A portrait of Ottawa
Canada’s capital – what makes Ottawa so attractive
Ottawa is the nation’s capital and the fourth largest urban region in Canada. It includes over 1.4 million people, 66% of whom live in Ottawa and the rest in neighbouring municipalities, including Gatineau (located across the Ottawa River in Quebec). A special feature of the region is that both English and French are widely spoken and reflected in the City’s culture and commerce.
On the economic front, Ottawa is a major economic engine, offering jobs and opportunities in high tech industries, government, and important sectors such as health and education. The City is home to world- class research centres, top notch academic institutions and operations by major international companies.
To top it all off, both the City and the surrounding countryside are beautiful. Ottawa is remarkably clean and green, with large trees, parks and beaches along the three major rivers and historic canal that define the City and region. As well, the Gatineau hills are visible just across the Ottawa River, offering a protected natural setting for many family-oriented recreational activities.
View some of the top attractions in Ottawa.
But if you do need to leave Ottawa and travel for business or pleasure, Ottawa is located close to many major cities in both Canada and the United States.
What the experts say: best place in Canada
Ottawa has much to be proud of. More and more people are becoming aware of Ottawa’s advantages: A study by Canadian Business ranked Ottawa as Canada’s best place to live based on incomes, car ownership, unemployment rate, housing, weather and lifestyle. Cultural factors were a key element of Ottawa’s high ranking.
The City of Ottawa was ranked the best place to live in Canada by MoneySense Magazine in 2016. It's the second time in five years that Ottawa has taken the top spot! The big factors were a diverse private sector, a high quality of life for a low cost of living. Aside from a strong economy and high income, Ottawa also earns high marks being pedestrian and transit-friendly. And it was also ranked #1 as the best place to live for newcomers to Canada as well.
Canadian Business magazine ranked Ottawa 14th in the world and 3rd in North America in a 2009 survey of the best places to live. In 2010, Ottawa was among the top 10 per cent of cities globally in a ‘quality of living survey’ that included the economy, political system, education and schools, health, housing and the environment.
In November 2013, the City of Ottawa received a silver-level designation as a walk-friendly city by WALK Friendly Ontario – which is a recognition program that encourages municipalities to create and improve spaces and places to walk. This silver-level designation is the highest level awarded so far by the program – with only Ottawa and Hamilton receiving those honours.
In August 2013, the City also had the honour of being the first city in the province to receive the gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community Award by Share the Road Cycling Coalition, a cycling advocacy organization that works with Ontario municipalities to make their communities more bicycle-friendly.
The Conference Board of Canada has said that Ottawa leads all cities in Canada in knowledge occupations - that is, occupations characterized by their use of high technology, computing, knowledge intensive processes and creative activity. More than 1 in 4 workers are employed in the knowledge field.
Ottawa was rated as the best overall city in Canada based on a measure of technology, talent and tolerance. Ottawa was ahead of major cities like New York, Boston, Washington, San Jose and London, England.
Ottawa tied for 3rd in the world in the ranking of best eco-cities in 2010.
Ottawa was a finalist in the Intelligent Community of the Year awards for its use of broadband and information and communications technology needed to excel in today's global economy.
Multicultural and cosmopolitan
Due to its rich ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity, and its strong talent base, Ottawa has emerged as an exciting cosmopolitan centre. The City is the second largest destination for immigrants to Ontario, after Toronto, and is a major attractor of Francophone newcomers.
Ottawa is also a young city (with a relatively low median age) and one that is rapidly diversifying: In fact, one in four Ottawa residents is an immigrant, a population that is growing twice as fast as the rest of the City’s inhabitants. All parts of the world are represented with 53% of new arrivals coming from Asia and the Middle East, 17% from Africa, and 15% from Europe. This is reflected in the languages spoken in Ottawa, including Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Italian and German.
Ottawa’s diversity can also been seen in some of the City’s charming ethnic neighbourhoods. Chinatown, located close to downtown Ottawa, is a place for fantastic Chinese and Asian restaurants and food shops.
