Rich in culture and heritage as befits most capital cities, Ottawans are blessed with national monuments, museums and galleries, parklands, waterways, and a diverse and thriving multicultural population.Overlooking the confluence of the impressive Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau rivers, Ottawa was a former trading post and meeting place, but is now one of the jewels in the Canadian crown offering a safe, comfortable environment to people visiting from around the world.Known for its hot and humid summers, combined with long, cold winters (snow is often still on the ground in April), the city doesn’t suit everybody. Yet the pedestrian way of life, steady employment and low crime rates makes this a city worth delving deeper into… just remember to bring a warm jacket.
From the rural to suburban, downtown to the low rise, Ottawa has a variety of areas to live in. Here are a few of the better-known suburbs.
Just south of the city is the Glebe, a gorgeous suburb of grand brick houses, tree-lined streets and a strong sense of community. Bank Street is the area’s shopping hub and arguably Ottawa’s premier shopping district. The suburb is also home to Lansdowne Park, a centre for major sports teams, and it hosts the annual Great Glebe Garage Sale, attracting large numbers of bargain hunters to the neighbourhood from far and wide.
Popular with many young professionals, Westboro neighbours my own former suburb, Hintonburg. Not far from downtown, it’s a trendy suburb replete with coffee shops and even its own beach. House prices are higher than average given its popularity and gentrification – expect to pay upwards of $600,000 for an average detached house.
A pleasant mix of urban and suburban, Nepean is situated in the west and is close to the airport. From Nepean to downtown by car will take approximately thirty minutes in rush hour traffic and an average house in the area is in the $350,000 region. Most of the suburb’s working residents either commute to downtown Ottawa or to Kanata, the high tech centre of Ottawa.
Set in Ottawa’s far west, the area is made up of villages and small communities, and has a population of fewer than 25,000. It appeals to Ottawans because it remains a fairly short distance from the capital but with the advantage of offering large homes on big plots of land and with one of the lowest crime rates in the region.
Transport / Getting Around in Ottawa
Ottawa is a relatively small city, therefore getting around town is straightforward. For public transport, most people take the bus; however, the light rail O-Train is great for travel between the north and south of the city. The Transitway runs from east to west and is a purpose built road for the use of buses only, thereby avoiding much of the rush hour traffic on the neighbouring Queensway.
Because of Ottawa’s size, driving around the city is possible and only takes 20-30 minutes to cross from one side to the other. Bicycles are also popular in Ottawa and the city has more than 220km of cycle paths located throughout the area.
Leisure Activities and Things to Do in Ottawa
Given its size and capital city status, Ottawa is not particularly renowned for its nightlife or social scene. However, it does have a strong sports and outdoors focus, with typical Canadian fare on offer such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter, plus hiking and fishing in the warmer months. Ice hockey is an almost fanatical pursuit for the locals and the Ottawa Senators have enjoyed reasonable success in recent years. In winter, the Rideau Canal freezes over to form the world’s largest ice-skating rink and one which tourists and commuters alike can be found skating along on any given day.
Unsurprisingly, the city hosts a large number of festivals and exhibitions every year, including Winterlude, Canada’s biggest winter festival, and Bluesfest, involving ten days of the finest blues bands from around the world. Canada Day and the Tulip Festival are also celebrated during the year.
There are many museums and galleries to visit in Ottawa, ranging from the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau on the Quebec side of the river to the innovative Canadian War Museum closer to the downtown. It’s worth dedicating a decent amount of time for these visits, as many are extensive by nature and often fascinating to explore.
Interesting Facts about Ottawa
- The Ottawa region has a population of 1.2 million and welcomes more than 7 million visitors per year.
- Ottawa is officially a bilingual city with a little over half of the population speaking English as a first language – other languages include French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese.
- Ottawa is home to the national government and to a large number of foreign embassies, and is also a recognised cultural and academic centre.
- Home to the world’s largest ice-skating rink, the Rideau Canal, which freezes over each winter.