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Best of Toronto

The Best Museums in Toronto

Posted by Robyn Urback / May 6, 2011

museums torontoThe best museums in Toronto bring merit to the cliche that learning can be fun. These cultural institutions take you back to different times, across continents, to different cultures and foreign experiences, all while still making it home in time for dinner. And some of them, for that matter, offer pretty good meals on-site too.

Here is the list of the best museums in Toronto.

Ah, the ROM. No surprise this one was voted #1. Despite what you may think of its more recent structural developments, the ROM has consistently served as a reliable source for new and exciting exhibits, courses, lectures and more. Many of us have grown up with the ROM, experiencing good times exploring the dinosaur bones, and bad moments losing bladder control in a bat cave that was just too realistic. Ah well, high school is an embarrassing time.

Hockey Hall of Fame
While the Toronto Maple Leafs haven't brought the Stanley Cup "home," per se, in more than 50 years, lucky Torontonians can get up close and personal with it anytime by visiting the anyhow at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The interactive exhibits also make this museum a fun one to visit with friends, and a good source for a hockey fix during the offseason, also known as baseball season.

Bata Shoe Museum
I'll always remember that first time I saw a pair of Elton John's shoes in real life. I'm pretty sure I just glanced at them, then moved onto the next pair. In any case, the Bata Shoe Museum is a great place for anyone interested in the history of fashion, with fabulous exhibits and featured shows illustrating just how extreme fancy footwear can get. We'll probably see Crocs there in 30 years.

The Gardiner Museum
The Gardiner Museum is a haven for ceramic lovers, exhibiting some of the most interesting creations made from clay. The exhibitions are always changing and feature artists from all over the world. And if seeing plates gets you hungry (as I imagine it probably would) The Gardiner has added Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner, a restaurant offers eats made with local and organic ingredients.

The Design Exchange
Many of us know The Design Exchange as a great venue to host events. But yes, it is also a museum, promoting the art of design and architecture. It has both on-site and online exhibitions, and offers tours of the Historic Trading Floor, exhibits, as well as other adult and youth programs.

The Textile Museum of Canada
I'm heavily resisting the urge to make a terrible joke about how this is the museum for the "touchy feely type." The Textile Museum has more than 12,000 objects from more than 200 countries and regions, exploring clothing, fabrics, patterns, and decorations. It has both permanent and visiting exhibitions, including its permanent fibrespace gallery, which is a hands-on exhibit for the touchy feely type. Sorry.

Fort York
Historic Fort York is the place to go for history buffs, as the site hosts Canada's largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings. For a more interactive experience, it's best to visit Fort York in the summer, where you can watch Fort York Guard demonstrations, cannon firings, flag raisings, and cooking demonstrations, which come with my own personal favourite Fort York activity--tasting.

Archives of Ontario
Archives of Ontario is a great place to check out if you're looking for a wealth of information on a variety of different topics. In the spirit of the recent Royal Wedding, you might be keen to check out the exhibit on Queen Elizabeth, then perhaps move on to the history of Eaton's, exploring toys throughout the decades, followed by the history of education in Ontario. What better way to get geared up for the upcoming provincial elections?!

CBC Museum
If you're feeling nostalgic for the good old days of broadcast, a trip to the CBC Museum would surely be in order. The CBC Museum has over 4000 artifacts including old broadcasting equipment, allowing you to finally see what a reel to reel machine looks like when its not being stored in your grandparents' attic.

The MZTV Museum of Television
The MZTV Museum of Television is all about television--the object. It has one of the most comprehensive collections of television sets in North America, with tubes form the 1920s onward. The MZTV Museum of Television also has a collection of permanent online exhibits, including "Television in Quotes" and "The Pioneers of Television."

Arthur Conan Doyle Collection
The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection at the Toronto Reference Library is devoted to the life and work of the famous Sherlock Holmes author. Visitors can browse freely, exploring different editions of Doyle's works, translations, adaptations, and parodies. Started in 1969, the collection continue to grow today.

Photo by End User in the blogTO Flickr pool



Alex / May 6, 2011 at 11:27 am
The fact that the ROM is #1 shows just how far behind Toronto is with our museum's. I doubt the Rom ranks top 100 in the world.
qwerty / May 6, 2011 at 11:38 am
What happened to the AGO??? It's number 56 in the most visited museums in the world.
jon replying to a comment from qwerty / May 6, 2011 at 11:47 am
the AGO is technically a maybe it didn't qualify for this here list
skeeter / May 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm
"While the Toronto Maple Leafs haven't brought the Stanley Cup "home," per se, in more than 50 years, lucky Torontonians can get up close and personal with it anytime..."

except during the summer.
nupes / May 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm
I got married at the Design Exchange.

Just saying.
Adam replying to a comment from Alex / May 6, 2011 at 01:05 pm
Alex, travel a little more and then comment instead of reflexively dumping on Toronto. I love museums and have written about them; visit them wherever I travel. True, the ROM is no British Museum or Smithsonian — medium-sized countries with shallow histories, like Canada, cannot compete on collections — but the ROM is an excellent institution of which we can be proud.

I'm not sure what "rank" you might be thinking of, but the ROM would do very well in an international comparison of museums. (Now, if only they'd drop the admission price …)
mikeb / May 6, 2011 at 01:09 pm
science centre?
S / May 6, 2011 at 06:11 pm
What about the Bata Shoe Museum?