Another wonderful neighbourhood is Little Italy situated in Centretown and the original home of Ottawa's established Italian community. It’s hard to resist the great restaurants and outdoor cafes.
Internationally, Ottawa is linked to a sister city: Beijing, China
Bilingual character - both English and French
According to the most recent population census, approximately half of Ottawa and the surrounding region’s population is Anglophone, while a third is Francophone. Nearly half of the residents - combining Ottawa and Gatineau - speak both English and French. In fact, the number of bilingual residents has increased by 50,000 between 2006 and 2011.
The main business language in Ottawa is English, which is essential for economic success. Both the City of Ottawa and the federal government actively encourage bilingualism and work hard to ensure that residents can be served in either language.
Ottawa residents regard the presence of an active Francophone community both within the city and right next door, across the river, as significant assets, with great music, restaurants and bars, and boulangeries (French bakeries). Within Ottawa itself, Vanier is an older, primarily Francophone neighbourhood, bordering the Rideau River.
Ottawa also features a fully bilingual university – the University of Ottawa – which, based on various rankings, places within the top 250 schools in the world.
Knowledge economy and centre of learning
“Talent is at the heart of Ottawa's economic development. The region is recognized for having the highest number of residents with post-secondary education in Canada. More than half of its adult population (51 per cent) has a college degree and 43 per cent of its workforce is employed in creative occupations.”
“Ottawa leads all Canadian cities … with 26.4 per cent of its total employment in the knowledge field. … Ottawa has one in seven people working in the field of science or high technology … a consequence of the exceptional education system, modern educational facilities and the state-of-the-art research infrastructure provided by the region's academic institutions and the public and private sectors
“Part of the strength of Ottawa’s economy is the diversity of its industries. Ottawa’s knowledge-based sectors continue to grow, employing over 75,000 employees within 1,922 companies. The Knowledge Based Support Services sector is the largest … followed by the software sector … Aerospace and Defence, eBusiness, Telecommunications and Cleantech industries also have a significant impact … IBM is now Ottawa’s largest employer outside of the public sector.
Importantly, Ottawa offers 5 options for post-secondary education and an option to study in English or French or both. See the Study section.
Ottawa’s climate and environment
Ottawa offers four distinct seasons, each with its own special character and events. Summers are warm, spring and fall are cooler and winter temperatures are generally below freezing. How else could Ottawa offer a great winter festival, skiing and skating on the Rideau Canal?
Spring is a great time in Ottawa as temperatures rise, days get longer, flowers appear and the City turns green. It’s also time for the annual tulip festival.
10 Great Things to Do in Ottawa in Spring: (Video by Ottawa Tourism)
Summer is one of the best times in Ottawa when the cafes and outdoor activities really come to life. Bike paths are full of baby strollers, walkers, bikers, and in-line skaters. Parks are full of children, soccer players, dog walkers (and dogs). And the rivers are full of bathers, paddlers, rowers, and all sorts of boats. Festivals are also frequent and Canada Day is a great party for everyone, young and old. And, there’s beach volleyball too.
12 Great Things to Do in Ottawa in Summer: (Video by Ottawa Tourism)
Autumn / Fall
This is when temperatures slowly begin to drop featuring fabulous days when the sun is shining, the air is cool, and the skies are a vivid blue. A perfect backdrop for the fall colours – the spectacular time when the trees become bright orange, and red, and yellow. Everyone comments on how spectacular the trees are.
10 Great Things to Do in Ottawa in Fall: (Video by Ottawa Tourism)
There’s nothing to fear. All you need are warm clothes, hats, mitts and boots. Kids love it. It’s true that Ottawa's winters can be cold but they also present opportunities to ski, snowshoe, skate, ice-fish and snowmobile. The Rideau Canal is the largest skating surface in the world, with visitors coming from everywhere to skate and eat beavertails (pancakes with sugar).
Why I chose Ottawa
Thousands of immigrants settle in Ottawa each year. We asked them why they chose Ottawa; here are some of the reasons.
