While Canada’s biggest city certainly has the prices to match its size, you CAN find free things to do in Toronto and cheap things to do as well!
I’ve visited Toronto four different times, staying as long as three months on one trip, and below I’ve crafted the most exhaustive list of some free or cheap things to do in Toronto!
*Disclosure: If you decide to make a purchase after clicking any affiliate links below, I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you).
Free Things to Do In Toronto
#1 Visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Wednesday nights.
This was one of my FAVORITE free things to do in Toronto, especially on a cold winter’s night. After 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, admission is FREE. The exhibits are gorgeous, and there’s a beautiful cafe inside with breathtaking architecture of floor-to-ceiling curved wooden beams. BONUS: The AGO’s gift shop is unique and fun to peruse. You can find art prints, books, postcards, and more.
#2 Walk around the Eaton Centre.
Okay, I’m only a LITTLE bit embarrassed to admit this: The Eaton Centre is my favorite place in all of Toronto. 😂 Yes, I’m just a basic tourist. The Eaton Centre is a massive mall. But there’s something about it that just makes me feel like “Yes, I am in Toronto.” Plus, it’s a great place to warm up when it’s cold outside. Some favorite stops for me in the Eaton Centre are Indigo Books, Call It Spring, Roots, Aroma Espresso, and Jimmy the Greek.
#3 Walk the PATH.
The PATH is a network of underground shops/an escape from the brutal cold of Toronto. You can find entrances to it in various places in Toronto, including the Eaton Centre. Get the PATH map here.
#4 Sit and read at the Beaches Public Library
I think this is one of the best libraries in Toronto. It’s located on the main street of the trendy Beaches neighborhood and has an upstairs loft where you can grab a seat at a desk overlooking the beautiful architecture.
#5 Woodbine Beach
This is the largest Toronto beach, located off Woodbine Avenue in the Beaches neighborhood on Toronto’s East side. There’s also a boardwalk and a trail (Martin Goodman Trail) lining it that people like to run along.
#6 Sugar Beach
You’ve probably seen photos of Sugar Beach already. Thanks to its characteristic white-ish sand juxtaposed with its iconic bubblegum pink umbrellas, Sugar Beach is totally Instagrammable. It’s located just east of the Entertainment District near the intersection of Lower Jarvis Street and Queens Quay (pronounced like “key”) East.
#7 Sunnyside Park
The former home of the historic Sunnyside Amusement Park, this stretch of lakefront land is now mostly used for strolling, picnicking, and maybe visiting of the nearby wading pools. Sunnyside is on Toronto’s West side, just south of the Roncesvalles neighborhood.
#8 Hike Scarborough Bluffs
I’ve always wanted to do this! But it’s a bit of a “hike” outside of Toronto if you don’t have a car. The Scarborough Bluffs Trail is 4.7 kilometers. Here’s a great post on how to hike the Scarborough Bluffs.
#9 Compare Old and New City Hall
If you’re into architecture and history, you can find both in the heart of downtown where the Old City Hall and new one stand close to each other. Built in Romanesque style, Old City Hall has a breathtaking clock tower that looks especially grand at night. The new City Hall of Toronto is built in a Modernist style and is located nearby.
#10 Take a photo in front of the famous Toronto sign
While you’re checking out City Hall, you’ll be right by the famous 3D colorful Toronto sign.
#11 High Park
This is one of Toronto’s biggest parks; I like to refer to it as the Central Park of Toronto. It has food trucks, a zoo, gardens, and more inside. You can walk along and explore so much of it and never get bored. It’s especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves turn gold and red, or in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom!
#12 High Park Zoo
While you’re in High Park, why not check out its zoo? Entrance is free (it’s a rather small zoo).
#13 Feed the llamas there!
One of the cool things you can do there is feeding the llamas! While it’s not free, it’s a really cheap activity that you don’t get to do every day.
#14 Go on a free walking tour with the Tour Guys
I believe the best way to get to know a city is on foot—and preferably, with a local to guide you! A free walking tour with the Tour Guys meets both those requirements. Yes, the tour IS free, but just keep in mind, they make their money by the tips you give them at the end. So just set aside some tip money, and you’ll be all set!
#15 Gawk at Graffiti Alley
This tourist attraction is unusual in that it’s located in a sketchy alley and painting graffiti here is legal. You can find Graffiti Alley in a back-alley between Spadina and Portland Street in the Queen Street West neighborhood.
#16 Don Valley Brick Works (AKA Evergreen Brick Works)
Formerly a quarry that supplied bricks that have built many of the sites in Toronto, Brick Works has been transformed into a sustainable “city of the future” type project and a city park. There are plenty of things to do at the Brick Works, such as a Saturday Farmers Market, a public skating rink, and plenty of artwork.
