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Canada: Destination Guides - Must read

The ultimate student guide to Toronto

Often confused for Canada’s capital, Toronto is the country’s most populated city and offers students a buzzing major city experience, lakeside living and world-class study opportunities.


Toronto is the largest city in Canada by population, with over six million residents in the Greater Toronto Area. This buzzing city is often thought of as the cultural heart of Canada. Toronto is home to a huge amount of the country’s international economic, academic, and technological activity, as well as world-class arts and culture.


The size of Toronto, and its diverse population, means that each part of the city has developed a unique character and charm. Sparkling high-rise buildings often mix with 19th-century period architecture, while in the streets below, cafes and shops give way to vibrant bars, clubs and concerts after the sun goes down.


Canada is known for its wonderful winters that offer unparalleled skiing, snowboarding, winter hiking, ice skating and ice hockey. However, the summer temperatures in Toronto are more than high enough to encourage al-fresco dining on terraces across the city, warm evenings on rooftop bars, and all sorts of water sports on Lake Ontario.


Toronto’s home province of Ontario is an incredibly popular choice for international students, with over 200,000 in the region, nearly half of all the international students in the country! 


With world-leading universities like the University of Toronto, as well as easy access to the United States, it’s no surprise that Toronto feels like one of the major centres of the North American continent.


What is Toronto like?


Location and demographics

Toronto is the capital city of the Ontario province and is the largest population centre in the country. It’s in southwest Canada, less than 100 miles by road to the United States border. Toronto was established on the northern side of Lake Ontario, giving great access to scenic paths and beaches.


Like other major cities in Canada, Toronto is a highly diverse city with almost half of its population from a non-European background. The city is known for its ethnic neighbourhoods, including Chinatown, Greentown, and Little India. It welcomes tens of thousands of international students every year.


Culture and history 

The site at which Toronto now thrives was originally the homeland of First Nations people, who had lived there for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers. At first, a French colony, the region was significant due to its role in the fur trade and was surrendered to Great Britain in 1763. In 1792, a new Ontario capital was founded and named ‘York’, until 1834 when it regained its original name of Toronto. It has always been a strategic harbour site and was a centre of industry throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. 


Toronto is now one of Canada’s major cities, with an impressive skyline and a cosmopolitan, urban community enriched by migrants from around the world.


Read more about what makes Canada unique


What universities are in Toronto?


Toronto hosts some of the highest-ranking universities in Canada and is a great choice for students looking to gain a world-class degree in a business and tech hub. The University of Toronto was established in 1827 and is rated as the 34th best institution in the world by QS World University Rankings 2023It is known internationally for the high quality of its research and excels in teaching quality, especially across the engineering and law disciplines.


Ryerson University is regarded as one of the leading institutions for business programs and career-oriented education, with over 100 programmes across undergraduate and postgraduate levels.


York University ranks in the top 500 institutions worldwide according to QS 2022 and is the second-largest university in the province. The institution is known for the quality of its arts, humanitiessocial sciences and law programmes.


Toronto is also home to various other institutions that command international reputations and attract students from around the world. They include George Brown College, Humber College, and Trent University, and between them offer courses across hundreds of subjects.


Discover more universities in Canada


What does Toronto offer students?


What is transport like? 

Toronto residents benefit from one of North America’s best public transport systems, including efficient buses, subway trains, streetcars, and rail services in, out, and around the city. You can use all these services with your PRESTO card, your way of paying fares across Toronto’s travel routes.


The Toronto Pearson International Airport also opens travel opportunities across North America and the world.


What about entertainment and food?

As one of Canada’s most famous cities, you won’t be surprised to find that the city has an entertainment, arts and culture scene to match. It’s home to a busy calendar of festivals, and offers some of the continent’s finest museums, galleries, and cultural venues. The food and drink in Toronto is world-class, with a range of options, from craft beer breweries to world food, Michelin star restaurants and Canadian food with Indigenous roots.


Discover the top five things to do in Canada


Is there good accommodation?

As an international student in Toronto, you’ll be able to find a wide range of accommodation options across the city. Depending on whether your priority is being close to campus or in the middle of a vibrant Toronto neighbourhood, as well as the size of your budget, you’ll be able to choose from university-run halls, private rented accommodation, homestays, or private student halls of residence. Your Canadian university will be able to provide extra support and advice to help you find the perfect place to live.


If you’re looking for financial aid, why not review the top scholarships in Canada?


How much does it cost to live and study in Toronto?


While Toronto is a little cheaper to live in as an international student than places like Vancouver, it will cost you more to live than other major Canadian cities like Montreal, Calgary or Ottawa. However, there are plenty of ways to live well on an average student budget in Toronto.


Find out what tuition fees in Canada cost


Student budget

As a single international student living in Toronto, you could expect to pay an average of between CAD 300 and CAD 800 per week. This includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other living costs. Your budget will vary depending on your living arrangements, lifestyle and activities, and where in Toronto you’re living.


Discover more about the cost of living in Canada


Financial requirements

The Government of Canada asks international students to demonstrate that they can access a minimum of CAD 10,000 per year before starting their studies in Canada. This is equivalent to CAD 833 per month.


Explore how to find a graduate career in Canada and the top five graduate jobs


What are the main attractions in Toronto?


Toronto is Canada’s largest city and home to an endless range of things to do and see. This bustling metropolis is known for its rich cultural diversity and green spaces, with over 1,500 parks across the city!


The CN Tower is the city’s most famous landmark, standing over half a kilometre tall in the middle of the city. You’ll be able to take in the fantastic view from three different observation decks, in addition to a thrilling ‘EdgeWalk’ experience. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see Niagara Falls.


After seeing it from afar, you’ll no doubt want to see the world-famous falls up close. This member of the unofficial seven natural wonders of the world is easily accessible from Toronto by car, bus or train.


Toronto is an artistic town from top to bottom, and there’s no clearer sign of this than the varied street and graffiti art that marks most streets in the city. You might pass by famous areas like Graffiti Alley, off Queen St. West, on your way to various markets, restaurants, pubs, and events around the city.


Of course, no life in Canada would be complete without ice hockey. In Toronto, you can get tickets for games all year. You can also visit the national sport’s heart, the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Toronto is Canada’s most iconic city, towering above the blue shores of Lake Ontario. From epic Canadian landscapes to world-class arts, culture, and cafes, as well as day trips to the USA, Toronto is one of the best destinations on the North American continent. Explore more study options in Canada and Toronto with our course matcher tool


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