Welcome to our complete guide to layover in Toronto! Over the past 6 months we had not one, not two, not three, but FOUR layovers in Toronto, ranging in duration from 4 hours to 2 days!
Toronto is a wonderful city for a layover. Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), the largest and busiest in Canada, is relatively close to the city, with excellent transport connections, and lots of eating options and things to do inside the airport if you’re on a very short stopover.
Air Canada often offers excellent fares to fly between Europe or Asia and North America. Last year, we found a super cheap ticket between Paris and Mexico City, with a layover in Toronto on the way there and another on the way back.
We managed to extend our time in Canada and added a domestic flight to Edmonton – which landed us another two layovers in Toronto. That’s why we consider ourselves ‘Toronto layover experts’ by now – so, welcome to our guide!
Click below to jump to the relevant section!
Things to Know Before a Layover in Toronto
There are two airports in Toronto – Pearson Airport (YYZ) and the smaller Billy Bishop airport (YTZ) on Toronto Island. The island airport is only for short haul flights from Canada and the US, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to layover there. For this reason, this guide will be focusing on Toronto Pearson Airport.
Transport to Pearson Airport (YYZ)
Pearson Airport is located 25 kilometres (16 miles) from the city centre, close to Mississauga. Naturally, you can grab an Uber or taxi from the terminal, but the traffic tends to be terrible during peak hour, so your best bet will actually be the UP Express, a direct train to Union Station in the heart of the city. Fares are $12 CAD one way and travel time is 25 minutes, with departures every 15 minutes.
If you are not pressed with time and want to save on transport costs, or if you’re planning to get to location in the west of the city like Ossington, Roncesvalles or the High Park, you can jump on bus number 192 (also known as ‘Rocket’) heading to Kipling subway station, from where you can jump to a subway train anywhere in the city.
You can catch the bus on the airport’s ground floor, one level below arrivals – there’s a machine where you can buy a $3.25 CAD bus ticket, but it only accept coins or cards.
Hand half of your ticket to the bus driver and press the button right next to the driver window to get a ‘transfer’ ticket once on the bus – you can then use that ticket to access the subway without having to pay again. Travel time using a combo of bus and subway to the city is about 1 hour.
Immigration and Visa
If you’re planning to leave the airport, you’ll have to clear immigration. So, make sure you’ve got your Canadian visa in order. Many countries (including EU countries, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Chile and more) are eligible for an eTA, an electronic travel authorisation which must be acquired before travelling at the cost of $7 CAD per person.
There are a plethora of sites advertising Canadian eTA – make sure you use the official government site to apply, or else you’ll be charged more.
Luggage Deposit at Pearson Airport
Toronto Airport offers luggage/baggage deposit in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. During one of our layovers in Toronto we used the deposit service in Terminal 1, Level 1, Arrivals. We paid $6 CAD per item to leave our luggage for 6 hours – prices rise to $12.50 CAD per item for up to 24 hours, and $22.50 CAD for up to 48.
Flying with Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge
Pearson Airport is Air Canada’s largest hub, and the airline offers great deals flying via this hub. We flew from Paris to Toronto and back with Air Canada, and from Toronto to Mexico City with Air Canada Rouge, the airline’s low cost subsidiary.
We loved our flight with Air Canada. We were in Economy Class for the duration of the 7 hours flight, and time went by quickly thanks to the great entertainment opportunities, tasty food and opportunity to rest on comfortable seats.
Service and comfort level on the Air Canada Rouge flight was much better than many other low cost airlines we flew with. There was no meal service nor inflight entertainment system, but it was possible to purchase food and drinks at reasonable prices, and access entertainment on your own device via the Air Canada app – but make sure the app is downloaded before the plane takes off. The only issue is that there were no power sockets by the seats in Economy, but we were told these are available in Premium Economy.
All in all, we had a great experience flying with Air Canada, especially in terms of value for money, and recommend flying with them wholeheartedly!
Layover in Toronto – 4 Hours or Shorter
If your Toronto layover is less than 4 hours, we don’t recommend leaving the airport. Pearson Airport is a wonderful place to spend a few hours! There’s free wifi, lots of iPads to use, plenty of seats, and lounges if you can get access!