#17 Artscape Youngplace
I like to think of this as a little hidden gem! It was one of my favorite places to go in my favorite neighborhood (Trinity-Bellwoods). The building used to be a school, but now, it’s a public art space. You can go inside and look at the exhibits or grab a bite at the cafe. There are also studio spaces for rent and art classes.
#18 Shop the boutique stores of Queen Street West
Queen Street West is funky, hip, and fun. It’s basically an extension of Trinity-Bellwoods. There are lots of unique boutique stores you can window shop. Some favorites include The Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Ordinary (Abnormal Beauty Company), The Spice Trader, Type Books (they have the BEST window displays!)
#19 Check out a book from a free Little Library
These lovely little grassroots libraries take the form of tiny wooden cabinets in people’s yards, from which you can give or take a book for free. They’re scattered all over Toronto. To find one near you, just check out Little Free Library.
#20 Listen to a subway musician
Ya gotta love Toronto for this one. It has designated subway musician licenses—there are only 75 in total, and musicians must audition to win a coveted spot. I, for one, thoroughly enjoy hearing artists share their gift with the world, even as they rush by to catch their train.
#21 Participate in a Bunz exchange
If you want a TRUE local Torontonian experience, install the free Bunz app and take part in your first trade. Bunz is essentially a mobile app marketplace that lets you exchange an item for another item with someone in Toronto. I’ve used it to get books, hats, clothing, and more. There’s really no limit. It’s a great way to “buy” things without using money and meet cool people! I know it sounds weird, but it was probably my favorite thing to do in Toronto.
#22 Shop the Ossington Strip
While there are many little main street strips in Toronto, the Ossington Strip is one of my favorites. It’s just west of Trinity-Bellwoods and has boutique shops, restaurants, and indie coffee shops. Some of my favorites are VdeV (gorgeous home decor store), Venezia Bakery, and Peace Collective (Canadian clothing company).
#23 Explore the foods of St. Lawrence Market
THE place for foodies, I liken it to the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Probably the most famous thing you’ll find here is the Peameal Bacon Sandwich from Carousel Bakery. Although, I must say, I tried it and was not impressed. Regardless, it is really fun to stroll through the market and peruse the various gourmet foods.
#24 Flat Iron Building
Okay, yes, it’s just a building—but it’s iconic. It’s one of the most popular buildings to photograph in Toronto. It’s right by the St. Lawrence Market.
#25 Kensington Market
I call this Haight-Ashbury of Toronto. (And, as you can see, I like to compare everything to places in the United States, particularly San Francisco. Sorry!) It’s definitely got a hippie vibe and is well-known for its vintage clothing shops.
#26 Stroll along the Harbourfront
Located downtown along the shores of Lake Ontario, the Harbourfront is where you’ll see all the iconic Toronto buildings: Union Station, the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, etc.
#27 Toronto Botanical Gardens
Four acres of gardens span the Don Valley Ravine—and guess what? It’s FREE to enjoy. There are also free guided tours and free outdoor music series. Check out their calendar of events here.
#28 Collect fallen maple leaves in the fall
This may sound cheesy, but my favorite souvenirs from Toronto are autumn leaves I’ve pressed between books. So pretty.
#29 Nuit Blanche in October
If you’re in Toronto on October 1st, I highly, highly recommend you check out Nuit Blanche! It’s an all-night “art crawl” where artists display their works in the streets of Downtown Toronto from 7pm to 7am. You don’t have to go all night (though it’s super fun!). At least check out the exhibits for a couple of hours.
#30 The Distillery District
The former location of a whiskey distillery, the trendy Distillery District is now a pedestrian-only neighborhood with more than 40 boutiques and shops. It’s also where the Toronto Christmas Market is held.
#31 Step inside Balzac’s in the Distillery District
While you’re in the Distillery District, you simply HAVE to see Balzac’s. It’s a coffee shop that has more than one location, but the one in the Distillery District is the best. Just look at that photo! When I went there, they were giving out free samples of Turkish Delight. :)
#32 Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District
Ah, this Christmas market is magical! Set against the brick-lined backdrop of the Distillery District, the Toronto Christmas market features lots of lights, a Christmas countdown, food vendors, shops, and more. It’s a great place to take photos, get a bite to eat, and maybe buy some Christmas gifts.
#33 Ice skating in winter
If you’ll be visiting Toronto in winter, why not partake in some ice skating? Some public rinks are free if you bring your own skates. You can find some free public rinks here.
#34 Santa Claus Parade – The third Sunday of November
If you’re in town in November, definitely stop by to watch the annual Santa Claus Parade! It’s quite entertaining with all the costumes and floats. The mayor usually stops by too.
#35 Trinity-Bellwoods Park
This is my FAVORITE park (and neighborhood) in all of Toronto. It’s super hipster. You’ll often find people biking through there, reading a book on a park bench, playing with their dogs, or if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the famous White Squirrel of Trinity Bellwoods.
