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.
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,
- Centre Island
- Toronto Music Garden
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.
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.
EXPERIENCE IMMERSIVE ART
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.
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.
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
- 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!