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Top Hidden Gems in Toronto

Toronto’s motto isn't "Go Big or Go Home" but the Hidden Gems In Toronto would surely make you feel so. This vibrant and diverse city offers something for everyone. While it is known for its famous attractions such as the CN Tower and the Toronto Islands, many great spots in Toronto are overlooked by tourists and locals alike. These include lesser-known neighborhoods, parks, museums, and restaurants that offer unique and exciting experiences.

View of Toronto downtown, Lake Ontario, and surrounding parks.

Whether you're a first-time visitor or a returning traveler, Canadian Train Vacations is here to help you uncover the best-hidden gems in Toronto. From trendy Kensington Market and the peaceful Pan Am Path, to Ellesmere and Orton Parks, the city's lesser-known spots reflect the true essence of Toronto. Here is our list of must-see hidden gems in Toronto.

1. The Vog Vault

Located inside the Fluevog shoe store on Queen Street West, The Vog Vault is a hidden gem — and one of the most Instagrammable spots in the city. The small room was previously a TD bank vault, but it has been transformed into a vintage reading room with bookshelves and a plush Victorian sofa. But it's not that straightforward: the room has been rotated 90 degrees, so the sofa and carpet are on the wall, allowing visitors to take unique and creative photos, giving the impression of "anti-gravity."

The Vog Vault is open from 11:00 pm to 7:00 pm from Monday to Saturday and from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm Sunday. The store does not charge any admission fee, but the products inside are for purchase.

2. Kensington Market

Kensington Market is a bohemian neighborhood in central Toronto that offers a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes. It is known for its vintage clothing, retro home decor, art, unique jewelry, sustainable cosmetics, and fresh flowers.

It is open almost every day, year-round. Kensington Market is located in central Toronto and can be easily reached by several means of transportation like public transit, bike or just walking.

View of a busy street with colourful shops and eateries

3. Balzac’s Coffee

What distinguishes Balzac's is that this café is specifically designed to embody the cultural nuances and historical significance of the location it's located. In doing so, the café has carved out a unique personality as a central gathering place for locals. People come to Balzac’s coffee to converse and debate, to fall in love with their café au lait.

Balzac's also offers a variety of food options, from croissants and pastries to sandwiches, and salads. They also serve a selection of teas and hot chocolate.

Overall Balzac's is famous for its unique and charming café experience, high-quality coffee, and commitment to sustainability.

The Cafe is open from 8:30 am to 4.30 pm (Monday to Friday). 

Close up of Balzac's coffee takeaway cup
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4. The Cloak Bar

One of the unique places to grab a drink in Toronto is a secret speakeasy hidden under another restaurant. At The Cloak Bar, you can nibble on indulgent snacks like oysters and grass-fed burgers. Their cocktail menu is creative and fun. The moody atmosphere will make you feel like you're in the prohibition era of the 1920s.

This place is open Wednesday to Saturday, 7 pm until late. On average, customers tend to spend around at least two hours over drinks.

5. Redway Road Staircase

This hidden gem in Toronto is a set of wooden stairs located in Leaside, tucked away off a busy road. Redway Road staircase is just five minutes walk from Loblaws parking lot. The stairs were originally built as an escape route for the sewage treatment plant at the bottom of the valley and now serve as an interesting urban attraction.

The entrance is well-concealed by trees, and the staircase descends through a forest that included 200 steps. However, dozens of platforms let you take a breather, with a seated bench situated halfway. This is one of the secret things to do in Toronto, mostly known to the locals.
It is indeed a daunting task to narrow down the things to do before a trip. But do not worry! Our team at Canadian Train Vacations is here to provide you with our Insider touch.

[ Explore: Canadian Train Trips ]

6. Monkey's Paw

Monkey's Paw is a unique bookstore in Toronto that specializes in old, uncommon, and unusual books from the 20th century. This store is known for its Biblio-Mat, the world's first vending machine that dispenses vintage books for $3. Customers get a randomly selected surprise book.

It's a fascinating and unique bookstore experience that can't be found anywhere else in Toronto.
This bookstore is located at 1067 Bloor Street West and the operations hours are from 11 am to 6 pm (Tuesday to Saturday) and noon to 5 pm on Sunday. The Bookstore is closed on Monday.

