It may be dwarfed in popularity by Montreal and Vancouver, but Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, has plenty to offer visitors who are looking for world-class places to drink, and with a friendly welcome too, writes James Lawrence.
Canada’s capital city is dynamic, gregarious, bilingual and safe, but is rarely on any seasoned traveller’s bucket list. It’s understandable, of course – Ottawa lacks the global reputation of Toronto or the majestic scenery of Vancouver.
Yet take a closer look and it becomes clear that Ottawa warrants detailed investigation. Its beauty lies in its relative anonymity – it has remained undiscovered by mass tourism, meaning the city feels like the real deal. An authentic and charming place packed with cultural attractions, an exciting gastronomic scene and, yes, enticing nightlife, Ottawa will not leave you cold.
However, with average temperatures running well below 0°C from December to March, it pays to wrap up warm if you’re planning a winter visit. Rather than hiding indoors, locals prefer to celebrate the city’s snowy season with outdoor pursuits. Many skate to work or school on a frozen canal, while the Winterlude festival is marked with fantastical ice sculptures. But after the sun goes down, revellers can be found in the ByWard Market district – the centre of Ottawa’s nightlife.
Such is the demand for bar space that the city council has twice issued a moratorium on new liquor licenses. Students flock to the watering holes of William Street and York Street, while those who prefer their nightlife a little more sophisticated or arty tend to congregate in the lower end of Elgin Street.
Delectable cocktails and world-class bartending can be easily found in Ottawa, although unlike other capital cities the cocktail scene is not solely dominated by five-star hotels. Instead, barflies who crave a Manhattan should head to Besserer Street, or the numerous options found north of Rideau Street, our favourite being the Moscow Tea Room. This quirky, delightful bar typifies Ottawa’s most charming feature: its wonderful sense of friendliness.
Click through the following pages to see our top bars in Ottawa, Canada.