Some Of The Best Bars and Pubs in Kingston, Ontario!
So, you’re in Kingston and you’re thirsty, right? In need of a beverage and perhaps a summer patio? Maybe a classic pint at a historic pub? Or a bit of live music with your cocktail to end off the evening? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
Eric has lived in Kingston for many years and has had the chance to frequent most of these places – some many more times than others.
So, we figured to help out visitors to Kingston, we wanted to write up a comprehensive list of some of the best bars and pubs the city has to offer! If it’s the breweries you’re after, you can find them in a separate post on Kingston’s wonderful breweries.
Keep in mind that most of these are in downtown Kingston because that’s where most visitors/tourists tend to check out.
Also, (if you’re local) you’ll notice that we haven’t mentioned any of the classic clubs or dance places. That’s because this list is intended for the average visitor to Kingston. Let’s face it, we’re suggesting Red House, Stone City, or Tir Nan Og before The Spot any day.
So, from The Toucan and The Merchant to Kingston Brew Pub and more – here are the best bars and pubs to visit in Kingston, Ontario!
Pubs in Kingston, Ontario
Given the fact that Kingston is an old city with a historic downtown core, there are a number of great pubs in downtown Kingston that draw on this theme.
You’ll find multiple places that offer classic pub grub, good live music, great drink/beer selections, and an actual properly poured pint of Guinness on-tap… not from a can!
Most of them also have great summer patios to enjoy your beverage on – “enjoying patio season” is a quintessential thing to do in Ontario in summer.
Keep in mind that while most of these quintessential pubs are located in downtown Kingston, a handful at the bottom are not – but they are still highly rated should you want to check them out.
Iron Duke on Wellington
Oh, the Duke. If Eric had a nickel for every time he’s been to the Duke – he’d be rich. But honestly, the Duke is great. Eric used to live on Wellington so it was always fitting to visit the “Duke on Welly” just a quick walk away!
Eric has actually celebrated a few milestone birthdays here – including his 19th (which is the legal drinking age in Ontario) and had a great time.
That said, The Duke has a lively, authentic pub décor and atmosphere with good food and usual specials/deals most nights of the week. The beer selection is plentiful – but a pint of Guinness was the usual order of choice!
The Merchant Tap House
Eric has been to the Merchant for food, sat on their patio, been there for events, and just gone with a buddy or two for pints.
It’s also great because the place is located right by the Kingston waterfront making it an easy stop for a drink or a bite to eat.
Inside, the Merchant is surprisingly large. There are a few different areas and smaller rooms to find tables in. The main area has a massive bar (loads of beer on tap) and a little stage where we’ve heard some great live bands over the years.
The location downtown also means you can just walk home after a night out (if you are staying in a Kingston hotel or inn!)
The Toucan & Kirkpatrick’s
Another one of the popular pubs in Kingston (arguably the most popular) is The Toucan. Located right on Princess Street a little way downtown towards the water, The Toucan is a favourite Irish pub for locals and visitors alike.
Eric has been there a bunch of times – sometimes for food, sometimes for pints with friends. Every time was equally enjoyable!
The Toucan has a great back/side patio for the summer season and also makes a point of offering live music and sports nights most nights of the week.
They also have good drink deals that rotate by the day – from popular beers to bar rail, food deals, and of course – pints of Guinness! They pour A LOT of Guinness.
Tir Nan Og
Another classic pub downtown is Tir Nan Og. Located right across from Springer Market Square, we’ve mentioned Tir Nan Og before as a place for pub food and a place to check out if you are in need of a pint, some grub, or a little singing.
This authentic Irish pub is a staple of downtown life and always has a healthy mix of locals and visitors in the summertime.
At night on Thursdays, “the Nog” as it’s sometimes called has karaoke, and let’s just say it’s a very fun time!
If singing isn’t your thing, you can count on Tir Nan Og for lots of beer on tap and good fish and chips. They also have a larger menu full of classics like meat pies, burgers, and more!
Pilot House of Kingston
While most would just call it “Pilot House”, this small pub at the corner of King and Johnson is another classic. It’s definitely a more local place – and the interior hasn’t been updated in a while… but that’s what makes Pilot House great. A true local watering hole!
The nice thing about Pilot House (besides the great location) is the beer on tap, the variety of fish and chips on the menu (get the Halibut.. trust us), and the great little side patio where you can enjoy your beer and food in the sunshine.
Eric has been a handful of times for pints or food and it’s always been enjoyable. Great staff, local vibe.
