When the temperature drops, Ottawa residents are not deterred: they bundle up and brave the elements in order to socialize and have fun. Visitors can do the same, using our list of the best bars in Ottawa to head to in winter. These are cozy places that will make you feel welcome and warm—no matter what the weather’s like outside.
Lunenburg Pub and Bar
Named after a picturesque Nova Scotia fishing village, this bustling spot takes pride in its Maritime roots. The laid-back, East Coast vibe here extends to all three storeys, and out onto the all-season outdoor patio. There are over 15 flat-screen televisions and room for about 500 people. In honour of its namesake, the Lunenburg’s menu is heavy on seafood, and features a number of East Coast comfort-food favourites, including hot and spicy deep-friend pepperoni—the perfect cure for a winter chill.
• Lunenburg Pub and Bar, 14 Waller St., 613-860-2277, theburg.ca
• Map and reviews
This Centre Town West spot earned a slot on our best winter bars in Ottawa list by being the perfect combination of Italian trattoria and Irish pub. Started in 1994 by Joe Cotroneo, the Preston Street venue continues to offer up a delicious assortment of pizza and pasta dishes, along with a selection of over 200 beers. Stop in for a thin-crust pizza (the Booyah and the Classico are favourites), or create your own dish by combining your favourite pasta with any one of Pub Italia’s gourmet sauces.
• Pub Italia, 434 Preston St., 613-232-2326, pubitalia.ca
The upper level of Fresco Bistro makes a bold statement with its unique deconstructed design style. Featuring mostly recycled materials, the newly renovated venue stands out as something unique to the downtown Ottawa restaurant scene. With an extensive beverage list and a gourmet menu of comforting dishes—everything from braised lamb shank to veal chop to seafood bouillabaisse to gnocchi—there’s something to warm everyone up on a chilly night.
• The Guest Room, 354 Elgin St., 613-235-7541, frescoguestroom.ca
Vineyards Wine Bar
The perfect place to sit and unwind after a long day. Though the bistro menu is divine, what makes this one of the best winter bars in Ottawa is its focus on the wine list. Having received the Wine Spectator award every year since 1988, their selection is simply outstanding. Also be sure to check out their assortment of malt whiskies—including scotch, bourbon, brandy and Irish whisky—and imported beers.
• Vineyards Wine Bar, 54 York St., 613-241- 4270, vineyards.ca
• Map and reviews
Earl of Sussex Pub
This Sussex Drive spot aims to emulate traditional British public houses, and is successful right down to the beer menu. With over 20 different beers on tap, a fair number of them (Boddington’s, Bass, Smithwicks, to name a few) hail from the United Kingdom. Whether you’re looking to catch a game or some live music, or you just want to catch up with some friends, the Earl of Sussex is a comforting and social destination for a cold winter’s night.
• Earl of Sussex Pub, 431 Sussex Dr., 613-562-5544, earlofsussex.ca
Billed as “Ottawa’s premier Scotch bar,” the Highlander offers guests an authentic Scottish experience. With 220 varieties of scotch to warm you up, deciding which to sample first is no easy task. While you ponder, treat yourself to one of their many exceptional starters. Try the modern spin on traditional bruschetta (topped with tomato, feta and artichoke), or indulge in their famous cheese nachos. If you’re not looking to snack, jump right ahead and order a meal from their ever-changing list of specials.
• The Highlander, 115 Rideau St., 613-562-5678, thehighlanderpub.com
• Map and reviews