Given that they sell the beer goggles that make everything look slightly prettier, it’s no surprise that all bars can look beautiful in their own way -- but there are a few whose gorgeous aesthetics stand above the rest, and whose point-perfect design widens the eyes before you’ve taken your first sip. These are Toronto's finest:
We’ve given the Buca family of restaurants a lot of love for their top-notch food, but the décor is also worth a mention. The industrial-chic design at Bar Buca manages to be minimalistic without being cold, and the sky-high ceilings let in streams of natural light. Sleek white marble bar tops further brighten up the all-day, European-style snack bar. Stop by in the morning for an espresso and pastry, and swing by after work or into the evening to sample something from the small-plate-focused menu.
Upon walking into Bar Raval you might feel as though you’ve taken a fantastically wrong turn and somehow ended up in the middle of Barcelona. You haven’t, but this is as close as you’re going to get without booking a plane ticket. Chef Grant van Gameren’s much-loved space has a beautifully surreal Gaudi-esque design, all swooping curves and dark mahogany, looking at times more like an art piece than a bar.
The Sky Yard at the Drake Hotel literally sets the bar a little higher with a rooftop patio open year-round. While the theme and decor change with the season, it’s always welcoming, vibrant, and often whimsical, and the colourful space will be buzzing with happy patrons sipping seasonally themed cocktails. In the winter, order your drink and make a beeline for a choice seat by the fire pit.
This members-only cocktail club is worth the $25 monthly price of admission for access to some seriously delicious cocktails, many of which are made from recipes dating back more than 100 years. The upscale speakeasy vibe and sophisticated décor are perfectly conducive to lingering over a handcrafted drink made with booze from one of the city’s most impressive liquor collections.
Opulence is what you’ll find at Pravda. Well, that and vodka of course. The sumptuous, rich red décor makes you feel a bit like you’ve wandered onto a movie set, along with similarly sharp-looking extras sitting around drinking cocktails. If you’re in the mood to imbibe (and of course you are) Pravda’s cellar is home to 70 of the world’s best vodkas.
Since anything Grant van Gameren touches turns into a place with a lineup and/or waiting list for reservations, it’s no surprise that he has two spots on this list. Like Bar Raval, this place has a focus on Spanish tapas and killer cocktails. The decor is inspired by van Gameren’s travels through France, Italy, and Spain and features a curved ceiling, an eye-catching encaustic-tiled floor, and a long cherrywood bar for enjoying those aforementioned drinks.
The first thing you notice upon walking up to The Bar at the plush Shangri-La Hotel are the green and white glass orbs suspended from the ceiling like miniature balloons released for a celebration. The effect is striking without being distracting, and is balanced perfectly by the neutral palette used throughout. In addition to a well-curated wine list, the bar menu here focuses on classic cocktails from the 1930s.
The second roof lounge on our list can be found at the swank Thompson Hotel. In the summer it’s one of the most sought-after addresses in town thanks to the gorgeous infinity pool, but guests have access year-round. Not only do you get to soak up the sumptuous atmosphere reminiscent of a breezy Miami Beach house, but you get 360° views of the Toronto skyline and Lake Ontario while you drink.
This inviting British pub in the heart of Yorkville trades stuffy for light and sophisticated in terms of décor and atmosphere, beginning with the vibrant red exterior. Inside you’re greeted with caramel-coloured banquettes which coordinate perfectly with mint-green walls. A fireplace keeps guests cozy when temperatures drop.
1. The Oxley Public House121 Yorkville Ave, Toronto
2. Bar Raval505 College St, Toronto
3. Drake Hotel1150 Queen St W, Toronto
4. Toronto Temperance Society577 College St., Toronto
5. Pravda Vodka Bar44 Wellington St E, Toronto
6. Bar Isabel797 College Street, Toronto
7. Shangri-La Hotel188 University Ave, Toronto
8. Bar Buca75 Portland St, Toronto
9. The Thompson Hotel550 Wellington Street W, Toronto
Oxley's interior decor is a fine example of how to incorporate the cozy, eclectic furnishings typical of English pubs while maintaining a feeling of airiness. There's nothing stuffy or musty about this place, but a relaxed environment and a pleasing color palate.
There are wine bars you expect, and then there are wine bars that look ripped from one of Antoni Gadui's sketchbooks, and Basque-inflected Bar Raval in Little Italy is of the latter category. The actual bar itself qualifies as a work of art: its curving, sculptural wood undulates and climbs up the walls to form an alien canopy above drinkers' heads. A pinxto menu provides all the toothpicked snacks you could hope for, from salt-cured tuna loin to petit mushroom towers. A thoughtful selection of Spanish wines go down smoothly, but do take care to order one of the specialty sherry pours, complete with background on the bottle history from knowledgable bartenders.
The Drake is more than just a hotel. It features a dining room, lounge, Sky Yard outdoor space, cafe, and performance venue so you're bound to enjoy yourself no matter what venue you choose to hang at.
This members-only cocktail lounge hidden above Sidecar Restaurant boasts one of the best selections of liquors in Toronto with an extensive cocktail program that focuses on recipes that date back a century or more, with some newer concoctions thrown in. The look and feel here is old-fashioned, kind of like an upscale speakeasy. And there are house rules to follow, like no phone calls at the bar, no talking to a lady until spoken to, and our favorite: “Do not ever attempt to order a cosmopolitan. You will be asked, politely, to leave.”
It would be a crime against humanity to come to a Russian themed cocktail bar and and order a drink without vodka in it. Go for a handcrafted mixed cocktail, or opt for a flight of frozen vodkas and pick your poison from there. We especially like the Kremlin Lemon Breeze, a refreshing summertime cooler spiked with limoncello, Prosecco, and fresh lemon juice.
The relaxed and fun attitude at this Little Italy bar extends from the bar itself into the food and drinks. The food is dominated by Spanish-influenced tapas, while for drinks they offer beers, red, white, & sparkling wines, sherry, and creative cocktails like "...A Woman Scorned" (Devil's Cut Bourbon, Amero Averna, campari, cinnamon/clove tincture, Deathwish Syrup, Backstabbed Bitters, and orange zest), and "¡Ay Muccismo!" (Tromba Tequila Blanco, coffee & chili infused Campari, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Cocchi Americano, Mole Bitters, and grapefruit oils).
This luxury hotel offers 202 of Toronto's largest guest rooms, offering terrific views of the city outside and generous, Asian-inspired furnishings inside. With amenities like a pool and spa, fine dining at the hotel resto, and a health & fitness facility, you'll be sorry to turn in your key.
This Italian Fashion District resto/bar churns out delicious Italian sammies, out-of-this-world stuffed burrata, and seriously good 'tails, like their Pelo Canino Bloody Caesar.
A premiere boutique hotel, Thompson Hotel is an oasis of luxury serving a variety of dining options from gourmet comfort food to Italian cuisine, wondrous patios and ceiling-high windows to truly make you feel on top of the world.