Living In Toronto, Ontario – Prepare for Canada

View of Toronto Skyline on a Sunny Day
View of the skyline from the Toronto Islands.

The City of Toronto is one of the top destinations for newcomers to Canada. That’s not surprising as it’s the largest and one of the most diverse cities in Canada. It is truly an international city. People can quickly acclimate with local cultural communities to ease the transition to a new country. 

But where you choose to live will have a significant impact on your career and finances. Living in Toronto is expensive. So, you have to compare the pros of living in Canada’s biggest city versus other locations in the Greater Toronto Area or across the county. You must factor in the job market, career opportunities, housing availability and cost, and overall quality of living. 

Prepare for Canada can guide you with helpful information about living in Toronto.

About Toronto, Ontario

Toronto is the financial capital of Canada. About 40 percent of Canada’s business headquarters are here, including the country’s largest banks. Toronto is the capital of the Province of Ontario and is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

It was settled in 1750 as Fort Rouille. It was established as York in 1793 and incorporated as Toronto in 1834. The city amalgamated with neighbouring towns in 1953 as Metro Toronto. It wasn’t until 1998 that it amalgamated as the City of Toronto. And the city continues to undergo great development.  

Known as the ‘city of neighbourhoods’ Toronto is conveniently divided into regions. Toronto of the past was just the central downtown and close surrounding area. But in 1998, the City of Toronto expanded and now has more than a whopping 240 neighbourhoods, making this great city…even greater. In total six districts make up the city: East York, Etobicoke, North York, Old Toronto, Scarborough, and York. 

The Greater Toronto Area includes the City of Toronto and four regional municipalities surrounding it:

  • Durham (includes Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Clarington, Uxbridge, Scugog and Brock)
  • Halton (includes Burlington, Oakville, Milton, and Halton Hills)
  • Peel (includes Brampton, Mississauga, and Caledon)
  • York (includes Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Whitchurch-Stouffville)
Map of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area
Map of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area

How Many People Live in Toronto, Ontario?

Toronto has a population of 2.8 million (2016). It is the most populated city in Canada with a density of 4,334.2 people per square kilometre. 47% of people living in Toronto are a member of a visible minority, making it the most ethnically diverse city in the country. It is estimated that half of the population are immigrants.

The population of the Greater Toronto Area is much larger at 6.4 million. And the area is growing. The city expects to add another 1 million residents in the next 25 years.

How to Find a Job & Build a Career in Toronto

Toronto’s Local Economy

Toronto’s diverse economy creates unlimited business and professional opportunities. It has a presence in everything from technology to green energy, film, retail, and financial services. It is the second-largest financial services centre in North America.

Toronto-based businesses export over $70 billion in goods and services to every corner of the globe with retail sales of $62 billion annually. The city’s economy relies on innovation and new ideas to create economic wealth. 

Toronto’s key industries include:

  • Financial services
  • Aerospace
  • Design
  • Education
  • Film
  • Fashion
  • Food & Beverage
  • Green energy
  • Life sciences
  • Information and Communications and Technology
  • Tourism.

Major Employers in Toronto

This city is home to major employers in many industries. The top employers in the region are:

  • Rogers Telecommunications
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Canada’s Big Five banks – Scotiabank, Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, TD Canada Trust, and Bank of Montreal.
  • Manulife
  • LCBO
  • Loblaws Companies Limited
  • Proctor & Gamble Inc.
  • Questrade, Inc.
  • Salesforce
  • Walmart Canada Corp.
  • University of Toronto
  • And many others.

The city is also home to 9 of Canada’s 10 largest law practices, 9 of the top 10 accounting firms and all 10 top human resources and benefits firms.

Career Pathways in Toronto

Approximately 35% of jobs are in downtown Toronto across all sectors including finance, technology, retail, and service. Toronto is North America’s fastest-growing tech market, offering unique career opportunities. 

As the city has a thriving tourism industry, there are plenty of jobs in hospitality and customer service. The wages here are higher than anywhere else in Canada. But so is the cost of living. 

You can get help with your job search by working with local recruitment agencies such as Randstad Canada, IQ Partners, Pure Staffing Solutions Inc., Motion Recruitment, and Boost Agents.

