20 Hidden Gems in Toronto You Must See

Ever wanted to visit a big city but instead of hitting all the popular attractions you wanted to dig deeper? While I love a mix of both I’ve come to realize that beyond the iconic CN Tower the true essence of Toronto is off the beaten path. So, I’m sharing some of my favourite hidden gems in Toronto.

I always say that the best way to see a city is by foot. Wandering the streets, alleyways, cafes, and buildings of Toronto is exactly how I came across most of these hidden gems. After living in Toronto growing up and countless visits every year since, I’m always on the hunt for non touristy things to do in Toronto.

In this guide to off-beat things to do in Toronto, you’ll find an array of unique green spaces, awesome street art spots, and a healthy mix of coffee, history, and fun.

Top 15 Hidden Gems in Toronto

Allan Gardens in Toronto

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1. Allan Gardens

Looking for a little green oasis in a sea of mortar? Then head to the Jarvis and Gerrard area of downtown to find Allan Gardens. In my opinion, it is the best of the hidden gems in Toronto you’ll find. Allan Gardens is one of Toronto’s oldest parks and is home to a conservatory, playground, dog parks, and more.

Allan Gardens is the perfect escape in the snow, rain, or if you’re looking for a little dose of nature. It’s open every day of the year and it’s free. The conservatory is over 100 years old and has six greenhouses; two tropical, a cool temperate house, palm house, arid house, and a tropical one.

It’s a magical and Instagram worthy spot in Toronto. With vivid greens, flowers to match every colour of the rainbow, koi fish, turtles, and more, you’ll feel like you’re walking through the pages of Alice in Wonderland. And be sure to visit during every time of year as there are always displays for every holiday.

Related Post: +25 Amazing Toronto Gardens & Parks

St. James Park in Toronto

2. St. James Park

Another great little park in Toronto is St. James Park. Flanked by towering buildings and the St. James Church – one of Toronto’s oldest churches, lies this hidden gem of green space in Toronto.

Here you’ll find an English inspired park with a series of formal gardens, a gazebo, crisscrossing paths, and centre stage is a beautiful old fountain. St. James Park is the perfect place to escape the heat. Cozy up on one of the benches under the large mature trees and enjoy a little peace.

3. Cloud Gardens

The Cloud Gardens is literally one of Toronto’s hidden gems. Hidden behind the maddening Yonge Street in an unassuming building is a wonderful greenhouse.

Outside lies the only park in the Financial District, and while it’s small the best part lies inside. Inside the conservatory you’ll be surrounded by lush tropical plants. And there’s even a five-story waterfall – which only runs in the summer.

Related Post: Toronto Virtual Tours

Guild Park and Gardens

4. Guild Park & Gardens

This is the only place on the list that is not in downtown Toronto but it is still worth the effort to visit. Guild Park is located in Scarbourgh within the Scarbourgh Bluffs chain of parks along the shores of Lake Ontario. Guild Park is hands down one of the best hidden gems in Toronto.

Covering 80 acres Guild Park is the perfect fusion of outdoors meets history. The park is home to various trails, including a waterfront trail, and breathtaking gardens.

But this once artist’s colony is also home to the remnants of over 60 historic buildings from Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario. Strategically placed among the trees, trails and flower gardens these fragments of Toronto’s past create a magical air to the place.

Are you looking for more off-the-beaten-path places? Check out these Hidden Gems in Ontario!

Shark Mural in Toronto

5. Shark Mural

Toronto is home to some of the best street art in Ontario. Some places to find street art are popular but there are a ton of hidden gems in Toronto – like the shark mural.

Located in Yorkville, the shark mural pays homage to Canadian filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart. Widely known for his film Sharkwater he was a passionate conservationist and lived in Toronto when he wasn’t chasing sharks.

After his untimely passing Toronto-based artists Birdo and GETSO created a huge shark mural on the back wall of the Opus Restaurant in Stewart’s honor. Mayor John Tory said, “this mural will celebrate the life of a notable Toronto resident and remind us that the health of the world’s oceans is of paramount importance to everyone.”

Milky Way street art in Toronto

6.Milky Way

When we talk about street art in Toronto most think of Graffiti Alley. But Toronto is home to a bunch of great street art alleys like Ossington Lane and Milky Way.

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds head to Milk Way. The laneway is located between Dufferin Street and Elm Grove Avenue and runs parallel to Queen Street.

elephant statue in Toronto

7. Elephant Statues

Who doesn’t love elephants? Toronto is home to one of the world’s largest bronze elephant statues but the tricky thing is – finding them.

Tucked away among towering buildings in Commerce Courtyard you’ll find Tembo, Mother of Elephants statue. Walking proudly with baby in tow is one of Toronto’s best hidden gems when it comes to statues.

