Go ice skating

Ice skating is to Canada what drinking a pint in the pub is to England. In Toronto, where winters can be brutal and snowfall is more or less guaranteed, it’s one of the few ways to enjoy being outside during the cooler months. There are 54 free-to-use outdoor rinks dotted across the city, and the season runs from November until March. Some have on-site skate rental (such as Nathan Phillips Square), but others require you to bring your own (you will often come across second-hand pairs in thrift stores, such as Value Village, for the cost of a single rental). Check the rink’s schedule before arriving.

Distillery District

A time capsule of history, the Distillery District is a collection of beautifully restored Victorian industrial buildings, which, founded in 1832 as Gooderham & Worts, started life as a single windmill, later expanding and eventually becoming – for a time – Canada’s largest distiller. The derelict buildings were given a facelift 20-or-so years ago, and are now home to boutique and vintage stores, eateries and cafés. Be sure to stop in Soma for a Mayan hot chocolate and, if you’re around during winter, don’t miss the Christmas market.

Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is the largest museum in Canada, and displays artefacts of natural history, culture and art. Packed to the rafters with intriguing objects, including genuine dinosaur skeletons and precious minerals and meteorites, it’s ideal for whiling away an afternoon engrossed in the fascination of it all. Entry is free from 5.30-8.30pm on every third Tuesday of the month only (otherwise there is a fee for admittance), and one Friday per month is ROM After Dark, during which you can enjoy there’s music, food, drinks and immersive experiences.

One Academy

If your routine includes exercise regardless of where you are in the world, then you can rely on the coaches at One Academy to help you work up a sweat. Specialising in functional group training, One Academy offers daily strength and conditioning classes suited to all levels of fitness that, once completed, will leave you feeling like a superhero. Sign up ahead of the class to avoid disappointment, as many classes have a waitlist.

Visit the beach

To the east of the city, in the district known as The Beaches, is – you guessed it – a strip of sandy shoreline that graces Lake Ontario. During the summer, nets for volleyball are erected on Woodbine Beach and artsy installations pop up frequently. There are kayak and paddleboard rentals further up the coast at Kew-Balmy Beach, and there’s a path for cycling and rollerblading that you can follow all the way to Downtown, if you like. Saunter up to Ed’s Real Scoop on Queen Street for a helping of toasted-marshmallow ice cream.

Toronto Islands

Situated on Lake Ontario, just a 13-minute ferry ride from Downtown, are the Toronto Islands, a cluster of 15 islets linked by pathways and bridges. Outdoorsy types can rent paddleboards and kayaks to take in the city skyline from the water, while those less confident on the Lake can walk or bike the length of the islands (around 5km). There are a number of swimming beaches, one of which is clothing-optional, and an amusement park during the summer months on Centre Island (which can, admittedly, get a little crowded). Get the ferry to Ward’s Island – where it’s quieter – and watch the sunset over the city.

The Second City

This lauded offshoot of Chicago’s famous stand-up comedy club opened back in 1972, with, famously, “no air conditioning, no alcohol licence… and almost no audience”. Today, its group shows are as famous as ever and have produced stand-up stars such as Dan Aykroyd, Ashley Comeau and John Candy. If you fancy yourself as the new Tina Fey try one of their improv masterclasses.

TIFF Bell Lightbox

Dashing glass architecture encases a shop for cinephiles, a film gallery and museum, bars and restaurants and some of the comfiest and most kitted-out cinemas you’ve ever encountered. The home of the Toronto International Film Festival and the documentary fest Hot Docs, when its not rolling out the red carpet, TIFF is showing arthouse movies to a very invested audience.

The Bentway

Toronto’s newest urban park and arts space is the city’s hip answer to New York’s High Line. But rather than going over the rooftops, it makes innovative use of the previously derelict space under the Gardiner Expressway. It’s an idea similar to those familiar with London’s Westway, but here there’s much more greenery.

Casa Loma

There can’t be another building in Toronto that has featured in as many films. Chicago, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, Cocktail and X Men (and many, many more) were all filmed in this plush pile with its wood panelling, gorgeous gardens, spooky tunnels, strange stables, spiky turrets and panoramic views over town. It was once the home of industrialist Henry Pellatt but is now one of the city’s most beloved destinations.

The Second City

TIFF Bell Lightbox

The Bentway

Casa Loma

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