“Toronto is a kind of New York operated by the Swiss.”

 Peter Ustinov

I lived in New York for 13 years until this year when I moved to Toronto for 5 months.  This gives me a unique advantage in ruling on which is the better city.

For this assessment, I’ll be comparing pre-COVID statistics and opinions. 

I believe wholeheartedly that both cities will bounce back to their 2019 stats in time. 

I have a lot that I could write comparing how both cities reacted to the COVID crisis, but I think we all know it’s really the different ways each country has reacted that’s truly defined the state of each city in 2020. 

Now, back to the major question at hand, Toronto vs. New York—read on to find out which city comes out on top.

Unless otherwise specified, all statistics are as of September 2020.

Year Founded

BK Bridge

New York: 1624

NYC was home to many of the Founding Fathers and was the original capital of the U.S.

This city is loaded with historical sites, many of which are easily accessible to tourists today. One of my favorites is Fraunces Tavern. It’s the same bar the Founding Fathers would hang out at back in the day.

Trinity Church is another favorite of mine. St. Paul’s Chapel is a must visit for any history nerds, as it’s the only part of the original structure to have survived being set ablaze during the American Revolution.

In the days after 9/11, the chapel provided a place of refuge for those helping to dig through the rubble.

The church still has letters and gifts of gratitude on display from 9/11.

Toronto islands ferry view 3

Toronto: 1793

Did you know that Toronto was originally called York when it was founded in 1793?

The town was renamed Toronto in 1834 to distinguish itself from New York.

Like New York, Toronto is home to some really cool historical sites. It’s home to many churches and cathedrals built in the late 1800s that feature Gothic architecture. Saint Michael’s Cathedral built in 1848 is a prime example of this, as it’s one of the oldest churches in Toronto.

Verdict: If you like historic landmarks and architecture, it’s a win for NYC. Toronto has some cool historic spots, but NYC has dozens more.

Population

I’m surprised to see how close the populations are. Living in Toronto, it didn’t seem like the population was quite so large. I believe it feels like a smaller city because it’s so spread out, compared to NYC where there’s very limited space and lots of crowding.

Verdict: I really love being in a chaotic city where you never know who you’re going to meet. That’s definitely New York. If you prefer a quieter, low key experience that’s not as crowded, then Toronto is your better pick. 

Number of Tourists Per Year

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

G.K. Chesterton

New York: 65.2 million

Toronto: 28 million

Verdict: There’s a reason why NYC has millions more tourists per year—it’s got more tourist attractions. The downside is that everything is always busy, especially in touristy areas.


Check out one of these tours if you’re looking for something touristy to do in one either New York or Toronto!

Weather

New York: Winters in New York are tough. The average winter temperature is 26.6°F. You’ll be out in the elements walking pretty much everywhere.

The black ice and wind tunnels are the worst, not to mention the constant deep puddles that you either dodge or drown in. I always vow every winter that it will be my last because it truly wears you down dealing with those conditions day after day.

Then summer rolls around and you forget the special kind of hell that winter was. Summer in NYC is one of my favorite times. The temperature averages 85°F, which can be a tad hot but much easier to deal with.

The city slows down in the summer—a lot of people disappear to the Hamptons. It can get to be sweltering, but that’s okay if you’re spending your day picnicking under the shade of a tree in Central Park, or in an air-conditioned theater or coffee shop.

Toronto:  Even after surviving many winters braving the cold in NYC, nothing could have prepared me for the cold winter I spent in Toronto. The average winter temperature hits 20°F.

Besides it just being a colder location, they have a different cold than New York. Their cold feels more biting compared to the drier New York winters. 

Toronto also gets a lot more snow compared to NYC. I’ll admit, snowstorms can be beautiful and endearing, but not if you need to go out in them to get places. 

The Toronto sidewalks always had a ton of snow anytime we went out. 

