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Toronto’s LGBTQ+ Friendly Travel Guide

By Nick Joly/

Great Taste of Canada

As someone who’s previously been a newcomer to Ontario, I know what it’s like to learn how to navigate new territory while dealing with the underlying feeling of being an “outsider”. 

Will I be accepted? Will people know that I’m not from here? Did that matter? 

At the time, I couldn’t wait to move away to “the big city”. I had just graduated university, and spent years listening to my professors telling me about the lustrous job market in Toronto and that all the wonderful opportunities one could hope for were not to be found in Montreal… 

Looking back, there may have been some bias on my professors’ parts. Toronto was a city glorified by the prominent academic mentors in my life, responsible for my GPA (and ultimately my future career prospects) so naturally, their advice was my north star. 

In 2014 I moved to Toronto, and ended up staying for seven years. Throughout my time in the city, I worked at a handful of different companies, I started my blog (, and I spent some time working for myself. I had met many fellow entrepreneurs and creators, as well as corporate colleagues who understood, at a very granular level, how the core of Toronto’s bustling financial district operated. 

For the greater portion of my time in Toronto I was in my twenties, so discovery was a major facet of my life. 

That included both discovery of self, as well as discovery of the city that I called home. 

I was coming into my own after just a few short years of coming out. Everything was new. Every person I met, every street I turned onto, every coffee shop I visited… from short bike rides to extended scenic routes, I was taking in all new experiences, and discovering the many wonderful things that Ontarians truly loved about Toronto. 

At the time, I would have loved a city guide. Something to help me discern:

  • What were the must “see / do / visits” ?
  • The best restaurants to try (and the ones to avoid)?
  • What coffee shops had the best coffee vs being overhyped?
  • Where were the LGBTQ+ friendly hidden gems? 

I think I mostly relied on the word of mouth of my colleagues and new friends in my first few years in Toronto. But of course, what came with that was 1) learning to discern the different interests and preferences of the person making the recommendation to see if they matched your own, and 2) not having any background or first-hand experience to judge for myself. Again, everything was new.

So after a few years, I decided to make my own list–with an emphasis on the LGBTQ+ owned and friendly businesses–because I’ve come to learn recently that while there are over 28,000 LGBTQ+ owned organizations in Canada employing over 435,000 Canadians, many still face barriers in business.

I was sad to learn that nearly half of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs have hidden who they were in business dealings to avoid losing opportunities, and more than a third have lost opportunities due to being LGBTQ+ members…put another way, these entrepreneurs lost opportunities simply by showing up to conversations as their authentic selves.

This cannot and should not continue.  

It was through a friend who works in PR in Toronto that I was introduced to Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) who are a coalition of positive forces advocating for change to forge a more inclusive Canadian economy.

After learning a bit more about CGLCC’s ethos and mission, I knew that their efforts were certainly something I could stand behind and support. So I decided to put together the below LGBTQIA+ Toronto travel guide, to help any other newcomers or visitors looking to navigate the city with ease. 

Toronto Ontario’s LGBTQ+ friendly travel guide

Here are some of Toronto’s gay-friendly and lesbian-friendly places that I’ve personally found to be welcoming and inclusive in my time living in the city.

  • 01

    Craig’s Cookies

    483 Church Street

    Located on Church Street in the heart of the Gay Village, these cookies are the best I’ve ever had. And trust me, they are not overhyped - they truly are decadent and delicious and well worth the visit. 

    Visit website
  • 02

    Bar Poet

    1090 Queen Street West

    I’ve been to Bar Poet a handful of times with different groups of friends, and the staff has always been welcoming. We’ve had waiters and waitresses who’ve been LGBTQ+ members and have personally invited us to come back.

    Visit website
  • 03

    Gusto 501

    501 King Street East

    The Gusto chain of restaurants (Gusto 101 and Gusto 501) are both fantastic. I used to live on the East side of the city so 501 was closer to me and it’s quite new, I think it was built around 2019. The food is phenomenal–authentic Italian, and I can never resist a restaurant with a rooftop patio :) 

    Visit website
  • 04

    Broadview Hotel Rooftop

    106 Broadview Avenue

    Speaking of rooftop patios, the Broadview is another East-side gem of Toronto. The staff are extremely welcoming, friendly, and accommodating. The main floor cafe / brunch restaurant is very cute, but again, the rooftop patio is where you’ll want to be in the summertime!

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  • 05

    Gladstone Hotel

    1214 Queen Street West

    A staple of Toronto’s West side, The Gladstone Hotel was a frequent spot I would visit with friends for the best weekend drag brunches! All are welcome, and with an emphasis on supporting the LGBTQ+ community, I’d highly recommend visiting!  

    Visit website
  • 06


    553 Church Street

    Also located on Church Street (in Toronto’s Gay Village), SMITH is one of those restaurants with both a great aesthetic AND great food. To my knowledge, they’re open only on weekends for brunch, but the French menu is well worth pulling some friends together for a weekend matinee! 

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  • 07

    HELLO 123

    1122 Queen Street West

    This all-vegan restaurant is actually just steps away from Bar Poet in the Queen West area. I’ve gone a few times for both sit down meals with friends or solo working sessions with my laptop and the staff there are always friendly and welcoming.  

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  • 08

    Greenhouse Juice Co

    740 Queen Street West

    Compared to the other recommendations on this list, Greenhouse Juice Co. isn’t necessarily a “destination” for brunch/dinner, but I included it on the list nonetheless simply because of how much I authentically loved them. They have a handful of small shops and locations peppered throughout the city, and their menu is very health oriented–serving primarily cold pressed juices, energy shots, smoothies, and light bites.

    Visit website
  • 09

    Stôk Floral

    54 Church Street

    This is a cute flower shop right off of King St E in the St Lawrence Market area that I would visit regularly in my first few years in the city. Actually, come to think of it, they did the centerpieces for our wedding in 2016! The owners are the absolute most friendly people, and they have such a beautifully curated selection of plants, flowers, and home decor accessories. I always felt that all were welcome in this shop!

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  • 10

    Gee Beauty

    2 Roxborough Street West

    Talk about cute and chic! Located in Summerhill just north of the city, I visited this beauty shop a handful of times when I was first dabbling in makeup products and face creams. I chatted with the owner when I first visited, and this is a small business that I would happily continue to support.

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  • 11

    Planta Queen

    180 Queen Street West

    The entire Planta chain of restaurants were actually all in my top 5 restaurants list at one point in time or another. Fun fact, when this location first opened (focused on an entirely plant-based asian menu) I hosted my 29th birthday party here and had a blast! The entire staff, as well as the chain’s PR team are super inclusive and welcoming of all patrons. The food is also delicious, and some dishes you would never guess were entirely plant-based.

    Visit website

I hope you enjoyed and found value in this LGBTQ+ friendly travel guide for Toronto. It really captures nearly all of my authentic recommendations. Some of the restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that were left out were unfortunately ones that closed down due to COVID-19. However, I will say that the city is recovering and more vibrant than ever, and I definitely left a more inclusive Toronto than when I arrived there on my very first day. 

This story has been adapted from an original article available at: