105 Interesting Facts About Toronto

Interesting Toronto Facts

Let’s learn 105 interesting facts about Toronto and some more interesting facts about Ontario, where Toronto is found.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city. In many ways, it is the country’s financial, industrial, communications, media, and cultural capital.

General Toronto Facts

1. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and 4th largest city in North America after Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles.

2. It is the capital city of Ontario province (but not the capital of Canada, which is a common mistake. That would be Ottawa).

3. Toronto is located in southeastern Ontario, on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes.

4. Toronto is only 65 km (40 mi) from Niagara Falls and 540 km (335 mi) from New York City, as the crow flies.

5. Toronto sits further south than points in 15 US states.

6. Toronto is at a similar latitude as Florence, Italy, and is antipodal to Augusta, Western Australia.

7. With a population of 2.8 million (metro 6.2 million), Toronto is by far the largest city in Canada. It is similar in size to Montreal and Vancouver (the second and third largest cities) combined.

View of downtown Toronto, Lake Ontario, and a boat harbour
Toronto sits on the shore of Lake Ontario

8. The Greater Toronto Area includes 25 municipalities, including Durham, Halton, Peel, and York. Combined with Hamilton, it is called the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), and combined with the Niagara region it is called the Golden Horseshoe, wrapping around the western end of Lake Ontario.

9. the Golden Horseshoe population center is home to 9.8 million people, or a quarter of Canada’s total population, in only 0.5% of the country’s total area.

10. Toronto is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. Over half the city’s residents are visible minorities, and nearly half were born outside of Canada.

11. 95% of the city’s residents speak English, 1.6% are native French speakers, and 9.1% are bilingual in English and French.

Streetcars in downtown Toronto
King Street, Toronto

12. The 911 emergency line in Toronto is capable of responding in over 150 languages.

13. Toronto was the traditional homeland of the Mississaugas of the Credit, Anishnabeg, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee, and Wendat peoples.

14. The name Toronto likely derives from the Mohawk word tkaronto, which means “where there are trees standing in the water”, and referred to the narrows between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching north of Toronto.

15. The English and French used several variations of the word, like Tarento, Tarontha, Taronto, Toranto, Torento, and Toronton.

16. People from Toronto are called Torontonians or simply “residents of Toronto”.

Inside a beautiful library in Toronto with white staircases and handrails
Toronto Public Library

17. Some early nicknames for Toronto were Little York and Muddy York, compared to New York City.

18. Today, there is a long list of nicknames for Toronto. Here are just a few: T.O., Queen City, Hogtown, Centre of the Universe, The Megacity, The City that Works, The Big Smoke, the 416 (after its most common telephone code), or simply “The 6” (popularized by Drake).   

19. The city’s official motto is Diversity Our Strength. The city tried to adopt the new slogan “Toronto Unlimited” in 2005 for a short time, but no other has been officially proposed.

20. The city name is abbreviated as TOR or Trt, while YYZ is the city’s airport code.

The flag of Toronto
The Toronto city flag

21. The flag of Toronto shows a white outline of the twin towers of Toronto City Hall, which form a T for Toronto, on a blue background, with a red maple leaf at the bottom. The city’s coat of arms, which features a beaver and bear, can be seen here.

22. Toronto has ten sister/partner cities: Chicago (Illinois), Chongqing (China), Frankfurt (Germany), Milan (Italy), Hi Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Kyiv (Ukraine), Quito (Ecuador), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Sagamihara (Japan), and Warsaw (Poland).

Random Facts About Toronto

23. Torontonians, along with residents of Montreal and a few cities in British Columbia, are the thinnest in Canada on average.

24. Toronto has been ranked the safest major city in North America and 6th safest in the world.

A fruit stall in Kensington Market, Toronto
Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most diverse neighbourhoods.

25. Toronto has 140 neighbourhoods, many of which used to be their own municipalities. Today, many have totally distinct characters, so Toronto has been called the “City of Neighbourhoods.”

26. The city even has a neighbourhood called “The Beaches”, after the fact that it has 4 beaches on Lake Ontario.

27. The 15 Toronto Islands on Lake Ontario provide shelter to downtown Toronto and are North America’s largest car-free urban community. They are also home to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Centreville Amusement Park, and other attractions.

