Being from Toronto, I don’t always give it the credit it deserves. Don’t get me wrong, I love my city – it is home after all. I spent my adolescence here, attended university here and worked here. But I’m always trying to get away from it to see and explore the next destination, find new landscapes and create content. I also am *not* a winter person. This last winter, I took a break from traveling to spend more time at home, honing my skills and focusing on building my brand. I still needed content, which naturally forced me to see Toronto in a new light, with fresh eyes, and to find beauty where I may not have previously thought to look. Below I list my top 5 favourite spots to get insta-worthy photos for the ‘gram this summer and beyond.
Nathan Phillips Square
Nathan Phillips Square is plaza in downtown Toronto that is home to Toronto City Hall. In the city core, it is also right beside Toronto Eaton Centre and close to a number of great restaurants and other Toronto attractions (e.g., Old City Hall and Yonge-Dundas Square). A number of public events are held here, including concerts, art displays, farmers’ markets and even demonstrations. Nathan Phillips Square isn’t just a summer spot. During the winter, the pond in the middle is transformed into an ice skating rink! I honestly never thought to shoot at Nathan Phillips Square before last winter. As much as I love the bright, beautiful 3D Toronto sign that has been perched there since the the 2015 Pan American Games, it doesn’t quite fit into my content. But I decided to go anyway and see what I could capture. Lucky I did, because the photo I posted from my shoot there ended up being one of my best performing shots. Just a reminder that there is beauty everywhere, in everything!
Location: Queen & Bay
How to get there: The best way to get here is by metro! Get off at Queen subway station and walk on over!
When to go: During the winter, it gets busy during the afternoon hours. If you want a quieter experience, head there before lunch. But if you want to enjoy a more communal vibe, go any time after noon!
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Since its opening in 2013, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has served as a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. It makes for a really great day for family fun and as the perfect indoor activity year round. With 5.7 million litres of marine and freshwater habitats, the aquarium exhibits more than 16,000 specimens from 450 species. When I revisited to shoot, it was the middle of March break, meaning LOTS of people were there! However, once the chaos of peak visiting periods subsides, it can make a really unique and beautiful spot for photography and content creation. We returned the following week and got to experience and appreciate the aquarium for what it is–not to mention, we got some really unique content! If you plan your visit outside of peak hours, you can experience many of the areas peacefully and even get the best areas (e.g., the Dangerous Lagoon and the Planet Jellies exhibit) all to yourself.
Location: Bremner Blvd, close to Rees St
How to get there: By car, take the Rees St exit from the Gardiner Expressway W and turn right onto Bremner Blvd. The aquarium is located on the left, but if you continue down the road you will see signs for the parking garage below.
When to go: Definitely visit outside of peak hours for a calmer experience. The morning (around opening), early evening (between 6pm and 7pm) and after 8pm are ideal times to go! I found going after 8pm the best for my purposes. Peak times during the summer (high season) are 11am to 4pm and during off season are 11am to 2pm. Click here to book your tickets and learn more about the exhibits!
Exhibition Place – Princes’ Gates
Home of “The Ex,” Toronto’s annual Canadian National Exhibition, the Exhibition Place is located west of downtown, along the Lake Ontario shoreline. The gates were built to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Confederation and earned the titled of the “Princes’ Gates” when news that Princes Edward and George would be visiting Toronto. The grand and neoclassical style of the gates is something you wouldn’t really expect to see in Toronto, making it a really unique photo-opp. If you shoot from a little down the road that leads to the gates from inside of the Exhibition Place grounds, you can even capture the CN Tower (which I’m planning to do sometime this summer). I love that shooting here makes it feel like you’re in a completely different city, when really you’re only a 10-minute drive away from the core.
Location: Canada Blvd, close to Lakeshore Blvd West
How to get there: By car, take the Lakeshore Blvd West exit from the Gardiner Expressway W and proceed towards Newfoundland Rd. Turn right onto Newfoundlond Rd, turn right onto Princes’ Blvd and then turn right onto Canada Blvd.
When to go: Anytime really! This is generally a quiet area (in my experience). If you go on the weekend or outside of the CNE period, it’ll probably even quieter, making it much easier to get some great photos from different spots in the area.
CityPlace Pedestrian Bridge (“Puente de Luz”)/Bathurst Street Bridge
The first photo I ever posted from Toronto on my Instagram was a view of the CN tower, not far from the Bathurst Street Bridge. It and the CityPlace Pedestrian Bridge provide unobstructed views of the tower from less touristy spots in the city. I have returned to the CityPlace Pedestrian Bridge at least 3 times to shoot Instagram content, including for a Daniel Wellington collaboration last year. Two of my most recent Toronto posts were also taken there! I love this spot because of the CN Tower view and because it is generally an uncrowded location (especially in the winter, because who is walking outside in -10 degree weather?). I mainly see photographers set up there, with the occasional tourist passing through. This may not be the case for long though, with the growing CityPlace neighbourhood projected to become Toronto’s largest residential development upon completion. Definitely worth a visit!
Location: Front & Portland
How to get there: By car, take the Spadina exit from the Gardiner Expressway W and proceed northbound on Spadina until Front Street. Take a left onto Front Street. Drive towards Portland, where you will find a Green P parking garage.
When to go: Given that the area and the bridge are generally quiet with little traffic, this depends on your preference. I usually opt to go around golden hour to capture the beautiful lighting that comes with sunset.
Bisha Hotel Toronto
Bisha Hotel is one of the more recent hotels to hit Toronto’s luxury boutique hotel scene. Both its large, art design inspired and edgy rooms and its rooftop restaurant Kōst boast sweeping city views. It may be most known for its rooftop infinity pool, but there is much more to Bisha than people may realize. The walls of its downstairs bar, Mister C, are covered in framed Alexander McQueen scarves and each of its floors is art inspired in some way, with the suites on one floor having been designed entirely by the design team of the famous Lenny Kravitz. In terms of content creation, the incredible rooftop and room views provide ample opportunity to snap your perfect Instagram shots.
Location: King St W & Blue Jay’s Way
How to get there: By car, take the Spadina exit from Gardiner Expressway W, turn right on Blue Jays Way and continue until Mercer. Valet parking is available on premises. Alternatively, exit the subway at St Andrew station. Walk west on King until Blue Jays Way. Take a left and walk down Blue Jays Way until you hit Bisha Hotel. To make hotel or restaurant reservations, visit the Bisha Hotel website here.
When to go: For clear rooftop photos, avoid peak hours. Try going early in the morning or before dinner hours.
To keep up with all of the other insta-worthy photo locations I find in and around the city, feel free to follow me on Instagram @la_wandereuse.