Yes, You Can Have a Relaxing Holiday in a Big City

Find Hotels

Major urban centres are usually thought of as places to go, go, go, but you can have a chill vacay in Toronto, too. By Cathy Riches

When most of us think of going somewhere for a relaxing holiday, we think of a beach or a bucolic destination where we can stop and smell the roses for a time. But who’s to say you can’t recharge in a big city too? Not us.

Here are a few tips:

Start with the playlist. Before you leave home, get your iPod loaded up with whatever your idea of soothing music is – for us it’s Brazilian Bossa Nova or Zero 7 or something acoustic guitar-y. Perhaps a little Sade. You decide what your jam is.

Start your downtime on your journey. Yes, going through airport security or fighting traffic, if you’re getting here by car, can raise the stress quotient. So during your plane, train or car ride, take advantage of the “no phone” time. Forget about work. Plug in to that playlist. Or watch a movie, or listen to a funny podcast.

Toronto Skyline

Book a spa treatment on day one. Sure you relaxed on the way here, but you still have knots in your shoulders and you’ll need a professional to get them out, right? Maybe a manicure and facial will help too. Book that as early on in your visit as possible. You’ll be set up nicely for what’s to come.

Choose quiet activities. Instead of going to that blockbuster exhibition, check out a quieter corner of the Art Gallery of Ontario or Royal Ontario Museum. Or pick a more niche gallery to visit, like the Gardiner or Bata Shoe Museum. Visit the big tourist sites early in the morning when they’re a bit less crowded.

Galleria Italia /
Art Gallery of Ontario

Go to a matinee. Sitting in a theatre in the middle of the afternoon is like a little vacation in itself, cut off as you are from reality for a few hours. Maybe see that movie that’s playing in Toronto but not in your town (check out the eclectic line-up at TIFF Bell Lightbox), or take in a matinee of a stage production (like Soulpepper in the Distillery Historic District).

Schedule in some people-watching time. Sitting in a café or even a hotel lobby and watching the world go by can be incredibly rejuvenating. There’s something sweet about looking at all those people rushing around busily while you get to sit and contemplate life. Go ahead and gloat a little.