Ottawa & Gatineau
Who says that capital cities are filled with pencil-pushing bureaucrats? Canada’s capital is a lively place, making Ottawa a favorite destination for gay people from around the country. The biggest annual event, Capital Pride, is held in August.
The city itself is gorgeous, especially around Parliament Hill. The neo-Gothic structures of the Parliament Buildings are the city’s most-photographed landmark. Another stunner is the National Gallery of Canada, which resembles a glassed-in birdcage.
Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is the gateway to Canada’s capital region. OC Transpo, route 97 (destination “Airport”) will get you directly to and from the airport. Shuttle buses and taxis are other options for a quick trip into town.
Downtown is very walkable, so there’s no need to rent a car. For longer trips, there is an excellent system of buses and light-rail trains operated by OC Transpo
Locals are hoping to turn Bank Street into an official gay village, like similar gayborhoods in Toronto and Montreal, and The Village signs with rainbows mark significant corners on Bank from Nepean to James Streets, but there are some other important clubs just off Bank on Somerset, and as far up as Sparks and Queen Streets towards the river. Make this your first stop in finding gay Ottawa.
The trendy downtown ByWard Market area is full of cafes and boutiques, with over 80 places to eat listed on their website. The Glebe neighborhood of South Ottawa has maintained a strong and lively traditional main street, home to many one-of-a-kind shops, services and businesses from an Italian market to a cat boutique, along with a good selection of restaurants and bars.
Media & Resources
Ottawa's Gay newspaper, Xtra, no longer has a print edition, but the DailyXtra website continues to provide LGBT news, current events, commentary, travel articles, listings and more.
The Dorothy's Closet website has info about "Ottawa's Modern Lifestyle" with gay and lesbian trends, events and business listings.
Free outdoor Capital WiFi, at over thirty hotspots in downtown Ottawa-Gatineau, lets you access information with your smartphone, tablet or laptop. Areas include: ByWard Market, Confederation Square, the Convention Centre, Gatineau Park Visitor Centre, Jacques Cartier Square, Major's Hill Park, the National Arts Centre, Ottawa Tourism, Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, Sparks Street, and many museums and hotels.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Ottawa listings pages.
Babylon Nightclub (317 Bank St), live music, dance club, performances; queer parties including Oh My Jam by Queer Mafia "queer pals throwing queer parties & community events" -- for men/women, all-welcome.
Chez Lucien (137 Murray St), small/cozy mixed crowd pub/bistro at ByWard Market, two-seater tables for date night drinks; good selection of beers, house beef burgers plus vegan/veggie-friendly options.
Loft Board Game Lounge (14 Waller St), bar drinks/wines, coffees, perogies, rollos, pizza, soups, sandwiches, salads; board games. Former Lunenburg Pub site.
Lookout (41 York St, upstairs), predominantly gay but straight-friendly, balcony overlooking marketplace, pool table, bar munchies, adorable barmen. Thursday Men's Social, Friday Women's Social, Saturday drag and dancing, Tuesday/ Wednesday karaoke.
The Mercury Lounge (56 Byward Market Sq), "soul club," electronic, house, soul, jazz and funk, DJs and concerts.
SaShay "...seasonal event to bring some spice back to the Ottawa gay scene," from the DJs and producers of the old Flamingo Club, with occasional parties around town.
Swizzles (246 Queen St), free-wheeling community bar mix of all kinds of people - "boys, girls, and everything in between," fast internet connections, live music, poetry readings, live music, comedy, drag shows and dancing; plus best karaoke in the city.
THROB does once a month dance & cruise "Underground Events," playing "beats ... a little harder, darker, and sexier."
CLOSED: Centretown Pub (340 Somerset St West), mostly male regulars, piano lounge bar, pool table, terraces, karaoke/live bands, cruise bar, dancing, drag shows, leather/ fetish nights; Edge Club (212 Sparks St), gay nightclub, drag/cabaret shows and contests, roof-top patio.
Saunas & Sex
Central Spa (1069 Wellington), renovated steam room, dry sauna, movies, lounge bar, Wi-Fi, favorite of local bears, open 24 hours.
Ahora (307 Dalhousie St) in Byward Market, gay-owned restaurant with best Mexican food around: burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, plus excellent margaritas.
The Buzz (374 Bank St) NY bistro style brick walls, high ceilings, intimate dining, high-back banquette lounging, wine or martinis. Sample tapas and Mojitos Thursdays, busy Friday/Saturday evenings. Open daily 4pm, Sunday brunch 10am - 3pm.
ByWard Market (ByWard Market Sq, William St between George & York), one of Canada's oldest and largest public markets. Bakeries, specialty food shops, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants of all kinds, including cafes and pub grub options. Farmers' market open 363 days per year; also arts and crafts vendors.
Mellos (290 Dalhousie St), 75-year-old traditional diner, comfort foods, drinks, wisecracking waitresses; breakfast, lunch, relaxed evenings over sandwiches and cocktails.
Second Cup (290 Bank St, at Somerset), official hangout of Ottawa Bears (OursOttowa in French). Sunday 3-5pm is the best time to make contact and find out about bowling dates, bathhouse frolics and brunch get-togethers.
Stonewall Wilde's (370 Bank St), upstairs gay bookstore, art, jewellery, and artisan chocolates, events include wine socials and book readings; downstairs lubes, toys, greeting cards, DVD videos, and knick-knacks. Combination of After Stonewall and Wilde's in late 2016.
Ambiance Bed And Breakfast (330 Nepean St; 613-563-0421) - CLOSED Jan 2017 - built in 1904, fully modern with amenities, easy walk to all the tourist attractions, major public transit, Byward Market, restaurants and nightlife.
Benner's Bed & Breakfast (539 Besserer St; 613-241-6403), gay-friendly elegant four guestroom B&B just a short hop east of everything in the downtown hub including Byward Market.
The Gilmour Inn (431 Gilmour St; 613-236-9309), Edwardian-era house, 7 rooms furnished with period antiques, living room, private patio. Bank Street restaurants, stores, Parliamnet Hill and Rideau Centre within walking distance. Former Inn on Somerset management.
The Rideau Inn (177 Frank St; 613-688-2753), general public, gay-friendly option in Golden Triangle residential neighbourhood at Rideau Canal. Sunny private roof deck, internet, breakfast buffets, use of the house kitchen.