Whether you're looking to brush up on your Canadian history, ponder avant garde art exhibits or peruse through the home of Toronto's first mayor (warning: it's supposedly haunted by his ghost) the best museums in Toronto will tickle your cultural muscles.
The Six has a little bit of everything: from a museum dedicated entirely to footwear to the only institution dedicated to textile arts in all of Canada and what can only be described as a shrine to the country's national pasttime (hockey!), it's no wonder why so many of these institutions even made it onto our list of the best things to do in Toronto. Not only are they bona fide Toronto attractions, but they all double as excellent things to do with kids in Toronto.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Toronto
Best museums in Toronto
What is it: Constructed in 1914, Casa Loma is styled to look like a very over-the-top European château, complete with an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables and five acres of gardens.
Why go: Canada might be a relatively young country, but that doesn’t mean Toronto can’t have its very own castle. The former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellat fits the bill perfectly. Get your fill of Downton Abbey-esque rooms before heading to the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum on the third floor.
What is it: This museum's expansive collection of cultural and historic artifacts makes it a must-see.
Why go: Stop by the Royal Ontario Museum to learn about everything from art of the First Peoples to modern fashion to the age of dinosaurs. The museum has an ever-revolving schedule of exhibitions and events, including the summer-long Friday Night Live, which transforms the galleries into a party with live DJs, food and drinks.
What is it: On the artistic side, the Art Gallery of Ontario is a sure thing; in fact, it’s a work of art in itself.
Why go: Toronto born architect Frank Gehry redesigned the gallery to be a sculpture in its own right and its collection contains more than 95,000 works of art, including a vast collection of Canadian art.
What is it: Let your boots do the walking all the way to the Bata Shoe Museum, an expo dedicated to footwear from around the world.
Why go: The collection includes more than 13,000 items on display, with shoes from the ancient world to the present day, all housed in Raymond Moriyama’s award-winning structure.
What is it: This institution dedicated to Canada's national pasttime is packed with hockey ephemera.
Why go: Even visitors have to pay tribute to Canada's hockey greats—it's practically a law in this ice-obsessed nation. Visit the permanent home of the Stanley Cup, face off against famed players in the Shoot Out simulation and check out the unrivaled collection of jerseys and other relics in the massive Tissot World of Hockey Zone.
What is it: This museum devoted to textile arts is the only one of its kind in Canada.
Why go: With a permanent collection of nearly 13,000 artifacts spanning nearly 2,000 years and 200 regions around the world, the downtown museum focuses on the role of cloth and fabric in society.
What is it: The first museum on the continent dedicated to Islamic civilizations, the Aga Khan Museum is well worth a visit.
Why go: The building designed by architect Fumihiko Maki – a piece of art in its own right – holds countless treasures from the Islamic world. Highlights of the collection include a bronze planispheric astrolabe, a 10th-century prayer amulet and exhibit after exhibit of gorgeously illuminated manuscripts.
What is it: The last home of Toronto's first mayor is now a museum supposedly haunted by his ghost.
Why go: Before you start thinking that all Canadian history is quiet and polite, swiftly dispel your misconceptions with a stop at Mackenzie House. The city official and radical journalist was forced into exile in the States after leading the Rebellion of 1837. Check out the exhibits and keep an eye out for his ghost, who’s been spotted working at the printing press.
What is it; All things clay are on display at this museum dedicated to ceramics.
Why go: Get your hands dirty at one of the Gardiner Museum's regular classes in hand building, wheel throwing and slip casting. If you'd prefer to leave the messy stuff to the experts, spend some time admiring the collection of some 4,000 pieces from the ancient Americas to today.
What is it: Reopened in a new homeat the Tower Automotive Building in 2018, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCa) was formerly known as the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (Mocca).
Why go: Smack dab in the middle of the city's Junction Triangle (it formerly called the West Queen West neighborhood home), the museum is home to a slew of need-to-be-explored exhibits: Mark Dion's "The Life of a Dead Tree" (marking the 100th anniversary of the Tower Automotive building) and "Honest Shop" (part of the Art in Use series) will open up this month through July. Andreas Angelidakis' "DEMOS - A Reconstruction Invitation Project" installation of 74 foam modules that can be touched and rearranged is always free to the public.