Meet the locals in some of the city’s best secret bars, neighbourhood watering holes and low-key speakeasies. 

Toronto’s bar scene spans the city and is the backbone of one of the best nightlife cities. With a variety of cocktail bars, speakeasy bars, 2SLGBTQI+ bars, theme bars and beyond, Torontonians are spoilt for choice when it comes to neighbourhood hangouts where they can let loose, gather with friends and make new ones.

Here’s a tried-and-true list of some of the city’s best local bars that will give you an authentic Toronto experience. Cheers!

La Piscina

Low-key nights at this intimate Little Portugal hangout quickly turn into spirited hip-hop and deep house dance parties where patrons unexpectedly find themselves dancing bumper to bumper. 

All it takes is a few of La Piscina’s signature craft cocktails like their espresso-rich Kaiser Soze or their hard-hitting mezcal, absinthe, prosecco blend called Death After Do West to get the night moving into full swing.

Bar Mordecai

Inspired by Wes Anderson’s stylistic cinematic vision and the architectural mastery of vintage hotel lobby bars, Little Portugal’s Bar Mordecai merges superlative interior style and laugh-out-loud karaoke for a night of frivolous fun. 

Let their four themed karaoke rooms transport you through different musical styles and eras: check out the Jolene Room if you’re feeling a little country or the leopard-printed Elvis Room for something a little more rock and roll.

Sweaty Betty’s

Sweaty Betty’s is a queer- and woman-owned dive bar through and through. With its mismatched antique furniture, kitschy decor, and rotating door of friendly neighbourhood regulars, this 2SLGBTQI+-friendly bar is an Ossington strip institution that’s here to stay. 

Be sure to keep an eye out for their Dyke Nights—a favourite amongst the city’s west-end lesbians—and their lively sidewalk drag shows!

Paradise Grapevine

Boasting a sprawling winery that produces more than 90 tonnes of its in-house wines every year, Paradise Grapevine’s Geary Avenue location is an urban wine connoisseur’s dream. Select from their extensive list of reds, whites, rosés, and oranges or opt for one of the many thirst-quenching beers and ciders on tap instead. 

If you’re looking for something more low-key, visit their cozy Bloor Street West location (just west of Koreatown), which serves more than 200 local and international wines and features a quaint, leafy patio.

Shameful Tiki Room

The Shameful Tiki Room is as much an immersive experience as it is a playful homage to the mid-century American tiki bars that had a pivotal role in popularizing tiki culture all across North America. 

With over 30 different cocktails shaken to perfection and an impeccable sense of detail placed on every aspect of the bar, every visit to The Shameful Tiki Room is one for the scrapbook. Located in quirky  Parkdale, it’s the perfect cap to a street art tour or momo tasting.

Mahjong Bar

An unassuming neon-lit storefront a short stroll from bustling Trinity Bellwoods Park conceals this clandestine southeast Asian-inspired speakeasy where locals discreetly indulge in a sophisticated menu of craft cocktails, wines, and beers alongside a late-night soundtrack of house music hits. 

Some of Mahjong Bar’s standouts include the strawberry-infused Rosemary’s Baby cocktail, the bubbly Sweeter the Juice cocktail, and their gingery Shanghai Chicken dish for their snack menu.

Bar Raval

Bar Raval brings a Catalan flare to Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood with its beautiful Spanish Art Nouveau interior and curated menu of Spanish tapas and drinks by local restaurateur Grant van Gameren and mixologists Mike Webster and Robin Goodfellow. 

Sip on one of their outstanding house cocktails or alcohol-free “placebos” as you soak in the gorgeous Gaudi-inspired architecture.

If you like alcohol-free cocktails, also see: 10 Places to Say Cheers with Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Prequel & Co. Apothecary

Transporting you to the Art Nouveau Paris of the late 19th and early 20th century through its hyper-realistic interior, Queen West’s Prequel & Co. Apothecary serves up botanical cocktail infusions inspired by the Parisian apothecaries of the time. 

Created by Frankie Solarik, the mastermind behind BarChef (another local favourite), Prequel & Co. Apothecary offers cocktail classics and one-of-a-kind in-house creations, unlike anything you’ve tasted before.

The Drink

This 2SLGBTQI+ watering hole in the heart of Church-Wellesley village brings together some of the city’s biggest drag aficionados and cocktail lovers under one roof. 

The Drink’s menu of fresh Italian-style pizzas and refreshing cocktails is offered alongside show-stopping drag performances that take place every night. This intimate cocktail bar has quickly become a favourite among the city’s 2SLGBTQI+ locals.

King Taps

For Toronto sports fans, King Taps is the sports bar equivalent of a home run, slam dunk, touchdown, hole-in-one, or knockout. This tap house sprawls across an impressive two floors and features more than 50 craft beers on tap, gorgeous summer patios, and 54 flat-screen TVs for your sports viewing pleasure. 

You’ll find a good mix of an after-work Financial District crowd on weeknights and a diverse downtown crowd enjoying the drinks and contemporary pub food on weekends.