28. Toronto has Canada’s only national urban park, Rouge National Urban Park. It protects a region of the Rouge River and its various tributaries.

A sandbar in Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto
Rouge National Urban Park

29. Four national parks are within 3-4 hours of Toronto: Thousand Islands, Georgian Bay Islands, Bruce Peninsula, and Point Pelee National Parks. The latter is the southernmost point of mainland Canada.

30. Since 1976, the CN Tower in Toronto has been the tallest structure in Canada and the entire Western Hemisphere. It stands 553 m (1815 ft) tall.

31. Seventeen of Canada’s 20 tallest buildings are located in Toronto. The number one spot goes to Sky Tower, at 312.5 m / 1025 ft, which will be completed in 2024.

32. The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is Canada’s largest and most visited museum, with over 1.4 million visitors annually.

33. The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is Canada’s largest and most visited art gallery. It includes several paintings by the Group of Seven, a famous group of Ontario artists.

A giant blue building, the Art Gallery of Ontario, looming behind a residential neighbourhood
The Art Gallery of Ontario

34. The Gardiner Museum in Toronto is Canada’s only museum dedicated entirely to ceramic arts. The city also has a museum dedicated to shoes, the Bata Shoe Museum, and another for Islamic arts, the Aga Khan Museum.

35. The Toronto public library system is the largest in Canada, with over 100 branches and 12 million books and other items in its collection.

36. Spanning 287 hectares (710 acres), the Toronto Zoo is the largest zoo in Canada. It houses over 5000 animals belonging to 460+ species.

37. With 50 million guests per year, Toronto Eaton Centre is the most visited mall in Canada and 2nd in North America after Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. It is surpassed in size, however, by West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta.

38. Toronto also has the world’s largest underground shopping complex, PATH. It connects more than 70 buildings with 30 km (19 mi) of walkways and boasts 371,600 m2 (4,000,000 ft2) of retail space.

A main intersection along Younge Street in Toronto at night with lights from cars
Toronto’s Younge Street

39. Toronto’s Younge Street, nicknamed “Main Street Ontario,” once incorrectly held the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest street (a highway was included that isn’t part of the street). The street has famous attractions like the Eaton Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square, and the Toronto Hockey Hall of Fame.

40. Toronto also has Canada’s Walk of Fame, similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles but with maple leaves. It features the likes of Bryan Adams, Pamela Anderson, Kurt Browning, Bret Hart, and Anne Murray. There are currently around 173 places.

41. Toronto’s Graffiti Alley, which runs parallel to Queen Street West, features several blocks of some of the city’s best (and legal) street art.

42. The 3D Toronto Sign is capable of producing 228 million color combinations with its LED lights, the same number visible by the human high. It is 3 x 22 m (9.8 x 72 ft) and cost the city $760,000.

A lit up LED sign that says Toronto at night with skyscrapers behind it
The Toronto 3D Sign

43. The record highest temperature in Toronto was 41°C (105°F) on July 10, 1936, while the lowest was -33°C (-27°F) on January 10, 1859.

44. 12.7% of Toronto’s land is covered with parks, with 2.8 ha (6.9 acres) of parkland per 1000 people. (Fun fact: Ottawa has more parkland than any other city in Canada, with 8 ha per 100 people). A recent survey found that Toronto has 11.5 million trees.

45. There are 37 National Historic Sites in Toronto. Some of the most famous include Union Station, Fort York, Gooderham and Worts Distillery (Distillery Historic District), Kensington Market, and University College at the University of Toronto.

46. Casa Loma in midtown Toronto has been described as “the only castle in North America”. However, there are some others in the US (it could be argued that most of them are not technically castles).

47. Toronto city proper receives just under 5 million foreign tourists per year (pre-COVID number), making it the most visited city in Canada. Including domestic tourists, the Greater Toronto Area received 44 million visitors in the same year.

Exterior of some old buildings at the University of Toronto
Trinity College at the University of Toronto

48. The Toronto Pearson International Airport is the busiest airport in Canada, with around 50 million passengers per year. It is named after Lester B. Pearson, born in the city.

