and green spaces where you can unwind and soak in the local atmosphere. You can bring along a blanket, some snacks, and enjoy a relaxing picnic in the midst of nature.

2. Downtown discovery walk

Media: St. James Cathedral Toronto

Location: downtown Toronto

Estimated duration of the tour: 2 hours or more

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Toronto City Hall
  • Osgoode Hall
  • Old Toronto City Hall
  • St. James’ Cathedral
  • St. Lawrence Hall
  • St. Lawrence Market
  • C.B.C. Broadcast Centre
  • Union Station
  • CN Tower
  • SkyDome

This tour guides you through the heart of the city, revealing hidden parks, gardens, and streetscapes nestled amid the skyscrapers. Dating back to the 1960s, these urban oases have evolved through demolitions, land exchanges, and city projects.

You’ll explore Cloud Gardens, Simcoe Park, and Olympic Gardens, each known for its distinctive features. You’ll also delve into a Victorian garden, a sculpture garden, a cloud forest in a greenhouse, and more, all within the bustling core of Canada’s largest city.

Pro tip: 
During your walking tour, keep an eye out for street performers. They add a unique charm to the city streets, and you might catch a memorable performance.

3. Garrison Creek

Media: Jeanne Griffin Tuthill

Location: western part of downtown Toronto to Lake Ontario near Fort York

Estimated duration of the tour: 1 to 2 hours

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Christie Pits Park
  • Trinity Bellwoods Park
  • Fort York

This self-guided tour traces the path of the now-hidden Garrison Creek valley, guiding you from the park down to Lake Ontario. You can begin at Christie Pits Park, adjacent to Christie Subway Station, and uncover hidden history beneath the city streets.

Enroute, you’ll explore green spaces like Trinity Bellwoods and the historic Fort York, a crucial site founded by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1793. The creek, vital in Toronto’s early development, once flowed from St. Clair Avenue to Lake Ontario.

Pro tip:
Fort York is a significant stop on the tour. You may consider spending a bit more time exploring this historical site, where you can delve into the early military history of Toronto.

4. Along the shores of East Toronto

Media: Jonathan

Location: Lake Shore Blvd. E. and Leslie St

Estimated duration of the tour: 1.5 hours

Neighbourhood: Ashbridges Bay, Beaches, Leslieville

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Martin Goodman Trail
  • Leslie St. Allotment Gardens
  • Tommy Thompson Park/ Leslie Street Spit
  • Ashbridges Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • Ashbridges Bay Park
  • Beach Community Edible Garden
  • Woodbine Beach
  • Kew Beach Park Boathouse
  • The Leuty Lifeguard Station

Along the serene shores of East Toronto, nature intertwines with the city’s history. This tour delves into the past as you encounter the remnants of Toronto’s early tourism structures, including charming clubhouses and iconic lifeguard stations.

The picturesque parklands and sandy beaches offer a tranquil escape from urban life. In this walking tour, you’ll explore the essential infrastructure that has shaped the city’s growth for decades, all while basking in the beauty of the man-made parklands.

Pro tip:
If your route includes beaches, check the tide schedule for the day to catch the best views of the shoreline.

4. Public Art Walking Tours

1. The Village of Islington Murals

Media: Iva Grbesic

Location: along Dundas Street West, west of Kipling Avenue

Estimated duration of the tour: 1 to 2 hours

Neighbourhood: The Village of Islington

Notable murals to explore:

  • Aftermath
  • Battersby’s March
  • Briarly – Gone but Not Forgotten
  • Faith of Our Fathers II
  • Fishing in Mimico Creek
  • Golfing in Islington
  • Gordon’s Dairy
  • Honouring Islington’s Volunteer Fire Brigade
  • Islington the Way We Were, Part Ii ~1912
  • Mimico Creek ~1920
  • Ontario Gothic
  • Riding the Radials
  • The Faces of Islington
  • The Old Swimming Hole
  • The Pub with No Beer

In The Village of Islington, each mural tells a unique story, turning the streets into an open-air gallery that captivates visitors with its diverse artistic expressions. As you stroll through this neighborhood, you’ll encounter a tapestry of murals adorning buildings.

These artworks provide a visual feast that reflects the rich cultural heritage and creative spirit of the community. From vibrant street scenes to thought-provoking abstracts, these murals offer an immersive journey into the artistic heart of Toronto.

Pro tip: 
You can utilize interactive online maps or apps designed for mural enthusiasts. They often include background information on the artists and additional insights into the stories behind the murals.

