105 Fun & Interesting Facts about Toronto, Canada

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

Below you’ll learn about T.O. with these fascinating and recently researched facts about Toronto! Find out more with these interesting facts about Ontario, the province where Toronto is found.

General Toronto Facts

  • It is the capital city of Ontario province (but not the capital of Canada, which is a common mistake. That would be Ottawa).
  • Toronto is located in southeastern Ontario, on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes.
  • Toronto is only 65 km (40 mi) from Niagara Falls and 540 km (335 mi) from New York City, as the crow flies.
  • Toronto sits further south than points in 15 US states.
  • Toronto is at a similar latitude as Florence, Italy, and is antipodal to Augusta, Western Australia.
  • 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 2nd and 3rd largest) combined.
View of downtown Toronto, Lake Ontario, and a boat harbour
Toronto sits on the shore of Lake Ontario
  • In total, the Golden Horseshoe population centre 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.
  • 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.
  • 95% of city’s residents speak English. 1.6% are native French speakers, while 9.1% are bilingual in English and French.
Streetcars in downtown Toronto
King Street, Toronto
  • The 911 emergency line in Toronto is capable of responding in over 150 languages.
  • The Toronto area was the traditional homeland of the Mississaugas of the Credit, Anishnabeg, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee, and Wendat peoples.
  • 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.
  • The English and French used several variations of the word, like Tarento, Tarontha, Taronto, Toranto, Torento, and Toronton.
  • 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
  • Some early nicknames for Toronto were Little York and Muddy York, comparing it to New York City.
  • 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).   
  • The city’s official motto is Diversity Our Strength. For a short time, the city tried to adopt the new slogan “Toronto Unlimited” in 2005, but so far no other has been officially proposed.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Toronto has 10 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 Interesting Facts about Toronto

  • Torontonians, along with residents of Montreal and a few cities in British Columbia, are the thinnest in Canada on average.
  • Toronto has been ranked as 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.
  • Toronto has 140 neighbourhoods, many of which used to be their own municipalities. Today, many of them have totally distinct characters, so Toronto has been called the “City of Neighbourhoods.”
  • The city even has a neighbourhood called “The Beaches”, after the fact that it has 4 beaches on Lake Ontario.
  • The 15 Toronto Islands on Lake Ontario provide shelter to downtown Toronto, not to mention they 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.
  • Toronto has Canada’s only national urban park, called Rouge National Urban Park. It protects a region of the Rouge River and its various tributaries in Toronto.
A sandbar in Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto
Rouge National Urban Park
  • CN Tower in Toronto has been the tallest structure in Canada and the entire Western Hemisphere since it was built in 1976. It stands 553 m (1815 ft) tall.
  • 17 of Canada’s 20 tallest buildings are all located in Toronto. The number 1 spot goes to Sky Tower, at 312.5 m / 1025 ft, which will be completed in 2024.
  • The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is Canada’s largest museum and most visited museum, with over 1.4 million visitors annually.
  • The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is the largest and most visited art gallery in Canada. 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
  • Spanning 287 hectares (710 acres), the Toronto Zoo is the largest zoo in Canada. It houses over 5000 animals belonging to 460+ species.
  • Toronto also has the world’s largest underground shopping complex, called 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
  • Toronto’s Younge Street, nicknamed “Main Street Ontario” once incorrectly held the Guinness World Record for world’s longest street (a highway was included that isn’t part of the street). The street has famous attractions such as Eaton Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square, and the Toronto Hockey Hall of Fame along it.
  • Toronto also has Canada’s Walk of Fame, similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, but with maples leaves. it features the likes of Bryan Adams, Pamela Anderson, Kurt Browning, Bret hart, and Anne Murray. There are currently around 173 places.
  • Toronto’s Graffiti Alley features several blocks of some of the city’s best (and legal) street art. It runs parallel to Queen Street West.
  • The 3D Toronto Sign is capable of producing 228 million colour 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Casa Loma in midtown Toronto has been described as “the only castle in North America”, although there are definitely some others in the US (it could be argued that most of them are not technically castles, though).
  • Toronto city proper receives just under 5 million foreign tourist 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
  • Former prime ministers Arthur Meighen, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Lester B. Pearson, and Paul Martin have degrees from University of Toronto.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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, just to name a few.
  • The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) is the 3rd largest in North America after the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.
  • Bay Street is Toronto’s equivalent to Wall Street in New York City.
  • Toronto is a major tech centre, with more tech jobs that 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
  • Toronto is Canada’s most expensive city and encompasses some of the country’s most expensive neighbourhoods. The average cost of a house in Toronto today is $1.3 million, beating out the former most expensive city, Vancouver.
  • 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 on Toronto. The Toronto one is called Fairmont Royal York.
  • Restaurants that started or are now headquartered in Toronto include Tim Hortons, Jimmy the Greek, Mr. Sub, Swiss Chalet, and St. Louis Bar & Grill.
A mosaic of the the logos of some famous Toronto-based companies
Companies that are headquartered in Toronto today
  • Toronto has been dubbed “Hollywood North” because so many movies are filmed there. Vancouver, which makes slightly more than Toronto, has the same nickname.
  • 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, just to name a few.
  • 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.
A mosaic of famous people from Toronto
Famous Torontonians Mary Pickford, Neil Young, Jim Carrey, Peaches, Stephen Harper, Drake (clockwise from top-left)
  • Other famous people born in the Greater Toronto Area include actresses Mary Pickford and Catherine O’Hara, actors Jon Candy, Jim Carrey, Will Arnett, Rick Moranis, and Mike Meyers, and former Prime Ministers Lester B. Pearson and Stephen Harper.
  • Much (formerly MuchMusic), Canada’s version of MTV, is based in Toronto, and several of its past VJs has achieved national fame. Today it airs shows rather than music.
  • Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club, now found across Canada, started in the basement of a community centre in Toronto in 1978.
The huge stadium Rogers Centre (Toronto SkyDome) with the base of the CN Tower beside it
Rogers Centre next to CN Tower
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Toronto has been a candidate for the Olympics twice, but has never hosted (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

