Canada offers up unique experiences that you won’t find in any guidebook — you just have to know where to find them. To help you explore like a local, we’ve asked friends from across the country to share their top spots and experiences from the cities they call home. Bundled by interest or passion, consider this your local’s guide to travelling through the country’s vibrant cities and boundless wilderness.
Thanks to Scott Bakken, Tamara Elliott, Julia Weber, Jeff Frenette, Joann Pai, Kael Rebick, and Stoked for Saturday for their local tips.
Canada is spoiled silly with authentic and unconventional speakeasies, dives, taverns, jukes, and, yes, even bars. And many of the best fly under the radar if you’re not a tuned-in local. Here’s your insider’s guide to just a few unparalleled places to whet your whistle.
Cannibale - Calgary
Cocktails and cuts
Moonroom - Ottawa
The lights are dim; the vibe is light
When you step inside the Moonroom in Ottawa’s Little Italy, you may think you stumbled into a friend’s living room. But Ottawans know the intimate speakeasy serves up some of the city’s finest cocktails in a dim but lively candle-lit atmosphere. The no-flash photography rule adds to the genuine experience. It’s one of Ottawa’s best late night spots and is open every day of the week. Locals say to go early because the small space fills up quickly.
Blind Tiger - Winnipeg
A clear choice
What’s in a name? Well Blind Tiger refers to a place that sold liquor during prohibition. And the key to a Blind Tiger (or speakeasy as it’s more commonly referred to) is being ultra-secretive — no signs, no windows, no nothing... except delicious drinks, that is. Once you find this hidden gem in Winnipeg, you’ll be treated to a swanky 1920s vibe and cocktails to match with Negronis, Old Fashioneds, and Manhattan being served up strong.
3643 St-Laurent Apt. 200 - Montreal
Hidden magic on the second floor
If you’re not paying attention, you’ll likely walk right by the entrance to 3643 St-Laurent Apt. 200. One of Montreal’s most extraordinary, and definitely most esoteric, bars, locals say Apt. 200 has the best music in the city.
Halifax Distilling Co. - Halifax
Go behind the scenes at a local distillery
Halifax Distilling is the city’s only distillery and luckily opens its doors for production tours and a tasting bar. The distillery offers some of Canada’s finest rum, whiskey, and rye. Cheers to that!
Union 613 - Ottawa
A true modern speakeasy
You know how every haunted house has one of those awesome fake bookcases that spins to reveal a secret room? Yeah, Union 613 has one of those. Upstairs you’ll find delicious drinks, savoury side dishes, and a party atmosphere. Downstairs, head into the secret passage and you’ll be transported to an intimate speakeasy with some of Canada’s most ingenious cocktails, like the Beeturia 2.0, which features, gin, calvados, cardamom, maple syrup, absinthe, and, yes, beet juice.
L’Abattoir - Vancouver
Delicious experimental cocktails
Vancouver is so full of exceptional cocktail spots (and neighbourhoods), locals say it’s hard to choose the best. But L’Abattoir is always among the favourites. The bar serves some of the city’s most unique and inventive drinks, including an avocado gimlet (!) that’s perfectly balanced with rosemary gin and a splash of lime. Sit at the bar for the full experience.
Woodcutter’s Blanket - Whitehorse
Where classic meets kitsch
With a log cabin vibe and simple cocktails on the menu, Woodcutter’s Blanket is a low-key spot for imbibing with the good stuff. Their drink menu changes with the seasons and the two giant moose outside the 1930s cabin make the spot hard to miss. Be sure to try their tapas paired with a strawberry Negroni.
Juniper - Vancouver
The place for gin connoisseurs
If you dig gin and tonics, you’ve got to stop by Juniper — Vancouver’s first G&T bar and restaurant. Juniper concocts ridiculously imaginative gin drinks with unconventional ingredients like grapefruit, thyme, and more. If that’s not your jam, head bartender Shaun Layton’s Negroni 2.0 is a safe bet for satisfaction.
Bar Raval - Toronto
Spanish style meets Canadian cocktail couture
Our local insider says Bar Raval is an absolute must for locals and visitors alike. This unique space brags that it’s the most beautiful bar in town and they might be onto something. Stepping inside feels like being transported to Barcelona with tapas and a drink selection to match. Other dishes include mouthwatering donuts with gourmet toppings like ham and crema catalana. The outdoor patio is another attraction (as if you needed more reasons to go).
Copper Spirits at the Andaz Hotel - Ottawa
Rooftop spirits in the capital
Ottawa’s newest outdoor cocktail bar is Copper Spirits & Sights on top of the Andaz Hotel. The rooftop lounge is home to prime cocktails and some of the best views of the city. Locals recommend stopping by on a summer night to catch the sun setting over the Ottawa River.
Blind Owl - Windsor
Where cocktails will have you seeing double
Walking past, you might miss this spot. Blind Owl’s windows are shrouded in dark curtains and the lack of a sign adds to the intrigue. Behind the incognito exterior, you’ll find a cozy bar, dimly lit, serving up some of Ontario’s best cocktails. Make sure to try a drink with their house-made bitters and syrups, but don’t tell the locals we let you in on their secret while you’re there.
Shameful Tiki - Toronto
Tropical paradise in the Great White North
Caesars, the drink - all over Calgary (and the country)
Try Calgary’s spectacularly strange cocktail
Calgary is the birthplace of the Caesar – the local offbeat drink of choice featuring a Bloody Mary-type mixture of vodka, clamato juice, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Locals say you can make a night out bar hopping for the best Caesars at Hudsons, Trolley-5, National, and Ship & Anchor Pub.
No matter your drink or vibe of choice, Canada’s speakeasy and bar culture offers something for everyone. From cultured cocktail lounges and hidden speakeasies, to carousing full-service bars, just another night out in Canada is anything but.