Neighbourhood at Yonge and Eglinton
North Toronto neighbourhood

The Toronto Housing Market

Where you are going to live is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when you move to a new city. It’s important to consider cost and availability. Because the cost of housing is so expensive, many people choose to live in surrounding cities in the GTA.

Is Housing Expensive in Toronto, Ontario?

According to Mercer Canada, Toronto was the second most expensive city in Canada in 2021. As well, housing prices continue to climb and the median price to rent a condo or apartment is over $2,000 per month. 

So while many newcomers want to live downtown for convenience and lifestyle, it comes with higher home purchase and rental prices. 

Living further from the downtown core means you’ll likely be able to afford a larger home in a quieter setting. But, if you work downtown, your daily commute will be longer.

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Finding a Place to Rent in Toronto 

Only Vancouver has more expensive rental rates than Toronto. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as moving to other cities in the GTA. They also have expensive rentals. The average cost to rent an apartment or condo in Toronto is $1440 for a Bachelor, $1875 for a 1 Bedroom, $2427 for a 2 Bedroom, and $3181 for a 3 Bedroom.

Use Rentals for Newcomers to search for available rental units and current rental prices in Toronto. 

If you plan to rent, you should consider buying renter’s insurance. This will offer you protection for your personal belongings and protect your family. Your landlord’s insurance will not protect you. Get more information about renting a home: Renting in Canada: What Newcomers Need to Know

Buying a Home in Toronto 

Buying a home in this city is expensive and prices continue to rise. The city has always had some of the highest real estate costs, but a recent shortage in homes available for sale is driving up the price even more. 

According to Royal LePage, the average cost to buy a home in the City of Toronto increased by 8.1% year over year in 2021. The median price to buy a home is $1,138,000, $1,580,500 for a single-family detached home, and $711,200 to buy a condo.

In the GTA, prices increased by 17.3% with the median price being $1,119,800. Single-family detached homes are $1,421,200 and condos are $665,400. Find out more about buying your first home in Canada: First Time Home Buyer: Newcomer Tips

Driving & Public Transit in Toronto

Driving in Toronto, Ontario

Toronto has the busiest roadways in North America. It is the main hub for road, rail and air transportation in the province. It has an extensive highway system with over 400,000 vehicles per day that use Highway 401 alone. In total there are 2.5 million daily commuters. The city itself has close to 10,000 streets. 

There are six major highways:

  • Highway 401: The major east-west highway north of the city
  • Queen Elizabeth Way/Gardiner Expressway: The major east-west highway south of the city
  • Highway 407: Another major east-west highway on the north, however, you have to pay a toll for this highway
  • Don Valley Parkway/Highway 404: The major north-south highway just east of downtown Toronto
  • Highway 427: North-south highway on the west of the city
  • Highway 400: North-south highway on the west side of the city

Drivers need to learn how to drive on busy highways, manage high traffic volumes, and drive during winter conditions. You can start the graduated licencing process when you turn 16. 

For information on driving in Toronto and how to get a licence, see:

Driving in Canada: 10 Essential Facts to Know.

Driving Test in Canada: A Full Guide

Tips for Winter Driving to Ensure Your Safety

Toronto Public Transit

The City of Toronto and the other cities that make up the Greater Toronto Area are easily connected by public transit, including the subway, Rapid Transit (RT), buses and streetcars. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) operates all transit within the city of Toronto. GO Transit operates the regional public transit service for the GTA. Public transit offers a great alternative to buying and operating a car in Toronto. And, because traffic congestion can be a challenge, many people prefer public transit.

The cost to take public transit varies depending on the method and distance. Learn more about the Public Transportation System in Toronto.

Pearson International Airport (YYZ) is one of the busiest in the world. It is in Mississauga along Highway 401. Toronto is also home to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ). All airports are accessible using public transit.

There are many settlement agencies in Toronto to help newcomers adjust to living in a new country. Settlement agencies offer services such as finding a house, job, or childcare and getting information about healthcare and social services. You can get access to support and more information at the city’s Moving to Toronto page. 

