How to Properly Spend a 12 Hour Layover in Toronto

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You read that right ladies and gentleman – we had a 12 HOUR layover in Toronto on our way to Copenhagen earlier this month. Why did we do this to ourselves? For a couple reasons.

#1: It was super cheap to book this ticket. I’m talking a one way flight to Copenhagen for under $250 from Chicago if we wanted to spend the day in Toronto first.

#2: Guess what? We wanted to spend the day in Toronto! My friend and I had never been before, so we took this has a great option to explore a new city before venturing on to Europe.

We left Chicago around 6am that Saturday (yes, that part sucked), and landed in Toronto just before 9am. I checked a bag that was going right to Copenhagen. This part definitely made me nervous, as I would be without my precious cargo for almost a full day. My friend carried all her stuff on (major props to her), and she found a Samsonite store at the Toronto airport that would store her stuff for super cheap.

We got through customs easily and made our way to the UP Express train to downtown. For $12, you can go from the Union Pearson Airport directly to downtown in under 30 minutes. We got off at Union Station and the rest of the day was ours to explore. Well, until about 7pm, when we had to take the train back to the airport for our overnight flight to Copenhagen.

In the end, we had about 8 hours to see as much as we could of Toronto. I certainly wanted to do a lot of walking around to get myself tired and be able to sleep on the 8 hour flight. That didn’t work out too well, but that’s another story.

I like to think we made the most of our time. Read on to see what we did in Toronto for a day!

UP Express

Thank goodness for this train. I heard a cab to downtown would have been really expensive, and other trains can take a while to get you into the heart of the city. It’s super clean, has wifi, and was right on time. There’s plenty of space to store your luggage, as well. Definitely consider taking the UP Express to downtown next time you’re in Toronto!

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Harbourfront Centre

We could basically see the water from where we exited out of Union Station, so naturally we gravitated toward there. We ran into the beautiful, yet possibly over-flooded Harbourfront. It was packed with sailboats, canoes, street vendors and plenty of walking paths to take in the views of Lake Ontario and the CN Tower. We grabbed a light breakfast here and enjoyed exploring the park.

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Old Toronto

Once we were done hanging out in the park, we walked back toward Union Station and went in the other direction – toward Old Toronto. Here is where all the fun street art, bars, restaurants and shops were hiding. You can also find St. Lawrence Market here, which is a huge, crowded (especially on Saturdays) marketplace with plenty of food options. We walked around here for a bit until it was too overwhelming. We went across the street to Balzac Cafe and fueled up on coffee.

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I couldn’t tell you how we ended up in Toronto’s Chinatown neighborhood, as we were pretty much walking aimlessly around without a map, but we did! Talk about the food options between here and their downtown area- there was sushi after thai after ramen places. There were mixes and different fusions that I’ve never heard of before. I can’t believe how they all stay in business! It was certainly hard picking a place for dinner, so we spotted The Village Idiot Pub and decided to cool down with a beer and talk over the numerous dinner options. I picked a Belgium beer to prep for our Europe adventure!

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Entertainment District

We thought it’d be best to start making our way back toward Union Station, and just pop in a sushi place on the way. We ended up at Yuzu No Hana, and it was great. We ordered lots of sushi because of all the strolling around we did that day. This restaurant was  close to Rogers Centre, where the Toronto Blue Jays play. A game was in town that day, and Blue Jay fans were everywhere. So of course, I had to get a picture with the sign. Other than that, we passed more cool buildings and artwork on the way back to the train.

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So we basically spent our 12 hour layover in Toronto walking the different neighborhoods (which got us up to about 10 miles on the day!), eating the yummy cuisine and taking in the sights.

This was just the first leg of our 10 day journey, but I thought it was a great way to start. We had a blast during our day in Toronto, and couldn’t wait for Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Brussels and Brugge! Stay tuned for posts on those cities.

Have you ever had a super long layover? What did you do? Comment below!

I'm Abby - a weekend getawayer, lover of beach volleyball, grilled cheese enthusiast and puppy dog admirer.

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