Old City Hall Toronto
Region and City Guides

Layover in Toronto: Sightseeing Guide

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I had a 12-hour layover in Toronto when travelling home to Ireland from Cuba with Air Canada. That lengthy layover provided an opportunity to discover the city.

Toronto is a fantastic city to have a layover in for three reasons:

  1. Quick access to the city centre from the airport.
  2. Compact city centre with an excellent subway/metro system.
  3. Toronto is a friendly and welcoming city.

If your layover is overnight, Booking.com has a wide selection of accommodation options in downtown Toronto.


For a quick and inexpensive transfer, the Union Pearson Express train (UP Express) runs from Pearson Airport to Union Station in downtown Toronto. The journey takes 25 minutes. Trains run every 30 minutes.

The 900 Express bus route connects Pearson Airport with Kipling Station where passengers can transfer to Line 2 Bloor-Danforth of the subway system.


I disembarked at St. George Station on Line 2 of the subway system. I found myself basking in glorious sunshine between the shadows of high-rise buildings.

I love meandering among old buildings admiring the product of builders and architects of by-gone eras. Some Torontonians I met prior to my visit said I would be disappointed with their native city if that was what I was expecting. But I wasn’t disappointed with my layover in Toronto, as you will discover below.


All isn’t completely lost as a few architectural gems are still preserved such as the Church of the Redeemer at the intersection of Bloor Street West and Avenue Road, and St. Andrew’s Church on Simcoe Street, although both are dwarfed by boxy skyscrapers.

Church of the Redeemer Toronto
Church of the Redeemer
St. Andrew's Church Toronto
St. Andrew’s Church


I was told that many of the University of Toronto buildings would meet my architectural desires and the Old Department of Household Science Building didn’t disappoint. The university campus is centrally located and is worth a meander. The Royal Ontario Museum is also located in the university area.


I continued to Queen’s Park where a kaleidoscope of activities was taking place from bagpipe practice to tight-rope walking. I had the CN Tower in my sights and headed down University Avenue in its direction. More meandering led me to the WSIB Simcoe Workers Monument. I highly recommend this monument for its message and for its artistic value.


It wasn’t long before I reached the goal of my visit – the CN Tower – and chickened out ascending to the top as soon as I saw the glass elevator. My lack of enthusiasm for heights left time for a brief visit to the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre.

CN Tower Toronto
CN Tower

Next stop was a walk along the harbour front, an underrated pedestrian area of restaurants, bars and public art. It reminded me of Copenhagen, a comment Toronto should accept as a huge compliment. I loved the harbour area the minute I arrived and was disappointed that I didn’t have time to take one of the many boat tours of Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario Harbour Front


I walked to Union Station to pick up the subway but once again the camera was whipped out to capture both the interior and exterior of the station’s striking neoclassical structure.

Union Station


Despite tired legs, the subway plan was abandoned in favour of more meandering along Bay Street and Yonge Street. The Old City Hall was possibly the final classical building I noticed on my route before I headed back to St. George station for the trip back to Pearson Airport.

Old City Hall


Canada has moved up quite a few places on my to-do list thanks to my brief layover in Toronto and the efficient friendliness which the city’s populace exuded, an efficient friendliness which began the minute I boarded the initial Air Canada flight in Dublin. The opportunity to see the city presented itself in an unlikely way and I seized the day, all twelve hours of it.

Author’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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