#36 Hunt down the mythical white squirrel of Trinity-Bellwoods
Hahaha. This is hilarious and perfectly displays Toronto’s understated quirkiness. There are white squirrels in Trinity-Bellwoods that have developed sort of a mythical reputation and cult following. I can’t tell you how many times I was walking through Trinity-Bellwoods to see a group of people snapping photos…of a white squirrel! You’ll even find plenty of souvenirs, such as pins and greeting cards, featuring this animal.
Supposedly the most expensive neighborhood in all of Toronto, Yorkville can be fun to walk around. But if you’re on a budget, don’t expect to buy much here. It is beautiful, though, particularly along Yorkville Avenue. It’s a brick-lined street with lots of shiny stores and cars.
Always a great place to stop by if you’re looking for cheap eats and souvenirs. I like shopping for postcards here. You can find ones that INCLUDE postage. Also a good place for finding cheap luggage to haul back your souvenirs.
#39 Greektown (AKA The Danforth)
Obviously, this is the best place to grab authentic Greek food!
#40 Yonge-Dundas Square
Kind of the Times Square of Toronto (but seriously, it was modeled after Times Square).
#41 Free movies in parks
Catch a free movie in one of the many public parks in Toronto. Check the movie schedule here.
#42 Request a greeter!
Okay, I WISH I had known about the Toronto Greeters Program before. This is a group of local Torontonians who volunteer to take you around a certain part of their city. Tours last two to four hours, and you fill out an application beforehand and are matched with a greeter who shares your interests. There are even multiple languages available! Definitely try this. Click here to request a greeter
#43 Drop in on a Riverside Walk
Riverside is a neighborhood on the East end of Toronto. These free walks are held in the spring, summer, and fall. Check the schedule here
#44 Take yourself on a self-guided walk
The City of Toronto has suggestions for self-guided walks that have been planned out for you already.
#45 Take advantage of a free drop-in program (swimming, skating, and more!)
Ugh, just another reason to love Canada: I recently discovered that certain community centres allow you to drop-in on classes and programs for FREE. I’m not sure if you have to be a Canadian citizen or Toronto resident, but it’s worth a shot. Here’s a list of the facilities with drop-in programs.
#46 Stroll the William G. Davis Trail
This 1.3-kilometre trail runs right along the lakeshore.
#47 Admire the architecture and hustle of Union Station
This is the busiest station in Toronto, but it’s such a sight to see! Not only can you admire the Beaux-Art style, but you can also get to pretty much anywhere in the city from here.
Cheap Things to Do In Toronto ($30 or less!)
#48 Experience a night of jazz and storytelling at The Communist’s Daughter
Okay, I was REALLY hesitant to put this on the list simply because it is hands-down my most treasured memory of Toronto and also kind of a local secret. I don’t want it to become overrun with people, but I also want to share the love.
The Communist’s Daughter is a hole-in-the-wall bar in Little Italy. You won’t find a sign for it. In fact, outside, it says “Nazare Snack Bar.” Inside, there isn’t much to look at, and it’s tiny.
But…on Saturday and Sunday nights they host jazz musicians. And you NEED TO MAKE SURE you go on the night when Michael Louis Johnson is performing. He’s the bartender and an incredible musician and storyteller. He will have you enthralled the whole night.
There’s no cover charge, but obviously, you’ll need to buy drinks.
#49 Take the ferry to the Toronto Islands
I LOVE doing this. The Toronto Islands is like its own little world floating just off the shore of Toronto. To live here, people are put on waitlists for years. The houses are adorable, and there are many beaches you can go to.
#50 Royal Ontario Museum – $15.43
Explore Canada’s largest museum of world cultures and natural history—and this ticket lets you skip the line! You can gawk at the Barosaurus (Canada’s largest dinosaur on display), the 900-carat Light of the Desert Cerussite gem, the Tomb Mound of General Zu Dashou (“Ming Tomb”), and so much more.
#51 Bata Shoe Museum – $10.80
4,500 years of shoe history are on display at the Bata Shoe Museum, and with this ticket, you’ll be able to explore four gallery spaces.
#52 Catch a show at the Mirvish Theater
The Ed Mirvish Theatre in Downtown Toronto was founded in 1987. You can actually get some pretty cheap tickets, especially if you opt for Standing Room tickets. For example, Standing Room tickets to Come From Away are just $25.
As part of this Airbnb Experience, Emily (a pianist) and Rory (a violinist) invite you into their living room in Downtown Toronto for an evening of classical music, storytelling, and snacks and drinks.