Summer in both Toronto and NYC is a great time to visit. The weather stayed around 80°F for most of the summer. This made for perfect summer days and leather jacket kind of evenings.

I love that both cities have beaches nearby to cool off, and beautiful parks to picnic in. Either way, both cities can be sweltering in the middle of summer, so sunscreen is a must.

Verdict: I’ve got to go with NYC on this one. Those Canadian winters are just way too cold for me.

Safety

Screen Shot 2020 09 17 at 7.40.04 PM

Verdict: I’ll give this one to Toronto based on the numbers I could track down.

It should be noted that New York’s numbers are from 2019, and the only available numbers from Toronto were from 2018.

I would also like to note that I felt safer walking around most parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn at night compared to Toronto. Mainly because other people were always around. I found walking around Toronto at night to be more unsettling because there were fewer people around. 

Public Transport

Cab Times Square

New York Toronto
Monthly Transport Pass Cost $127 $156
Single Transport Pass Cost $2.75 $3.25
Bike Sharing Available Yes – $3.00 per trip Yes – $3.25 per trip
Number of Airports 3 2
Cabs Readily available to flag down. You must call them ahead of time.

New York: NYC is shockingly looking pretty affordable looking at these numbers side by side. As a New Yorker, I’ll be the first to admit that we love to hate on the MTA.

There’s always some sort of delay, or schedule change that’s always popping up at the most inconvenient times. That said, it’s every New Yorker’s favorite excuse for anytime they’re running late to an event.

NYC’s airports have a lot of work that’s still needed. I can’t wait for the day that mess of construction at LGA is a thing of the past. JFK is a better airport, but who really loves spending over an hour in a cab trying to get there? And Newark Airport….just forget about what a pain that is to get to from Manhattan.

Toronto: I’ll admit that I didn’t spend much time on public transport while I was in Toronto. I did spend a ton of time at Pearson Airport and will say that it was a breeze getting there from the city.

I flew from there almost a dozen times in the last year, and can say with the exception of one time everything was smooth and fast.

I can’t imagine how much faster it would have been had I been flying out of Billy Bishop Airport. For those of you not in the know, it’s a small airport literally a 2 minute ferry ride out of the city!

Verdict: I’m kind of surprised, but New York comes out cheaper than Toronto for transport costs.

Plus, in NYC you can grab a cab pretty easily most of the time, or just call ahead for an Uber or Lyft.

In Toronto, you must call ahead for a cab, which makes me wonder how many people use them? I’d assume most people would do what my boyfriend, and I did, which is book an Uber.

Cleanliness

There aren’t really numbers on this, so let me just lay out my observations for you.

New York: I love New York, but they always have massive piles of trash bags in front of buildings waiting for collection. This causes a smell on the street in the summer, and occasionally the risk of stepping in “garbage juice” that’s seeped out of the bags. Gross, right?

That said, there are public bins on almost every corner, making it convenient to toss trash away. I also appreciate that more recycling bins are popping up in heavily populated areas like Times Square.

Toronto: In Toronto, I’ve rarely come across garbage that’s not neatly in a bin waiting for pickup. This was the first summer that the stench of garbage didn’t ruin an otherwise lovely summer day.

That said, Toronto doesn’t have enough public garbage bins on street corners. I do like that a lot of the bins I saw had a recycling option.

Verdict: I’ve got to give this one to Toronto. New York, I love you, but please get a better system in place for the massive amount of trash bags that end up on the street.

Entertainment

New York: The city is legendary for its entertainment scene. It’s got Broadway, Off-Broadway, famous comedy clubs, legendary jazz clubs, world-renowned restaurants, the opera, a killer nightlife scene, not to mention all the touristy things available for people visiting, and multiple concert halls, sports teams, the ballet, and symphony. 

Toronto: Toronto has its sports teams, the aquarium, touring theater productions, ballet, opera, The Second City, and plenty of places to go ice skating in the winter.