If you walk by and aren’t looking for it, there’s a good chance you might miss Coppers.
This is because this pub downtown on Brock Street is located in an inn – and it’s sort of on a commuter street to the heart of downtown. That said, Coppers should be a stop you make if you like beer and chicken wings!
Apparently, Coppers has the best chicken wings in Kingston – but Eric has never tried them and NOW he definitely wants to stop in to test it out himself!
If you try them, let us know! You can also book a stay at the Queen’s Inn to have Coppers close by at all times.
PJ Murphy’s Irish Gastro Pub
A relative newcomer to the downtown core (from the time of writing), this is one of those restaurants that you can go to for a drink BUT since it’s more of a pub atmosphere it made the list.
For the record, we’ve actually never been. We’ve heard good things and walked by – but never enjoyed a pint or food there.
That said, Eric laughed when we walked by for the first time. That’s because by the time we had moved away from Kingston and came back the place had changed into PJ Murphy’s from an old Italian restaurant (rest in peace, Frankie Pestos).
The location right on the corner of Ontario and Johnson Street makes it a great stop as you walk the downtown waterfront area.
The Rose & Crown Restaurant
If you find yourself away from downtown and looking for a pub, then check out The Rose & Crown Restaurant. Again, more of a restaurant but since they serve up an authentic English pub feel, we wanted to include it!
Located up on Princess Street but out in the west end/uptown from downtown, the Rose & Crown boasts live music on Wednesdays and has been serving up fish and chips for over 30 years!
That said, you’d need a car to get there or take the bus since you can’t walk – unless you were visiting the mall (Cataraqui Centre) perhaps.
You can also check them out for the British store onsite in case you were missing food/novelty items from the UK (if you are from the UK and reading this as a visitor to Kingston).
The Loyal Oarsman
Another Kingston pub that is not downtown but great and should be included is the Loyal Oarsman. This pub, located out on Bath, is another one of those places you’d need a car to reach since you can’t/wouldn’t walk there.
The place is a classically decorated pub with that pub feel you only get from the most established and tested of pubs. The red carpet, the old wood finishes, everything. It’s in a commercial complex and you might miss it if you aren’t looking for it.
The menu is full of classic pub starters and you can get a classic British breakfast here, too! Might be good if you are heading out of town in the late morning and need a hearty brunch.
Finally, a Kingston pub that is closer to downtown compared to the two above but not quite there is Portsmouth Tavern.
Also known as “The Ports”, this establishment in the small town/neighbourhood of Portsmouth on Kingston’s waterfront has a rich history to it.
The legend goes that the pub used to be the watering hole for the old prison guards of the nearby Kingston Penitentiary.
These days, the place has seen better days. Eric’s been and – parroting how others feel – the food can be hit or miss, the inside is pretty dated, but the beer is cold.
While it’s not one of the top pubs to visit for some, it deserves to be included on this list due to its long history. So, if you’re out exploring Portsmouth and need a drink, it’ll do just fine!
Bars in Kingston, Ontario
Now, it’s on to the bars in Kingston. Keep in mind that “bars” are somewhat loosely defined in this post. For example, these are all the places you can get drinks that are not classic pubs.
That said, this bar list also includes a few places that are more like restaurants that are really, really good to go to for drinks (e.g. Red House).
Also – quick terminology lesson – “The Hub” is the grouping of bars/restaurants, etc. at the top of downtown near the intersection of Princess Street and Division Street.
Just so you know, we have put the bars downtown Kingston at the top and the few that are not downtown further down this section’s list! There’s a variety here so be sure to check them out!
If you want a cool place with a great vibe, nice staff, and really good food – Red House is for you. This is one of those places that Eric generally went to for drinks but usually ended up getting good food, too. Some might call it a restaurant – either way, we wanted to include it!
Red House had a menu of upscale pub grub – buttermilk chicken bites and burgers are always really good! They also have a blackboard for daily/seasonal food and drink specials.
As for drinks, Red House makes a point of having an extensive scotch selection (which is great if you are into scotch) as well as a number of classic Canadian/local beers on tap.
It’s a lively, intimate vibe that’s very social and always welcoming. They also have a front/side summer patio area for drinks outside!
It should be noted that if you are in the west end of Kingston, Red House opened up another location. This might make for a good stop if you are returning on a day trip from Kingston from west of the city (like Prince Edward County) and need a drink or bite to eat!
