published: 4/11/2023 | April 11, 2023
While it may lack the scenic views of Vancouver or the historic charm of Montreal, Toronto has a lot going for it.
The CN Tower, one of the tallest freestanding structures in the world, can be found here, and there are many museums and galleries, including the Ontario Science Center and the Royal Ontario Museum. There is also a huge Chinatown, which serves delicious cheap eats; cozy Kensington Market and its cool vibe; and the beautiful Lake Ontario coast.
Understandably, with over three million people calling it the city, Toronto just happens to be quite the spread. And while it does have a decent public transit system, it’s a good idea to plan out which neighborhood you want to stay in—preferably based on your interests and lifestyle—so you won’t waste a lot of time (and money) in transit).
To help you decide where to stay in Toronto, I’m going to highlight the best neighborhoods below, so you can choose the one that best suits your travel style and budget, as they all have their own feel.
But, before I get into the specifics, here are some frequently asked questions I get asked about neighborhoods in Toronto:
What’s the best neighborhood for first-time visitors?
Centrally located downtown Yonge is perhaps the most bustling part of Toronto. If this is your first time here, this is the place for you.
What is the best neighborhood for shopping?
Yorkville is overflowing with great shopping opportunities. Everything from unique boutiques to multinational chains are represented here.
What’s the best neighborhood for a foodie?
Kensington Market and Chinatown, which neighbors each other, are two of the oldest – and a great area of town if you’re hungry.
What’s the best neighborhood for parties?
Danforth has a large Greek immigrant population and is generally a fun place to spend time. But once the sun goes down and the lights come on, it is also one of the best areas to party too.
What’s the best neighborhood for feeling local?
The Annex, which is home to the University of Toronto, is centrally located and bustling with young students walking to class or hanging out at one of the many restaurants and cafes in this neighborhood.
With those questions answered, below is a more specific breakdown of each neighborhood, with some recommended accommodations, so you know where to stay in Toronto.
Where to stay in Toronto for first-time visitors: downtown Yonge
Downtown Yonge includes many of the smaller neighborhoods of central Toronto, including an entertainment district and a huge shopping district. If you’re here for the first time, this is a nice, bustling place to stay for a while. You will be in the heart of the action and you can reach any part of the city from here.
Plus, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do here: Toronto Eaton Center, Yonge Dundas Square, Cannon Theatre, Maple Leaf Gardens, and Old Town Hall. You are just a short ride to the CN Tower too.
Best places to stay in downtown Yonge:
- budget: St. This no-frills yet comfortable property, located just across the border in St. Lawrence, is. The hotel rooms are small, and the more budget-friendly options have a shared bathroom, but the rooms are clean and comfortable. The rooftop lounge is a nice place at sunset.
- middle of the roadChelsea Hotel – This place offers spacious rooms and great views of the Toronto skyline. Rooms have blackout drapes, oversized plasma TVs, very comfortable king and queen beds, and coffee makers. There is also a café and wine bar on the premises.
- Welfare: Pantages Hotel Downtown – In the center of the action, this classic high-rise hotel is a sleek, modern building and a very luxurious place to lay one’s weary head. The 105 rooms feature thick queen and king mattresses, Keurig coffee makers, high thread count sheets, plush towels, marble bathrooms, rainfall showerheads, and premium bath products. The hotel is especially convenient for those with theater tickets, as it is just a stone’s throw from historic performing arts venues such as the Ed Mirvish Theater and The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre.
Where to stay in Toronto for shopping: Yorkville
If you’re looking to make the most of your credit card and/or take home some nice things, your best bet is Yorkville. The neighborhood is full of shops and boutiques, its streets lined with inviting storefronts that just scream “Buy me!” Here, you’ll find everything from Hermès to Versace to Montreal-based jewelry house Maison Birks. Many high-end brands have their flagship stores here.
Best places to stay in Yorkville:
- budget: Yorkville Plaza Suites – Since the neighborhood has an upscale vibe, it’s no surprise that you won’t find any inns here. Budget accommodations are few and far between. But Yorkville Plaza Suites is relatively affordable. All rooms include coffee makers, a refrigerator, a mini oven, and a desk.
- middle of the road: The Yorkville Royal Sonesta – The Royal Sonesta features a heated indoor rooftop pool, vodka bar and in-house restaurant with a menu inspired by Toronto’s cultural diversity. Rooms feature marble bathrooms, docking stations, LCD TVs and coffee makers.
- Welfare: Park Hyatt Toronto – This 219-room property (including 40 suites) opened in 1936; In 2017 it underwent a massive renovation, and reopened in 2021. Rooms come with bluetooth speakers, black-out drapes, and a Nespresso coffee maker. The in-house restaurant is an upscale steakhouse.
