Being in a new city is a great opportunity to try out their hidden gems. But where should you go? Especially if you have only a few nights in a new town, you don’t want to waste your time at the wrong place. You want to find a cool, unique, and busy-enough spot to truly enjoy your night out.
If you’re visiting Ottawa and looking to have drinks somewhere authentic to the city, here’s some of the best places to go.
Please note that this article was written before COVID19, and restaurant policies will have changed accordingly (no dancing, unfortunately). These bars are still just as cool and unique, and still offer great cocktails, drinks, bites, and atmosphere.
Heart and Crown
Heart and Crown is a lively chain of pubs that are based in Ottawa. Their Byward Market location is a popular spot downtown, and a great place to sit and experience the market over drinks, pub grub and live music.
The Heart & Crown in the Byward has a great patio in the summer, where you can see all down the market’s liveliest street: Clarence. In the winter, Heart & Crown is a great pub for live music, but its bigger than it appears – go through the pub entrance to discover not just one, but four separate rooms of live music, drinks and fun. The bar isn’t just a pub in the wall, its a sprawling destination for those looking to dance, drink, enjoy good music, and eat some good pub grub.
Looking for a great cocktail bar that’s brimming with cool vibes? Rabbit Hole is your best bet in Ottawa. It’s almost like a speakeasy; the main floor of Rabbit Hole is centred around a beautiful, well-lit bar, and given the size of the place you might begin to think you’ve found a hidden, quiet, gem. But take a walk down stairs and you’ll quickly realize that Rabbit Hole is exactly what it claims to be: a rabbit hole to one of Ottawa’s most popular bars. You can choose to stay up top or have a more social experience downstairs. Either way, this is a great spot for a unique experience.
What’s great about this bar is the unique decor that transforms it instantly to an uber-classy, yet fun, cocktail and dance bar. Upstairs, you can have a seat and enjoy the string-lit ceiling over a cocktail you just watched your bartender shake over the rocks for you whilst dawning his suspenders and bowtie (super classy but still fun). Downstairs, you’ll walk past the lit wine cellar to a dance hall, and can grab a drink (or a round of shots) at the more fast-paced bar there.
When you get tired of dancing and socializing, surface from the rabbit hole to the calm of the top bar.
Looking to experience Sussex? Social is a great spot for some sophisticated and stylish lounging downtown. Its expertly paired wine and food menus are an absolute dream, making this modern and comfortable lounge a great spot to be for any cocktail hour.
The elegant interior is comfortable and classy, with a sprawling bar ready for your cocktail creation. The food menu has a great assortment of small bites, too. A quiet place to sip wine and relax in the evening, Social can quickly turn into a bustling bar as the night wears on.
The Albion Rooms
Coming back from shopping at the Rideau Centre or from touring Parliament? The Albion Rooms is our suggestion. This cozy spot is a great cocktail bar, with menu items that are locally inspired with a hint of Ottawa’s heritage throughout. The bar itself has deep roots in Ottawa – so the story, food and atmosphere really will deliver an authentic Bytown experience for visitors.
This bar stays pretty low-key throughout the night, so if you’re not looking for crowds, but instead for great food, great service, and an amazing wine list, this is your go-to. In the summer, this spot has a great patio, too.
Moscow Tea Room
Looking for a lively bar, but not too young? Moscow Tea Room is a great choice. This place is a tea room by day, but a great bar and hotspot by night- it transforms into a sprawling red-room themed bar thats main door is on Sussex Street, and its patio opens to the gorgeous and famous courtyard – a stoney expanse of popular patios and restaurants in the market.
Moscow tea room does serve small bites and charcuterie in the evening, but its mainly a social bar that plays music. When its really busy, the top floor is open, which is a great spot to dance the night away.
Where Else To Go
All of these locations are unique to Ottawa- and located in the heart of the Capital city. If you’re coming in the summer, make sure to walk down Clarence street at night to see the crowds- it’s the liveliest street in the market. In the Winter, try the restaurants on Sussex only after you take a walk through Confederation Park and up to Parliament Hill.
COVID19 & Ottawa’s Bars
This article was written prior to COVID19, and COVID precautions are mandatory in each establishment. However, these bars are still great spots to go to experience Ottawa. They have great menus, great service, and great atmospheres. They are also all in great locations in the downtown area, so you can have a walk around the Byward Market, Confederation Park, The Rideau Canal, Sparks Street, Sussex Dr, And Clarence Street.
Clarence is the street you want to be at if you’re looking for liveliness- it has most of the Byward’s nightlife. But, Sussex runs adjacent to it, and in the meeting of those two popular streets is the courtyard, an area full of nice restaurants – a bit quieter but still lively.
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