Home to one of the oldest farmers’ markets in Canada and over 600 businesses, the ByWard Market is a popular tourist destination and sought-after filming location. The area was established as Lower Town in 1826 by Lieutenant-Colonel John By, an English military engineer who oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal and founded Bytown, renamed Ottawa in 1855. A large community of French Canadians and Irish immigrants, labourers on the Rideau Canal, historically resided in the area, and their influence on the neighbourhood can still be seen today. Nowadays, the ByWard Market represents a diverse and vibrant community of businesses and residents, attracting locals, tourists, and a wide range of film and TV productions.
**Point of Interest
Considering Irish immigrants were some of the ByWard Market’s first residents, we’re appropriately starting at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts. A former church, this heritage building was built in 1888-1890 to serve mainly Irish Catholic parishioners, many of whom had settled in the area following the building of the Rideau Canal and the Great Famine. With a decline in attendance over the next century, the church closed in 2006 and was deconsecrated in 2007. Soon after, it was purchased by the local Irish community and transformed to Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, an event space with a traditional Irish pub which celebrates and advances Irish culture in Canada.
As one of a few deconsecrated churches in Ottawa, Saint Brigid’s is a popular filming location for productions of all types and sizes. Local writer-director Nate Estabrooks filmed scenes here for his feature film debut Mangiacake with a script he co-wrote with Christina Cuffari; Cuffari also stars in the movie alongside Ottawa native and Wynona Earp star Melanie Scrofano. Sacrifice, a 2011 feature produced by Ottawa’s Zed.film and Bunk 11 Pictures, also filmed inside the former church.
Melanie Scrofano, Jocelyne Zucco, and Christina Cuffari in ‘Mangiacake’
Our next stop is Somewhere Dine Bar. Formerly Sur-lie Restaurant, the owners rebranded following the mandatory closure of restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sur-lie was a popular filming location, especially for Lifetime thrillers, and we’re sure the spot’s new look will equally attract productions. TV movies that have filmed here include Mommy’s Little Angel, A Storybook Christmas (a.k.a The Plan for Christmas) and The Perfect Cheerleader.
The Heart & Crown has been a ByWard Market institution since 1992 when two Irish immigrants, Pat Kelly and Larry Bradley, first opened the pub’s doors. Over the years, the original bar grew in size, as well as expanded to other local neighbourhoods like Little Italy and Barrhaven. The original ByWard Market location houses five bars under one roof and offers two patios, one street-side and the other nestled between its buildings for a more secluded setting.
In addition to hosting locals, tourists, and music bands, the Heart & Crown welcomes film and TV productions looking for an authentic pub or casual restaurant. The Lifetime thriller His Fatal Fixation (originally titled Flawless), starring local actress Sarah Fisher, filmed scenes here.
Conveniently located a stone’s throw away from the Heart & Crown is our very own office, housed inside a beautiful heritage building. The building, called The Carriageway as the lobby was once the entrance for horses and carriages, was built in 1872 for the Martineau Hotel.
When we were looking for new office space in 2017, we knew we wanted to be in the middle of a vibrant and film-friendly neighbourhood, and the ByWard Market didn’t disappoint. In addition to the Ottawa Film Office, 55 Murray St. is also home to gelato and espresso bar Piccolo Grande, eyewear shop Eyez, graphic design firm gordongroup, creative agency SCS (which acquired Fuel in 2018), and several other offices. The building has also attracted numerous productions, including Slalom‘s La malédiction de Jonathan Plourde which filmed exterior scenes here in 2018. The miniseries is available on Super Écran and Super Écran on Crave.
While we normally welcome guests and drop-ins to our office, the pandemic has our team working remotely from home for the time being. Please send us an email if you’d like to know more about our office or the local film, television or animation industry – we’d be happy to schedule a meeting to chat in person or virtually.
Tin House Court is one of four romantic courtyards located parallel to bustling Sussex Dr. Aptly named for the tin house façade that hangs on a building, this courtyard offers a quiet setting alongside some fascinating history. The tin façade is a reconstruction of a nearby house that was built and owned by Ottawa tinsmith Honoré Foisy in the early 1900s. The home was demolished in 1961, but part of it was saved and restored by local artist Art Price who used the original material as well as new ones.
