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.