7. Arthur Conan Doyle Room

The Toronto Reference Library houses a special room dedicated to Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective character created by Arthur Conan Doyle. The Arthur Conan Doyle Room is located on the fifth floor of the library, inside the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre. This library is designed to resemble Holmes' apartment at 221B Baker Street in London.

The room features classic English decor, including floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with rare Doyle volumes, wooden floors, and antique furnishings. It includes a range of things right from manuscripts and correspondences to Collectables like posters, original art, memorabilia and newspaper clippings.

The visiting hours are from 9 am to 8:30 pm, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday and 1:30 pm to 5 pm on Sunday.

8. The Weston Neighbourbood

Weston is a downtown neighborhood in Toronto known for its beautiful, decorative, and historic architecture. Strolling through the area, you can find grand old churches alongside old brick buildings. During the summer, Weston hosts a farmer's market on Saturdays, where you can enjoy fresh produce like peaches and roasted corn on the cob.

Visitors can park at the GreenP parking lot located at 16 John St, which is a short distance from the market. Additionally, there are a few street parking spots available on South Station St. However, it is not allowed to drive into the market during open hours for safety reasons. Your Canadian Train Vacations advisor is all set to provide you with the required amenities for your successful trip.

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9. The Scarborough Bluffs Beach

Scarborough Bluffs Beach, located around 30 minutes from downtown, is a hidden gem offering a relaxing and scenic experience. The 8 km. beach, nestled at the foot of Scarborough Buffs, is a beautiful sandy spot. It's perfect for sunbathing and swimming during the summer months.

The average time spent at Scarborough Bluffs Beach will vary depending on your level of interest in hiking and enjoying the beach. Some visitors may only spend a few hours at the beach, while others may spend a full day exploring the parks and hiking trails along the bluffs.

People standing on a sandy beach by bluffs with green and yellow trees

10. The Chester Hill Lookout

The Chester Hill Lookout is a hidden gem in Toronto, known mostly to locals. The semi-circular lookout offers a panoramic view of the city and the Don Valley. To find it, take Chester Hill Road until you reach the large astrology wheel painted on the ground near Broadview and Danforth. The lookout is particularly beautiful at night when the city lights are bright, and the best part is that it's free to visit.

Accessing the location is pretty easy, it's only a ten-minute walk north from Broadview Station, and even closer if you take the bus.

11. The Tchotchke House

The Tchotchke House is a unique and unusual landmark located at 37 Bertmount Avenue in the Leslieville neighborhood of Toronto, east of Old Toronto. The house is decorated with an eclectic collection of dolls, including superheroes, Hello Kitty dolls, trolls, mermaids and more.

The owner, Shirley Sumaiser, has been collecting these toys for 20 years, and her collection is always growing and changing, drawing visitors from the neighborhood and beyond. The house is not well known, but it is worth seeking out for a glimpse of this strange eerie display neighborhood which is one of the hidden places to visit in Toronto.

Entry to the Tchotchke House is free and is open year-round.

12. The Campbell House Museum

The Campbell House Museum is a historic house museum located in Toronto, Canada. The house was built in 1822 for Judge William Campbell and his family and is one of the city's oldest surviving buildings from the early 19th century.

The house is also known for its beautiful gardens, which are open to visitors.

To reach the Campbell House Museum, it is best to take public transportation. The museum is located at 160 Queen Street West, and the closest subway station is Osgoode Station, which is a short walk away. The museum is also accessible by several bus routes.

The Campbell House Museum is open to the public from Wednesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and on Sundays from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Visitors need to make an appointment and often same-day appointments are available. The admission fee for the museum is $10 per person.

Your Canadian Train Vacations advisor will take care of the appointments for you.

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13. The Necropolis Cemetery

The Necropolis Cemetery is a mysterious and intriguing place, with many secrets hidden within its grounds. Visitors can take guided tours of the cemetery and hear interesting stories about ghosts and other paranormal activities. The cemetery's pavilion and chapel are also noteworthy as some of the best examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Canada.