The Hallmark movie A Christmas for the Books, starring Chelsea Kane and Drew Seely, filmed scenes here in the summer of 2018. The French language series Rendez-Vous (produced by Ottawa’s Blik TV) and TFO’s youth quiz show Boum, c’est canon also filmed here.
Slightly northwest of the courtyard stands the iconic Maman sculpture welcoming visitors to the National Gallery of Canada. The Gallery was founded in 1880 and was first housed inside the former Clarendon Hotel, located at the corner of Sussex Dr. and York St. The gallery would move several times over the next century before construction on a new building, led by architect Moshe Safdie, was completed in 1988. The stunning granite and glass building boasts an extensive Canadian and Indigenous art collection, an auditorium, lecture hall, peaceful courtyards, and even a reconstructed chapel! Learn more about the building’s many attributes here.
The National Gallery is a beacon for artists, art enthusiasts, locals, tourists, and filmmakers – especially international travel shows showcasing Ottawa’s landmarks. The Gallery also screens Canadian films in partnership with TIFF Film Circuit, and hosts the annual Ottawa LGBT Film Festival.
Making our way south back to the market’s commercial streets, we come across Major’s Hill Park – Ottawa’s first park. The park, owned and maintained by the National Capital Commission, has been in use since 1826 when building of the Rideau Canal began, and was officially established in 1875. Originally called Colonel Hill, after John By, it was later renamed for Major Daniel Bolton who replaced By when he returned to England. The remains of By’s residence (and later Bolton’s), which was once situated on the site, are still visible today.
The park has hosted countless events, including the very first Canada Day celebrations in 1867 where revelers enjoyed bonfires and fireworks. Major’s Hill Park has also welcomed several film and television productions, such as Lifetime’s Trust No One (a.k.a. Corrupt), Canadian TV series Murdoch Mysteries and miniseries The Best Laid Plans, and locally-produced series Les Jumelles and Ottawa Underground.
‘Murdoch Mysteries’, Season 5, Episode 12, Murdoch Night in Canada
Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli
Exiting the park on the east side and crossing Mackenzie Ave., you’ll descend the colourful York Steps, cross Sussex Dr., and find yourself at the popular Ottawa sign – a magnet for tourists and Instagrammers. Here you’ll also encounter restaurants and boutiques, including Justine Studio, a fashion retail store featuring Canadian designers. While the shop opened in 2014 (with Margaret Trudeau as its first customer!), its owner, Christine Shaikin, is no stranger to fashion – she helped design the women’s RCMP uniform in 1973 and in 1981, opened her first Justine store on Sussex Dr.
The minimalist shop provides an elegant backdrop to productions, like Lifetime’s Killer Prom. The film, starring Yvonne Zima (The Young and the Restless), Mark Lutz (Angel, Departure), and Ottawa’s own Brianna Barnes, filmed scenes here in the summer of 2019.
Currently home to the 27 Club, this building once housed the beloved and storied Zaphod’s Beeblebrox, named after a character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Opened in 1992 by Eugene Haslam, the nightclub hosted numerous up-and-coming and established artists, including Ottawa’s own Alanis Morissette who chose the venue for the release of her iconic album Jagged Little Pill. Canadian bands like The Sheepdogs, Our Lady Peace, and Bif Naked also performed here, as did many local bands. Zaphod’s closed in 2017, about a year after the club came under new management.
One of the biggest rock and roll bands in the world, the Rolling Stones, also performed at Zaphods’s where they filmed their music video for Streets of Love. The video was shot on August 29, 2005, the day after the band played at Ottawa’s former Frank Clair Stadium (now TD Place) at Lansdowne Park.
If you double back a few steps and cross York St., you’ll come across the entrance to Clarendon Lane, another charming courtyard owned by the National Capital Commission. Beautiful stone buildings, alluring restaurant patios, and a pretty archway will make you think you’re somewhere in Europe, while the indulging aromas from Planet Coffee will keep you lingering just a little while longer.
