Toronto’s nightlife is as vibrant as the city’s culture. Whether a quiet night drinking wine strikes your fancy or you’re after a crazy night of clubbing, the options are endless. Enclaves of the city cater to specific types of bars. Toronto has Canada’s largest LGBTQ community, and the Church and Yonge Street area is known as Gay Village. The West End is considered hipster while the Entertainment District trends toward upscale establishment. Toronto’s love of craft beer is evident in most bars, which typically carry at least one local craft beer. Inventive cocktails are also appreciated across the city, and many bars offer drinks with recipes created in-house.
These are the best bars in Toronto’s most notable neighborhoods.
Bar Raval $$$ — This standing-room-only Spanish bar is known as Toronto’s most beautiful bar. The small space is adorned with Gaudi-esque wood and atmosphere. The bar opens early in the morning to serve coffee and pastries, and from the afternoon until late it’s a popular spot for locals to consume cocktails, wine, and pintxos. Raval does not take reservations, so go early or expect to wait a couple minutes.
Sneaky Dee’s $ — Sneak’s is an iconic Toronto dive bar. The main floor specializes in Tex-Mex late-night food and cheap bottles of beer. If you’re in the mood to dance, the upstairs is a dance floor that hosts weekend parties that are often hosted by a DJ. Sneaky Dee’s attracts an edgy, casual crowd, and a night out here won’t break the bank.
Night Owl $ — A bar-turned-arcade serving cocktails named after Toronto’s neighborhoods. Night Owl has everything from cheap snacks to inventive drinks, arcade games, and live music. Divided into two floors, the upstairs has a chill vibe with the arcade, and the basement is dance-oriented and often has live music. Decorated with the works of local artists, Night Owl is a truly Toronto-centric bar.
Birreria Volo $$ — This tiny and cozy beer hall is styled with exposed brick, barrels, and communal tables. There are 26 craft beers rotating on tap, as well as an extensive bottle list. Cellared beers are available by the glass, a rare feature that means beer lovers don’t have to commit to an entire bottle.
El Convento Rico $$ — A Latin club that’s been around for over two decades and is known for its Saturday night drag shows. The crowd is always eclectic and diverse, making it a welcoming space for people of all kinds. The dance floor is lively, especially when the queens are around, so be prepared to bust out some serious dance moves.
Civil Liberties $$ — This speakeasy-inspired bar is known for its talented bartenders. There’s no formal menu here. The bartenders will make you a classic, add a twist, or invent something new depending on your tastes. If you prefer to stick to a tallboy beer, no judgement. With a dedicated community of regulars, the friendly appeal of this little bar makes it very worth a visit.
Alchemy Food and Drink $$ — This West End staple is known for its inventive cocktails and imaginative comfort food. Exposed brick and thrifted decor give the space a welcoming character, and in the summer months, the large patio is the perfect spot for an evening drink. The bar is known for hosting live music most nights of the week, so you can expect jazz and blues on weekends and lively cover bands all weekend long.
Archive $$$ — This casual wine bar does away with pretentiousness, welcoming patrons to sample from the extensive wine list in three- or five-ounce glasses (or order by the bottle). Available to pair are small, European-style dishes meant for sharing. A cozy, bright setting makes this a perfect destination for a quiet evening.
Coda $$ — Coda is a popular club with laser lights and plenty of room to dance. It has a casual dress code, so partiers gather whether they’re in jeans and a t-shirt or cocktail dresses and heels. Coda is known for its fantastic audio system and plays EDM and house music until 5:00 AM.
King and Queen West
Tequila Bookworm $$ — This unpretentious, darkly lit bar has an extensive craft beer, wine, and cider list that’s exclusively filled with alcohol made in Ontario. For the cocktail minded, there are six options on tap. The relaxed vibe makes this a good spot for a quieter weekend evening. On a warm summer afternoon, climb the stairs to reach the beautiful rooftop patio. Adding to this bar’s elusive charm is the lack of signage. You’ll need to rely on Google Maps to find it at the address 512 Queen West.
Bovine Sex Club $ — A Toronto rock institution since 1991, Bovine Sex Club is known for its edgy art and live music. Bands perform everything from punk and rock to retro ‘80s and ‘70s funk. The space has an industrial vintage feel thanks to the thrift-store treasures that line the ceiling. If you need some fresh air, Bovine has a rooftop patio with its own dedicated bar, tables, and tiki hut bathrooms.
Horseshoe Tavern $ — The Horseshoe opened in 1947 as a country music venue. In the decades since, it has evolved into a rock-focused venue and has hosted well-known bands like The Police and The Rolling Stones. The venue often hosts local bands, making it a Toronto favorite for emerging artists. Check the website for the calendar of upcoming events.
Drake One Fifty $$$ — This Canadian-owned bar offers a “modern take on historic brasseries.” The space is stylishly decorated with art, leather booths, retro floors, and vintage lamps. A bustling side patio opens up the space a bit. Once a week, the bar sells bottles — even the top-shelf bottles — for half price. The whole place is a mix of art, food, and drinks, making it an ideal place to sit and have a conversation or just enjoy the ambiance. Bring some cash so you can snag some fun pictures in the bar’s photo booth.
Parlour $$ — This small, intimate club is located downtown inside a heritage building. The space has a cozy ambiance, limited seating, a dance floor, and a back patio. The drinks to get here are fine wine and cocktails (both can be on the pricier side). On weekends, a DJ plays house beats. Be warned that it fills up quick.
Koi Koi Sake Bar $$ — This sake bar is the first of its kind in Toronto. The focus here is on Japanese beverages, from the sake to the beers to the Japanese-inspired cocktails (plus the solid Japanese whisky list). The main attraction here, however, is the sake collection, which includes rare and high-end bottles. Sit back and enjoy the walls decorated with imported Kabuki masks and lamps made of Hanafuda cards.
Poetry Jazz Cafe $$ — One of the best spots in Toronto to listen to live music, this cozy venue is a great place to settle in for some jazz, blues, and soul music. On some evenings you can catch performances of live spoken word. The focus is on artists who’re reinventing the music and poetry scenes. Be sure to check the website for the performance calendar.
Cold Tea $ — Back in the day, Toronto’s Chinatown restaurants would serve beer sold illegally in teapots that went by the name “cold tea.” Cold Tea (the bar) takes after this history as a speakeasy that’s only recognizable by the single red light that marks the entrance. To find it, enter the building called “Kensington Mall” on Kensington Avenue and look for the red light. Cold Tea serves cocktails, beer, and delicious dumplings until 2:00 AM.
Thirsty & Miserable $ — This beer-focused dive bar is nothing fancy when it comes to aesthetics, but it offers an impressive array of local microbrews, Belgian trappist beers, and American craft beer. The bartenders are very knowledgeable and friendly and will gladly help you select a beer — which is necessary because the list can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t bother coming here for anything other than beer. You will be judged.
The Boat $ — This kitschy, nautically themed music venue is always a good time. The inside of this aptly named bar is decorated like a pirate ship, the drinks are cheap, and the crowd is relaxed. There’s regularly live bands, rap battles, and DJs spinning everything from ‘90s hits to hip hop. There’s no cover charge if you swing by before 11:00 PM.