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The top 10 places to work or study in Toronto

Posted by Natalia Manzocco / April 4, 2014

study torontoThe top places to work or study in Toronto are a mix of the peaceful and the stimulating. The city's libraries and coffee shops, in particular, are popular draws for people looking to get away from the distractions of home. (Let's face it, you'll always find some chore to do instead of getting your work done.) In exchange for the price of a latte, or for keeping your voice below librarian-approved levels, you've got a readymade workspace. (Just try to keep the refreshments bought/hours spent ratio reasonable, eh?)

Here are the top places to work or study in Toronto.

R Squared
R Squared topped our list of best cafes with WiFi in Toronto, thanks to its abundance of seating and outlets and pleasantly-diffused natural light. Plus, if you get peckish, you can grab a solid meal (say, a bowl of soup or a sandwich) without ever having to pack up and leave.

Toronto Reference Library
This monolith of knowledge at Yonge and Bloor is, essentially, the entire city's study hall. At five massive floors, there are plenty of places to pull up a chair, including glass meeting and study pods and the Balzac's Coffee on the ground floor. We've heard the top two floors at the north end are particularly calming. (Be warned: During peak study weeks, you might end up hunting for a spot.)

Rooster Coffee House
Both of the chain's locations - one overlooking Riverdale Park, and one set into an office building at King and Ontario - offer plenty of comfy seating, free wireless Internet, delicious lattes and snacks, good tunes, and nice baristas. (What more could you ask for?)

Robarts Library

Non-University of Toronto kids may find it difficult to fully understand the deep, conflicted relationship some students have with Robarts, U of T's brutalist, birdlike reference library. But after hitting the books there for a madness-inducing span of hours, you pick up a few tips. The basement/first floor tends to be noisier due to socializing students; it's quieter in the upper floors, where big tables in the corners of the stacks offer some nice views. Over exams, the study rooms are open all night.

Coffee Pubs
The duo of coffee shops started out of the CSI shared workspace on Bathurst, where baristas do a roaring trade in espresso (despite the fact that CSI actually has free coffee for its members). That location technically isn't open as a workspace for those who aren't CSI members, though they'll let you linger over a cup for a while. Their new location in the Artscape Youngplace, however, is just off of a shared community lounge space with plenty of seating and free WiFi - hanging out is encouraged.

Gerstein Science Information Centre
While Robarts is the first study suggestion out of many U of T students' mouths, Gerstein, tucked further south into the university campus, is a close second. The atmosphere is surprisingly stately, with some cushy armchairs, grand-looking tables and chairs, and lovely natural lighting. (Also, they're bringing in a therapy dog for the spring 2014 exam season. This alone should shoot them to the top of our list.)

Dark Horse Cafe
Toronto's three original Dark Horse locations (on Queen East, Spadina and Queen West) all share large, airy windows, plenty of tables (including massive communal ones) and a hassle-free atmosphere. The newest outpost, on John, is a little less sun-filled (what with being in a basement, and all) but makes up for that in coziness. Particularly great: The upper-level seating area at the Chinatown location, which makes for a nice remove from the hustle and bustle of the coffee counter.

Yorkville Library

Here's where to head if the Reference Library is rammed - this comparatively tiny library is just around the corner. The building itself is gorgeous, with a grand facade that will add an air of deep importance to the writing of your term paper, and if you can snag a spot at the study tables at the back of the building, you will likely be able to work away undisturbed.

Black Canary Cafe
Sherbourne and Adelaide's Black Canary offers a homey atmosphere with lots of tables, perfect for laptop-toters to set up shop. There are plenty of wall outlets, and if you feel your caffeine or sugar levels dipping too low, just grab yourself a Nutella latte (they might even let you eat the leftover Nutella off the spoon).

E.J. Pratt Library
Located on U of T's Victoria campus, Pratt features a modern atmosphere, a reading room with plenty of natural light (due to massive glass walls), plenty of streamlined individual work areas, and some large tables you can spread your stuff out on. It's a little more off-the-beaten-path for U of T students, meaning less competition for study space. (Bonus: If you need to zone out for a moment, there are some great views of Queen's Park.)