Hallmark’s A Christmas for the Books filmed scenes at Planet Coffee, while Slalom’s TV series Toi et Moi filmed exterior scenes in the courtyard. One of the most ambitious projects to film in Ottawa, given its 19th century New England setting, also filmed in Clarendon Lane. Tell the World was shot in Ottawa (and Upper Canada Village) in 2013 and featured a sizeable cast, many of which were locals. Ottawa-based producers Michael Baker (Bunk 11 Pictures) and Robert Menzies (Zed.film) helped produce the film which shows the beginnings of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. You can watch the film for free on YouTube.
‘Tell the World’
Photo courtesy of Albert Camicioli
Once you’re done soaking up all that Clarendon Lane has to offer, step into Librairie du soleil located at the courtyard’s southern entrance (you literally can’t miss it). The bookshop, with two locations in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, sells the largest collection of French-language books in the National Capital Region, attracting a diverse clientele of tourists, university students, young families, and other readers.
Several films have shot here, including the 2014 romantic comedy Hit By Lightning, starring Jon Cryer, Stephanie Szostak, and Will Sasso; the film is currently available to rent on Google Play and YouTube. The shop is also a preferred location for Christmas movies – Hallmark’s A Christmas for the Books filmed at the Librairie du soleil, as did Lifetime’s A Storybook Christmas (a.k.a. The Plan for Christmas).
As you continue down George St. you’ll come across the Bell Media building (you’ll know you found it when you hit the BeaverTails stand next door). This is where several Bell Media brands operate, including TV broadcaster CTV News and radio stations Magic 100.3 and New Country 94.
If some of the media personalities you see or hear on the news sound familiar, that’s because they also dabble in film and television production. CTV News anchor Stefan Keyes is an experienced actor and singer, appearing in ABC’s Designated Survivor and shot-in-Ottawa productions like At First Light (available on Super Channel), and Lifetime’s Christmas Around the Corner, directed by Megan Follows. Magic 100 announcer Katherine Dines can also be seen in At First Light as well as other locally-shot productions like Hallmark’s Matchmaker Mysteries: A Killer Engagement and CBC’s The Best Laid Plans.
Sisters Mais and Inaas Kiryakos opened Milk Shop, an independent clothing boutique, over a decade ago on nearby Dalhousie St. The shop relocated to William St. in 2013 where it continues to sell trendy and affordable clothing, accessories, and jewelry. The store, along with neighbouring shops and restaurants, was severely impacted by a major fire in April of 2019, forcing them to close for the remainder of the year. Milk has reopened for folks seeking an in-person shopping experience (currently by appointment only), or visit their online shop anytime.
This cute store has welcomed several productions, including the Lifetime film Dating a Sociopath (a.k.a. The Sweetheart), starring Glee’s Jessalyn Gilsig and directed by Ottawa’s Maxwell McGuire. The Lifetime holiday film Mistletoe & Menorahs (also directed by McGuire) filmed scenes here, as well as in nearby Jeanne d’Arc Court. See if you can spot Milk (‘Little Mitzvahs’ in the film) and other Ottawa locations in the trailer.
Mistletoe & Menorahs
Lifetime/MarVista Entertainment (via Glamour)
Continue onwards to York St. and you’ll see the famous Le Moulin de Provence on your left. This French bakery was founded in 1998 by Claude Bonnet (originally from Provence, France) but is today best known as one of the places former President Barack Obama visited in 2009; you can read more about his visit here. Offering delectable pastries, coffee, cakes, sandwiches, soups, salads, and more, Le Moulin de Provence is a popular spot for tourists and locals looking for fresh baked goods in a friendly atmosphere.
The TVOKids show Kid Diners filmed here in 2016 and featured Claude showing the young hosts, Xander and Aynalem, how to make traditional French bread.
Last but not least, we’re visiting The Whiskey Bar, a casual nightclub geared towards 20- and 30-somethings. Owned and operated by York Street Entertainment/Ottawa Venues, the bar features whiskies from around the world, a fireplace, and stone walls, and its décor is described as a “blend of Tex Mex and ski chalet”. The large space is capable of accommodating many different types of events, including filming.
One of the first films to shoot in Ottawa in 2020, Midnight at the Magnolia filmed extensively at The Whiskey Bar and on the surrounding streets. Produced by MarVista Entertainment with Ottawa’s Fireside Pictures, the film stars Natalie Hall (Charmed, UnREAL) and Evan Williams (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Versailles), and was directed by local director Maxwell McGuire.