Verdict: I don’t think I need to explain why NYC won this round. 

Diversity

New York: The chart, based on World Population Review, clearly shows NYC is a diverse city.

Toronto: The chart, based on 2016 Census statistics posted by Statistics Canada, shows that about 50% is perhaps slightly less diverse compared to NYC.

However, I do believe in the 4 years since that Census that Toronto is growing with diversity and catching up to NYC.

Verdict: Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to locate diversity data from the same years for both cities. I’d call this a tie—both cities are diverse.

Housing

My apartment is the equivalent of one room in my Toronto home. Now I understand why New Yorkers are on the streets at all hours. People don’t want to stay inside for fear they’ll go crazy.

Samantha Bee

New York: The average rent for a one-bedroom is $3100.

NYC is one of the most expensive cities in the United States. Finding an affordable apartment that’s in a good neighborhood and in livable condition is really hard. You work to live in this city.

Toronto: The average rent for a one-bedroom is $1600.

Toronto’s one-bedroom is half the price of in NYC. The city has so many new highrise apartment buildings going up these days. I bet you’d be able to find a pretty nice unit for this price.

Verdict: Toronto is the clear winner for this round.

Hotel Cost

New York: The average cost per night for a hotel room in NYC is about $300. That’s a pretty solid chunk of change.

Sure, you could stay outside of the city in New Jersey but do you really want the hassle of having to commute into the city?

It’s a waste of time, and the money you spend commuting should just be used toward the time you’ll save by paying a bit more to stay in the city. 

Toronto: The average cost per night for a hotel room in Toronto is about $122. This seems like a great deal to me, especially for a hotel that’s close to the action and convenient. 

Verdict: Toronto is the clear winner here. It’s a much more affordable city for hotel rooms compared to NYC. 

Food Scene

New York: NYC has a massive amount of food options available pretty much 24/7. The city has every ethnic food imaginable on offer, plus one of the best fine dining scenes in the world.

As of 2019, New York has 5 three-starred Michelin restaurants on offer. For those non-foodies, three stars are the highest rating. 

Toronto: Toronto has a solid amount of offerings with lots of ethnic options available. Honestly, it was a surprise how many brilliant spots we found that were on par with my New York haunts.

I just wish they were readily available into the late hours of the evening. Everything here closes extremely early compared to New York. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem any Canadian restaurants have received Michelin stars yet. There are plenty of delicious spots and up-and-coming chefs, so perhaps one day.

Verdict: NYC wins this round for the reasons listed above.

Top Sights

Grand Central

New York: NYC has the Empire State Building, Lady Liberty, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, shopping on famous 5th Avenue and Herald Square at the original Macy’s.

There’s also walking the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and indulging in a slice of our famous thin crust pizza. Not to mention my all-time favorite, Broadway!

Toronto: Toronto’s got the CN Tower, high-end shopping on Bloor Street, the Distillery District, Ripley’s Aquarium, and the Hockey Hall of Fame. Plus the opportunity to sample the must-try Canadian delicacy poutine.


Winner: Toronto is a gem, but unless you’re a massive hockey fan, I think we can all agree that NYC wins this round.

Toronto vs New York: The Winner!

ALLY NY HAT

Which is the better city? The truth is they both have a special place in my heart. 

Toronto is welcoming and easier to afford to live and go out. This city is much calmer and slower-paced compared to New York. I think it’s the perfect city for people who may be too overwhelmed living in the chaos that is NYC.

NYC is a city for dreamers, hustlers, and people who thrive in chaos. Living in the city isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding.

New York City has a spirit that is unbreakable. New Yorkers have proven time and time again that we know how to be tough, and rebuild after a tragedy. I know that the city will continue to stand stronger than ever as it rebuilds itself over the next year. 

New York will always be the greatest city in the world. As the saying goes…“if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere, it’s up to you, New York, New York.”


Check out some of these awesome spots the next time you’re in NYC!

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