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A Weekend in Toronto

Updated: Sep 24, 2023


The word Toronto on a brick building

Hello everyone! Let's continue my journey of visiting a new city every month! In November I was in Toronto for the weekend. I have been in the Toronto airport quite often, but I haven't actually spent much time in Toronto. However, I have now changed that.


In this month's blog post, I will talk about the city of Toronto, the TTC & GoTransit (how they both work with PRESTO), The Stockyards Grind Cafe, The Eaton Centre, CN Tower, The Toronto Santa Claus Parade, and of course my Airbnb.

 

The City of Toronto

Toronto is the capital of Ontario and it home to about 2.95 million people. It is the largest city in Canada and the fourth largest city in all of North America. Toronto is known worldwide for the tourist attraction CN Tower.


Here you can find a map of Toronto: https://www.toronto.ca/explore-enjoy/visitor-services/ and learn more about the city!


Airbnb

My Airbnb was small but cozy. It was behind a yoga studio that the host owned. The host was really nice, he invited us to yoga class.


The bathroom was interesting. It was similar to a Korean bathroom in that it had a drain in the floor. So, when I had a shower, the entire bathroom would get wet since the shower wasn't separated. After a shower, if you needed to use the toilet or sink, then your feet would wet. At first, I didn't notice that this was the shower situation and so I thought it was really funny that the toilet paper was so high up. But if it was lower, then it would've gotten wet too.

The bed was really comfy. I slept really well, but it was a bit loud since it is quite close to the busy street.

The hot tub at the Airbnb

The best part of this Airbnb was definitively the outdoor hot tub. It was so magical to be in the hot tub during the winter while it was snowing. The water was warm and the air so cool. It was exhilarating to walk barefoot in the snow and run into the hot tub.


A friend and I did face masks in the hot tub. It was an amazing way to end the day, relaxing in the hot tub. I do wish it was more private however.


The alley to the Airbnb didn't have a gate separating it from the main street. So, being outside is a little bit uncomfortable. But from what I experienced, not having a gate is quite common in Toronto.


The alley way to the Airbnb

The kitchen had a mini fridge, a microwave, a kettle, a toaster, and a coffee machine. But I recommend getting coffee at the cafe nearby called The Stockyards Grind. It is only a 2 minute walk and it is perfect if you are a coffee lover.


The barista was definitely very passionate about coffee. When I tried to order a coffee, he asked me questions such as "Americano, Latte, Cappuccino? Do you like coffee with nutty notes? Notes of chocolate? A strong coffee or softer coffee?"


I had a black Americano with coffee beans from Panama and it...was...heavenly. I would definitely go back to Toronto just for this cafe.


A note from the owner of the cafe: "This is a laptop free zone". Meaning you cannot work on your laptop here. It is just for short visit with friends or getting a coffee to go.



PRESTO Card

First, I want to talk about PRESTO cards before we talk about the TTC, GoTransit, and more about Toronto. PRESTO cards are cards that you can use with the Toronto public transportation. You can also use PRESTO card on GoTransit and some other public transport.

A photo of a PRESTO card

I got my PRESTO card from my university, but you can get a PRESTO card from Shoppers Drug Mart, ticket machines in subway stations, some ticket machines for GoTransit, and the kiosks in train stations. You can also purchase a PRESTO card from Pearson Airport. As it states on the website:

  • Terminal 1 – Ground Level, Public Transit Area – Door R, vending machine

  • Terminal 3 – Arrivals Level, Public Transit Area - Door B, vending machine

The card costs $6 CAD and you have to load at least between $0.05 - $5.00 CAD onto the card (depending on where you get it). You can simply load money onto the card and/or tickets. These tickets, as the website states:

  • A one-ride ticket costs $3.25 (adults / youths / seniors)

  • A two-ride ticket costs $6.50 (adults/ youths / seniors)

  • A day pass ticket costs $13.50 (adults/ youths / seniors)

The first two tickets are good for 2 hours, so you can go anywhere on the TTC for 2 hours only for the price of these tickets. The second one can be used twice because it is good for 2 rides and is also good for 2 hours. So, if you only spent an hour in a cafe, you can get on the TTC (street train or subway) without paying again. The third ticket is good for a full day. You can go anywhere on the TTC for as little as $13.50 CAD.

