The Air Canada Centre stadium, right by Union Station, is set to host all the games, and Dundas Square is sure to host big celebrations in honour of the Cup, but Toronto’s also full of alternative little spots where sports bars are unheard of, and idyllic islands are a ten-minute ferry ride from the stadium. So here’s your guide to two perfect days in the city, dipping in and out of the World Cup’s party atmosphere as you go.
Check-in at design hotel The Drake (150 Queen Street West), described by The New York Times as “…the nerve center of the Toronto arts world.” Grab chicken and waffles for brunch at the attached Café, then explore the immediate neighbourhood. One of Toronto’s hippest locations, on Queen Street West you’re surrounded by bars, galleries, and stores — like Selftraits — where you can commission your own 3D bust following a quick scan in the studio.
If you’re not seeing a game today, slip past the Air Canada Centre — normally home to the Toronto Maple Leafs — and grab some picnic food from the stalls at St. Lawrence Market. Then make your way back to the ferry docks for the ten-minute ride to the Toronto Islands.
The skyline views of the city are worth the trip, as is renting a bike for a leafy ride on the trails before stopping at Centre Island Beach. You might just be able to hear the roar of a World Cup game while you chill by the water.
Join the party atmosphere with a night at one of the city’s liveliest sports bars. A couple of blocks east of the Maple Leafs stadium, Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto will no doubt be rowdy in a good way.
Another option is The Craft Brasserie. Exposed bricks and beams, 300 seats, and the largest selection of draught beers in the city (120 brews in all); this spot doesn’t rely just on its mega screens to lure people in, the food options go beyond wings and burgers (though you can order them, too), with Filipino dishes like lumpia pork spring rolls with homemade banana ketchup.
If you’re in town at the intersection of the World Cup of Hockey and Toronto Oktoberfest (September 30 & October 1) then you’ve struck party-time gold. Head to Ontario Place for lederhosen and pretzels to go with your pucks.
Toronto has a leading art scene; experience it at the labyrinthine Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Among the 80,000+ works, see the world’s largest collection of Henry Moore sculptures, an excellent permanent exhibition showcasing paintings by the Group of Seven, and the temporary exhibit SuperReal: Pop Art from the AGO Collection.
For hockey-themed art, The SPORT Gallery is an institution in the Distillery District — a hopping downtown area where the Victorian factories have been converted into galleries and artists’ studios. Here you can purchase prints of classic photos from SPORT magazine (published from 1946 – 2000).
In a grand rococo building near Union Station, the Hockey Hall of Fame museum is super fun even if you aren’t that into the game. Dedicated to the history of international ice hockey, here you’ll get to learn a lot, have your photo taken with the Stanley Cup, and practice shooting against a computer-controlled goalie.
A few blocks north of The Drake, head to the colourful string of streets known as Kensington Market. Running parallel to Toronto’s Chinatown, here you’ll find fishmongers and cheese merchants, New Age crystal sellers and vintage clothes stores, Italian-Jamaican fusion restaurants, vegan gelatarias, and maybe the best German street food in the city at Otto’s Berlin Döner. Once you’re done shopping, order the halloumi wrap with feta, red cabbage, and yoghurt sauce. If you’re in the neighbourhood for Pedestrian Sundays — when Kensington Market’s roads close to vehicles and live performers take over the streets — you’re in for a treat. Take your donair outside and enjoy the atmosphere.
Grab pinxtos among the mosaic tiles at cozy restaurant Bar Isabel in Little Italy, voted one of the best restaurants in the country by Canada’s 100 Best. The grilled octopus and the rib eye with foie gras come recommended, as does the Basque cake with sherry cream dessert.
Or, if you’re around the Air Canada Centre for a game, head to the Corktown district’s Dominion Pub & Kitchen — known for its live music — for dishes that include elk burger with Korean BBQ glazed bacon and fried chicken steam buns. Closer to the stadium, the atmosphere at Real Sports bar is brilliant. Plus the HD TVs are two stories tall, and there are ten kinds of wings!
If you’re in town on October 1, from sunset to sunrise join the crowds for Nuit Blanche as more than 100 performers, sculptures, and art installations fill the parks and streets of Downtown Toronto for an amazing night.
More from the 48 Hours Travel Series:
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.