Settled in 1750, Toronto is the capital of Ontario, Canada, and boasts a population of more than 2.7 million. With such a large number of residents, it can get pretty crowded during the tourist season. But you can always find some peace and quiet at a museum or art gallery.
See the best museums in Toronto from the Art Gallery of Ontario to the Royal Ontario Museum. The best museums in Toronto may not be what you expected. Yes, there are some museums of history, science, and art, but this city also has some of the best boutique museums. These are the museums that do not fall under the three criteria above.
Some of the most popular unique museums include the Aga Khan Museum, Hockey Hall of Fame, and the Textile Museum of Canada as well as the Bata Shoe Museum, Rifles Museum, and the MZTV Museum. The Gardiner Museum is also unique as it is the only museum in Canada dedicated to ceramic arts and Canadian culture.
Downtown Toronto has the largest conglomeration of museums we've mentioned, such as the Art Gallery of Toronto, Museum of Toronto, and the Textile Museum. Old Town is also a great spot to find museums like the Hockey Hall of Fame, Market Gallery, and the Museum of Illusions.
Toronto boasts over 65 museums and art galleries with everything from Canadian works of art to the largest collection of textiles in the world. Whether you want to see Canada from the artistic side or learn more about its history, drop off your suitcases at a Toronto suitcase storage locker first because you cannot bring them with you. Large bags are best left elsewhere!
Art Gallery of Ontario
Located in the Grange Park neighborhood downtown Toronto, this art gallery has an impressive 100 thousand pieces in its permanent collection of contemporary art. In fact, it is one of the largest art museums in Canada. Besides artwork, the museum also boasts a research center, library, restaurant, and workshop.
The Art Gallery of Ontario opened in 1900 and has 120,000 pieces in its permanent collection including work from First Nations, Inuit, European masters, Central African artists, and Indigenous Canadians. Some of the most famous pieces of art include works by Picasso, Michelangelo, Gauguin, and van Gogh as well as Goya, Monet, Rembrandt, and Chagall.
Ontario Science Centre
Also known as Centre des sciences de l'Ontario, the Ontario Science Centre is located in downtown Toronto, in Flemingdon Park on the Don River. The centre has six levels with 10 exhibition halls. In these displays are more than 500 interactive exhibits for hands-on fun no matter how old you are, as well as a variety of art and cultural items.
You will also find Toronto's only public planetarium, which features an auditorium with 400 comfy seats to enjoy some astral projections. It also has stunning views and hiking paths outside the museum. Inside or out, you can learn about the past 150 years of Canadian history.
Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto
If you want to see some contemporary art, this museum in Toronto is where you want to go. The Museum of Contemporary Art gallery can be found in the Tower Automotive Building on the first five floors. It is on the land of the Mississauga of the Credit First Nation, a treaty land where the Anishinaabe, Wendat, and Haudenosaunee have lived for hundreds of years.
Today, many Metis, First Nations, and Inuit peoples continue to live happily on this land. In over 200 exhibits, the museum boasts the work of more than 1,100 Canadian and International artists. Some of these include Julia Dault, Tom Chung, and Ashoona Ashoona.
Aga Khan Museum
Featuring more than 1,000 rare artifacts from Iranian and Islamic art and Muslim culture, this award-winning museum is housed in North York in a stunning building designed by famous architect Fumihiko Maki. Most of the collection is from His Highness the Aga Khan.
Some of the collection includes paintings, metalwork, and ceramics covering Islamic history with the oldest piece a manuscript from 1052. The extensive complex in the North York neighborhood is surrounded by formal gardens and a lush green park in which the Aga Khan Museum is the main attraction.
Canadian Natural History Museum
There are many history museums in Toronto but this one deserves a closer look so plan on spending at least a few hours here. Established in 1856, the museum features the history of Canada including over 3,000,000 items like photos, art, documents, videotapes, and other artifacts.
The collection dates back to the items from the 1860 Geological Survey of Canada and includes the largest collection of indigenous items in the country as well as the largest collection of totem poles in the world. Some of the unique items you can see are a bottle of cough syrup from the 1918 flu, the royal gown of Elizabeth II, and a variety of hockey items.
Toronto Reference Library
Located in the Yorkville neighborhood (it's a great place to stay) in downtown Toronto, the Toronto Reference Library is the largest and most visited branch of the Toronto Public Library.
