Bustling and eclectic, downtown Ottawa’s ByWard Market is well known — a must for food, dining, and culture among the converted 1820s buildings. But as one of Ontario’s, and Canada’s, biggest metropoles, the vibrant city of Ottawa has several other wonderful districts. These are the best.
Downtown Rideau - Arts, culture, shopping
Downtown Rideau is where you want to go to see a play, check out a gallery crawl, or pick up the latest fashions. It’s the 23 blocks east of the canal around Rideau Street, and just one block from Parliament Hill. Culture vultures will find everything they love here, like concerts at Mavericks, festivals, special events, plus high end, indie, and big name retailers like Simons, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, and Hudson’s Bay at the CF Rideau Centre. This district houses the Ottawa Art Gallery, National Arts Centre, Arts Court Theatre, and Ottawa Little Theatre.
Elgin Street - Dining
Aside from the ‘hood around the ByWard, which houses one hot restaurant after another (Khao Thai, Play food & wine, Ahora, Cacao 70, to name a few), you’ll want to eat out on restaurant and bar row, aka Elgin Street, too. The section between Market and Bank is brimming with imaginative eateries sandwiched between stately monuments. The crown jewel is Beckta Dining & Wine in the renovated Grant House, but other must-eats are quirky ElCamino (no reservations), and local institution Elgin Street Diner — enjoy breakfast all day here.
Chinatown - Multi-cultural
Canada is about embracing multiculturalism and you’ll see that everywhere in Chinatown. It's a colorful district melding Chinese with Indian, Korean, Spanish, Thai, Korean, Filipino, and Middle Eastern traditions, foods, and wares. Shop, browse, eat, and meet the locals. Be sure to dine at aptly named So Good Restaurant, serving an enormous menu of Szechuan, Asian, and vegetarian dishes. Go for the tofu and squid.
Parliament Hill - VIP zone
If you want to rub elbows with politicos, starlets, and CEOs, downtown is the place. The neighborhood includes the upscale Parliament Hill area and Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you’ll find VIPs among locals skating, cycling, jogging, or paddling along the picture-perfect parks lining the waterway. Lounge at the power player venue of choice, the Fairmont Château Laurier, a longstanding meeting place for big deal makers, world leaders, and royals.
Wellington West - Parks
The entire Rideau Canal area is a beautiful park, but if you’re looking for an urban spot with lots of green space, head to Wellington West, a formerly rough ‘hood near the Ottawa River that’s become the new “it” destination. This district includes Hintonburg and Wellington Villages with all their graceful homes, colorful local-minded shops, galleries, creative studios, cafes, and trendy restaurants, even a retro bowling alley. The parks are also not to be missed. Enjoy a picnic or stroll in Champlain Park or Hintonburg Park, next to the lovely St. Francois D’Assise church.
Little Italy - Cycling
Centrally located Little Italy is ideal for biking with its tree-lined streets and pretty cycling paths. You can pedal along the Ottawa River or Rideau Canal. Then park, lock, and take 10 — or two hours — on a cafe patio people watching and sipping some good coffee before browsing the interesting boutiques. Of course, there are many tasty Italian eateries, but don’t miss a meal at French MeNa Restaurant, a stand out for its exquisite fare, including vegetarian dishes. The neighborhood is between Dow’s Lake and the War Museum in west Centretown, easy to access from anywhere in Ottawa. Festivals are also a blast here, especially June’s Italian week and September’s GrapeFest, where urbanites stomp grapes like the good ol' days.
The Glebe - Coffee
If you’re a coffeehouse devotee, The Glebe is your place. This laid back ‘hood with a granola reputation is actually filled with young families, singles, seniors, and students — and they are serious about their java. There are attractive Victorians alongside row houses, condos, and infill, alongside character-filled cafes. Get a bagel at Kettleman’s Bagel Co. and get caffeinated at faves like Morning Owl Glebe, Café Morala, Happy Goat Company, and Bridgehead. You might have to stay longer to sample them all.
Read more at the Ottawa Tourism website.