Toronto is often overlooked by visitors planning a holiday to Canada, with cities like Vancouver and Montreal hogging the limelight. However, Toronto is an up and coming hot spot full of cultural diversity, historical monuments, top notch restaurants, and architectural treasures. Here are eight reasons why you should visit the Ontario capital city as soon as possible.

Watch a show at Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre

The Elgin & Winter Garden (EWG) Theatre is a restored masterpiece and the world’s last operating double-decker theatre, with two separate stacked theatres. This National Historic Site is located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Check out the event schedule for any type of entertainment—from musicals, comedies and concerts to dramas, operas and films. This timeless theatre complex also offers guided tours for guests to visit numerous exhibits that provide insight into the history and restoration of the EWG Theatre. This historical site is an integral part of Toronto’s heritage and signifies the well-preserved history that is still part of the city.

Check out St. Lawrence Market

The St. Lawrence Market is part of Old York in Toronto and has been a central component of the neighbourhood for nearly two centuries. The restored South Market was built in 1845, and now houses more than 120 specialty vendors offering everything from cheese, fish and fresh cuts of meat to home-made pastries and pasta. On the opposite side, the North Market is primarily known for the Saturday farmers markets and Sunday antique markets. Both weekly events are traditions that began on this site in the early 1800’s and are as popular today as when they first started. A visit to this gigantic market space is a wonderful way to spend a day and get an authentic taste of Toronto and of the history behind this city.

Head to the Distillery District

The Distillery District is centred on the 1832 Gooderham and Worts distillery—once the British Empire’s largest manufacturer. Today, this district is one of Toronto’s best downtown attractions. The Victorian industrial warehouses have been converted into galleries, artists’ studios, boutiques, coffee shops and cafes. The picturesque backdrop of redbrick and cobblestone roads transports visitors back to a time of horse-drawn carts. The authentic exterior completes the 19th century atmosphere. Today, this incredible site is widely regarded as Canada’s premier arts, culture and entertainment destination.

Get a glimpse of the CN Tower

Toronto’s iconic CN Tower was once the tallest freestanding structure in the world and is still home to the highest glass floor paneled elevators. Hop into an elevator and ride all the way up the 553 m for some of the most exquisite panoramic views of the surrounding city and Lake Ontario. If you have it in the budget for a pricey meal, take a ride to the top and enjoy the views over dinner at the Tower’s revolving restaurant, 360°. If you think taking the elevator to the top is thrilling, test out the Edgewalk where visitors are attached to an overhead safety rail and can walk hands-free on a 1.5 m ledge encircling the top of the Tower’s main pod at 356 m high. Whether or not you get to the top, guests cannot visit Toronto without spotting this massive structure, especially at night year-round when the Tower puts on a brilliant, free light show.

Visit the Toronto Zoo

An ultimate favourite for kids, the mainly open-air Toronto Zoo is set against the gorgeous backdrop of the Rouge River valley. Guests can enjoy the Zoo’s 5000 animals along the 10 km of walking trails. Considered Canada’s premier zoo, the Toronto Zoo does not only represent more than 500 species, but makes considerable effort to protect and conserve endangered species from around the world. No matter your age, everyone will have a great day visiting the panda family or watching the African lions. Spending time at the Toronto Zoo is a great way for kids and adults alike to enjoy this Canadian metropolis.

Spend time at High Park

Enjoyable year-round, High Park is Toronto’s favourite and best-known park. During the spring and summer there is plenty of activities to do perfect for both adults and kids. For instance, lay on a picnic blanket under the numerous cherry blossom trees, cool off in one of the many pools, or explore the High Park mini-zoo full of llamas, buffalo, peacocks and several other animals, and much more. In the winter months, this city centre is just as active with people skating on the Grenadier Pond and playing in the snow. This large, centrally located park is the highlight of Toronto’s park systems for combining extensive natural areas with maintained parkland. Despite being in the middle of the most populous city in Canada, over one-third of the park remains a natural site and is home to several species of wildlife and rare plant species. High Park is a delightful way to escape the bustling city life and immerse yourself in the fresh air and natural outdoors.

Take pictures of the Casa Loma

Toronto’s only castle may have never housed royalty, but it sure looks like it did. Brush up on your photography skills before you visit Casa Loma so you can fully capture that magnificence of this top Toronto tourist attraction. This 98-room mansion was once the home to Sir Henry Pellat, a member of the Queen's Own Rifles, and was built in the early 1900s. Casa Loma is located on a cliff overlooking the heart of Toronto and is home to some of the finest European marble and Spanish tile in the region. This immense architectural treasure appeals to history buffs, museum-goers and families, and is a perfect reminder of the history behind this eclectic city.

Do not miss out on the Hockey Hall of Fame

The Hockey Hall of Fame is a Canadian institution, and even those unfamiliar with this winter sport are likely to be impressed by the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world. This interactive museum is a great way to get introduced to the sport if you are looking to feel like one of the locals, but it will also enliven true hockey fans with the wide collection of hockey-related artefacts such as the original Stanley Cup. A perfect destination for families, no trip to Toronto is complete without a dose of hockey in one form or another, and this is a great way to get your fill of the sport.

Enjoy a visit in Toronto exploring the wide variety of sites without the worry that if something goes wrong, you and your family are not protected. In case of an accident, make sure you are covered with travel health insurance.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Robert; cropped from original