Tips for Exploring a New City During a Pandemic

When I moved to Toronto during my first year of university, I was excited to learn more about the city that I would be calling my home-away-from-home. Since then, I have walked around several neighbourhoods, tried many local restaurants, and taken countless Instagram photos. I’m in my third year currently, and I still feel like I am discovering new things and learning more about the city all the time. Now, however, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the large attractions and indoor activities are going to have to wait. Regardless, there are still plenty of fun things to see and do around Toronto, especially for anyone who has just moved downtown. Here are some of my tips for exploring a new city during a pandemic!

Go on walks! Walking around the city is a great way to learn about different areas of Toronto, while also getting outside for some exercise. Keeping active is really important, especially when we are spending more time inside. Plus, going for walks allows for a safe and socially distanced way to spend time with friends outside of your household bubble. When I moved to the city in my first year, I mostly only walked to places like Dundas Square and the Ryerson campus, but there are a bunch of other cool and unique areas that are close to HOEM! Some of my favorite places to walk to with my friends are Cabbagetown, the Harbourfront, Queen Street West, and the Distillery District.

Try out local food places and coffee shops! Many small businesses are struggling right now due to the pandemic, so it’s a great idea to skip the Starbucks sometimes and check out a local cafe, or try a new food market. These shops and restaurants are what I think create the real character of the city, and there are tons of them to check out! Some places that I like to go to are Mast Coffee, Craig’s Cookies, and the St. Lawrence Market. The St Lawrence Market in particular is a great choice, as you can check out all of the different food vendors, and it’s right down the street from HOEM. Kensington market is also a great neighbourhood to explore to find local vendors, and unique shops. Going out and finding new favourite places and hidden gems throughout Toronto helps me learn more about the city, and I have a huge appreciation for the small businesses that keep the culture alive.

It can be difficult to come up with new things to do and places in the city to visit. I know my friends and I have had days where we need help coming up with new ideas. Luckily, there are plenty of guides and pages about Toronto that keep up to date with anything happening around the city. My personal favourite page to check on a regular basis is BlogTO. I follow BlogTO on Instagram, and they are always posting about interesting local restaurants, art installations, and activities. Other good guides are Narcity Canada and Tourism Toronto. These pages are a great resource for new things to see that you may not have known about. I’ve found multiple new cafes, and visited plenty of installations throughout the city thanks to BlogTO. Art installations are always super fun to see, and they make for great social media opportunities!

Unfortunately, due to the lockdown, most of the big tourist attractions in Toronto have been closed down. This also means that more people are out and about going for walks, and seeing outdoor attractions. One big tip I have is that if you wanted to go check out the harbourfront, or popular areas like the Distillery District and Liberty Village, I would recommend going during the week. These places are definitely more crowded on weekends, and I’ve found that walking around is much easier and there is plenty of space on weekdays, especially during the day.


5 places my friends and I love that you should check out!

  • The Tim Hortons Innovation Cafe on King Street is a cool location to check out while you’re out for a walk. Located in the Financial District, this unique Tim Horton’s location is an upscale version of the classic Tims, with revamped menu items. My personal favourites are the Crème Brûlée donut and Nitro Peach Mango Iced Tea.
  • Skating at Nathan Phillips Square is a fun pass time during the winter. They even have skate rentals available if you don’t have your own. Because of the pandemic, there is limited space available to skate, so make sure you book ahead! While you're there, you should check out the food trucks that are usually parked along the street.
  • Graffiti Alley is an area off of Queen Street West where the walls have been transformed into a collection of work by different graffiti artists. Unique pieces are added all the time so there is always something new to see!
  • Head over to Kensington Market to check out its small businesses like boutiques, art spaces, food markets, restaurants, and cafes.
  • Riverdale Farm is right in the heart of Cabbagetown. This pretty neighbourhood is a close walk from HOEM, and has a few nice parks and green spaces. Say hello to some adorable animals and enjoy the greenery during the warmer months!


There are plenty of fun and interesting things to see and do in Toronto even during a pandemic, so I hope anybody who is new to the city tries to get out and explore. Finally, no matter where you are planning to go throughout the city, don’t forget to mask up and stay safe!