  • During the last ice age, much of Toronto was below glacial Lake Iroquois. Today, a series of escarpments in the city mark the lake’s former shoreline.
  • The first humans passed through the area of Toronto 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
  • The first indigenous fishing villages date to around 3000 years ago.
  • In 1615, French explorer Étienne Brûlé was probably the first European to step foot on the land that is now Toronto. Traders and missionaries followed.
  • In 1720, the French built their first fort at Toronto, Fort Douville, but later abandoned it.
  • At the end of the Seven Years’ War between England and France, France lost the area of Toronto to the English.
  • After the American Revolutionary War, a wave of English loyalists 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
  • In 1791, the Canada colony was split into Upper (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec), with Toronto belonging to the former.
  • In 1793, Toronto was named York (later Fort York) and was briefly the capital.
  • In 1812, American forces attacked and sacked York.
  • The University of Toronto was established in 1827, called King’s College at the time.
  • 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
  • In 1841, Toronto had the first gas-lit street lamps in the country, which Charles Dickens noted when he visited.
  • In 1846, the first telegraph in Canada was sent from Toronto to Hamilton.  
  • In 1856, the railway from Toronto to Montreal opened.
  • The first Eaton’s store opened in Toronto in 1869.
  • 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
  • Much of downtown Toronto was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1904.
  • In 1914, the Toronto Blue Shirts, a precursor to the Maple Leafs, won the Stanley Cup.
  • The Toronto Subway began running in 1954. Today, it has 4 lines (2 more coming) and over 100 stations either open or coming soon.
  • In the 1960s and 70s, many old buildings in Toronto were demolished to make way for new ones, sometimes called the “Manhattanization” of Toronto.
  • The CN Tower was built in 1967, becoming 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.
  • In 1971, Toronto’s population surpassed that of Montreal, becoming the largest city in Canada.
  • In 1998, Toronto became much larger when it amalgamated with neighbouring municipalities including York and Scarborough.
  • In 2003, SARS arrived in Toronto. The SARS Benefit Concert attraction 450,000 people, making it one of the largest concerts in history.
  • From 2010 to 2014, the controversial mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, urinated in an elementary school’s grounds in daylight, made homophobic and racist statements, 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
  • Toronto hosted World Pride in 2014 and the Pan American games in 2015.
  • On March 23, 2020, premier Doug Ford called a state of emergency in Toronto due to COVID.