49. The University of Toronto is ranked #1 in Canada and #25 in the world.

50. Former prime ministers Arthur Meighen, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Lester B. Pearson, and Paul Martin have degrees from the University of Toronto.

51. Insulin research, stem cell research, the electron microscope, and the artificial cardiac pacemaker were born at the University of Toronto. It was also the site of the world’s first lung transplant and nerve transplant.

52. The first black hole, Cygnus X-1, was identified at the University of Toronto.

Looking up at a sign that says "Bay Street" and some tall skyscrapers in Toronto's financial district
Bay Street is Toronto’s answer to Wall Street

53. Major companies based in the Greater Toronto Area include Bell Media, Rogers Communication, Interac, Magna International, Celestica, Royal LePage, Manulife, Sun Life Financial, Hudson’s Bay Company, Canadian Tire, Bluenotes, Cineplex Odion, Four Seasons Hotels, Indigo Books, Mac’s Convenience Store, and former companies Sears and Eaton’s, to name a few.

54. The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) is the 3rd largest in North America after the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

55. Bay Street is Toronto’s equivalent to Wall Street in New York City.

56. Toronto is a major tech center, with more tech jobs than the San Francisco Bay Area. The area between Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo, and Hamilton is sometimes called the “Digital Corridor”, similar to Silicon Valley in California.

The skyline of Toronto
Crazy expensive real estate in downtown Toronto

57. Toronto is Canada’s most expensive city and encompasses some of the country’s most expensive neighborhoods. Today’s average house cost in Toronto is $1.3 million, beating out the former most expensive city, Vancouver.

58. The five largest banks in Canada (nicknamed the “Big Five” are headquartered in Toronto. They are (starting with the largest): Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal, and CIBC.  

59. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, which operates seven of Canada’s most iconic hotels (in Banff, Edmonton, Ottawa, Victoria, Quebec, Toronto, and Montreal) and several abroad, is also based in Toronto. The Toronto one is called Fairmont Royal York.

60. Restaurants that started or are now headquartered in Toronto include Tim Hortons, Jimmy the Greek, Mr. Sub, Swiss Chalet, and St. Louis Bar & Grill.

famous Toronto-based companies
Companies that are headquartered in Toronto today

61. Some of the top annual festivals in Toronto include Toronto Caribbean Carnival (formerly Caribana), Luminato, Pride Toronto, and Toronto Summer Music Festival.

62. The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the most popular film festivals in the world, with upwards of half a million attendees.

63. Toronto has been dubbed “Hollywood North” because many movies are filmed there. Vancouver, which makes slightly more than Toronto, has the same nickname.

64. Movies that were filmed partially or fully in Toronto include American Psycho I and II, Billy Madison, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Pompeii, Capote, Cruel Intentions, Dracula 2000, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, RoboCop, Tommy Boy, True Lies, X-Men, and the Queer as Folk TV series, to name a few.

65. Musicians and bands from Toronto include Neil Young, Drake, Jully Black, Deborah Cox, Blue Rodeo, Snow, Peaches, Broken Social Scene, Rush, Death from Above, Metric, the Weeknd, and Our Lady Peace.

famous people from Toronto
Famous Torontonians Mary Pickford, Neil Young, Jim Carrey, Peaches, Stephen Harper, Drake (clockwise from top-left)

66. Other famous people born in the Greater Toronto Area include actresses Mary Pickford and Catherine O’Hara, Jon Candy, Jim Carrey, Will Arnett, Rick Moranis, Mike Meyers, and former Prime Ministers Lester B. Pearson and Stephen Harper.

67. Most of Canada’s major media outlets and entertainment programs are in Toronto, including CBC, CTV, and Entertainment Tonight Canada.

68. Much (formerly MuchMusic), Canada’s version of MTV, is based in Toronto. Several of its past VJs have achieved national fame. Today, it airs shows rather than music.

69. Toronto is also a major center of performing arts, with the National Ballet of Canada, Canadian Opera Company, and others based there.

70. Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club, now found across Canada, started in the basement of a community center in Toronto in 1978.

