A French-inspired itinerary for how to spend a day in Toronto. Top things to do in Toronto that are inspired by Paris include top parks, museums, restaurants and more.
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How to Create a Paris-Themed Day in Toronto

If you are asking yourself how to spend a day in Toronto you’ve come to the right place. I’m sharing the perfect Toronto itinerary that is French-inspired. If you are missing the City of Light, why not inject a little Paris into your day. Here are the top things to do in Toronto for one day making you feel like you’ve taken a trip to Paris.  

How to Spend a Day in Toronto

START AT A BAKERY

In Paris, you always kick off your day with a visit to a boulangerie (a bakery or bread shop) or patisseries (a pastry shop). There is one on every corner. So how do you know which one to go to? For starters, there’s always a lineup. When Parisians find ‘the one’, they won’t settle for anything less. Let your nose be your guide. The best ones will always stop you in your tracks because of the delicious warm bread smell waffling through the air. 

pastries in cafe in toronto

One of the most popular things to do in Toronto in the morning is starting your day with a visit to a coffee shop. Here are Toronto’s best French-inspired bakeries:

STROLL IN A PARK

Paris is a city full of beautiful parks. I just love how the city offers so many pretty public places to sit and relax as you walk from one landmark to the next.  

In Toronto, visit the city’s largest public green space – High Park. Although it’s known for its cherry blossoms in the springtime, High Park offers much more. Endless walking trails, beautiful lakefront views, a dog park, a greenhouse, and even a mini-zoo! A popular part of High Park to visit is Hillside Gardens. It starts near Grenadier Café in the middle of the park and ends by Toronto’s lakefront. High Park is a nature lover’s escape while in the city.

Other pretty parks in Toronto to visit are:

  • Trinity Bellwoods
  • Kew Gardens,
  • Trillium,
  • Centre Island
  • Sunnybrook
  • Toronto Music Garden

RELATED READING | Check out the article about Jardin du Luxembourg – One of Paris Most Beautiful Park

VISIT A MUSEUM

Paris is a city of museums. From the world-class artifacts of the Louvre to the priceless artworks of the Musée d’Orsay. 

Toronto is also a city of museums. One of the most popular museums in Toronto is the Art Gallery of Ontario or AGO. The AGO was founded in 1900 by a group of private citizens and is considered one of the largest art museums in North America. It showcases a vast selection of art from all over the world. The stunning architecture, designed by Frank Gehry, is to be admired just as much as the art. Does anyone else see the similarities to the Louvre with its use of light, glass and repetition of lines? 

Other top museums in Toronto are:

SAVOUR A MEAL

I adore the Parisian dining culture. Where food-loving locals make the mid-day meal last about 2 hours. The meal is savoured and usually enjoyed with a glass of wine. Then there is the late night dinner, under the glow of city lights and candlelight. Tables are tiny to create that cozy intimate dining experience. J’adore!

Chose Lavelle for its uber-chic rooftop experience. It’s Toronto’s hotspot for dining, lounging,, and well, being seen. So, it might not be oozing with classic Parisian charm, but it does channel a great memory of dining on the rooftop of the Galeries Layfette. So, swap out the iconic view of the Eiffel Tower with the CN Tower, and viola it’s a perfect choice!

Rivaling for attention, you can’t miss the other main attraction and that is the 155-foot pool; one of the longest rooftop pools in North America. Lavelle has its own vibe – perfect for those chill summer days. 

Here are some of the best French-inspired restaurants in Toronto:

TOUR THE ISLANDS

Wandering around Île Saint-Louis or Île de la Cité in Paris feels like you are taking a holiday from the rush of the city. Both are two natural islands sitting in the middle of the Seine with the left and right banks on either side. From either island, they offer lovely views of the Seine and the Parisian buildings.

Wandering around Île Saint-Louis or Île de la Cité feels like you are taking a holiday from the rush of Paris. Both are two natural islands sitting in the middle of the Seine with the left and right banks on either side.
Île Saint-Louis or Île de la Cité in Paris
Toronto Islands is an escape from the downtown core. A short ferry ride away and you will have access to parks, beaches and amusement park.
Toronto Islands in Toronto

Toronto Island offers the same magical experience. A short ferry ride and the bustling downtown core feels like a million miles away. The Toronto Islands are filled with parks, beaches, amusement parks, and not to mention the best skyline views.