There are hundreds of settlement agencies in the Greater Toronto Area. To find one close to your home, click here. Learn more about Services in Canada to Help Newcomers Settle.

Language Support in Toronto

The city is also a mosaic of languages with more than 150 languages spoken every day in the city. Just over 30 percent of Toronto residents speak a language other than English or French at home. Hundreds of ethnocultural organizations – including professional associations and community centres – operate in the city.

311 offers information in more than 180 languages. You can also use the city of Toronto website in more than 50 languages.

Personal Finance & Banking

As a top financial hub, newcomers have access to different banks, credit unions, and financial institutions. 

All banks in Toronto have programs to help new immigrants open a bank account get a credit card, mortgage, and get help with other financial products. Visit a local bank branch in person or online to get started. 

Get more banking tips for newcomers:

Top 10 Financial Steps to Take Before You Leave for Canada

Move to Canada | Transferring Cash & Valuables

Open a Bank Account Before Arriving in Canada

Toronto’s Education System

The city of Toronto offers many education options from daycare, public, Catholic, francophone, bilingual, language immersion, private, and religious schools. 

It also has many post-secondary schools which include three universities and five colleges that offer training for almost every profession and skill. If you are looking for child care services, click here to find licensed child care centres.

Elementary and High School Education

Education in Toronto is mandatory and every child between the ages of five and 16 must attend school. Like most other Canadian cities there are both public and private schools that provide learning opportunities for Toronto residents. 

There are 583 public schools and 195 Catholic schools in the region. French-language public education and private school is also an option. 

Students can attend schools on either board depending on which one their parents or guardians choose to support with their tax dollars. Ask at schools in your neighbourhood or contact the local school board for guidance. 

Toronto District School Board

Toronto Catholic District School Board

University of Toronto Main Campus Area
University of Toronto, main campus area

Post Secondary Institutions

Toronto is a Canadian leader in the number of post-secondary schools and graduates with more than 15,000 medical/ biotech researchers, two top-ranked MBA schools as well as excellent programs in engineering, computer sciences and multi-media. 

Universities include Ryerson University, York University, University of Toronto, and OCAD University. Colleges include Centennial College, George Brown College, Humber College, and Seneca College. Northeastern University Toronto is a private institution. 

Read more about education in Canada:

Schooling in Canada | A Look at the Education System

Higher Education Offers Benefits to Newcomers

Toronto General Hospital
Toronto General Hospital is ranked as one of the top hospitals in the world.

Where to Get Medical Care in Toronto, Ontario

Toronto has one of the highest standards in the world for health care and medical services. The city has an extensive medical community, world-class hospitals, and research facilities. There are over 30 hospitals located across the city. Toronto General Hospital is ranked as one of the top hospitals in the world.

In case of an emergency call 9-1-1. This number is the same no matter where you live in Canada.

Toronto residents are eligible for Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP),. This provincially-funded medical plan supplies free, essential hospital and medical care to all Ontario residents and permanent residents.

Applying for the OHIP card should be one of the first things you do when you arrive because it can take up to three months from the date you apply to receive coverage. In the meantime, consider buying travel insurance that includes health coverage from a private company, especially if you have young children. See here for health care options in Ontario.

For prescription drugs and some services that Ontario Health does not cover, you can pay for additional health insurance plans. Some people have third-party health insurance through their employer benefits packages.

How to Find a Family Doctor in Toronto

Finding a family doctor is a crucial step to ensure your health and well-being. Register with Health Care Connect to search for a family doctor. You may be put on a waiting list. 

If you are unable to find a family doctor, you can go to one of many non-emergency walk-in clinics in the city. Get more information about health care in Canada: Steps to Access Free Health Care in Canada

Roy Thompson Concert Hall is home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

What is Day to Day Life Like in Toronto?

Things to Do in Toronto

As the biggest city in Canada, Toronto has something to offer everyone. Whether you are a foodie, sports fanatic, love art, music, theatre, or the outdoors, you’ll find many things to do in the city. There is always something going on. And. you can often find many free events or low-cost activities.