The ROM sucks! I make sure out of town relatives and friends don't ever visit the rom ever since thyy butchered the original architecture. Communists.
jb replying to a comment from Alex / May 6, 2011 at 06:43 pm
Excuse me? Pay close attention to how well the ROM is curated, not to mention the brilliant world cultures section??? Plus the extensive fossil collection contains some of the world's most complete skeletons. The museum can definitely compete with the world's leading history museums, including the Smithsonian and British Museum.

People bash the museum because of the Crystal, yet they fail to look at the entire museum beyond it.
Greg Phillips / May 7, 2011 at 03:14 am
While the Textile Museum has plenty of interesting content to offer, I'm afraid the building itself detracts from the visitor's experience. It looks and feels like a converted office building, complete with (relatively low) suspended ceilings and drab, cramped hallways. The overall ambience is, in a word, stale; and that's a shame, given its top-notch curation.

On the upside, it's both centrally located and neatly tucked away. You'll never have to navigate a crowd or rush your way through an exhibit. Probably the quietest museum I've ever visited.

I also find the AGO's omission curious. "Technically a gallery?" (Re: jon's comment.) Are the AGO's exhibits any less static than the Gardiner's? Are the works on display at the Gardiner any less expressive, any less thought-provoking than the works at the AGO? So much for the narrowing of the divide between high/low, or art/craft. Mostly kidding, but it's interesting how revealing of the author's (or whomever compiled the vote's initial shortlist) potential biases this omission may be.
handfed / May 7, 2011 at 01:04 pm
AGO technically a gallery? FAIL!!!
bob replying to a comment from Greg Phillips / May 8, 2011 at 03:13 pm
re: Textile Museum

For sure I agree with the poor location. I think most people would assume the Fashion District would be a much better place for a Textile Museum, not to mention there are many beautiful Victorian buildings there that would be very fitting.
Billistic replying to a comment from handfed / May 9, 2011 at 03:48 pm
"AGO technically a gallery? FAIL!!!" - Handjob.... Buddy the name speaks for itself. Art Gallery of Ontario. You my friend have been kicked off the island.
Dublin / May 18, 2011 at 06:18 pm
Hockey hall of fame is well worth a visit. Was at it recently and great place to see.
JoeParez replying to a comment from skeeter / May 22, 2011 at 09:47 pm
In the summer they have the replica Stanley Cup on display. So you can still see the Stanley Cup. :-P

MJ / June 22, 2011 at 12:31 am
If Jon is right, maybe archives, halls of fame, collections, exchanges and forts should be taken off this list as well.
what-to-do / July 5, 2011 at 08:48 am
For sure The Science Center! I think it's more interesting than most of the Toronto museums here. They manage to get you excited and curious about things you're looking at as opposed to just staring.
Dublin / July 25, 2011 at 09:56 am
AGO is the highlight of any trip to toronto for me.
Dublin / July 25, 2011 at 09:58 am
oops, and also Fort York. Have seen similar installations in other places in North America, but this one is the king!
COSPLAY / September 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm
What happened to the AGO??? It's number 56 in the most visited museums in the world.
TORONTO / September 28, 2012 at 12:28 pm
AGO is a gallery.
TORONTO / September 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm
ROM and AGO are Canadas most interesting places to visit other than the CN tower.
TORONTO / September 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm
8,000,000 visit AGO annually,11,000,000 visit the ROM each year
Ömur Balsever / October 5, 2012 at 07:40 am
AGO technically a gallery? FAIL!!!
If someone is a failure then I believe its you.
Museum Geek / January 19, 2013 at 08:58 pm
Don't let the name fool you. With their collection of more than 70,000 works of art, the AGO is technically a museum.
hi replying to a comment from Alex / February 18, 2013 at 07:33 am
VS / March 12, 2013 at 12:27 am
What about the Museum of Inuit Art??? Hello people??!!!

Me replying to a comment from VS / March 12, 2013 at 02:05 am
I wasn't able to get past the blockade.
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Silke replying to a comment from Dublin / September 12, 2013 at 02:29 pm
Agree the Ago was my highlight of the trip, specially Ai Wei Wei exhibit!
Alan Ring / September 29, 2013 at 04:24 pm
We were in Canada during the summer and fort York was amazing, well worth a visit.
Camp Chickie / June 25, 2014 at 11:23 pm
Air and Space Museum is closed due to being evicted from it's home. Currently has nowhere to be, so all is in storage until a new place can be found.
sm replying to a comment from jb / November 22, 2014 at 03:42 pm
Exactly.... that's the issue. Who is the ROM for? Why is there even a particular section for "World Culture" when the museum in located in an area that is culturally diverse? Shouldn't the museum reflect the reality? Lol well excuse me, I don't want to go to a museum that reflects eurocentric history etc., lol for what? I've already had it bombarded into my head throughout years of schooling. It's boring, show me something different. Shock me.
Kay / August 23, 2015 at 09:12 pm
The AGO may be a "gallery", but is the DEX called the DEX Museum? Or the Hockey Hall of Fame have "museum" in the name? AGO not included a kiss, large.
Kay / August 23, 2015 at 09:13 pm
...or rather a 'miss'....
Qahir / August 23, 2015 at 10:36 pm
No offence, but anyone who has been to the Aga Khan Museum would definitely put the Museum on this list!
Alexander / August 24, 2015 at 02:47 pm
The ROM? LOL The ROM is an embarrassment.

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