Some cities are easier to dig for records than others, and with over 50 vinyl centric shops in the GTA, Toronto can seem pretty daunting to visitors. Some of the best stores are in remote corners of the city (and are definitely worth a visit if you have time), but fortunately, there are quite a few worthwhile establishments downtown.
607A Queen Street West & 652 Queen Street West
No visit to Toronto is complete without some time spent at Cosmos on Queen and Cosmos West. The two locations are a couple blocks apart from each other, and can make a handy start or end point for your vinyl excursion. Cosmos West consistently has the most awe inspiring wall display in Canada, and specializes in Jazz, Brazilian and Latin with some interesting Rock and Disco bins too. Cosmos on Queen leans towards Soul/Funk, Hip Hop, 12” singles and Classic Rock. There’s a lot at both locations to get excited about, and Aki, Hisa and Yohei are deeply knowledgeable and immersed in music.
229 Queen St W
Heading East, a trip to Kop’s on Queen is essential, especially for 45 enthusiasts. The selections of 7” singles upstairs are seemingly endless, and it would take days to go through the entire stock. There’s plenty of recent arrival action in the LP bins downstairs as well, and it’s always worth a look through the dollar crates outside too. They have another location on The Danforth, one in Oshawa and are opening a Hamilton location if you find yourself with more time.
215 Spadina Ave
Backtracking to Spadina, Sonic Boom has a new arrivals section for every day of the week. One of the largest shops in the city, there’s a ton of potential to turn up an overlooked gem in the rows of records downstairs. They have a massive selection of new vinyl, and sell all sorts of other items (from books to t shirts to DVDs) as well.
222 Spadina Ave
Invisible City has a well curated selection of unusual dance floor friendly treasure, from Soca Disco to Nigerian Boogie to more ambient leaning offerings. There’s usually something special there, and it’s a place with a clear vision.
411 Spadina Ave
Play De Record, just up the street, is a Toronto institution. Proprietor Eugene’s original store on Yonge held the imagination of House, Hip Hop and Dancehall fans throughout the country with regular appearances on Much Music (Canada’s MTV) as THE source for limited run 12” singles and 45s. These days Play De has a lot of everything. A flip through the International section is highly recommended for the veteran seeker.
393 Roncesvalles Avenue
A few blocks north we find She Said Boom, a book and vinyl shop with a distinct character. The Jazz section rarely disappoints, and it’s essential to flip through the new arrivals.
567 College St
Just to the West, Neurotica Records holds a lot of mystery. There’s some really deep Canadian records in amongst the corners of the shop, and it can be a great source of Post Punk or Cosmische for the fortunate.
778 Dundas Street West
Shortstack Records is a smaller store with a dense quality to quantity ratio. They regularly update their new arrivals bins. There’s often a rarer record at a super reasonable price on the wall.
1167 Dundas St W
Grasshopper Records has an unreal selection of international music scattered throughout the store, and there’s always a heavy Dub LP or sought after Japanese Import waiting to be noticed.
186 Ossington Ave
Just around the corner on Ossington, Rotate This! has a little bit of everything at a variety of price points. It’s always a good idea to look through the records on the floor, look carefully at the wall items and check out the discount bins. If you’re looking for 45s, there’s an easy to flip through selection on hand, and some unexpected bargains have been known to surface here.
960 Queen St W
Antikka is a great place to grab a coffee, and they have a reasonable selection of new and used vinyl as well. Sometimes they have special events, and they always have great music on the sound system.
2920 Dundas St W
Situated in The Junction, Pandemonium Books And Discs has some wildly deep vinyl bins, the rows brimming with possibility. Be sure to investigate the records on the floor too, as there are boxes of Library, Bollywood, Canadian Jazz and even a crate of Blue Note.
471 Bloor Street West
The Bloor Street location of BMV Books in The Annex has a sizable vinyl selection located in their basement. They often get a variety of international sounds and obscure canadian titles. They’re open later than most stores in the GTA.
130 Shorting Rd, Scarborough, ON
If you find yourself with enough time, Henry’s Records in Scarborough is well worth the trek. Having been in the record business for decades, Henry has encyclopedic knowledge and the selection to match. The 45 shelves are laden with both staples and the unexpected, and it’s smart to leave yourself some quality time to search through the rows of records here.
649 Fourth Line, Oakville, Ontario
Oakville’s PCV Records is a bit of a drive from Downtown, but they have a high turnover and really good prices. Although they support a loyal customer base, being a little out of the way means you might have a bit better luck finding a sought after record than you would in the city.
Toronto has many more stores, and this guide isn’t close to comprehensive. There are also plenty of thrifts, fleas, junk shops, corner stores, and private dealers throughout the GTA that can be worth investigating, so the dig is never really done here.