Ottawa Like a Local

January 5, 2017 – partial blog post rescued from drafts – as a rescue post, I must warn it is very fragmentary with a lot of incomplete info

If you want to explore Ottawa more as a local, it helps to understand the structure of the city.  There are a few key neighbourhoods and streets.  Shopping and restaurants are almost all strung along just a few streets, which were key streetcar routes for Ottawa’s streetcar suburbs.

The main two streets are the long north-south Bank Street and the long east-west Somerset Street (which turns into Wellington and then Richmond as it continues west).  For those with a historical bent, these are the equivalent of the cardo maximus and the decumanus maximus.

Neighbourhoods strung along Bank Street, starting at the north and heading south, are:

  • the Central Business District (CBD), a typical business tower area from Wellington to Gloucester
  • Centretown, which runs from Gloucester to the highway (Queensway, 417)
  • the Glebe, which runs from the highway to the canal (Rideau Canal)
  • Old Ottawa South, which runs from the canal to the Rideau river

Bank continues south of that, but after that it’s into far suburbia basically.

Neighbourhoods strung along Somerset Street West, starting at the east and heading west are:

  • the Golden Triangle (a residential neighbourhood) from the canal to Elgin (more or less)
  • Centretown, from Elgin to Bronson (more or less)
  • Chinatown, from Bronson to the train overpass
  • Hintonburg, from Breezehill to (at Garland, Somerset Street West turns into Wellington Street West)
  • Wellington Village
  • Westboro

Because Westboro, Wellington Village and Hintonburg are all one continuous stretch, they tend to blur together (Westwelliburg) and even locals have trouble remembering exactly where the boundaries are.  Hintonburg used to be a lot rougher, but it is in full gentrification mode now.

Other streets and neighbourhoods of interest are:

  • the Little Italy neighbourhood on Preston Street from
  • Dalhousie Street from (sometimes called “North Dal”)
  • New Edinburg, particularly along Beechwood from
  • Elgin Street in Centretown, from Wellington south to the highway

To understand the structure of Ottawa, while the population is notionally 1 million, there’s a very suburban distribution, with roughly 20,000 in the core (Centretown), about 180,000 in the inner-ring suburbs (many of which listed above), and the remaining 800,000 in outer-ring suburbs and rural areas.  Many people also live “across the river” (the Ottawa River) in Quebec, but the river serves as a fairly substantial barrier – people tend to stick to their side.

NYT 36 Hours in Ottawa 2017 – comments

With Canada as the New York Times #1 destination for 2017, the NYT has followed with 36 Hours in Ottawa by Remy Scalza.  Overall the selections are good.  As a Centretowner I may regret the Market-centricity, but he did go to both North Dal (which is often overlooked) and Hintonburg. I’ve linked to some of my recommendations at the bottom.

  • Parliament Hill – yes
  • Major’s Hill Park – yes but it’s a bit of a mess in the winter
  • Château Laurier – yes
  • Métropolitain – ugh, no, I don’t like it
  • Riviera – yes
  • The Manx – yes
  • Art-is-in – yes
  • Maker House Co. – I have never been
  • Hintonburg Pottery – I have never been
  • Tooth and Nail – yes
  • Moulin de Provence – I would lean no, I never go there – Market touristy
  • House of Cheese – yes
  • Stubbe Chocolates – yes but I would have chosen Cylie in North Dal instead, although in fairness Cylie is closed for all of January
  • BeaverTails – I guess it’s a thing one has to do – Market touristy
  • Play Food & Wine – yes
  • Copper – I have never been
  • Château Lafayette – um, no, it’s a dive bar
  • Heart & Crown – I guess so?
  • National Gallery – yes
  • Workshop – I think so, but I don’t think I’ve been
  • Goods Shop – yes
  • Bridgehead – sure
  • Victoire – yes
  • Museum of Civilization (History) – yes

Overall as these things go, a good collection of Ottawa venues, with the constraints of some Market-centricity.  And there’s only so much one can fit in a 36 hours article.  I would have been inclined to Whalesbone Elgin over Métropolitain.

If you want to check out Centretown, I have a blog post on Centretown restaurants and shopping and a newer post Ottawa restaurants and shopping.