The host of this tour, Dave, is the owner of a Toronto group walking tour company called Buzz Tours. He’ll lead you beneath a dozen prestigious buildings, and you’ll see sites such as Union Station, the CN Tower, the Eaton Centre, and more.
#55 Create UV resin jewelry with artists – $27
Under the guidance of artists Rie and Grace, you’ll make jewelry from UV resin, a popular material in Japan. You can make a necklace, charm, or earrings.
#56 Play with rescue animals at a farm/zoo – $20
Lucy and Nelson run Lucy’s Farm Zoo where you’ll meet horses, goats, chickens, alpaca, hens, and more. Water, tea, and snacks are included in the price.
If you’re looking for a low-key but fun way to meet new friends, check out this Airbnb Experience. Lisa will meet you at Duke’s Refresher + Bar where you’ll gather with others and play fun boardgames.
#58 Bicycle through Toronto with a guide – $24
Toronto native Dan will lend you a bike for this Airbnb Experience, as he guides you through some off-the-beaten paths in Toronto. You’ll see forests, rivers, parks, and wildlife. So if you love the outdoors and need a break from the urban jungle—this might be perfect for you!
#59 Casa Loma Castle – $30
Did you know Toronto has a CASTLE? Hot tip: For free, you can look at it from the outside and skip the tour (which is what I did). But if you’d like to learn the history behind this landmark, general admission is $30.
#60 See the Sharks After Dark at the Ripley’s Aquarium – $26.15
Skip the line and experience Toronto’s aquarium at night (after 7 p.m.) with fewer crowds! There are 9 galleries with 16,000 aquatic animals. You can even touch giant lobsters, stingrays, and sharks.
#61 Toronto Zoo – $23
More than 5,000 animals call this 710-acre zoo home. It’s one of the largest zoos in the world! You can see white lions, giraffes, tigers, leopards, orangutans, and polar bears.
#62 Peace Collective for a Home Is Toronto T-Shirt
These popular T-shirts sport your love for Toronto and support a philanthropic mission: For every garment sold, Peace Collective donates two meals to a Canadian child in need.
Cheap Places to Eat in Toronto
#63 Enjoy a bomba at Sud Forno
Sud Forno is my favorite bakery, and its most popular concoction is the bomba, which is like a donut stuffed with Nutella. YUM.
#64 Dineen Coffee Co.
*Sigh* Sadly, I seem never to have the time to actually go here, but I’ve passed by it before, and it’s so freaking gorgeous. It would be a great place to grab a coffee or bring a laptop and work at for the afternoon.
#65 416 Snack Bar
Every dish at this snack bar runs just $6-$12 each. And it’s delicious! Late at night, though, it gets so loud it’s basically a nightclub.
Chocolate-covered crickets, anyone? This lovely little chocolate shop features creative concoctions, and also some pretty run-of-the-mill ones. Definitely stop by. They let you sample their ice cream too.
#67 Peace Treats
If you want the ULTIMATE milkshake, stop by Peace Treats! It’s located inside the boutique clothing store Peace Collective.
#68 Lisa Marie brunch
Some of the best brunch in Toronto! A brunch dish here will run you around $18CDN.
#69 Fantail Bakery
Fantail is one of my favorite bakeries in Toronto. The ambiance is literary and lush, and the baked goods are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Definitely try their croissants!
#70 Lebanon Express
If you’re craving Lebanese food that’s quick and cheap, go to Lebanon Express. This was my go-to place when I was in Toronto.
#71 Jimmy the Greek
Okay, I’m a little embarrassed to say this is my FAVORITE restaurant in Toronto. It’s inside the Eaton Centre, so yes, it is literally just a mall food court restaurant, but it is SO GOOD. I always get the Chicken Souvlaki dinner, which includes rice, salad, and roasted potatoes. You’re in and out of the line in like 3 minutes.
#72 Greek & Co
My other favorite Greek place in Toronto! I like the one on Queen Street West. This one takes a little longer because I always order the Beeftiki Pita. Be warned that if you order that meat in particular, it does take a little longer to prepare. If you’re in a hurry, go with the Steak or Chicken Souvlaki Pita. The pitas are served with FRENCH FRIES stuffed inside. SO DELICIOUS.
#73 Poutini’s House of Poutine
What an icon! You, of course, MUST try poutine while you’re in Canada. And I highly recommend trying it at Poutini’s.
#74 Tim Horton’s
How could I leave this off a list of Canadian things to do? While, honestly, the food and coffee are nothing to write home about, it’s a tried-and-true Canadian tradition to eat here…and it’s super cheap!
Enjoy These Free (or Cheap) Things to Do in Toronto!
As you can see, there are plenty of free things to do in Toronto if you get creative and do your research. If you’d like to save even more money on your trip don’t forget to check out my guide on secret Airbnb money-saving tips that’ll have you booking your trip like a pro! I hope you enjoy your trip!