Sleeping in Airports

Toronto Airport Layover Sightseeing

This article includes links to our travel partners at Tripadvisor, where you can read traveller reviews, book tours and plan your visit to Toronto.

Toronto Airport Layover Sightseeing
Photo Credit: william87 / iStock

Toronto Pearson (YYZ) is the main hub for Air Canada and the largest and busiest airport in the country. Situated just 28km from downtown Toronto, it’s easy to make the most of your long layover by heading into the city.

Since security lines can be long, plan your layover accordingly if you want to see some of Toronto. Thanks to a fast rail connection to the city centre, you can get from the airport to Union Station in just 25 minutes. The station is bang in the middle of Toronto’s downtown area and just a short walk from the shore of Lake Ontario. Read on to find out which of the city’s attractions you can see on your layover.

Airport Overview

For those who don’t have time to go into town, Toronto Pearson can be a decent place to spend a few hours if you can find an empty gate or pay to use one of the lounges. With WiFi throughout the terminals and comfortable seating in a few areas, there are opportunities to relax or get some work done. The airport is also home to permanent and temporary art exhibitions, including two dinosaur skeletons on display in Terminal 1. Please look at our Toronto Pearson Airport Guide for more information on the airport.

Toronto Sightseeing Attractions

Below are a few of the top things to do in Toronto:

Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus

CitySightseeing Toronto operates a 21-stop sightseeing hop-on hop-off tour of Toronto. The route takes you to the St. Lawrence Market, Distillery District, Eaton Centre, Casa Loma, Yorkville, Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Chinatown, Kensington Market, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Waterfront and Hockey Hall of Fame. Add the harbour cruise extension for incredible views of the city skyline.

  • Time Required: The entire bus route takes two hours without stops. The harbour cruise takes 45 minutes, but waiting times may occur.
  • Getting There: You can take the UP Train from Pearson Airport to Union Station. A bus stop is a short walk from the train station (see Google Maps). Another (cheaper) option is to take the TTC from Pearson to Bay Street (Cumberland exit) or St. George Station to board at the Yorkville/ROM pick-up point at Avenue Road & Bloor Street (see Google Maps).
  • Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about Toronto bus tours, book a tour or read traveller reviews.

CN Tower

This 553.3-meter high tower was the tallest in the world when it was completed in 1976 as a communications hub. These days, the CN Tower is a tourist attraction, offering views over Lake Ontario from the SkyPod at 446.5 meters above the ground.

  • Time Required: Book in advance so you can get up the tower as soon as you arrive. If you don’t book in advance, you could get stuck in long lines at the bottom, especially during summer. Once you’re inside the tower, the average visit takes 90 minutes.
  • How to get there: The CN Tower is a ten-minute walk from Union Station, and there is a walkway between the two so visitors can find their way easily. Toronto tour buses also stop at the foot of the tower. Check out this Google Map.
  • Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting the CN Tower, purchasing a ticket, or reading traveller reviews.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Ripley’s Aquarium is an awe-inspiring layover activity with over 13,500 sea and freshwater specimens representing more than 450 species. The walk-through tank is especially fun and makes visitors feel as if they are underwater.

  • Time required: Put aside at least two hours to make the most of a visit to the aquarium. Any less, and you’ll be rushing through.
  • How to get there: Take the UP Express to Union Station and take a short walk to the aquarium, signposted for easy access. If you are coming by taxi, Ripley’s is near the CN Tower.
  • Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting Riplay’s Aquarium, purchase a ticket or read traveller reviews.

Hockey Hall of Fame

Ice hockey is the biggest sport in Canada, and the Hockey Hall of Fame is home to a massive collection of memorabilia. The Stanley Cup, the ultimate prize in the sport, is kept here, and there is plenty to keep even non-hockey fans entertained.

  • Time required: Visitors take an average of 3 hours to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, but you can take an hour and a half to see the main attractions.
  • How to get there: The Hockey Hall of Fame is located on the corner of Yonge and Front Streets, a short walk from Union Station.
  • Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame, purchasing a ticket, or reading traveller reviews.

Airport Transportation

Pearson Airport is 16 miles from the city’s center and has many transportation options. The best choice depends on how much time you have to spare and how much money you are willing to pay.

Public transit options include:

  • Train: The UP Express leaves the airport every 15 minutes and takes 25 minutes to reach Union Station in downtown Toronto. A single fare costs CAD 12.35, but there is also a special long layover ticket that will get you to and from the airport for the same price as long as you return within 7 hours.
  • Bus: You can get into town using the TTC public transit system, but you must take a 25-minute bus ride and then two subway connections.

Private transit options include:

  • Taxi: Toronto taxis charge a flat rate based on the distance to your destination. A ride to the downtown core will cost around CAD 50. A limousine service is also available for a slightly higher price.
  • Car Rentals: YYZ is home to offices of many car rental companies, including Avis, Budget, Dollar/Thrifty, Enterprise, Hertz, and National/Alamo.

Before You Go: Layover Tips

Now that you are motivated and excited about your mini layover vacation, check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.

  • Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost, and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
  • When is your next flight’s check-in time? Double-check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
  • What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for extended security wait times, so research in advance and factor that into your overall time budget.
  • What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, confirm whether your luggage is checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Visit our Toronto Airport Guide to find out more.

Other Useful Resources

Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly:

  • Tripadvisor – Need more sightseeing ideas? Visit Things to Do in Toronto to schedule a tour or the Toronto Travel Forum to check out past threads to see what other travellers have shared about sightseeing during long layovers at Pearson Airport and post your questions.