Like many of Canada's most popular cities, Ottawa comprises a patchwork of neighborhoods that embody various ethnicities, lifestyles, and architectural periods.
Downtown Ottawa has many popular neighborhoods that feature some of the city's best attractions, but getting out of the busy, tourist zones is recommended so that visitors can discover more authentic aspects of the city and mingle with locals at the restaurants and retail spots not necessarily on every top ten list. Here are the eight neighborhoods that should be on your itinerary in Ottawa.
Shop With Locals in the Glebe
Though originally one of Ottawa's first suburbs, today the Glebe is an integral part of the city's downtown core where a large number of families live. This high-end, yet relaxed and historic neighborhood is particularly known for the fancy Bank Street stretch of shops and restaurants that cater to its well-heeled residents.
The Glebe is particularly nice for a morning stroll. The walk along Glebe Street to the Rideau Canal features lovely, leafy streets and well-cared-for 20th century homes.
The Glebe's unusual moniker comes from the word "glebe," which means church lands. The area was originally known as "the glebe lands of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church" and eventually shortened to just "the Glebe."
Getting to the Glebe: Eastbound, exit the Queensway at Bronson and follow Chamberlain to Bank Street. Westbound, exit the Queensway at Catherine and turn left at Bank Street. From downtown, go south straight down Bank Street.
Explore Trendy Westboro Village
Westboro, often referred to as Westboro Village, is a diverse neighborhood in Ottawa that has been enjoying urban rejuvenation since the 1990s. It became a popular destination for young couples and families for its proximity to Ottawa's downtown as well as attractive 20th century housing, green space and a continually increasing number of shops and restaurants. In addition, Westboro boasts a river shoreline with walking trails and bicycle paths as well as scenic views of Gatineau Hills.
Like some of the other neighbourhoods on this list, Westboro offers visitors the chance to explore a more authentic, less touristy part of Ottawa, and find the restaurants and shops frequented by locals.
Getting to Westboro: From the west, exit the Queensway at Carling. Turn left on Kirkwood and left again onto Richmond Road. From the east, exit at Island Park Drive and turn left on Richmond Road. Westboro is 30 mins by bus or 12 by car from Parliament Hill.
Mingle with Tourists at the ByWard Market
The ByWard Market is one of the central tourist areas and close to many of the city's most popular attractions, such as Parliament Hill and the National Gallery. Despite its name, the ByWard Market is not a market in the sense of a bunch of retail stands, but a largely pedestrian downtown neighborhood that hosts one of Canada's oldest and largest open-air markets. Outdoor vendors are on site even in the coldest winter months. Fresh foods and produce, crafts, clothing and other wares are sold most every day of the year until around dusk.
Also in the ByWard Market, you'll find bookstores, kitchen stores, clothing boutiques, hotels, night clubs and more than 85 restaurants. The party often goes till the wee hours in the Market.
On a popular weekend, expect to share the space with thousands of others. lt's not a bad idea to leave the car at home, though there are convenient parking options.
Getting to the ByWard Market: The area lies just east of the business and government district, adjacent to Rideau Shopping centre.
Catch a Hockey Game in Kanata
Most Ottawa sightseers don't choose to go to Kanata. Those that find themselves there are most likely on business. This sprawling, rapidly growing suburb just west of Ottawa is home to dozens, maybe hundreds, of tech companies. To accommodate and entertain all the employees and business visitors, Kanata has large residential swaths plus business areas, golf courses, and hotels.
Kanata is perfectly pleasant but certainly not oozing in charm or history as it is largely a modern development. That said, there is plenty to do, from shopping at the outlet malls to watching Ottawa's National Hockey League team—the Senators—play a game at the Canadian Tire Centre, which also hosts big-name concerts.
Visiting techies can blow their expense accounts at the Brookstreet Hotel, an acclaimed 18-story hotel in the middle of Kanata Research Park.
Getting to Kanata: Kanata is just off the TransCanada Highway, a twenty-minute drive southeast of downtown Ottawa.
Find a Feast for the Senses in Chinatown
Canada is a diverse country that welcomes large numbers of immigrants, including Asians and southeast Asians. Most Canadian cities have a vibrant "Chinatown" and Ottawa is no different.
Ottawa's Chinatown is a thriving business and residential area that features retailers not just from China but also from Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, India, and the Phillipines.
Of course you can find excellent, authentic Asian cuisine in Ottawa's Chinatown, but the neighborhood also hosts festivals, night markets and other events.
Getting to Chinatown: From the west end of Ottawa, exit the Queensway at Bronson and go north until Somerset. It's a half-hour walk from Parliament hill or 20 minutes on the bus.
Mingle with Hipsters in Wellington West & Hintonburg
Tucked in between trendy Westboro and Little Italy, Wellington West and Hintonburg has a tangible hipster vibe. Craft beer, yoga and vintage vinyl are all in abundance in this once-sketchy region of Ottawa, a mere 15-minute drive from the Parliament Buildings.
Still behind Westboro on the gentrification scale, Wellington West and Hintonburg has an apparent edge that is also part of the neighborhood's charm. Like so many other up-and-coming communities, Wellington West and Hintonberg has local artists and musicians to thank for living and working there. Visitors with money are a natural byproduct of an artist-strong community. Be sure to visit the local pubs and galleries to appreciate the abundance of local talent.
And if all that is not enough, street parking in Wellington West is free.
Getting to Wellington West & Hintonburg: Exit the Queensway at Parkdale and go north. Exit the Ottawa River Parkway and go south. Westboro is 30 minutes by bus or 12 minutes by car from Parliament Hill.
Perfect Pit Stop in Little Italy
Does anyone need an excuse to visit Little Italy? The food. The wine. The people. Little Italy, with its abundance of restaurants and patios is a perfect midway stop for cyclists travelling between the City's two most picturesque cycling paths, the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal Pathways.
Getting to Little Italy: Exit the Queensway at Rochester (eastbound) or Bronson (westbound). Preston Street is accessible from Carling Avenue. Little Italy is 20 mins by bus or a 10 min. drive from Parliament Hill.
The Middle of it All in Centretown
Centretown is both a diverse residential district and bustling commercial centre. The main throroughfares - Elgin and Bank streets - are hubs of activity where people gather to shop or dine at popular restaurants and pubs.
In Centretown, you'll easily find supermarkets and many other services, making it an ideal spot to rent a vacation property. Alternately, the area has many hotels, including ones like the Business Inn, which is apartment style.
Popular attractions in Centretown include the Canadian Museum of Nature, Dundonald Park, which is a city block of trees, benches and green space, as well as a stretch of the Rideau Canal, where people can walk its waterside trail or skate in winter.
Centretown is an easy walk to many of the other adjacent neighbourhoods, like Chinatown or the Glebe, or under 20 mins to Parliament Hill.
Getting to Centretown: Take public transit if you can. Centretown is one of the most pedestrian friendly neighbourhoods in Ottawa. Almost half of its residents hoof it to work. Be advised of the one-way streets. They keep traffic flow but can be confusing for drivers.
If you plan a visit to the Canadian Museum of Nature, park there all day for a reasonable rate.