Posted: 4/11/2023 | April 11th, 2023
The CN Tower, one of the tallest free-standing structures in the world, can be found here, and there are numerous museums and galleries, including the Ontario Science Center and the Royal Ontario Museum. There’s also a huge Chinatown, boasting tasty cheap eats; the laid-back Kensington Market and its hippie vibe; and the beautiful coast of Lake Ontario.
Understandably, with over three million people calling the city home, Toronto happens to be quite spread out. And while it has a decent public transportation system, it’s a good idea to plan out which neighborhood you’d like to stay in — preferably based on your interests and lifestyle — so you won’t waste too much time (and money) in transit).
To help you decide where to stay in Toronto, I’ll highlight the best neighborhoods below, so you can choose the area that suits your travel style and budget, as they all have their own feel.
But, before I get to the specifics, here are some common questions I get asked about neighborhoods in Toronto:
What’s the best neighborhood for first-time visitors?
The centrally located Downtown Yonge is maybe the most bustling part of Toronto. If it’s your first time here, it’s the place to be.
What’s 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 foodies?
Kensington Market and Chinatown, which neighbor each other, are two of the oldest districts — and a great swath of town if you’re hungry.
What’s the best neighborhood for partying?
The Danforth has a large Greek immigrant population and is, generally, a fun place to spend time in. But once the sun goes down and the lights come on, it is also one of the best areas for partying too.
What’s the best neighborhood for feeling like a local?
Home to the University of Toronto, the Annex is centrally located and bustling with young students marching to class or hanging out at one of the many restaurants and cafés in this neighborhood.
With these questions answered, here below is a more specific breakdown of each neighborhood, with some recommended accommodations, so you’ll know where to stay in Toronto.
Where to Stay in Toronto for First-Time Visitors: Downtown-Yonge
Downtown Yonge encompasses many microneighborhoods in central Toronto, including the Entertainment District and a huge shopping area. If you’re here for the first time, this is a pretty nice and bustling place to base yourself for a while. You’ll be in the center of the action and can get to any part of the city from here.
Plus, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do here: the Toronto Eaton Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square, the Canon Theatre, Maple Leaf Gardens, and Old City Hall. You’re just a short jaunt to the CN Tower as well.
The Best Places to Stay in Downtown Yonge:
- BUDGET: — When it comes to budget accommodation, there are very few, if any, options in this part of town. This no-frills but comfortable property, located just over the border in St. Lawrence, is it. The hotel rooms are on the small side, and the more budget-friendly options have a shared bathroom, but the rooms are clean and comfy. The rooftop lounge is a nice place at sunset.
- MIDRANGE: — This place offers spacious rooms and great views of the Toronto skyline. Rooms have blackout curtains, plus-sized plasma TVs, extra-comfy king and queen beds, and coffee machines. There’s also a coffee shop and wine bar on the premises.
- LUXURY: — This classic high-rise hotel in the center of the action is a sleek, modern property and a very luxurious place to lay one’s weary head. The 105 rooms have thick queen and king mattresses, Keurig coffee makers, high-thread-count sheets, plush towels, marble bathrooms, rain showers, and luxury bath products. The hotel is particularly well suited for those with theater tickets, as it’s just a stone’s throw away from historic performing arts venues like The Ed Mirvish Theatre and The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre.
Where to Stay in Toronto for Shopping: Yorkville
If you’re looking to max out your credit card and/or come home with some pretty things, your best bet is Yorkville. The neighborhood is flush with shops and boutiques, its streets flanked by inviting storefronts that are just screaming “buy me!” Here you’ll find everything from Hermès to Versace to the Montreal-based jeweler Maison Birks. Many upscale brands have their flagship shops right here.
The Best Places to Stay in Yorkville:
- BUDGET: — Given that the neighborhood has such an upscale vibe, it’s no surprise that you won’t find any hostels here. And budget accommodations are few and far between. But Yorkville Plaza Suites is relatively affordable. All rooms have coffee makers, a fridge, a small oven, and a desk.
- MIDRANGE: — The Royal Sonesta boasts a heated, indoor, rooftop swimming pool, a vodka bar, and an in-house eatery with a menu inspired by the cultural diversity of Toronto. The rooms have marble bathrooms, docking stations, LCD televisions, and coffee makers.