Public Spaces & Attractions 

There are many world-class attractions in the city. Some of the top places to visit include the CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Science Centre, Art Gallery of Ontario, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Toronto Zoo, and Eaton Centre. 

The city is also home to events such as The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), The Canadian National Exhibition, Luminato, Nuit Blanche, Caribbean Festival, Toronto Pride, and many more.

Restaurants & Nightlife

Toronto has restaurants galore. Some of the best places to eat are in the Distillery District, Dundas Square, and Queen Street West. You can wander through Kensington Market and St. Lawrence Market to sample food, shop, and more. The Entertainment District, King West, and many other locations throughout the city offer you all types of bars, pubs, and clubs.

Nature & Natural Landscapes

Even though it’s an urban city, there are still a lot of outdoor activities. You can take a walk along the Harbourfront, visit Toronto Island, High Park, Scarborough Bluffs, and many other parks throughout the city. It offers ample green space with over 1,600 parks to explore, and beautiful beaches on Lake Ontario.

Sporting Events & Concerts

Toronto is a sports city. It is home to the Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, the Raptors of the National Basketball Association, the Blue Jays of Major League Baseball, Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, and the Argos of the Canadian Football League. And, it’s home to the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

The city is also a music hub. From small gigs in bars to concerts for 50,000 people, it has it all. Roy Thompson Concert Hall is home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. You can also enjoy outdoor concerts by the lake at the Budweiser stage, see top artists in Scotiabank Area, and local acts at music clubs throughout the city.

Caribana Toronto is a weekend long cultural celebration
Caribana is a weekend-long cultural celebration held in Toronto each year.

Culture & Diversity in Toronto


Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in Canada. Each year tens of thousands of newcomers move here from around the world. 1,266,005 or 47.0 percent of the population are immigrants (2016 Census). Just under half of all residents are immigrants and 52% identify as a visible minority.

The top represented minorities include China (10%), Philippines (9%), India (6%), Sir Lanka (4%), Italy (4%), and Jamaica (4%). United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Portugal, and Guyana are 3% each. The top three countries for recent immigrants are the Philippines, China, and India. 

More than 23,000 residents identify as Aboriginal – 86% are First Nations and 14% Metis.

Places of Worship

As a diverse city, there are many places of worship in Toronto to practise your religious beliefs. Though all Toronto neighbourhoods have sacred spaces for believers to gather, certain city regions have a larger number of religious communities than others. The main religions that people follow in the city include Christianity, Muslim, Hindu, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Outdoor skating at Toronto City Hall

The Weather in Toronto

No one moves to Toronto for its weather as it has very hot summers and long, cold winters. However, it is still moderate for Canada because of its location on the shores of Lake Ontario. The area has four distinct seasons:

Spring: is a rainy season. The average temperature is about 12°C in March, April and early May.

Summer: technically begins on June 21, but July and August are the warmest and most humid months of summer, with daytime temperatures usually above 20°C and often rise above 30°C.

Fall: the weather cools down and rain often makes an appearance. Average temperatures are about 10°C to 12°C.

Winter: it’s cold in winter and it snows often, with snow staying on the ground for weeks or months at a time. From December to February, the temperature is usually below 0°C, day and night. Temperatures can drop below -25°C.

Common Questions Immigrants Ask About Living in Toronto

Is Toronto a Good Location for Immigrants?

Yes! Toronto is an ideal landing place for newcomers. It is the most culturally diverse city with a built-in support system for new immigrants. You will have access to resources, local ethnic communities, and services to ease your transition to Canada.

Is Moving to Toronto Worth it?

Toronto is expensive. But it offers more job opportunities than other cities in Canada. It is an ideal location for career-focused individuals. There are many business opportunities, and the city is economically stable. However, it would be smart to ensure that you can earn enough money to afford the higher cost of living.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in Toronto?

Toronto is a great location to start and progress your career. The city has world-class education, health care facilities, and other great amenities. It is the epitome of big city living. As well, Toronto is one of the world’s most multicultural cities and welcomes and embraces diversity.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is the cost of living. Traffic is also an issue. So, if you prefer a slower lifestyle or a smaller city, Toronto may not appeal to you. 

For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle successfully!