- Download our Moving to Toronto Guide (PDF)
Toronto’s expat lifestyle is filled with fantastic restaurants, loads of shopping options, and great entertainment and nightlife venues, not to mention a plethora of fantastic outdoor pursuits. If the day-to-day excitement of the city isn’t enough, expats will be glad to know that there are many annual events to anticipate, and the city is also a good jumping-off point to explore further afield whether in Canada or the US.
Shopping in Toronto
Hailed as Canada's shopping capital, Toronto's stores offer everything from top international brands to locally-produced masterpieces. The Eaton Centre is a popular arcade with numerous shops, restaurants and entertainment centres. Yorkville, on Bloor Street, is the place to find unique clothing and jewellery from London, Milan and Paris. Queen St West also has some trendy boutiques.
The St Lawrence and Kensington markets are good for arts, crafts and vintage clothing, and there are some lovely art galleries in and around Bathurst Street.
Nightlife in Toronto
There is an assortment of exciting nightlife hotspots in Toronto, from trendy bars and lounges to pumping nightclubs and live music venues.
Those who want to see big international artists perform should check out listings at the Rogers Centre and Scotiabank Arena. The Budweiser Stage is a stunning outdoor concert venue where expats can enjoy their favourite bands and the summer weather.
Arts and culture in Toronto
The arts and culture scene in Toronto is incredibly diverse. Expats can marvel at masterpieces at the Art Gallery of Ontario and appreciate the city’s artistic community while taking a stroll, thanks to the vibrant and ever-changing street art displayed around Toronto.
Timeless music auditoriums such as Massey Hall and the Phoenix Concert Theatre host regular events. The Opera House provides a more intimate space for performances, while the building’s balcony offers spectacular city views.
Toronto’s theatre district is centred on King Street West. Historic venues such as the Ed Mervish Theatre, the Royal Alexandra Theatre and the Princess of Wales Theatre often present popular Broadway productions. Whereas the Young People’s Theatre and Soulpepper Theatre Company in the Distillery District stage smaller shows.
Eating out in Toronto
Thanks to the multicultural make-up of this vast city, Toronto has thousands of world-class eateries offering a multitude of cuisines.
College Street offers some of the city's best Italian restaurants, and Greek food is best enjoyed in the Danforth area.
Authentic Chinese restaurants are located in Chinatown around Dundas Street and Spadina Avenue, and also north of downtown in Markham, while Gerrard Street is great for Indian cuisine.
Expats should also be sure to look out for the many food festivals popping up around the city. Toronto does a Summerlicious and Winterlicious prix fixe event annually, with many restaurants participating. It’s an excellent way to try some fine-dining establishments for expats on a budget.
Outdoor activities in Toronto
Expats who enjoy being outdoors won’t be disappointed, especially when Toronto's weather plays along. There are many parks dotted around the city for everything from running, strolling, and frisbee tossing to family get-togethers. Niagara Falls is just a short drive from the city, and the Toronto Islands are a great place for a picnic in the summer.
Those who enjoy trail running or mountain biking can head to Durham Forest. Woodbine Lake is a wonderful spot to try water sports such as kayaking. In the winter months, Toronto becomes an ice skater's paradise with many rinks opening up all over the city.
See and do in Toronto
There is plenty to see and do in Toronto, no matter the weather. The city boasts incredible galleries, cuisine and green spaces. Below is a selection of our favourite attractions.
The landmark CN Tower stands at 1,815ft (553m) and is one of the highest observation platforms in the world. Expats can head up to the 113-storey-high LookOut Level to see Toronto from a brand-new perspective through the floor-to-ceiling windows and glass floor.
The Harbourfront Centre is a great place to spend the day visiting galleries, relaxing at a cafe or strolling along the waterfront.
Just off the city’s Lake Ontario shores are the Toronto Islands, a quiet natural haven where expats and their families can spend time away from the city enjoying the gorgeous views and beaches.
The Distillery District is a national historic site where films are often shot and festivals and special events held. This pedestrianised village is home to dozens of art galleries, eateries, the Toronto Christmas Market and live music venues.
Royal Ontario Museum
Famous for its golden mosaic ceiling, the Royal Ontario Museum is a perfect family outing with more than 40 separate galleries displaying art, archaeology and science exhibits.
What's on in Toronto
Whether expats prefer colourful carnivals, music festivals or cultural events, new arrivals will find that the city is full of exciting festivals to keep them occupied throughout the year.
Canadian Music Week (May)
This is one of Canada's most influential media and music conferences, attracting performers and emerging artists of all genres throughout the week.
Toronto Taste (June)
Toronto Taste is a charity fundraiser celebrating top-notch cuisine, fine wines and stunning waterfront scenery.
Pride Toronto (June/July)
This decades-old event celebrates Toronto’s LGBTQIA+ community with street festivals, music, political marches and a famous parade drawing in over a million attendees each year.
Toronto International Film Festival (September)
The Toronto International Film Festival is the largest film festival in the city, holding screenings, talks and special events. It flaunts the glamour of Hollywood each September, hosting some of the world's best-known actors and directors.
Where to meet people and make friends in Toronto
Meeting people in a new city can be daunting. Below are a few suggestions for expats looking to make friends and integrate into their new communities.
Toronto Newcomers Club is an inclusive club created by expat women passionate about supporting new arrivals adjusting to life in the city.
This sports league offers a variety of sport, including basketball, floor hockey and volleyball, and is a great way for adult fitness-loving expats in the Yonge & Eglinton community to make friends while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The Day Breakers is an international dance club focused on promoting sober habits and helping people jumpstart their mornings with a dance party. It’s a fantastic way to build friendships with like-minded people.
With more than 99 locations across the city, the Toronto Public Library offers many programmes and book clubs to engage people from all walks, making it the perfect space to meet people with similar interests.
► Learn more about life in the city in Pros and Cons of Moving to Toronto
"I’m still into the same sports, but it is fun attending local sports matches. I enjoy new experiences, so attending baseball or hockey games has been great. I still need to see the Raptors play though. As for new interests, I've become more interested in investing. There is a wider variety of financial products here (e.g. index funds, stocks etc.)."
Read about Figo, a South African expat, and his lifestyle and experiences in Toronto.
Are you an expat living in Toronto?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Toronto. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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