- LUXURY: —This 219-room property (including 40 suites) opened 1936; in 2017, it underwent a massive renovation, and the property reopened in 2021. The rooms have Bluetooth speakers, blackout curtains, and Nespresso coffee makers. The in-house eatery is an upscale steakhouse.
Where to Stay in Toronto for Foodies: Kensington Market and Chinatown
Kensington Market is a hip, eccentric, and eclectic neighborhood that draws locals from all over town. The streets are lined with funky coffee shops, street food carts and trucks, and small restaurants that reflect the ethnic and culinary diversity of Toronto as a whole.
Just to the south is Chinatown, where you can feast on an array of Asian fare to your heart’s and stomach’s content: Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, and, of course, Chinese restaurants abound in this energetic and fun neighborhood.
The Best Places to Stay in Kensington Market and Chinatown:
- BUDGET: — Set on the northern border of Kensington Market, this eco-friendly hostel boasts free breakfast and fun rooftop bar with great views. The hostel has a mix of sleeping options, all of which have comfy beds with nightlights.
- MIDRANGE: — Located just to the east of Chinatown and Kensington Market, this three-star boutique hotel offers rooms with thick, comfortable mattresses, wood floors, and colorful walls. In the lobby, there’s always complimentary high-quality coffee.
- LUXURY: — Just south of Chinatown is the Ace Hotel. The interior looks like you just walked onto the set of a Wes Anderson film, as there are lots of old typewriters and taxidermy. Rooms come in small, medium, and large — these are literally the names — and all have record players, walk-in showers, and minibars filled with locally made products.
Where to Stay in Toronto for Partying: The Danforth
Home to the largest Greek community in North America, where the street signs in are in English and Greek, the Danforth (aka “Greektown”) is the place to come when you have a hankering for souvlaki or moussaka or you want to see where they shot parts of the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
But it’s also a fun place to party. The neighborhood has a plethora of great bars and is also home to the Danforth Music Hall, where local and international acts take the stage.
The Best Places to Stay in the Danforth:
- BUDGET: — With a ground-floor espresso bar, a quaint pub stocking over 200 beers from around the world, and a barbecue area, this hostel is a fun, comfortable place to spend a few days. There are small dorm rooms and private rooms, some of which have their own kitchens. Breakfast is complimentary.
- MIDRANGE: — Located west of Danforth, the Colour Cube Guest House is — you guessed it — colorful. Rooms are bright and cheery, awash in greens, purples, oranges, and blues. Guests have access to an on-site scooter rental.
- LUXURY: — Located south of Danforth, the Broadview is the most luxurious property in the East End of Toronto. The iconic, historic property has 58 rooms, with high ceilings, comfy beds, large windows, dark wood floors. The rooftop bar has great views. This design-friendly hotel is an ideal home-away-from-home in Toronto.
Where to Stay in Toronto to Feel like a Local: The Annex
Sitting next to the St. George campus of the University of Toronto, the Annex is bustling with students and other young people who stroll the streets to patronize the neighborhood’s many indie bookshops, funky cafés, affordable restaurants, and bustling bars. If you’re looking to blend in and feel like a local, the Annex is a good place to base yourself .
The Best Places to Stay in the Annex:
- BUDGET: — Here you’ll find over 200 beds for short-term stays, most of which are single rooms with either single or double beds. It’s no frills, but there is free Wi-Fi and coin-operated laundry on the premises.
- MIDRANGE: — This Victorian-style B&B is incredibly charming and located just a short walk from the subway. Suites have their own fireplaces and the on-site pub has almost 200 beers on tap. The rooms, while small, are cozy and comfortable.
- LUXURY: — Located a couple of blocks west of the Annex, the Four Seasons is the epitome of luxury. Rooms have stunning views through the floor-to-ceiling windows, plus a stereo system, desk-side charging stations, granite bathrooms, and plush robes. The in-house eatery is Café Boulud from super-chef Daniel Boulud.
Toronto has a diverse mix of neighborhoods, and all seem to have their own personality and style — even the areas that neighbor one another. While it is easy to get around Toronto on public transportation, it’s always a relief to be staying in the part of town that jibes with your interests and style. You’ll not only save time but money too, ensuring that you can make the most of your visit Canada’s most popular city.
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