Toronto is a vibrant and culturally diverse city filled with many attractions for every taste. It’s also an excellent place for museum lovers looking to tap into the city’s cultural scene. From hockey to shoes to dinosaur bones and everything in between, museums in Toronto will keep you busy.
Want to know more about Toronto? Check out this guide before planning your trip!
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Museums in Toronto
There are many historical and culturally significant spots in the city open to visitors. But, many are not. Once a year, visitors get an opportunity to visit some of these places as part of the Doors Open Toronto imitative that takes place in May. Many museums, including the ones mentioned here, open their doors to the public for free. It’s an excellent opportunity to discover incredible and unusual places in Toronto. Here are my pics for the best museums in Toronto to see on your next visit.
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
100 Queen’s Park, Toronto | website
The Royal Ontario Museum, known as the ROM, is Canada’s largest museum and one of my favourite museums in Toronto. Founded in 1914, it is one of the top cultural institutions in North America. It is home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects and natural history specimens, housed in 40 gallery and exhibition spaces.
With an extensive collection of dinosaur bones, Egyptian mummies and Asian arts, to name a few, the ROM is a wonderful place to explore. It also functions as Canada’s field research institute for advancing our understanding of the artistic, cultural and natural worlds. Like many other museums, the ROM is housed in an exciting space that combines heritage architecture with contemporary design. Read more about this Toronto attraction.
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
317 Dundas Street West, Toronto | website
The Art Gallery of Ontario, known as the AGO, is one of Toronto’s most popular museums. With a collection of over 90,000 works ranging from contemporary art and European masters to Canada’s indigenous people and photography. The gallery often hosts temporary exhibitions in addition to its permanent collection.
The AGO is a great space to explore and discover your creative side, with many different art classes for all ages. In 2008, the gallery underwent a major expansion designed by Frank Gehry. Here you’ll find vast spaces, high ceilings and other architectural features that are just as appealing as the art displayed here.
Aga Khan Museum
77 Wynford Drive, Toronto | website
One of the newer museums in Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum, focuses on the Muslim civilizations and culture of the Islamic world. It’s the first museum in the Western world that displays the “artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions of Muslim civilizations to world heritage.”
The museum houses over 1,000 rare objects and artifacts from the private collections of His Highness the Aga Khan, the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, and Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan. These include manuscripts, ceramics, medical texts, portraits, textiles, musical instruments and many other objects from the Iberian coast to China.
1 Austin Terrace, Toronto | website
Casa Loma was once the private residence of the financier Sir Henry Pellatt. It represents the city’s history and is a throwback to the wealthy Torontonians of the past. It’s also one of the city’s top tourist attractions, event venues and one of my favourite museums in Toronto.
Sir Henry’s inspiration for Casa Loma came from the castles in Europe. Once he made his money, he set out to build his dream home, sparing no expense. An outbreak of World War I put a dent in his plans, and eventually, Sir Henry was forced to sell his beloved home. Today, you can tour the former residence, walk along the underground tunnel and admire incredible views of the city from the stunning gardens. Read more about the Toronto Castle.
Hockey Hall of Fame
30 Yonge Street, Brookfield Place, Toronto | website
Whether you’re a hockey fan or want to learn more about Canada’s national sport, the Hockey Hall of Fame is for you. It houses the most extensive collection of hockey memorabilia in the world, including the Stanley Cup, hockey’s championship trophy. Ironically, the last time Toronto’s hockey team – the Maple Leafs – won the cup was in 1967.
The museum is also an interactive, hands-on experience with shoot-out simulations against animated hockey greats, hockey-themed movies and trivia. There are themed exhibits, a replica NHL dressing room, trophies and hockey-related merchandise, and many more. This is one of the very unique museums in Toronto that you won’t find in other places.
A sports fan? You might enjoy Guide to Toronto’s sports teams!
Ontario Science Centre
770 Don Mills Road, Toronto | website
For every other kid growing up in Toronto, a school visit to the Science Centre is a rite of passage. This is where science comes to life, and kids can get their hands-on interactive settings meant to inspire passion for the adventure of discovery.
From science, human anatomy, geology and nature to live science demonstrations, a state-of-the-art planetarium and a replica rainforest. Kids can play and explore in more than 500 hands-on experiences across eight exhibit halls. This makes the Science Centre one of the most fun museums in Toronto, especially for those who like a less traditional setting.
Bata Shoe Museum
327 Bloor Street West, Toronto | website
The Bata Shoe Museum is like a candy store for shoe lovers. The museum has the most extensive collection of shoes and footwear-related items, amounting to more than 13,000 pieces. Representing over 4,500 years of history, the collection is housed in an equally impressive building over five floors.
Visitors can learn about the evolution of footwear and its role in society throughout history. There are thousands of shoes on display at any time, ranging from Chinese bound-foot shoes, ancient Egyptian sandals and clogs to glamorous platforms and buttoned boots. On the museum’s website, you can check the exhibition highlights and learn more about the shoes.
111 Queen’s Park, Toronto | website
Dedicated to all things pottery, the Gardiner Museum collections focus on two types of ceramics, earthenware and porcelain. There are over 4,000 items from across the globe, from Inuit ceramics, English delftware, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, and pieces from the Ancient Americas.
Like many other museums in Toronto, this one offers hands-on classes, programs and workshops while supporting local artists and promoting a deeper understanding of the art of ceramics.
Museum of Illusions
132 Front Street East, Toronto | website
Unlike the displays at any other museum in Toronto, nothing is what it seems at the Museum of Illusions. Combining entertainment and education, the museum offers over 80 illusions, holograms, installations and exhibits. Here you can explore various sensory and proprioceptive experiences, from defying laws of gravity to problem-solving games and visual illusions.
Similar to the Ontario Science Centre, the Museum of Illusions uses fun to teach and engage. Kids and adults can enjoy the infinity rooms, the Vortex tunnel, rotated rooms, illusions, brainteasers, puzzles, impossible knots and many more. If you’re into brain games and tricks-of-the-eye displays, then this is the place for you.
Textile Museum of Canada
55 Centre Avenue, Toronto | website
As the name suggests, the Textile Museum is the only museum in Canada dedicated to exploring the human experience through textiles. It has a permanent collection of more than 13,000 textiles from around the world, covering over 2,000 years of textile history. Some of the items often make special appearances in other museums in Toronto as part of temporary exhibitions.
In addition to housing numerous fabrics, carpets, garments, specialty clothes and carpets, the museum offers lectures, workshops, seminars and tours. There are also educational guides, monthly Textile Teach-ins and events around contemporary art practices. The museum offers curated exhibitions of contemporary and historical artifacts and a reference library of materials focused on non-industrial textiles.
Final thoughts on museums in Toronto
There are many fun and interesting museums in Toronto for every taste. While Toronto might not come close to the number of museums in Paris or London, it holds its own. As there are many cultural festivals and events throughout the year, there are many additional temporary exhibitions, art installations and displays that pop up all over the city. There is always something to see and explore.
Enjoy reading about museums in Toronto? You might like Why visit museums.
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