Shangri La sculpture in Toronto

8. Shangri La Hotel Sculpture

Another great piece of artwork in Toronto that you may not have noticed as you walked past is the Shangri La Hotel sculpture. Located on University Avenue in front of the hotel is a massive sculpture of twisting metal called Rising.

Standing over a reflecting pool, this sculpture begs to be stared at. It’s a flourish of tree meets dragon with an angry flock of birds attacking. Whatever you see in it, it will blow your mind.

Iron Fence Art in Corktown Toronto

9. Iron Artwork in Corktown

Some of my favourite hidden gems in Toronto are ones that celebrate the city. And in Toronto’s Corktown neighbourhood you’ll find one that meet that mark.  On the corner of Eastern Avenue and Sumach Street is an unassuming fence that begs a closer look. The iron fence showcases the history of Toronto from the Ice Age to the modern age.

Among the history and cityscape, the piece also weaves in the story of the Blackburns. Lucie and Thornton Blackburn were former slaves who fled the US by way of the Underground Railroad. They ended up in Toronto and prospered here, and this ironwork artwork stands adjacent to their former home.

Arts & Letters Club in Toronto

10. Arts & Letters Club

While it’s no secret society the Arts & Letters Club is full of mystery and intrigue. Set in the historic St. George’s Hall, built in 1891, they are a private club of artists, from writers to architects and painters to actors. And they’ve been meeting in this impressive building for almost 100 years.

The only time us mere mortals have access is during Doors Open Toronto, when many buildings that aren’t normally open to the public are. Within this national historic site is a charming lounge, a library with a narwhale tusk, and the Great Hall.

The Great Hall reminds me of Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall but others might conjure up images of Hogwarts, with ornate windows, coats of arms hung all around, and a grand ceiling. Famous members include the Group of Seven, Robertson Davis and Frederick Banting.

11. Bathroom in Page One Café

Confession – I hate public bathrooms! But to be honest, who likes them? But if there was a cool bathroom in Toronto that should be on your radar it’s the one in Page One Café. If you’re looking for great cafés in Toronto than Page One is it.

Page One Café is located in a converted warehouse that dates back to 1910. It has a cool literary vibe with its wall of typewriters and is known for its latte art but I encourage you to take a leak. They’ve morphed a plain commercial bathroom into a fun experience. Littered across the walls are quotes from literary giants that read witty and downright comical in the ways they’re presented.

A couple examples are, “words are but wind” by Jonathan Swift with an arrow pointing to the hand dryer and “perhaps all pleasure is only relief” by William s. Burroughs with an arrow pointing to the urinal. If there was a top bathroom hidden gem in Toronto this is it!

Trinity Square in Toronto

12. Trinity Square

Hidden between the Eaton Centre, a massive hotel and an office building lies a charming square. This off the beaten path Toronto gem will take you back in time.

Trinity Square is home to the Holy Trinity Church that was built in 1847 and whose parishioners helped save the square from being demolished. And thank God! As it’s the sweetest little oasis.

Next to the Trinity Church stands a brick townhouse that looks like something you’d see in old Britain. This was where the church’s first rector lived. The square also has an ornamental pond and fountain as well as a labyrinth.

Arthur Conan Doyle room at Toronto Library

13. Arthur Conan Doyle Room

If you’re a literary nerd like myself or just a big Sherlock Holmes fan, then you’ll love the Arthur Conan Doyle room at the Toronto Reference Library. Located on the top floor of the library the room is reminiscent of an old English library room with a Persian rug, stately desk with regal chair and wooden bookshelves lining the walls.

Here you’ll find one of the world’s most notable collections of library materials devoted to Arthur Conan Doyle’s life and work. Within the glassed-in room you’ll find first editions, Doyle’s works in various foreign languages and so much more. There’s even a Sherlock Holmes themed chess set and a smoking pipe set on the fireplace mantel.

American Room at Osgoode Hall in Toronto

14. Osgoode Hall Library

Another impressive building that should be on your list during Doors Open Toronto is Osgoode Hall. Home to the Law Society of Ontario, Osgoode Hall is a National Historic Site and is full of grandeur with it’s palatial like rooms, intricate floors and beautiful skylights. But there are two very special rooms that swept me away.

The Great Library is the study hall of the law society and is home to the largest private collection of legal material in Canada (around 120,000 volumes). The immediate feeling you get when you enter is just how small you are. The room is 40 feet wide with Roman-like columns holding up the incredible ceiling that stands 40 feet above you. There’s a massive fireplace that looks like it could transport you to Narnia and even the windows have a delicate etched detailing on them.

But it’s the smaller room next door that tugs at my book-lovers heartstrings. Named the American Room it is floor to ceiling wooden bookshelves with an iron spiral staircase leading to the second floor which is open to the first. It is a proper library room that oozes old world charm.