RELATED READING | Check out the article about Île Saint-Louis in Paris

EXPERIENCE IMMERSIVE ART

Beyond Van Gogh Immersive exhibit. It's a multimedia production, one that takes familiar images of Van Gogh's paintings and blows them up into light projections and timed to music.

The latest trend making its way across North America is Immersive Art exhibits. What began in France in 2008, ‘Beyond Van Gogh’ and now ‘Beyond Monet’ is essentially creating theater experiences out of art. It’s undeniably Instagrammable. Love it or hate it, in the end, it’s introducing art to a whole new audience. I personally love it, equally as much as seeing it in a gallery. It’s just two different experiences.

Beyond Van Gogh Immersive exhibit. It's a multimedia production, one that takes familiar images of Van Gogh's paintings and blows them up into light projections and timed to music.

HANG OUT AT A URBAN BEACH

One of the advantages of visiting Paris in August is seeing the pop-up beach or Paris Plages. A long stretch of the right bank of the Seine is transformed into a beach boardwalk, complete with sandy areas, mist showers, chaise lounges, and beach bars. 

Visit Paris in August and enjoy le plages - a pop up beach along the Siene.
Paris Plages, a popup beach along the Siene
Visit Toronto's urban beach which is directly across Redpath Sugar Refinery.
Sugar Beach in Toronto

Something just as whimsical is Toronto’s Sugar Beach. What was once a concrete parking lot has been turned into an unexpected beach at the water’s edge. The cute pink sun umbrellas contrast the industrial view of the Redpath Sugar Refinery. But somehow it works. 

Torontonians don’t go to Sugar Beach for the view or the swimming. Here are some of the best beaches in Toronto:

  • Centre Island,
  • Cherry Beach
  • Kew-Balmy
  • Woodbine Beach

STEP BACK IN TIME

Every time I’m in Paris I always visit Le Marais – the city’s historical district. The charm of Le Marais lies in its cobblestone streets and historic architecture. It feels like a village and unlike the rest of Paris. It’s also full of trendy boutiques, tiny galleries, and cute cafés.  

Maybe that’s why I love Toronto’s Distillery District. It’s a pedestrian-only village set amidst amazing heritage architecture. The entire district is devoted to arts, culture, and entertainment. I love the fact that it is filled with unique galleries and specialty shops. Not a single franchise in sight, well except Balzac Coffee Roasters. They get a pass because there is no denying that their two-storey Parisian-style café is amazing. 

LOCK YOUR ETERNAL LOVE

The love lock tradition – the idea of a couple inscribing their initials on a lock in hopes of eternal love – was made famous in Paris on the Ponts des Arts bridge. However, the origins of this commitment of love began in small town of Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia. The story revolves around a young couple, Nada and Relja, who were deeply in love. When Relja was sent off to war (WW1) and returned with a new bride, Nada was left heartbroken (and never married). The women of Vrnjačka Banja never wanted to experience that type of heartbreak so they wrote the initials of their loves on a lock attached it to a bridge and threw the key in the river. 

The love lock phenomenon has spread to every major city around the world. Of all my travels, my favourite can be found right here at home in the Distillery District. With the red brick as the backdrop, the lovelorn can lock their love on the 9 metre-long ‘love’ installation. It blends in with the Distillery District’s industrial-chic vibe. 

As a holidaymaker…

Well, there you have it! If you can’t travel to Paris, why not bring a little Paris to you – in Toronto! Let me know if there are other top things to do that remind you of being in Paris. 

Until next time…a bientôt!

heart covered in locks in Toronto Distillery District
heart covered in locks in Toronto Distillery District

59 Comments

  • Kelly

    While not the biggest fan of cities, I now want to visit Toronto. I haven’t been to Toronto Island or the Distillery District forever but now I want to go back and look at them through the eyes of a Parisian.

  • Agnes

    I love your idea of visiting Toronto in french style. An original and exciting idea for sightseeing. I will probably start my trip from the bakery, stroll in High Park, and visit the Art Gallery of Ontario or AGO. I add this itinerary to my list when visiting Toronto.

  • Rob + Ann @TravelLatte

    Merveilleux! As we’re reading, we are discussing how we could pull this off in and around Dallas, Texas. Challenge accepted! Like you, we are missing Paris too – in fact, we would have been there this fall but for the Pandemic challenges. Funny you should mention AGO resembling le Louvre. We thought it bore a very strong resemblance to Musee d’Orsay, with that long gallery and the arches. Looking forward to following your example, and visiting Toronto to follow in your footsteps!