The Backyard Patio Bar & Grill
A relative newcomer to the Kingston “bar and patio” scene, The Backyard Patio Bar & Grill is a product of the socially-distanced reality we live in, part product of the fact that Kingston could use a nice, big outdoor patio space!
Located in downtown Kingston (up along Queen Street just north of Princess Street), the Backyard Patio is supposed to be temporary for summer 2021 so we’ll see how long it lasts/stays open going forward.
They’ve got a full kitchen and bar menu so you can go for food or just drinks. It’s all about enjoying the outdoors with friends and keeping safe – which is awesome.
You can get onto the patio off Colborne Street between Barrie and Division. You can also get there off of Queen Street – just follow the path beside 285 Queen Street.
The Brass is one of those places that you go to because you know exactly what you are going to get. Located up on Princess Street in the Hub, the Brass has been frequented by Eric many, many, many times.
He’s been for sports (which are great on their screens), wing deal night (wings are good but not great), live music (the Smitty days), and much more. He’s even been for brunch and regular food which are greasy but generally tasty.
In the summer, the windows open up and the fresh air hits everyone as if they have an outdoor patio (they don’t usually but they now have one at street level for distancing!)
Usually, though, you go to the Brass for pints. They have a pretty good but simple selection of beer and pitchers on tap – and that’s just fine!
Having lived in Kingston for so long, Eric saw what is now Barcadia turn into that from a bunch of other hilarious places (rest in peace, My Bar!).
These days, the tiny venue is home to a fun bar jam-packed with classic arcade games like Pac-Man. The nice thing is each game is only 25 cents to play!
Barcadia has a pretty extensive draught beer list – and drink deals almost every night of the week. The shots are even themed to be classic video game characters!
Eric has actually never been but has friends who go and enjoy it. It’s a nice place to change up your nightly routine with some different fun!
The Ale House/Canteen
Let us be clear: we’re mentioning Ale House/Canteen so that it’s on the list – but we wouldn’t necessarily tell a visitor to Kingston to go.
That said, Ale House is a two-floor dance bar that’s a venue for live music and Canteen is the more relaxed, patio/sports bar in the front. They are physically connected – hence Ale House/Canteen – but entry to one doesn’t ensure entry to the other.
Eric used to go to Canteen for team pitchers, okay pub food, and the large patio right in the heart of the Hub on Princess Street. Honestly, great memories at Canteen.
The crowd is generally younger but it’s still a good bet for sports on bigger game nights.
The Mansion is one of those places where you aren’t quite sure what you’ve found until you are inside and already drinking/eating/enjoying.
With a patio out front, a main bar on the main floor, a wine cellar, a live music venue upstairs, and more – the Mansion is just that.
This large house turned into a bar/venue is on Princess Street past the Hub close to where Alfred Street meets Princess.
The beer selection is vast, it’s good to watch sports, the summer patio is massive and lovely, and the food is pretty good – can’t ask for much more.
Eric has been many times and every time the Mansion is a good time!
The Grad Club
If you are exploring Queen’s University/City Park and looking for a beverage, the Grad Club might be for you. Located right on Barrie Street, this bar is actually run by a branch of the University.
That said, during the day it’s open to anyone for drinks and simple (but tasty) pub food. They have a pretty good beer selection, as well.
At night (and mainly during the school year), they do trivia and live music but the outdoor patio in summer is what you should check out.
At the end of the workday when the weather is nice, the patio on the corner is full of a mix of upper-year students, profs, and people who work for Queen’s who are in need of a pint!
Grad Club is a simple place but fun for events and lovely in the summertime.
The Grizzly Grill is one of those restaurants in Kingston that we love – but have included here in this post because of their awesome offering for nightlife.
Located right on Princess Street in “The Hub”, The Grizz becomes a pool hall/cozy drinks place for drinks upstairs and has a fun dance floor in the back of the ground floor!
This makes it a good stop for a large group looking to hang out with multiple interests in mind – games, drinks, dancing, socializing!
On weekends, it’s a good bet for locals and older students to frequent so you don’t get as many of the younger crowds running around like at other bars in the area.
Eric has been MANY times in his upper years while in Kingston and loved it each time. Nice servers, good music, good fun.
And there you have it – some of the best bars and pubs in Kingston, Ontario. Of course, if you are visiting you won’t visit them all – but definitely try your best to check out and support those local establishments.
Of course, please also enjoy responsibly. If you driving, get a cab here or call an Uber. For the places downtown, just walk if it’s close. Better safe than sorry – have fun!
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
If you are visiting Kingston, Ontario, you might want to check out these other posts!