Rogers Centre (Toronto SkyDome) with the base of the CN Tower beside it
Rogers Centre next to CN Tower

71. Toronto has a dozen professional sports teams. These include five major league teams: the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), Toronto Blue Jays (MLB), Toronto Argonauts (CFL), Toronto FC (MLS), and Toronto Raptors (NBA).

72. Toronto Wolfpack is Canada’s first-ever professional rugby team.

73. The famed baseball player Babe Ruth made his first-ever home run while playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Hanlan’s Point Stadium on the Toronto Islands.

74. Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome) in Toronto was the world’s first stadium with a motorized, fully retractable roof. It was also the last stadium in North America built for both football and baseball. Today it is home to the Toronto Blue Jays.

75. Toronto has been a candidate for the Olympics twice but has never hosted them (1996 went to Atlanta, Georgia, and 2008 went to Beijing, China). It did, however, host the 2015 American and Parapan Games, which were twice as large as the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Historical Toronto Facts

76. much of Toronto was below glacial Lake Iroquois during the last ice age. Today, a series of escarpments in the city mark the lake’s former shoreline.

77. The first humans passed through the Toronto area around 11,000 years ago, hunting mammoths and mastodons.

A rocky shoreline on Lake Ontario with white on the rocks
The shore of Lake Ontario

78. The first indigenous fishing villages date to around 3000 years ago.

79. In 1615, French explorer Étienne Brûlé was probably the first European to step foot on the now Toronto land. Traders and missionaries followed.

80. In 1720, the French built their first fort at Toronto, Fort Douville, but later abandoned it.

81. At the end of the Seven Years’ War, England and France lost the area of Toronto to the English.

82. After the American Revolutionary War, English loyalist settlers arrived in the area (along with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI).

A canon at Fort York in Toronto, with CN Tower in the background
Fort York

83. In 1791, the Canadian colony was split into Upper (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec), with Toronto belonging to the former.

84. In 1793, Toronto was named York (later Fort York) and was briefly the capital.

85. St. James’ Cathedral was built in 1807.

86. In 1812, American forces attacked and sacked York.

87. The University of Toronto was established in 1827, called King’s College at the time.

88. York was incorporated as a city in 1834, taking on the name Toronto, mostly to differentiate it from New York.

Looking up at the side of St. James Cathedral in Toronto
Saint James Cathedral

89. In 1841, Toronto had the first gas-lit street lamps in the country, which Charles Dickens noted when he visited.

90. In 1846, the first telegraph in Canada was sent from Toronto to Hamilton.  

91. In 1856, the railway from Toronto to Montreal opened.

92. In 1861, Toronto’s streetcar service began.

93. The first Eaton’s store opened in Toronto in 1869.

94. Toronto’s Union Station, at the time the largest train station in Canada, was opened in 1893.

Inside Union Station in Toronto
Toronto’s Union Station

95. The Great Fire of 1904 destroyed much of downtown Toronto.

96. In 1914, the Toronto Blue Shirts, a precursor to the Maple Leafs, won the Stanley Cup.

97. The Toronto Subway began running in 1954 with 12 stations.

98. In the 1960s and 1970s, many old buildings in Toronto were demolished to make way for new ones, a process sometimes called the “Manhattanization” of Toronto.

99. The CN Tower was built in 1967 and became the tallest structure in the world until the Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai, UAE, in 2007.

A red streetcar running down the street and about to enter a tunnel in Toronto
Toronto’s streetcar system goes all the way back to 1861.

100. In 1971, Toronto’s population surpassed Montreal’s, becoming Canada’s largest city.

101. In 1998, Toronto became much larger when it amalgamated with neighboring municipalities, including York and Scarborough.

102. In 2003, SARS arrived in Toronto. The SARS Benefit Concert attracted 450,000 people, making it one of the largest concerts in history.

103. From 2010 to 2014, the controversial mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, admitted to having smoked crack and more.

A rainbow pride flag at Old City Hall in Toronto
Pride flag in front of Old City Hall

104. Toronto hosted World Pride in 2014 and the Pan American Games in 2015.

105. On March 23, 2020, Premier Doug Ford called a state of emergency in Toronto due to COVID.

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