Where to stay in Toronto for the foodie: Kensington Market and Chinatown
Kensington Market is a trendy, eccentric, and eclectic neighborhood that attracts locals from all over the city. The streets are lined with funky cafes, food carts, trucks, and bistros that reflect the ethnic and culinary diversity of Toronto as a whole.
Just to the south is Chinatown, where you can enjoy an array of Asian cuisine to your heart and stomach: Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, and of course, Chinese restaurants abound in this lively and fun neighborhood.
Best places to stay in Kensington Market and Chinatown:
- budget: The Planet Traveler Hostel – Located on the northern border of Kensington Market, this eco-friendly hotel offers free breakfast and a fun rooftop bar with great views. The hostel has a mix of sleeping options, all of which have comfortable beds with night lights.
- middle of the road: The Beverley – East of Chinatown and Kensington Market, this 3-star boutique hotel offers rooms with thick, comfortable mattresses, parquet floors, and colorful walls. In the lobby, there is always free quality coffee.
- Welfare: Ace Hotel – South of Chinatown is the Ace Hotel. The interior looks as if you’ve just walked on the set of a Wes Anderson movie, with lots of old typewriters and taxidermy. Rooms come in small, medium, and large—that’s literally the names—and they all have standard players, walk-in showers, and minibars stocked with locally made products.
Toronto party venue: The Danforth
Home to the largest Greek community in North America, with street signs in both English and Greek, Danforth (aka “Greektown”) is where to come when you have a longing for souvlaki or moussaka or if you want to see where their filmed parts of My Big Fat Greek Wedding movie.
But it’s also a fun place to party. The neighborhood has a plethora of great pubs and is also home to Danforth Music Hall, where local and international performances take the stage.
Best places to stay in Danforth:
- budget: The Only Backpackers Inn – With a ground-floor espresso bar, an inviting pub stocking over 200 beers from around the world, and a BBQ area, this hostel is a fun and relaxing place to spend a few days. There are small bedrooms and private rooms, some of which have their own kitchens. Breakfast is free.
- middle of the road: Color Cube Guest House – Located just west of Danforth, The Color Cube Guest House is – you guessed it – colorful. The rooms are bright and cheery, drenched in greens, purples, oranges and blues. Guests have access to a scooter rental service on site.
- Welfare: The Broadview Hotel – Located just south of Danforth, The Broadview Hotel is the most luxurious property in Toronto’s East End. The famous historic building houses 58 rooms with high ceilings, comfortable beds, large windows and dark wood floors. The rooftop bar offers great views. This design-friendly hotel is the perfect home-away-from-home in Toronto.
Where to stay in Toronto to feel like a local: Annex
Located adjacent to the University of Toronto’s St. George campus, the annex is bustling with students and other young adults swarming the streets to patronize the neighborhood’s many independent bookstores, funky cafés, affordable restaurants, and bustling bars. If you are looking to blend in and feel like a local, the Annex is a good place to establish yourself.
Best places to stay in the annex:
- budget: University of Toronto New College Residences – Here you will find over 200 beds for short stays, most of which are single rooms with single or double beds. It’s no frills, but there is free Wi-Fi and coin-operated laundry on the premises.
- middle of the road: Madison Manor Boutique Hotel – This Victorian-style bed and breakfast is incredibly charming and is within walking distance to the tube. The suites have their own fireplaces and the on-site pub stocks nearly 200 beers on tap. The rooms, though small, are cozy and comfortable.
- Welfare: The Four Seasons – Located two blocks west of the Annex, the Four Seasons Hotel is the epitome of luxury. Rooms have stunning views through floor-to-ceiling windows, plus a stereo system, desk-side charging stations, granite bathrooms, and plush robes. The in-house restaurant is Café Boulud from superstar chef Daniel Boulud.
Toronto has a diverse mix of neighborhoods, and they all seem to have their own personality and style – even the neighborhoods next to each other. While it’s easy to get around Toronto on public transportation, it’s always a relief to stay in a part of the city that aligns with your interests and style. Not only will you save time, but money as well, ensuring that you get the most out of your visit to Canada’s most famous city.
Book your flight to Canada: logistical tips and tricks
Book your flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines all over the world so you will always know that no stone is left unturned!
Reserve your accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld because they have the largest inventory and the best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they constantly show the cheapest rates for cheap guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you from illness, injury, theft and cancellation. It is comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Need to rent a car?
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Do you want more information about Canada?
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