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The best museums in Toronto

Delve into Canadian history and heritage with a saunter through our selection of the best Toronto museums
Best museums in Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Royal Ontario Museum/Sam Javanrouh
By Jessica Davey-Quantick and Annalise Mantz |
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Whether you're looking to brush up on your Canadian history or ponder avant garde art exhibits, the best Toronto museums have something for everyone. The Six has a little bit of everything, from a museum dedicated entirely to footwear to a historic home allegedly haunted by the ghost of a former mayor. It's no wonder why so many of these institutions 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. One thing's for sure: Both tourists and life-long locals will certainly learn something new at the best Toronto museums. 

Best Toronto museums

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Casa Loma
Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions

Casa Loma

icon-location-pin Casa Lomo

What is it? Constructed in 1914, Casa Loma is styled to look like a very over-the-top European château, complete with 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 up to the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum on the third floor.

2
Royal Ontario Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Royal Ontario Museum/Sam Javanrouh
Museums

Royal Ontario Museum

icon-location-pin Bloor Yorkville

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.

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3
Art Gallery of Ontario
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Reg Natarajan

Art Gallery of Ontario

icon-location-pin Chinatown

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.

4
Bata Shoe Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Viator
Museums

Bata Shoe Museum

icon-location-pin Susex Ulster

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. 

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5
Hockey Hall of Fame
Photograph: Courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame/AJ Messier
Museums

Hockey Hall of Fame

icon-location-pin St Lawrence Market

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.

6
Textile Museum of Canada
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mark B. Schlemmer
Museums

Textile Museum of Canada

icon-location-pin Downtown Toronto

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. Take advantage of the public tours every Sunday at 2pm, which are included with admission to the musuem. 

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7
Aga Khan Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Viator
Museums

Aga Khan Museum

icon-location-pin Wynford Drive

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 manuscripes.   

8
Mackenzie House
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/André Carrotflower

Mackenzie House

icon-location-pin Downtown Toronto

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, your misconceptions will be swiftly dispelled 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.

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9
Gardiner Museum
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/End User
Museums

Gardiner Museum

icon-location-pin Bloor Yorkville

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.

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Camera
Art

Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art

icon-location-pin Greater Toronto

What is it? At this point we’d also be recommending a stop at the Museum of Contemporary Art, if it weren’t currently homeless.

Why go? Renovations are underway on its new home at the Tower Automotive Building, but don’t fret: The museum is hosting several roving exhibitions before moving into its sweet new pad in September 2018. 

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