Campbell House in Toronto

15. Campbell House

In terms of museums, the Campbell House beats the rest for hidden gems in Toronto. So many walk past it every day, with its fenced in lawn and crown of mature trees. But the Campbell house holds a significant slice of Toronto’s past. Built in 1822 it is the oldest building from the Town of York (the town before Toronto was incorporated as a city) that has survived.

The grand Georgian building is home to a museum and art gallery inside and has a permanent exhibition on their front lawn. Here you’ll find the Lost & Found exhibit that showcases fragments of old Toronto. There are stunning carved stone pieces of iconic Toronto buildings like the old Toronto Star building, the headquarters of the Bank of Toronto and more.

Chester Hill Lookout in Toronto under a light blanket of snow with the city skyline in the distance.
Chester Hill Lookout

More Non Touristy Things to do in Toronto

Chester Hill Lookout

Nestled within a quiet residential neighbourhood, is one of the secret spots in Toronto.

Tucked away between Broadview Avenue and the Don Valley lies Chester Hill Lookout. This local gem offers one of the best Toronto skyline views.

Situated at the end of Chester Hill Road facing westward, the lookout offers a sweeping panorama of the Don Valley. And beyond is the majestic skyline of downtown Toronto.

While admiring the vista, don’t overlook the ground beneath your feet. Amidst the concrete of the lookout’s crescent, you’ll discover a captivating piece of street art. A sprawling astrology wheel.

With its encompassing vistas of parkland, cityscape, and artistic expression, this lookout promises an experience that caters to local’s and those looking to uncover hidden gems.

SkullStore Oddity Shop

For those looking for unique things to do in Toronto, head over to Cabbagetown. In this old neighbourhood sits one of the city’s weirdest shops, the SkullStore Oddity Shop.

The SkullStore Oddity Shop in Toronto is one of the largest oddity shops of its kind in the world. Within you’ll find an assortment of weird things like dinosaur bones, ancient artifacts, taxidermy, and more.

Along with the oddity shop, this gem is home to another weird attraction in Toronto, the Prehistoria Museum. This free museum is filled with interesting pieces from around the globe. You’ll see items from the Vikings to Ancient Rome and Egyptian times.

Location: 397 Dundas Street East on the second floor location.

William Meany Maze on Toronto Islands
William Meany Maze on Toronto Islands

William Meany Maze

One of my favourite places to visit in the city is the Toronto Islands! On Centre Island is one of the best free hidden gems in Toronto for families, the William Meany Maze.

While Centreville is one of the many popular Toronto Island things to do, the maze is tucked away off of Lagoon Road. And the best part is that its open all year round!

The William Meany Maze is the second maze on the island. In 1967, one was created but sadly became overgrown and was taken down.

After a visit, wealthy businessman William Meany, was disheartened to hear of the beloved maze’s loss. So, after his visit in 2012, he donated money to recreate the maze.

Now, families and friends can wander the maze lined with over 1200 black cedars. Every time I attempt to beat the maze, I always end up laughing at every dead end. It’s fun for kids and adults alike!

Monkey’s Paw

As a book nerd, I’m always on the lookout for second hand and vintage bookstores. Toronto is home to many cool bookshops.

Monkey’s Paw is one of the hidden gems in downtown Toronto that’s a perfect stop for book nerds like me! Located in Bloordale Village, Monkey’s Paw is a bookshop selling rare and unique books.

Along with unusual and out of print books, it’s home to a hidden gem, the Biblio-Mat. This coin-operated vending machine is the first of its kind!

Pop in a token and you’ll be rewarded with a random old book. This is as exciting as receiving a beloved candy for a bibliophile.

Leslieville Crazy Doll House, a house, yard and gate all covered in toys, dolls, and figurines. It's one of the fun hidden gems in Toronto.
Leslieville Crazy Doll House

Leslieville’s Crazy Doll House

In the quirky neighbourhood of Leslieville, in Toronto’s east end, are plenty of gems. And a visit to Leslieville’s Crazy Doll House should be on everyone’s list of non touristy things to do in Toronto.

Bertmount Avenue is a residential street but at number 35 you’ll find one of the weirdest homes in Toronto. Homeowner Shirley Sumaiser, has been decorating her house and front yard with dolls for over 20 years.

In addition to dolls, the front yard and black gate is covered in stuffed animals, toys and other decorations. Plus, if you’re visiting Toronto during the holidays, you’ll find festive additions to the doll house, like Santa Clause statues.

There are more hidden gems in Toronto, but you’ll have to visit, wandering and find them yourself!

Do you have a favourite hidden gem in Toronto you’d add to the list?

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Hidden Gems in Toronto You Must See
15 Hidden Gems in Toronto that Should Be on Your Radar

Stephanie

I'm a Canadian gal with a passion for travel, the great outdoors as well as coffee and books. I hope to inspire others to feel the same way! Traveling mostly solo, I love to explore my own backyard of Ontario as well as exotic cities around the world.

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