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What did I miss? Add your favourite places to work or study to the comments below.

Photo of CSI Coffee Pub by Morris Lum.



KG / April 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm
Pratt was a great place to study, much quieter than Robarts. Window desk on the other side was good for serious work, natural light and less distracting than the QP side with the flow of traffic and people going by all the time.
A / April 4, 2014 at 12:40 pm
I work at Robarts Library. Just to clarify, the "upper floors" (9-13, where the books are) cannot be accessed by the public, only those with a U of T card. Floors 1 to 5 and 8 are accessible to anyone, but the best study areas are on floors 2 to 4. Overnight access is available only to current students, staff, and faculty.
Fig replying to a comment from KG / April 4, 2014 at 12:51 pm
I agree with KG - I loved studying/working at Pratt :)
Huh? / April 4, 2014 at 01:20 pm
1) CSI offers free coffee to members, thereby offering little incentive to pay for it at the coffee pub.
2) At the same time, the coffee pub claims that it's "technically only for members," even though it's an open space and there's no indication of this policy anywhere. They'll take your money if you're a non-member, but they'll also silently snub you a little.

Does this sound a good business model to anyone?

JR / April 4, 2014 at 08:36 pm
.....since when does Robarts have a basement?
csi annex fan replying to a comment from Huh? / April 4, 2014 at 08:50 pm
1) Members also have to pay for coffee at the coffee pub.
2) The coffee pub is open to anyone.

"That location technically isn't open as a workspace for those who aren't CSI members, though they'll let you linger over a cup for a while."
csi annex fan replying to a comment from csi annex fan / April 4, 2014 at 08:53 pm
...That quote is inferred. The wifi for non-members is limited to an hour but you can stay as long as you like.

The CSI has a do-it-yourself culture and if you don't know about it, you may find the people there to be aloof.
Ruth Treloar / April 4, 2014 at 09:45 pm
Toronto east of Yonge seems barren of anything interesting for Blog T. O.
Lechar / April 4, 2014 at 10:15 pm
Where is the cafe in the picture?
Charlotte replying to a comment from Lechar / April 4, 2014 at 10:55 pm
It's the coffee pub at CSI Bathurst! The organization I work with runs out of that CSI location and we certainly pay for our food and beverages. WiFi time limits would be a limiting factor but I've definitely never been asked whether or not I'm a member (and I'm there maybe once or twice a month so I wouldn't call myself a recognizable member by any means). I think it's a lovely atmosphere to work in - though I've found that spots by plugs do get snagged early on in the morning and there's a bit more traffic around lunch if you're trying to plan your day.
T. / April 5, 2014 at 02:38 am
As some one deeply involved with course work for the past 7 years, this is a terrible list. Especially seeing how most people can't even access the "nice" parts of robarts.
Ford Nation / April 5, 2014 at 05:18 am
A therapy dog buh? I'm not sure Torontonians are ready for that. Most people I know would end up trying to have sex with it.
Mita replying to a comment from Charlotte / April 5, 2014 at 09:46 am
Thank you so much!
Batman / April 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm
How about some universities other than U of T. Ryerson and York both have great libraries with lots of space too.
Ahmed / April 5, 2014 at 11:43 pm
I work from the co-working space Project OWL near Queen & Spadina and love it there! It's probably one of Toronto's best kept secrets. I personally find it not just a great place to work or study, but also a great place to meet new people, make friends and network. The place has a great vibe and hosts many member-only events as well.
Will G replying to a comment from Ruth Treloar / April 8, 2014 at 03:44 pm
Funny, I was just thinking how nice it was to see a few east side spots represented in this post. In future, Blog TO could probably venture east of Broadview (Riverdale Perk at Logan and Withrow springs to mind), but it's a start.
Monika / April 8, 2014 at 06:33 pm
The Toronto Reference Library is great. Never had a hard time finding a spot there. Only complaint is that there can be quite a few wandering crazy/homeless people, but not sure if every library deals with that.
AP / April 24, 2014 at 10:02 am
The best places to work or study in Toronto are coworking spaces!
Daina / May 29, 2014 at 05:54 pm
I love Merchants of Green Coffee in the eastend. It is huge with tonnes of space, light, good coffee, and nice staff.

