Whenever I travel I always look for free attractions first because nothing is better than free. Any money I can save on attractions means I can spend it somewhere else during my trip like a nice meal.
Here’s my picks of the top free Toronto Attractions.
Nathan Philips Square
Toronto’s City Hall is the main draw here but the revitalization that’s been going on has locals coming back. Just above all the concrete, the City Hall podium roof has turned into a public garden offering solace from the politics below. The permanent theatre stage has live performances during many of the festivals held here and don’t forget to check out the Peace Garden which has relocated to the west side of the square.
TIFF Bell Lightbox
A must see for all film buffs, the TIFF Bell Lightbox is the official home of the Toronto International Film Festival. Inside you’ll find a museum which celebrates all things film and if you really want to geek out be sure to check out the film archives which houses the worlds largest collection of film resources. Sometimes the touring exhibitions are free so check the website before visiting.
St. Lawrence Market
This is my favourite free Toronto attraction; Butchers, bakers, fishmongers, you’ll find them all and much more but if you’re a tourist you’ll want to sample some of the goods right away. Toronto is the birthplace of Canadian bacon so trying it is a must, but before you grab that peameal on a bun, scope out the lower level of the market where you’ll find even more food options for round 2.
Located in the east of Toronto, The Beach as it’s formally known is a short streetcar ride from downtown and plays host to the International Jazz Festival every year. The beach offers something for everyone with parks, playgrounds, bike paths, a boardwalk, volleyball nets, a skate park, and of course the beach itself. If you need to refuel head up to Queen st. where you’ll have plenty of options, I recommend Queen Margherita Pizza and The Burger’s Priest.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Every Wednesday night this attraction is free from 6-8:30pm. As you can imagine the Canadian collection is quite popular but with other collections including European, Photography, Modern and Contemporary there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained. It’s hard to believe but the reimagination of the building a few years back by Toronto born architect Frank Gehry was actually his first piece done in Canada.
Kensington Market / Chinatown
“Market” is a loose term here since it’s really just streets with stores but still a popular destination where you can find just about anything including vintage clothing, spices, restaurant supplies, and even military clothing. If you’re a foodie Kensington and Chinatown offer food from all over South America and Asia so don’t go all-in at your first stop.
Need a break from the city? Jump on a ferry ($4.50-$7) and head over to the Toronto islands where you’ll get the best view of Toronto. There’s plenty to do here for the day with a small beach, bike rentals, and the Centreville amusement park for the kids. Food options are limited so you may want to pack a lunch and have a picnic.
BATA Show Museum
Not just for those with a shoe fetish, the Bata Shoe Museum explores the history of shoes, their cultural significance and of course there’s a section dedicated to celebrity foot ware. Thursdays from 5-8pm admission to the museum is pay what you can, $8-14 at all other times.
Free Toronto attractions don’t apply just to the city, if you’re a first-time visitor you’re going to want to make a trip to see Niagara Falls. The attractions nearby the falls are very touristy but still a must-see for first-time visitors, if you’re feeling lucky head over to the Fallsview Casino. Easily accessible by Megabus, Coach Canada or Greyhound, Niagara Falls is worth the trip.