Eating and Drinking
Toronto is one of the coolest foodie destinations we’ve ever been to, and Pearson airport is a great place to get a ‘taste’ of it! If it’s your first time in Canada, don’t miss having a coffee and snack at Tim Hortons (multiple locations), a real Canadian institution. For a quick bite we recommend Bahn Shop (Terminal 1) offering Southeast Asian street foods including the iconic bahn mi, or Caplansky’s Deli, (Terminal 3) famous for its Jewish smoked meat sandwiches.
If you have longer and prefer a sit-down meal, Marathi (Terminal 1) is a solid choice if you fancy Indian, Nobel Burgers (Terminal 3) has great gourmet burgers, and Mill Street Brewery (Terminal 1) with local beers and pub fare.
Other Things to Do in Toronto Airport
If you just want to chill, the Plaza Premium Lounges can be found at several locations around Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. Access costs $50 CAD+tax for up to two hours, and all the usual lounge features plus a cooking station to have a custom breakfast prepared.
Shopping lovers will be happy to know there are plenty of duty free and designer stores around Toronto Airport, with Terminal 1 offering a good selection of luxury boutiques.
Alternatively, a good way to spend your time at YYZ is checking out the airport’s permanent art collection – there are eight installations around the terminals by Canadian and international artists, highlighting Pearson’s role as a gateway to North America.
Layover in Toronto – 6/8 Hours
With 6/8 hours you’ll have enough time to head to Central Toronto and check out one or two sights. We recommend first timers to head to one or two of these iconic attractions, using the UP Express for speed and convenience.
The needle-shaped silhouette of Toronto’s CN Tower is the most distinguishing feature in the city’s skyline. The tower is 553 metres high, and it held the title of world’s tallest freestanding structure in the world for over 30 years – currently, it ranks ninth in the world, but it remains the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere.
You can easily get to the top of CN Tower and enjoy a truly amazing view over the city and Toronto Islands – however, if you’re on a layover you may want to pre-book tickets to minimise waiting time. The General Admission ticket ($30 CAD) includes two viewing levels, if you want to get to the SkyPod as well, the highest observation level, you’ll have to get a $53 CAD ticket.
For something truly hair-rising, opt for the EdgeWalk, the world’s highest hands free external walk on a building, circling the CN Tower’s main observation deck – tickets cost $225 CAD.
Skyline from Toronto Island
To see Toronto’s iconic skyline, the easiest way is heading to the Toronto Islands by ferry. Jack Layton Ferry Terminal is located between Bay Street and Yonge Street, and it’s quite close to Union Station. There are three ferry terminals – Centre Island, Hanlan’s Point and Ward Island, and return ferry tickets cost $7.87 for adults.
Centre Island is the easiest to reach, with regular ferry departures, especially in summer – you’ll get a great view over the skyline from the ferry, alternatively head left as soon as you get to the island and walk along the shore, looking for your favourite spot! There’s so much to do in the Toronto Islands, you can spend the whole day there, especially in summer!
3D Toronto Sign – Nathan Phillips Square
Another of Toronto’s iconic sights is Nathan Phillips Square, with the giant 3D Toronto sign reflected in a fountain – that becomes an ice rink in the winter.
Nathan Phillips Square is only 10 minutes walk from Union Station, so don’t miss visiting if you’re on a short layover! The sign is all lit up at night, but it looks cool at all times.
Layover in Toronto – 12 Hours to 1 Day
If you have between 12 hours and one day for your layover in Toronto, we recommend checking out some more sights close to the centre, and diving head first into Toronto’s amazing food scene!
St. Lawrence’s Market
There’s no better place to start an exploration of Toronto’s culinary scene than St. Lawrence’s Market, the oldest market in Toronto that is regularly named one of the best food markets in the world.
Walk along the aisles and get hungry looking at top quality produce, or stop for some street food – some of the most iconic bites include the peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery, the Italian Veal and Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwiches at Mustachio’s, and the Portuguese egg tarts from Churrasco’s.
