Toronto nightlife

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By Aefa Mulholland, your Toronto expert

I write for The Irish Times, Orbitz, .... Read more

How to have a good night out in Toronto

The nightlife is fantastic in Toronto. It’s quite honestly one of the things that made me fall for this city. In summer, there are months of hot nights when patios and sidewalks are crammed with people mingling and drinking. Even in winter, sub-zero temperatures don’t stop Torontonians from going out — in fact, we seem to stubbornly insist on keeping on going out, regardless of the depth of the snow or the wind chill.

The bar and club scene is busy and changes fast. There are a few particular areas to check out when you’re up for going out:

  • The Entertainment District. Centred approximately between Queen and King, and Spadina and University, this is where a cluster of splashy, more typical, dress-coded clubs are situated. It can be a fairly messy, young, drunk scene, but there are some classier options here. There’s an active after work drink scene here, too.
  • Little Italy. In summer, College Street, as it runs through Little Italy, is the liveliest spot in the city. Once the mercury rises, a 20-, 30-, 40-something crowd crams onto sidewalk patios and rooftop decks outside several dozen restaurant-bars and lays into the martinis.
  • The Ossington strip. Ossington between Queen and Dundas has some of the coolest, more interesting bars (and restaurants) in the city. Every couple of months a new in-spot opens up, but old stalwarts such as dive bars Sweaty Betty’s and the Communist’s Daughter, and new contenders The Painted Lady and tequila bar Reposado hold their own. The 24-hour diner, the Lakeview, just a few doors east of Ossington on Dundas, is almost compulsory for after-drinks snacking.
  • Dundas and Dufferin. Probably the hippest social hood in the city at the moment. Atmospheric alternative bars such as straight-friendly lesbian bar the Henhouse, Mexican art cantina Naco and hipster haunt Churchill are where the city’s most fashionably alternative down their shots.
  • Kensington Market. Another social hub with a laid-back vibe, there are a scatter of cool bars and a couple of clubs, such as the tongue-in-cheek Boat, situated in an old Portuguese seafood restaurant and still boasting its original décor.
  • Queen East. Where the hip kids from West Queen West move once they settle slightly and buy their first house, Queen East as it runs through Leslieville and Riverdale has seen some of the city’s best bars come to life in the past year or so. The best Irish bar in the city, the Ceili Cottage, is one of them, with its perfect outdoor patio (curling rink in winter) and authentic wood smoke stove. The Wayla Bar is a new addition, with a gay tinge, and there are some classics definitely worth checking out, such as the dimly lit, excellently soundtracked Comrade and fun Rasputin Vodka Bar.

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