City lights and historic sites in central Canada
If you are looking for an action-packed itinerary filled with iconic locales that will surprise and delight, look no further than the country’s central region – specifically Toronto, Niagara, Montréal and Québec City. While each destination is easily accessible from the other, they are all unique in history, culture, architecture and cuisine.
Ready for a whirlwind tour of Canada’s centre? Here’s how to make the most of your Ontario/Québec adventure:
Illustrations by Jeannie Phan
Motion design by Yan Aftimus Rosa
Fly to Toronto
After touching down in Ontario’s capital city, grab a taxi and head to the magical metropolis that is downtown Toronto. Once you’ve had a chance to check in (consider the nature-inspired 1 Hotel Toronto or stylish Ace Hotel), head straight to famous skyline landmark, the CN Tower. Try a full-circle, hands-free EdgeWalk 116 storeys above ground. Or, sample fresh, local and sustainably-produced culinary delights high above the city at the 360 Restaurant. The panoramic view is ever-changing as you slowly rotate at 1150 feet up. Then head to the nearby Steam Whistle Roundhouse for an award-winning pilsner in their authentic Biergärten.
The vibrant diversity of Toronto is world-renowned, so you can fill your days with a vast array of global experiences and sights. Make like a local and get around the city by foot, subway and streetcar to really live the downtown T.O. lifestyle. Have bubble tea in Koreatown, aloo gobi in Little India and dim sum in Chinatown. Visit the community-driven artistic haven of Kensington Market for tacos, gelato and carefully-curated vintage shops.
Feel close to nature in the heart of downtown at 1 Hotel Toronto.
Take in the art across the AGO’s current exhibits and permanent collection.
Head southeast to visit another top pedestrian destination, the Distillery District, known for its beautifully refurbished 19th century buildings, cobblestone streets, art galleries and eclectic boutiques. The best way to get around Toronto is by transit – hop on a streetcar or subway to check out more of Toronto’s greatest hits, such as the AGO or the ROM for the best in world-class art and culture. Take in a Blue Jays game at Rogers Centre or an outdoor concert at the Budweiser Stage.
Take a scenic flight to Niagara
It’s time to see the most famous waterfall in North America from a totally new perspective. Add a little luxury to your journey from Toronto by travelling via Air Taxi to Niagara District Airport. (Or, drive there in an hour and a half.) Have a thrilling encounter with the Falls by soaring across 670 metres by zipline. Or, don a poncho and take a wild ride with Niagara City Cruises and feel the vibrations down 125 feet at Journey Behind the Falls.
Experience the power of the falls firsthand with Niagara City Cruises.
A view of the grapevines Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The next day, venture beyond the iconic Falls to experience the top-notch cuisine and divine wines of the Niagara terroir. Visit the Georgian mansion and vineyard Riverbed Inn or sample the award-winning wines at Pearl Morrissette. Head to serene Niagara-on-the-Lake and take in a performance at the world-renowned Shaw Festival, dedicated to plays written and inspired by George Bernard Shaw. Aprés-matinee, dine on prime rib, tiger prawn cocktail and mushroom risotto at Cannery Restaurant.
Head back to Toronto before you start your next adventure in La Belle Province.
Take the train to Montréal
Opt for a relaxing and scenic train ride that will get you from Toronto to Montréal in around five hours. Once you’ve arrived at Montréal Central Station in the heart of downtown, head south to step back in time in beautiful Old Montréal. Take your time ambling along the cobblestone streets, stopping in to peruse art galleries, boutiques and treasured heritage buildings such as charming Château Ramezay and the awe-inspiring Gothic revival masterpiece Notre-Dame Basilica. At adjacent Old Port, consider stopping by Bota Bota for massage and body treatments on a floating spa, or take an urban zipline over the water for an adrenaline rush.
In Old Montréal, the city is a sight worth seeing.
Visit Montréal during festival season to catch events like Pride.
Montréal locals relish the great outdoors once the snow melts, so al fresco dining is a must. Snag a coveted seat at one of the city’s fabulous rooftop restaurants, such as Labo Culinaire atop Lower Main’s SAT arts space or Terrasse Perché on the fourth floor of the stylish William Gray Hotel.
Summer is festival season in Montréal. Check out comedic voices from home and abroad at the renowned Just for Laughs, fresh new sounds at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal or the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a musical journey from Africa to Latin America to the Caribbean. Check local listings to see what’s on, or simply hang around cultural compass Quartier des Spectacles; chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for, whether it’s live music, circus acrobatics or temporary art installations.
Drive or take the train to Québec City
Expect about a three-hour drive from Montréal to provincial capital Québec City, or put your feet up for a 3.5-hour train ride into Gare du Palais. Stay at the stunning Fairmont Le Château Frontenac just north of the Plains of Abraham and browse the 400-year-old Nouveau France charms of Old Québec in the fortified Petit Champlain District. Visit the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec to see Québec’s past, present and future preserved for generations to come.
Dive into the knowledge and traditions of the Huron-Wendat Nation in Wendake, about a half-hour drive away. This spot is also the home of the 28-meter-high Kabir Kouba Waterfall. Sample Wendat culinary culture at Restaurant la Sagamite. Stay in rooms inspired by Indigenous cultures at the modern and authentic Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations and experience First Nations terroir at the hotel’s Restaurant La Traite along the Akiawenrahk River.
Stroll through Quartier du Petit Champlain for a European feel right here at home.
Hôtel Musée Premières Nations lets you experience Huron-Wendat culture right outside Québec City.
Before you close out your Central Canada adventure, be sure to experience the history, culture and lifestyle of the Huron people at the Site Traditionnel Huron.
Then, head back to Québec City for one last treat – a French Canadian crêpe and chocolat chaud perhaps – before your journey home. There’s so much to experience in Central Canada – it won’t be long before you are yearning to return.