This pedestrian-only district once housed a Victorian distillery, whose buildings were recently turned into shops, cafés and restaurants. It’s worth a visit for two reasons – to look at the largest collection of Victorian industrial buildings in North America, and the second is to go shopping, have a meal or simply enjoy the vibe, especially on weekends.
Queen Street West
This is my favourite place in Toronto, and where we spent most of our time in the city. Queen Street West start at the corner with Yonge Street, Toronto’s main north-south thoroughfare – the coolest section, in my opinion, is from the corner with Spadina Ave up to Trinity Bellwood Park, and even further west, when the street becomes known as ‘West Queen West’.
One of the reasons why I love Queen Street West so much is… yes, you guessed it, food. There are lots of cool places to eat including Burger’s Priest, a takeaway burger joint, the crazy freakshakes at Hollywood Cone, soft shell crab roll from Fresh off the Boat, black icecream from iHalo Crunch, and naturally the best poutine in the city from Poutini’s!
Another cool things to see just off Queen Street West is Graffiti Alley, with lots of colourful street art pieces – but keep your eyes open as you walk down Queen Street, as you may find large painted walls on many side streets.
Another not to be missed place for your Toronto stopover is Kensington Market, a historic neighbourhood that is also one of the most multicultural places in the city, and houses an array of excellent restaurants, bars and indie shops, plus period Victorian buildings painted in vivid colours.
If you’re a beer lover, don’t miss the Kensington Brewing Company – it was the best we’ve visited in Canada, even better than the breweries we visited during our time in Calgary. Cool places to eat in Kensington Market include RastaPasta, a Jamaican/Italian fusion place, and the Hungary Thai Bar & Eatery for those days when you just can’t choose between Hungarian and Thai!
Layover in Toronto – 2 Days or Longer
With more than one day in Toronto, you can check out some interesting offbeat neighbourhoods like Ossington and Roncesvalles, catch a Blue Jays game, or even head up to Niagara Falls!
Ossington & Koreatown
Let’s start with Ossington – that’s where we stayed during our first layover in Toronto. The neighbourhood is much quieter compared to central Toronto, with lots of cool bars, restaurants and microbreweries. Down the road (Christie subway stop) you’ll find Koreatown, home to the best Korean eateries in town and the super quirky Poop Café, an Asian-inspired dessert café with a ‘toilet theme’.
Roncesvalles (aka Roncy) Village fells a bit like a ‘village in the city’, with nice leafy parks and a chilled atmosphere. The area is home to young families and to a sizeable Polish community, and it’s the kind of place where independent stores outnumber chain shops, and you forget you’re in Canada’s largest city.
If you find yourself in Roncesvalles, we recommend paying a visit to La Cubana, a wonderful Cuban café and diner.
Blue Jays Baseball Game
Another not to be missed Toronto activity if your layover includes one night! The Blue Jays are Canada’s only baseball team to play in the World Series and Major League Baseball, and if you’ve never been to a ‘ball game’ before, this could be your chance.
The Blue Jays play their home games at Rogers Centre, conveniently located right next to the CN Tower. Games seem to be on on most days, and unless it’s a major game, you can easily pick up tickets online or at the box office on the day. It’s surprisingly affordable – we only paid $22 CAD for some pretty good seats!
Visit Niagara Falls from Toronto
Niagara Falls are only a couple of hours from Toronto, so if you have a full day layover or more you can definitely head there! We recommend going with a tour, especially if you’re pressed for time. Check out some recommendations below!
Overnight Layover in Toronto
There are several airports in the vicinity of Pearson airport if you find yourself on an overnight layover and want to rest somewhere comfortable for a few hours.
The closest hotel to the airport is definitely the Sheraton Pearson Gateway, located just outside Terminal 3. This is the only hotel that can be reached on foot, without the need to take a taxi or shuttle bus.
Alternatively, there are lots more hotels to choose from within a few kilometres radius of Pearson Airport, offering 24 hour pick up and drop off – but please double check that airport transfer is included, or it can quickly add to your bill.
Here are some of the best hotels for an overnight Toronto layover:
- Alt Hotel Toronto Airport
- Hilton Garden Inn Toronto Airport
- Holiday Inn Toronto International Airport
- The Westin Toronto Airport
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