Opened in 1909, the Toronto Reference Library has a rare and unique collection of books, films, manuscripts, documents, and photos. Some of the highlights include some of the original Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes books and the Baldwin Collection of Canada.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Hockey fans all over the world will tell you that the Hockey Hall of Fame is the most important museum in Canada. With a collection of trophies, statistics, player info, and even the Stanley Cup, anyone who likes the NHL should not miss visiting this place.
You can even get a photo with a replica of the Stanley Cup and in the replica of the Montreal Canadiens locker room. Or try your luck at hitting the puck in the life-sized animate hockey room. Kids who like to be busy and love sports will adore this attraction. The Hockey Hall of Fame is found downtown and boasts 15 different exhibition rooms.
Royal Ontario Museum
The Royal Ontario Museum is quite intriguing so plan on spending at least an afternoon here. Inside this large building, you will find history, culture, and art. It is the largest museum in Canada and one of the largest in North America. Not surprisingly, it is also the most visited museum in Canada.
Just to the north of Queen's Park, the Royal Ontario Museum was established in 1912 and features over six million items spread over 40 galleries. You can see a collection of meteorites, minerals, and dinosaur bones as well as items of zoology, paleontology, and geology from all over the world.
Textile Museum of Canada
With more than 15,000 pieces, in the Textile Museum of Canada, you will find an amazing collection of quilts, carpets, garments, fabrics, and other works of art. The most popular include a hooked rug from Florence Ryder, fragments of a Peru Nazca item from 2,000 years ago, and a salmon skin suit from China.
It is the only publicly funded institution that celebrates Inuit art and other Canadian art in its exhibit halls. Among the extensive art collection, you can see ceremonial cloths from all over the world like a prayer rug from Asia, a wedding shawl from Pakistan, and an altar cloth from Indonesia.
Bata Shoe Museum
If you have ever wondered what the first shoes looked like or how shoes from different cultures have evolved, check out the Bata Shoe Museum. The collection began with the personal items from Sonja Bata, who started collecting shoes in the 1940s. It is home to some of the most important shoes in history from athletes and celebs.
This Toronto heritage museum boasts more than 13,000 shoes dating back over four thousand years. Some of the really cool items you can see include sealskin boots from the Inuit peoples of the Ancient Americas and silk shoes worn by Queen Victoria. There are also shoes worn by Elvis, Napoleon, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, and other world famous personalities.
If you love television, you should not miss this museum. Actually, even if you hate TV, this is a really fun and interesting place with some cool items. Find out how it was possible to go from huge TVs in heavy cabinets to skinny TVs you can hang on your wall.
The Toronto MZTV Museum is dedicated to the history of television and the most comprehensive collection of TVs from the 1920s to the 1970s as well as a collection of TV memorabilia. The museum also hosts workshops, screenings, and the Toronto International Film Festival with people all over the world visiting.
Gardiner Museum in Toronto
The Gardiner Museum is one of the hidden gems in Toronto, totally focused on ceramic arts with more than 4,000 items dating back to ancient times. It started with the private collection of George and Helen Gardiner and was later built on by other collectors. The Gardiners opened the museum when they could not display their collection at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Get into the action by taking a class in hand building, slip casting, and wheel throwing, or just stroll through the museum exploring on your own. Speaking of the building, this one is a work of art on its own, made of black granite and limestone with a terrace, restaurant, and 4,000-square-foot gallery filled with cultural objects.
Spanish for house on the hill, this Gothic Revival mansion museum was built back in 1914 and boasts a collection of art with each room an exhibit of its own. The Oak Room is the most stunning room in the house with a gilt-carved light from Louis XVI and the Conservatory is also fancy, featuring an old-world indoor fountain.
Inside the Toronto museum, you can also find the Rifles Museum with the Queen's collection of guns on the third floor. In addition, the stables are the home of a vintage car collection that puts others to shame. There are two 1910 Model Q cars, a 1922 Ford Model T, and a 1929 Ford Model A.
You could spend weeks in Toronto without running out of museums and art galleries to explore. Each museum in Toronto is unique in its own way and has collections worth seeing. From artwork by contemporary artists to the extensive collection of rifles in Casa Loma, you can find your favorite museum in Toronto.
From hand building classes at the Gardiner Museum to the science arcade at the Science Centre, you will not get bored in Toronto. You may want to venture to Old Toronto too, to see Toronto's first city hall or the St. James Cathedral. Even the Toronto Coach Terminal, the large bus station, is a heritage building. After spending all day at some of the best museums and gallery spaces in Toronto, why not enjoy a nice meal before hitting the mall to do some souvenir shopping.