Also the coffee, and scones are delicious :)

Daina / May 29, 2014 at 05:57 pm
Gary replying to a comment from Ruth Treloar / August 25, 2014 at 06:47 pm
The Black Canary, both locations of the Rooster, and the Queen East location of Dark Horse are all east of Yonge.
I've always loved settling in at Earl Bales Park on a nice day.
Tristan / October 13, 2014 at 01:57 am
For quietness in the late night/early AM - Scarborough Grace hospital's eating area has lots of tables with hardly anyone there. You really have little choice but to study or work. And I've heard that other hospitals have 24-hour snack/drink cafes open as well. Washrooms accessible too.
Elizabeth / November 24, 2014 at 04:10 pm
BlogTO gets better and better!
Nad / November 24, 2014 at 04:11 pm
Where should we go to study in Scarborough?
Tony Shamas / November 24, 2014 at 04:40 pm
I just love sitting on my couch to study or my desk at home to work!
D / November 24, 2014 at 10:47 pm
Merchants of Green Coffee! It's got tons of space to work or lounge, great coffee and is never super busy
Elizabeth / November 25, 2014 at 10:15 am
I really don't think Robarts should be on this list. Yeah a lot of people study there, but that doesn't make it "the best". Everyone hates it there.
Anna / December 28, 2014 at 10:42 am
You guys should really caption the photos you post at the top - they always look so amazing, but it's a constant guessing game!
Natalia replying to a comment from Anna / December 28, 2014 at 11:08 am
Take a look at the end of the story where the photo credit is - we usually put it there!
Emma / March 31, 2015 at 07:14 am
The library in Hart House at U of T is also amazing. It's small, but feels like a study in some big old house. Leather armchairs, big tables and lots of old leather bound books.
Camila / April 4, 2015 at 11:07 pm

5 places I regularly work/study at are on this list and I can say they're some of the best for the limited area the list covers. All have been amazing to me

E.J. Pratt - has the best hours, the quietest, I live here.

Robarts Library - you have to find a space that works best for you, so explore a bit of floors 3-5 before settling. I always find something. Floors 1 & 2 can be crowded and noisy.

Toronto Reference Library - Don't be afraid to explore upper floors to find a quiet space.

Yorkville Library - Smaller library branch, much quieter than Reference Library or Robarts.

Dark Horse Coffee - Nothing particularly special about this cafe (its comparable to many others around TO) but if you need coffee and background noise, this may work for you. / July 10, 2015 at 10:00 am
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Terence / August 22, 2015 at 09:42 am
I need a library, study hall or even college cafe/cafeteria to think/draw, away from traffic, sirens, and busiest part of the city, but accessible by transit. Windows looking out on trees and woods as some large universities in suburbs offer. Not too bustling, almost empty after regular hours or weekends, but still open. But there must be tea in am, or at least a microwave. Anyone know such place in TO.?
Terence / October 14, 2015 at 07:14 am
To be more specific along the same line as my above query...
Does anyone know of any coffee shops that make a point of being quiet - meaning without music or TV blaring in the background. I love music, but most people have their own listening devices today - which can't be heard over the cafes choice of music, or a radio station's ads.
Any quiet cafes out there? Or even better, any quiet basement cafes that would eliminate street noise as well?
Abe / November 16, 2015 at 09:30 am
If you want to see the interior of Pratt Library, check it out on Google Indoor Street View:

Main Reading Room

Group Study, Student Lounge (Basement)

Group Study (Second Floor)

Other points of interest can be found on their floor plans page:
Other Cities: Montreal