It's located in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood, on the east side. of downtown Toronto. The gates are usually open from 8 am to 6 pm or 8 pm depending on the day of visit and they are closed on Sundays and public holidays.

14. Pan Am Path, Ellesmere and Orton Park

The Pan Am Path is an 80-km long trail system that stretches from the nearby city of Brampton to the southern part of Rouge Park, just east of Toronto. Along the trail, visitors can enjoy a variety of art installations and murals that pay homage to the area's natural beauty and cultural diversity.

The Pan Am Path was developed as part of the legacy of the 2015 Pan American Games and 2015 Parapan American Games. This multi-use path is open to the public for various activities, such as biking and hiking.

15. Crothers Woods, East York

Crothers Woods, a lush Carolinian forest in the Don River Valley, features a network of wooden walkways and staircases spanning approximately 10km, making it an ideal location for hiking.
The forest offers breathtaking views of greenery and wildlife as visitors explore the trails.
Crothers Woods is a perfect escape for city residents seeking a break from heavy traffic and building work, as it offers a peaceful and natural environment.

Crothers Woods is recognized by conservation agencies as an area of great environmental importance and is a popular spot for those who appreciate nature. Visitors may even spot a white-tailed deer while exploring the area.

16. Half House

The Half House, a unique and intriguing architectural structure, is a must-see for those who appreciate unusual designs. Located on St. Patrick Street in downtown Toronto, it can be easy to miss, but from the right angle it offers an interesting photo opportunity.

This place is available year-round and 24 hours every day with no entry fee.

17. The Glen Rouge Campground

The Glen Rouge Campground, the first urban park in Canada, is a lesser-known camping ground located in Toronto. It offers various spots for camping in RVs and tents, providing an opportunity for an outdoor adventure without leaving the city.

Parking is free but limited, and the parking lot is closed and locked at 9 pm every day for security.

18. Little Tokyo

Little Tokyo is a neighborhood in Toronto that was once the city's original Chinatown, but now has a large concentration of Japanese restaurants and businesses. It also happens to be home to Toronto's main bus terminal. The neighborhood is just 300m stretch of Dundas Street between Yonge Street and University Avenue, and it is possible to spend a full day exploring all things Japanese

Visitors can find a variety of Japanese and other Asian restaurants that offer sushi burritos, ice cream and other delicacies. The neighborhood is easily accessible by public transportation with two subway lines and a street car line running through it.

19. Gates Gully Scarborough

The Doris McCarthy Trail, also known as Gates Gully, is a pathway that runs from Ravine Drive, located off Kingston Road. The trail is named after the renowned Canadian artist Doris Jean McCarthy, who specialized in landscape painting and lived in the Scarborough Bluffs area. At the base of the trail, there is a sculpture honoring the artist where the trail meets the lakeshore.

The trail provides access to stunning views of Lake Ontario and the Scarborough Bluffs, a coastal escarpment that runs along the eastern waterfront of Toronto. The trail is open 24 hours a day and is accessible year-round to visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I not miss in Toronto?

You should not miss visiting the CN tower in Toronto. Also wander the different neighbourhoods. The diverse cultures present in the city have maintained their distinct identities through various neighbourhood areas such as Chinatown, Little Italy, Polish Town, Kensington Market, and Little Portugal, among others, which are all worth visiting.

What is Canada's best-kept secret?

Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia was named Canada's Best Kept Secret by National Geographic. Other hidden gems include Quirpon Island in Newfoundland and Ucluelet in British Columbia.

What is Toronto's newest attraction?

Toronto's newest big attraction is Little Canada which is a condensed showcase of the best aspects of Canada, providing a comprehensive experience within a short period for both locals and tourists to discover the country's offerings, all within a single location.

What is the most visited site in Toronto?

CN tower is the most visited and most popular site in Toronto.

What is the coolest part of Toronto?

Toronto's Dundas West is considered to be the coolest part of Toronto which was declared the world's 12th 'coolest neighborhood'.

About the author: Athena McKenzie is the Content Manager at Fresh Tracks Canada. An experienced lifestyle journalist, she has written about travel, design, arts and entertainment. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Zoomer Magazine, Elle Canada and... Read more

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