The Best Toronto Neighborhoods for Nightlife

Toronto has a buzzing nightlife, you just need to know where to look
Toronto has a buzzing nightlife, you just need to know where to look | © Péter Mocsonoky / Alamy Stock Photo
Day or night, Toronto is a lively place when it comes to food, entertainment and culture. Each district has its own charm, and when it gets dark, the city comes to life. Here are some of the best spots to explore once the sun has gone down.

King West

This area used to be populated by warehouses and industrial buildings, but is better known now for the dining and clubbing options on offer. Aside from a vast number of bars and clubs (local favorites include Early Mercy, Bar Hop, Odd Thomas and Locals Only), there is everything from swanky hotel rooftops (Thompson Hotel, Lavelle and Bisha) to upscale lounges like the Addisons Residence, ping-pong clubs such as Spin and pool hangouts at Roxy on King.

King West, Toronto’s entertainment district © OTMPC

Queen West/West Queen West

Queen West has always been a happening hood, even before Vogue called it the second coolest neighborhood in the world. There are plenty of bars that are really popular with the locals, Queen Street Warehouse, Bovine Sex Club, Rush Lane Co, Bar Fancy, Tequila Bookworm, Otto’s Bierhalle (look out for a secret button in the washroom) to name a few. A lot of people also end up partying at Queen Street’s artsy boutique hotels, the Drake and Gladstone Hotel. Another place to catch Toronto’s uber-cool crowd is Apt 200, an upscale house party (a lot like the Addisons Residence), complete with chandeliers, pool tables and arcade games.

The upscale Drake Hotel in Queen West © Lisa Petrole

Parkdale

Parkdale runs along Queen Street West, from Dufferin Street to Roncesvalles Avenue. It’s a quirky little neighborhood, and the food offering matches the diversity of its community. It’s a sought-after destination on weekends thanks to all the cool watering holes and live music venues. Parts & Labour is a hip hangout; on the top floor you can grab delicious Canadian food, while the lower level hosts DJs and bands. Grab a craft beer at Pharmacy Bar, formerly a pharmacy and methadone clinic. Other popular haunts include Shameful Tiki Room, Miss Things, and Grand Electric.

Ossington Avenue

Ossington Avenue has become one of the most vibrant strips in downtown Toronto. Over the years, a number of eclectic bars have popped up on Ossington between Queen and Dundas, transforming it into a great spot for going out. Sweaty Betty’s is a no-frills nightlife landmark on Ossington, and for local vibes head to Man of Kent and Bellwoods Brewery. You can find music at Painted Lady and Reposado and Hawker Bar or Dakota Tavern are also good for a night out.

The Annex

The Annex borders the University of Toronto, so it’s not surprising it is bustling with students at night hitting up the countless bars. Lee’s Palace, Dance Cave, Coda, Brewhaha, and Madison Avenue Pub are the most happening, but if you fancy a midnight game of billiards, head to Annex Billiards.

The Annex nightlife is made up largely of students © OTMPC

Little Italy

Cozy hubs such as Bar Raval, Mullins Irish Pub, and the Hogtown Pub and Oysters are offset in this buzzy enclave by cocktail bars including Hapa Toronto. Plus, there are upbeat places like Mod Club and El Convento Rico, a Latin club that also has drag shows and dance lessons. Most of the venues offer late-night eats and delicious snacks.

Church Wellesley Village

The Church Wellesley Village is the stomping ground for Toronto’s LGBTQ community, and the vibe is awesome. This the place to come for drag shows, dance parties, cocktails, pubs and some of the city’s best nightlife. For drag, check out Crews & Tangos. Woody’s is always lively with five bars, Boutique Bar serves up yummy cocktails and leather-loving folks should go to Black Eagle.

Dundas Street West

Weekend jaunts in Dundas West are always novel. The area is constantly in flux, with places opening up all the time. Lots of joints in this locale have something unique to offer: Get Well has old-school game machines, while the funky jukebox atmosphere at Communist’s Daughter is not to be missed. Grab a Harry-Potter-inspired concoction at the Lockhart, or some fantastic cocktails at, where else, the Cocktail Bar. Also good are Montauk, Bambis and Archive. Head a little further west for Famous Last Words, Hole in the Wall, and 3030 Dundas West.

The Communist’s Daughter, near Queen West | © National Geographic Image Collection / Alamy Stock Photo