This PRESTO card also has an app but it sucks to use, I don't recommend it.


On this app you can load money onto your PRESTO card, load tickets, check the balance on the card, and view past transactions.


This app can also hold up to 10 PRESTO cards, but this app has many many problems. It is easier to use these ticket machines or kiosks. The app is only good for checking card balances, but you'll need to enable NFC on your phone to do that.



If you don't want to use this PRESTO card, you can just buy paper tickets from ticket machines in subway stations, some ticket machines for GoTransit, and kiosks in train stations, or ticket machines on street trains. The ticket machines on the street train only take coins, but all other options take cash and cards.



TTC

This acronym stands for Toronto Transit Commission and is the public transit system in Toronto. It includes all trams, buses, and subways. With the TTC you can visit all of Toronto.


There are a few apps that you can use to plan trips and get real-time information (see map below for all apps). There is also just a website for TTC, where you can do the same thing. I'll talk later about how much time it takes to visit Toronto.

Map of the TTC

The entire map of the TTC

The street train and subway map, the Fall 2022 Public Transit Guide, and the Downtown Toronto Map.



The Eaton Centre

The Eaton Center

On Saturday me and my friend went to The Eaton Centre. The Eaton Center is a huge mall in downtown Toronto. It is at the 'Dundas' station and 'Queen' station for the 1 underground line (Yellow line). It took almost 1 hour to get to The Eaton Center from the Airbnb.


The Eaton Center has so many shops. The bottom floor is called UE - Urban Eatery and is where you can eat. The first floor has stores such as H&M, American Eagle, The Body Shop, Kernels, and Second Cup. This floor is also where the Dundas underground station connects. The second floor has stores such as Apple, Lacoste, Pandora, and PINK. The third floor has stores such as Lululemon, Nordstrom, Sephora, Coach, and Zara. The fourth floor is just the top floor of Indigo and Zara. The Saks Fifth Avenue and Hudson's Bay are across the street. The third floor leads to downtown Toronto.


There is no need to worry if you are lost as The Eaton Center has touchscreen maps throughout the mall. But you can also just use the website.


We did some shopping but didn't stay long because it was so noisy and crowded on the weekend. There must have been thousands of people there. I don't recommend it on weekends. If you can, go during the week.


CN Tower

The CN Tower


On Sunday we went to The CN Tower. You can also take subway line 1 (yellow line) to the CN Tower. The stop is called 'Union'. This stop also goes to The Rogers Centre, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, Roundhouse Park with the Train Playground, Steamwhistle Brewery, and Scotiabank Arena.




The CN Tower was huge! I also visited the Eifel Tower when I was a kid, and the CN Tower is smaller, but it's not small. Unfortunately, we couldn't go inside as the top floor was under construction. But we did touch the outside. It was very cold and windy that day, so we didn't stay outside too long.



Frau Hannah at the CN Tower

If you're visiting Canada in the winter, bring warm clothes. It can get really cold here and the wind can be brutal.


You can find more information about tickets, opening times, cafes in the CN Tower, etc. here.



The Toronto Santa Claus Parade

During our trip to The Eaton Center, we found out about The Toronto Santa Claus Parade. I usually go to the parades in my city, but we happened to be in Toronto when this parade was happening. It was my first time experiencing it. It started at 12:30 on Sunday and it was in downtown Toronto. There were many families, marching bands, and dancing. But Sunday was incredibly cold, so we didn't stay long.

If you are interested, you can learn more on this website: https://thesantaclausparade.com/



Go Transit

When we were returned home, we had used GoTransit. GoTransit was horrible to use! You can use PRESTO card with GoTransit, but it's incredibly confusing and they don't have any information on how. I am very confused by the system, so it may not be helpful, but I will tell you what I know and what I have experienced.


