An Art Lover's Guide to Toronto in 24 Hours

Art Gallery of Ontario | © Reg Natarajan/Flickr
Art Gallery of Ontario | © Reg Natarajan/Flickr
Photo of Sahar Aman
Staff Writer15 October 2017

To really experience art in Toronto, keep your eyes peeled while spending time in the city – and we’re not just talking about keeping a lookout for the beautifully graffitied walls. As well as some great museums and galleries, art in Toronto can be found on a bottle of beer, to a motif printed on the street below your feet. If you’re short on time while visiting Toronto and art is your jam, check out our guide to make the most of your day!

Must-visit museums

Royal Ontario of Museum

Since 1914, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has given visitors an opportunity to discover art and culture from around the globe. Their galleries showcase some amazing works and are a celebration of creation and diversity. At ROM you can peruse unique art created in Cyprus between the Bronze Age and the Hellenistic era, learn about the economic and social forces that influenced First Peoples art and see stunning artifacts from the Art Deco era.

The galleries located on the Museum’s main floor in the Philosophers’ Walk Building are Canada’s largest collection of art from China, Korea and Japan. The Bishop White Gallery of Chinese Temple Art features one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. Another must-see are the exhibitions presented by ROM Contemporary Culture in the Roloff Beny Gallery, where through art you can engage with topics relating to ROM research and collections.

Insider Tips: On Friday nights, the ROM has an adult-only event called Friday Night Live. Check out their collections while you eat, drink and dance the night away to live music.

Gallery of the Bronze Age Aegean | © Royal Ontario Museum

Art Gallery of Ontario

Founded in 1900 by a group of private citizens, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) was originally called the Art Museum of Toronto, it later changed its name and is one of the largest art museums in North America. At AGO, visitors can explore a vast selection of art from all over the world.

The Canadian collection has some of the finest Inuit works of art as well as pivotal pieces detailing the nation’s art heritage. Visitors can see European masterpieces by artists like Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Thomas Gainsborough to name a few. There’s also contemporary art spanning from 1960 to the present and a collection of more than 40,000 photographs by 19th-century British, French, American and Canadian photographers, and 20th-century modernists.

Insider Tips: AGO offers free admission to their collection galleries every Wednesday night from 6-9pm. It can get quite busy so skip the line by arriving after 6pm and avoid cloakroom queues by leaving any large bags at home.

Aga Khan Museum

Though you’ll have to head away from Toronto’s downtown core, Aga Khan Museum’s beautiful grounds, stunning architecture, pools and collection of Islamic and Persian art are worth the trip. Through exhibitions that showcase Muslim art and culture, the museum aims to show visitors the artistic, intellectual, and scientific heritage of Muslim civilizations across the centuries from the Iberian Peninsula to China. Some of the highlights in their permanent collection include calligraphy, ceramics and rare luxury objects. Their temporary exhibitions explore emerging themes and new artistic developments.

Insider Tips: From May to Labour Day, you can take the Aga Khan Park Tour. Museum admission is not required, so if you’re short on time but still want to enjoy the architectural design of the museum and gardens, this is the best way.

Agha Khan Museum | © Connie Tsang


Art Square Café & Gallery

Across the road from AGO, Art Square Café & Gallery serves up their collection of works with a side of chocolate pistachio crepes that are filled with gelato. This fluid space invites creators to showcase their work for art lovers in a unique environment. Exhibitions can be anything from paintings to photos and sculptures, and sometimes even jewellery and artisan craft works. The space is also used for art presentations and workshops. Their menu is a mixture of crepes, sandwiches and salads as well as wine and beer but their fabulously named teas, Daydream in Istanbul, Madam Butterfly and African Queen have caught our attention!

Coffee and art | Courtesy of Art Square Café & Gallery

Must-visit galleries

Daniel Faria Gallery

When Daniel Faria Gallery first opened to the public, people were unsure about a gallery on this industrial strip in Bloordale Village. Before becoming an art space with fine collections, this warehouse-style building was dealing in automobile parts. Yet it seems Bloordale Village was the perfect location, over the last few years more galleries have popped up in the area. The exhibitions on display at Daniel Faria Gallery always feature an exciting roster of artists and a lot of that is down to Faria himself, who has more than 10 years of experience on the art scene.

Shannon Bool Exhibition | Courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery

Take a Street Art Tour

Graffiti Alley

If you love to check out local street art then you won’t be disappointed in Toronto. Street art flourishes in the city because of StreetARToronto (StART). This city-led incentive aims to change the negativity associated with graffiti vandalism by supporting artists and encouraging the medium, as it adds to the character of neighbourhoods. For this reason, many artists from around the world come to Toronto and leave their mark. One of the most famous and celebrated areas is the alleyway between Spadina Ave. and Portland Street, Rush Lane, or as it’s better known, Graffiti Alley. The works on these walls are always changing, so make sure you take pictures of what you like! Other notable areas for exploring street art are Milky Way, Cabbage Town, Ossington Laneway and Kensington Market.

Graffiti Alley | © Sahar Aman

Artsy Restaurants

Gladstone Hotel

This hotel may be one of the most dynamic places to eat, sleep and play in. Behind historic walls visitors will discover an art-centric destination like no other. The Gladstone Hotel is a beautifully designed hotel, restaurant, bar and event venue with locally made art all over the place that is accessible all day every day. It’s the perfect place for art lovers to wind down, dine and meet other travellers.

Gladstone Hotel | © Olive Photography Toronto

Bellwoods Brewery

Grab an Instagram-worthy cold one at Bellwoods Brewery. Their artisan beer is known for its taste and the cool artwork on the bottle. Each crafted flavour has a specially designed label with its own story and process so be sure to stop by at the end of your day!

Art Labels | Courtesy of Bellwoods Brewery

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