2. The Murals of Weston

Media: Christiano De Araujo

Location: around Weston Road, south of Lawrence Avenue West

Estimated duration of the tour: 1 hour

Neighbourhood: Weston

Notable murals to explore:

  • The Windows of Time
  • Weston Road Flow
  • Weston: Then and Now
  • Weston: Home of the Bicycle
  • Lawrence Underpass Mural
  • Weston GO/Union Pearson Express Station Mural

In the heart of Weston, this self-guided walking tour unveils a captivating array of murals that narrate the rich tapestry of the community’s past, present, and future. From the historical narratives to contemporary expressions, each provides a visual dialogue.

The tour commences at 1971 Weston Road, inviting you to embark on a journey that culminates at the Weston GO/Union Pearson Express (UP Express) Station. This allows you to soak in the distinctive strengths and joys of this proud urban enclave.

Pro tip:
You can swing by the local eateries on your route. They’re not just about food but often showcase the essence of the community.

3. Art installations in Midtown

Media: Kanchan Kumar

Location: around Yonge Street

Estimated duration of the tour: 1 hour

Neighbourhood: Midtown

Notable artworks to explore:

  • Mindshadows
  • What’s Your Name
  • Stargate
  • The Iron Horse
  • Painted utility boxes

You’ll discover the soulful expressions of Midtown through a walking tour of its public art installations. This journey begins near Yonge and Broadway at 17 Broadway Ave and concludes at the intersection of Mount Pleasant Rd and Davisville Ave.

The tour unveils a curated collection of public artworks, each uniquely responding to its surroundings and injecting a touch of whimsy into the urban fabric. As you explore, you’ll immerse yourself in the stories behind these creations.

Pro tip:
Before you embark on this self-guided journey, research the artists behind the installations. Understanding their perspectives can deepen your appreciation for the art and its connection to Midtown.

5. Historical Tours

1. Unveiling Don Valley’s Past

Media: HAUS Real Estate

Location: 67 Pottery Road

Estimated duration of the tour: 1 hour

Neighbourhood: Broadview North

Notable attractions to explore:

  • The Gathering of the Clans Mosaic
  • The Industries of Todmorden
  • Wild Flower Preserve & Marginalized Communities
  • Helliwell House
  • The Cottage
  • Mural DVP Underpass
  • Hurricane Hazel and the Don Valley

This self-guided historical journey brings you through the heart of Toronto’s Don Valley. You’ll trace the footsteps of Indigenous communities who once thrived on its bountiful resources, and explore the struggles of early settlers shaping the city of York.

This walking tour unveils the valley’s transformation, from an obstacle dividing Toronto to an area marked by industrial impact and social challenges. Moreover, you’ll witness the ongoing efforts to restore the environmental balance of this Toronto landscape.

Pro tip:
If you’re venturing into trails, make sure to treat your feet right by donning a pair of ultra-comfortable shoes. The terrain can be a mix of paths and natural trails, so proper footwear is key for a seamless adventure.

2. The Streets Around Spadina

Media: Shirley L

Location: Spadina Museum 285 Spadina Rd.

Estimated duration of the tour: 1 hour

Neighbourhood: Casa Loma

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Front Gate Spadina
  • Spadina Park
  • Top of Baldwin Steps
  • Bottom of Baldwin Steps
  • NE Corner of Spadina and Davenport
  • Lenwil
  • Maclean House
  • Casa Loma Parkette
  • North Gate Spadina

This self-guided walking tour lets you explore the surroundings near Spadina Museum. The tour unveils the historical layers of human habitation atop and below the Davenport escarpment, showing how geography has shaped the present landscape.

Along the way, you’ll encounter the diverse individuals linked to this land. These include the Indigenous communities and early settlers as well as the visionaries behind iconic landmarks like Spadina House and Casa Loma.

Pro tip:
Be prepared for some physical activity, as the tour involves both the descent of the Baldwin Steps and the ascent of Walmer Road and Austin Terrace. Thus, ensure you have comfy walking shoes for this walking tour.

3. Willowdale’s Historical Tapestry

Media: Toronto History Museums

Location: 5172 Yonge St, North York, ON M2N 5P6

Estimated duration of the tour: 1 hour

Neighbourhood: Willowdale West

Notable attractions to explore:

  • Gibson House Museum
  • Gibson Park and the Toronto Purchase
  • Victoria Cross Memorial
  • North York Public Library
  • Gibson House Plaque

A self-guided historical journey through Willowdale unearths the lesser-known tales of heroes, rebels, and storytellers who have shaped this community since the 1830s. You’ll discover the nuances of storytelling and how perceptions of heroes evolve over time.

You can begin your exploration at Gibson House Museum, located north of the North York Centre subway station. As you stroll along Park Home Avenue and traverse a small park, you’ll unravel the narratives that weave through the history of Willowdale.

Pro tip:
You can look for local shops or museum stores for Willowdale-themed mementos. It’s a lovely way to carry a piece of the experience with you.