  • Emma

    I love this idea. I’ve definitely missed travel this last year and have some similar things in my city, search for international feeling places and foods. It’s amazing how many great options there are. Paris is probably my favorite city also and I usually visit every few years, so I can’t wait to go again but until then I’ll have to plan a day like this

  • JoJo Hall

    Such a beautiful post! It’s so wonderful so see how you’re able to recreate places, food, and the scenery of Paris. Until you’re able to visit Paris again in the future, this is such a fun snd sweet way to reminisce about memories from your travels

  • Jennifer L Prince

    I love this idea! When people aren’t traveling as much, it’s a fun way to explore by seeing similar places in another location. Toronto looks beautiful – I haven’t been before but need to put it on my list of places to see.

  • CHELSEA MESSINA

    Lavelle has the most beautiful rooftop! The immersive art experiences are so neat, and I’m glad they are becoming a trend in NA because it brings joy and beauty. We have tickets to the Van Gough exhibit in Detroit for November and I am SO EXCITED.

  • Anne

    I love that you did this–way to be a master of your own destiny and be so creative in the face of the pandemic hurdles. Toronto really does have many Paris-like qualities and with your go-getter attitude, it seems like you found the same love and light : )

  • Emma

    This is such a fabulous idea. I love that you haven’t made the inability to travel put a stop to your lifelong tradtion. I reckon a ‘Paris themed day’ could be replicated in many major cities across the world. Maybe not the pop-up beach, but there may be alternatives that would suit the activity. I also really like the padlock love heart, such a great idea.

  • Tami Wilcox

    What a clever idea! Kudos to you for finding a way to keep your Paris tradition going despite the challenges of the pandemic. I’ve been to both Toronto and Paris, and might not have thought you’d find similarities, but you certainly did!

  • Clarice

    This is a great idea! Since it’s so hard to travel nowadays, I would love to have a paris-themed day. Love how you included an immersive art experience. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Raksha

    Oh my God this is such a cool idea. Creating the Paris themed day in Toronto. So much art and food, definitely count me in. I love the comparison and the recreation of the Paris vibes. I will try to do something similar in Sydney. Thanks for the idea.

  • Umiko

    I like your ideas of bringing Paris to Toronto. Not too many people have a creative idea like this. It reminded me of when we flew around the world in 3 days in Texas Hill Country. Anyway, I like your park in Toronto and the urban beach. And the love locks in Toronto is prettier than the one in Paris.

  • Natascha

    Happy anniversary! I turned 50 too this year and normally I would have traveled somewhere for my birthday. What a great idea to do a Paris themed day in Toronto instead. I live in Berlin, a very multicultural city – so now I am thinking about a travel destination within the city.

  • barry

    This is an amazing use of imagination and creativity to recreate the scenes that you unfortunately can’t enact this year. Having visited Toronto (and adored it), I totally see how you have created the same scenes in Toronto. Really good interpretations of the Parisian sites. Your choices really work.

    I particularly like the comparison with the Parisian lovers bridge and a Toronto version. AGO was impressive (I was however surprised at the exterior which I at first thought resemlbed an airport facade), but got over it when I saw the fantastic exhibits inside.

    It’s made me wonder how I can create an alternative here to some of my favourite events from abroad.

    Bonne idee!

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    What a fun idea to create a Paris themed day at home in Toronto. Starting the day with a fresh baguette will definitely get me in the mood. And a day at Toronto Islands would give me the views I crave. We have not yet eaten at Lavelle so thanks for that suggestion for rooftop experience. And I hope that “Beyond Monet” is still on when we get back to Toronto in the fall. Love the ideas to bring back Paris memories.

  • Anita

    I love your idea! Toronto looks awesome itself, but I can imagine that in the situation like it is now, people would want add Paris touch to it. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and great concept!

  • Krista

    You always seem to come up with such unique ideas! I love how you’ve compared famous sites in Paris to ones that look a bit similar in Toronto.

  • Ildiko

    I love your Paris-themed concept! How incredibly fun. Easy to see the parallels between Paris and Toronto. Love how you presented it as well!!! Great job!

  • Paul Healy

    I love your ingenuity to create a Paris themed itinerary when travel is difficult. All the activities sounds great. The immersive art experience sounds like the perfect opportunity to transport yourself to Europe. Great post.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks so much Paul! I’m glad you like the twist on the article. If you haven’t seen an Immersive art show yet, you’ll have to check it out. It’s fantastic!

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