GoTransit has these ticket machines at the train stations where you can buy a ticket. A ticket cost me CAD$19.40, but this price changes depending on where you go (it can cost you more or less). This ticket machine takes cash and card but not PRESTO card. You can load money onto your PRESTO card with these ticket machines, but you cannot pay with it.


GoTransit also has these ticket machines, similar to the ones on the TTC street cars, where you can just scan your PRESTO card. From what I've been told, you have to scan your PRESTO card before boarding the train and again when you get off. That way, Go Transit knows how far you've gone. Then you only pay for the distance traveled instead of the entire journey.




If you don't scan your PRESTO card when you exit, then GoTransit will charge you a penalty on your PRESTO card. So, for me, I paid CAD $2.64 on my PRESTO card before boarding. I scanned my PRESTO again when getting off, but GoTransit had charged me 2 penalties of CAD $9 and another CAD $2.64. I do not know why. I sent an email but after almost 2 weeks I've heard absolutely nothing from them.



There is an option to buy e-tickets on GoTransit's website, but I don't know how it works. Paper tickets are expensive but incredibly simple, so I recommend using these paper tickets. With PRESTO card I should only have paid CAD $2.64 but now I have paid CAD $23.28 in total.


With a paper ticket, there is less of a headache and it is only one price. These paper tickets are good for one ride within 4 hours of purchase. So, if you buy a paper ticket at 10am, that paper ticket will expire at 2pm. I don't know what would happen if your train took more than 4 hours to arrive at your destination.


If you buy your paper tickets, there is a suggested journey based on where you are and where you want to go. You don't have to take this specific route, you can take a different route as long as it arrives at the same destination within 4 hours of purchasing your ticket.

Go Transit departure screens

These tickets do not say where your train would arrive. You have to pay attention to the departure times because it would tell you 10 minutes before which platform your train will arrive on. Then you only have about 10 minutes to go there. These trains don't wait at all. You also only have about 3 minutes at your stop when you're getting off, so prepare to get off and be by the doors before you see your stop.


Union station

The train stations are nice. There are many many restaurants, but it is mostly fast food. Restrooms are nice, there is free WIiFi and places to charge laptops or cell phones.


Go Transit train



The GoTransit trains are okay. There are no tables or food service on board. There is also no place to put your suitcase, which means you have to sit with your suitcase. So, when traveling with GoTransit, it's best to travel light. The trains also don't have power outlets, so you can't charge your cell phone or laptop. But they do have restrooms, two floors, and free WiFi (but also confusing).






This WiFiis incredibly slow. They have free movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, etc. that you can access. But if you want to do your own thing, it takes the whole train ride for the WiFi to load. I recommend that you download your own movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, etc. before your trip or use the data or hotspot on your phone.



On GoTransit, the stops are in English and French, but all drivers' announcements, e.g. Redirects, are in English. On my way back, there were platforms that were under construction and therefore certain carriages would not open. If that was your stop, you had to go to another carriage to get off. These carriages have an ID number, so during the announcement the driver would give the ID number for which carriage would open and which would remain closed due to construction. My carriage was 2066.

Go Train system map

In conclusion, Go Transit isn't great, but we don't have anything else. Is it similar to DB - Deutsche Bahn?

 

Summary

Overall Toronto is a beautiful, mega city with a lot to do. I really enjoyed my time in Toronto. My Airbnb was unique and wonderful. The Stockyards Grind cafe had amazing coffee and atmosphere. Seeing the CN Tower for the first time was so exciting. Getting to experience the Toronto Santa Claus Parade was such and fun and exciting surprise. The trip to and from wasn't the best, but the city and what it has to offer more than made up for that.


This city really has something for everyone. I recommend a trip to Toronto if you get the chance.

Frau Hannah in front of a christmas tree

Until my next adventure!

 

Resources

Information about the city of Toronto

Where you can buy a PRESTO card

Where in the Pearson airport you can buy a PRESTO card and where the TTC is in the airport.

Information about the PRESTO card

The TTC website - tickets, travel plans, etc.

The Eaton Center website

Information about the CN Tower

The Toronto Santa Claus Parade

Good Luck...




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