DJ and club-goers in Ottawa
Bardia Boomer/Fulcrum.
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Where to find the best drinks, music, and vibes in Ottawa

Some people think Ottawa is a boring city. Here at the Fulcrum, we disagree.

If you know where to look, Ottawa has a number of great spots for students on a night out. It’s important to consider that bars, clubs, and their reputations change — we published an article similar to this one in 2016, and while most of the places on our list are new, it seems one bar is a repeating favourite among U of O students.

Read on to see some of the Fulcrum’s current writers’ thoughts on Ottawa’s best places for a night out.

The Show 

The Show is one of those places that you either love or you hate. You can’t go too often, or you’ll grow to absolutely hate it. Although, it is probably the closest thing that you will get to a true club experience in downtown Ottawa. No matter what anyone says, we think it’s worth experiencing The Show at least once or twice, especially if you’re a new student in Ottawa. It’s located fairly close in the ByWard market, so if the line gets too long, you can always check out the other bars nearby.

Let’s just say everyone and their mother is at The Show — so consider yourself warned if you don’t want to see anyone and just want a fun girls night out. If you want to run into your ratty ex and the girl he told you not to worry about, go to The Show. Luckily, the main bar is pretty big, so it’s never too hard to get a drink, and the dance floor is always a good time… when you’re not being hit on by random, middle-aged men. In conclusion, I’ve never left The Show sober or tearless. I’ll catch you there next weekend.

Lieutenant’s Pump

Lieutenant’s Pump is a popular pub located on Elgin Street. I would say that Lieutenant’s Pump is very comparable to Heart & Crown in ByWard; they give off the same vibes, and you’ll probably get lost in both. The inside of Lieutenant’s Pump is pretty big and reminds me of a tavern — the ceilings are super low, and there are lots of twists and turns. The good thing about this is that there are plenty of bars to choose from and plenty of seating. If you ever get to go during the summer, the patio is always fun.

Although Lieutenant’s Pump is always a good go-to for a night out, the line tends to get pretty long. If you want to skip the line, it might cost you a twenty. And don’t even try flirting your way in with the bouncers — this isn’t The Show. Elgin Street is also home to Happy Fish, which is conveniently right across the street if you’re looking to barhop.

Heart and Crown

Whether it’s the stage calling your name for Wednesday night karaoke or your typical weekend shenanigans, you are guaranteed to have a good night at Heart and Crown. The student-loved Irish Pub often features live music, with genres ranging from country to classic rock. Here, you can finally put to good use all of the classics you grew up singing with your dad.

This is also not one of the ByWard Market’s typical pubs — Heart and Crown consists of not one, not two, but five different bars under the same roof. You’ll never have to wait very long for that first drink before hitting the dance floor. If you’re looking for some fun on a Friday night, Heart and Crown truly is the best place to be and will leave you counting down the days until your next night out. We’ll see you there next weekend! 

Blue Cactus Bar and Grill

The perfect place for strawberry margaritas and a good night out with friends, ByWard Market’s Blue Cactus Bar and Grill is at the top of everyone’s list. Located in the heart of the Market, the bar features all-day happy hour snacks and an extensive cocktail menu. This spot is famous for its ten-dollar triples, making it one of the best deals a student can find for drinking with a budget. Upbeat music, enthusiastic servers, and prime location make it both a good stop before beginning your night of barhopping or clubbing in the Market, or the perfect place to celebrate the end of a hard semester. 

Pub 101

If you can’t decide between wanting to spend a night out dancing or sitting down chatting with friends, Pub 101 is the place for you. The first two floors have tables, but the top floor is open for dancing. Each floor also has its own bar. Right at the edge of the ByWard Market, Pub 101 fills up on weekends, but won’t have you waiting in line all night. Out of all the places in the Market, this one has what I consider to be the best music. For the most part, it’ll be a night of 2000s hits, so if that’s your style, you’ll definitely enjoy yourself.

Even in just the last few years, the places to be and to be seen in Ottawa have changed — bars rise and fall, and clubs can be full one weekend but empty the next. If your favourite spot isn’t on this list, consider yourself ahead of the curve. Maybe next year, we’ll have a whole new list of hot spots.