When booking flights I sometimes look for ones with a long layover in cities that I would like to visit, so when I spotted that a flight from Dublin to Cancun with Air Canada would involve a long layover in Toronto I booked it almost immediately!
Toronto seems to be growing in popularity as a layover destination for Irish and other European tourist’s on their way to other parts of Canada, the USA and South or Central America. The airport itself is one of the most efficient airports that I have ever navigated, there were no long queues and we got through it very quickly on the 3 occasions that we were there.
We arrived around 2pm and we weren’t departing until the following morning at 10am, so we had to stay overnight. We choose to stay near the airport rather than in the city centre as we had an early start in the morning and we wanted to enjoy an extra hour in bed as we knew we would be tired and a little jet lagged after our flight from Dublin. We stayed in Alt Hotel, it is reached easily by the free airport train; you will see the signs for the train, which also stops at Terminal 3 and the Sheraton Gateway hotel, when you exit arrivals in Terminal 1. The hotel itself was perfect for our stay, we were checked in within minutes and the rooms were roomy and an added bonus was the fact we could bring our airport trolley up to the room so no lugging big rucksacks about!
While we had a very long layover in Toronto you can easily get out of the airport and into the city centre if you are there for 5 hours or more. Continue reading to see what we got up to during our layover in Toronto.
Getting into Toronto from the airport
The easiest and quickest option for getting into the city centre from Pearson international airport is the UP Express. This train will have you in the city centre in 25 mins and there is Wi-Fi on board. The train leaves from Terminal 1, you will see the signs on exiting arrivals, and it goes every 15 mins from 5.30am to 1am. A one-way ticket will cost $12 and a return is $24, however if you only have 7 hours or less to explore the city you can avail of the Long Layover Return ticket for $12. This ticket gives you 7 hours from when you leave the airport to explore the city and return to the airport.
*Samsonite in both Terminal’s 1 and 3 provide luggage storage with prices starting from $5 for a carry-on bag and up to $10 for an over-size bag.
Getting around Toronto
We spent most of our time in Toronto walking around but the public transport system in the city seemed to be very reliable. You will pay $3 for each journey on the subway, streetcars and buses. For more information on public transport in Toronto you can check put the Toronto Transit commission website by clicking here. (www.ttc.ca)
Where to eat
We just ate on the go, we wanted to make the most of our time in the city, at Smoke’s Poutinerie on Adelaide Street West. We enjoyed their hand-cut chips with gravy and cheese curd, a Quebec classic but if you wanted something more substantial there were plenty of other options near Union Train station, in and around the financial district or down at the Harbourfront.
Things to do
Since we just had a few hours in the city we couldn’t see everything but there was still a few things that we felt we couldn’t miss.
Downtown and Toronto Harbour – After arriving on the UP Express into Toronto’s historical Union Station we spent some time just wandering around streets looking up at all the Skyscrapers before making our way to Toronto Harbour.
Toronto Islands and the Centre Island Ferry – Even if you only do one thing during your layover in Toronto do this! For only $7.50 return you can catch the Centre Island Ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal down near Harbour Square Park. Try and get a place at the back of the boat, the view of the Toronto skyline is beautiful and you will definitely want to take some photographs. The ferry goes every 30minutes and queues can be long at certain times, for more information on scheduling. click here.
There is so much to do on the islands and it’s a beautiful peaceful oasis if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and relax for a while. First and foremost take a quick walk over the bridge to Olympic Island, the view of Toronto from here is simply amazing especially at sunset. After you have taken a few obligatory photographs you should get exploring the islands.
About a 10/15 minute walk from the ferry terminal you will find Centre Island beach, lockers and changing rooms are provided. If you have young children with you, don’t miss Centreville Amusement Park ($25 for 25 tickets) and the Far enough farm, a small petting zoo beside the amusement park. If you would like to cycle around the islands you can also rent bicycles from a rental booth down near the pier.
CN Tower – After visiting Centre Island for a few hours we decided to make our way to the CN Tower. We weren’t sure if we were going to go up to the top or not but we were lucky when we arrived at the entrance at around 9pm, there was only a short queue for the tickets. The tower is open from 9am to 10.30 pm and there are a few different ticket options (click here to have a look at them).
Since it was late we just bought the general admission tickets for the Tower Experience at $45 each. However, once you buy your tickets you still have to queue to catch the elevators up to the Lookout level, we queued for about 45/50 minutes but I’ve heard of people waiting for up to 2 hours! A question I asked myself while queuing was ‘is it worth the price tag and the waiting?’ and the answer was YES! You travel up to the Lookout level in a glass elevator and once you reach the top you are rewarded with spectacular views over Toronto. Don’t miss the Glass Floor level; while we were there the Toronto Blue Jays were playing a baseball match at the Rogers Centre and it crazy standing directly above the stadium while the match was on.
More things to do
If you have more than a few hours I would also recommend a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, located right beside the CN Tower in the Entertainment District, taking a walk or streetcar over to the Distillery District and a visit to St. Lawrence’s Market.
So there is our post on how to make the most of your layover in Toronto. Have you ever been? What did you get up to? If you have any comments or would like more information please leave a comment below and we will get back to you.