Small city, safe, quiet and bilingual
“I chose Ottawa because I was coming with my children and I wanted a small city, safe and quiet. I also liked the fact that the city was bilingual and my children would have the opportunity to learn English quickly.” - Caroline, Ivory Coast
Green, environment friendly city with lots of parks
“Ottawa is a green, environment friendly city with lots of parks. This beautiful city is neither huge nor small. It has lots services available such as LINK, OSICO, Algonquin College and so on for new immigrants to start their new life in Canada.” - Andrei, Republic of Belarus
Local professional opportunities
“We decided for Ottawa because of the local professional opportunities, the environment and because it is not a big city as Toronto but offers some of the cultural advantages of a capital city. When arriving in Canada we organized a medium of transport within a few days and took more than a month to visit 6 different (preselected) places in 2 provinces. We visited the surrounding, talked to job centres and immigration services. This time helped us a lot to mentally arrive in Canada and at the end of the journey we were 100% sure where we wanted to settle.” – Anja, Germany Paramedics
Vibrant arts and culture scene - making one feel as if living in a resort
“Ottawa is a safe, clean and fairly bike-accessible city. Moreover, it has a vibrant arts and culture scene, offering plenty of financially affordable ways to keep entertained. Also, for the outdoor lovers, it provides a variety of opportunities, making one feel as if living in a resort, once removed from the busy city arteries. Lots of bike trails- turning into ski trails in the winter, the Rideau Canal – for kayaking in the summer and skating in the winter, and much more. Last, friendly people - Ottawa is indeed a ‘big city with a small town feeling’.” – Cristina, Romania
Great & wonderful community
“Ottawa is a safe and quiet town with a great & wonderful community.” – Hashm, Iraq
People are friendly to newcomers and support for settlement
“I chose Ottawa in the first place because a friend offered her support until we could settle but then I decided that we would stay in Ottawa and not go anywhere else because:
- Ottawa is safe
- People are friendly to newcomers
- There are plenty of recreational options to enjoy all year long
- The city is very clean and developing really fast
- Is close enough to the south (to visit my country of origin)
- There are many immigrant serving organizations to support newcomers in their settlement period
- Has a lot of potential for personal and professional growth: reputable employers and educational institutions
- Ottawa has two large rivers and I love a city where I can enjoy landscapes with water
- It’s not the warmest city in Canada but it’s definitely not the coldest!
- It’s the capital! I enjoy very much Canada Day celebrations, it’s one of the first things that impressed me the most about Canada and Canadians, heartfelt/free-will patriotism
- I could go on and on… but I think I’ve said the main reasons for me” – Ledianis, Cuba
[Ledianis] My name is Ledianis.
[Alfredo] And I am Alfredo.
[Ledianis and Alfredo] We are from Cuba.
My name is Ledianis. I’m original from Cuba and I have been in Ottawa for more than three years now and I love the city. It is a wonderful city and I love that it is the capital so we can enjoy 100% celebrations for Canada Day.
It’s a sea of red and white and it is really amazing and it’s a lot of fun. So, I go to the city early in the morning so that we enjoy the fireworks. It’s really beautiful. Ottawa has so many attractions and festivals and museums and it’s really such a welcoming city. It has such a friendly atmosphere all the time, so I really love it and I would say anybody who’s coming to Canada, come to Ottawa.
[Alfredo] Hi, my name is Alfredo Mendez, I’m originally from Cuba. I live in Ottawa for three and a half years. I love Ottawa. I love Ottawa.
[Visual of group of people]
Ottawa is our home.
Capital city where there is a lot of opportunity
“I chose Ottawa because it is a safe and quiet city. Ottawa is the capital city where there is a lot of opportunity in my career as an interpreter and translator. Being in Ottawa is very convenient both for my family and me.” – Magued, Egypt
“I chose Ottawa because it is a city capital of Canada; my husband’s job is here.” – Mari, Japan Parliament
Ottawa chose me - City landscape and infrastructure
“I chose Ottawa, because Ottawa chose me. I applied to different universities across Canada to study Public Administration. I was accepted by Carleton Graduate School of Public Policy and Administration.
I fell in love with this city. I just felt home right away. Coming from a big, overpopulated and busy capital of Ukraine, I was fascinated to see Ottawa’s landscape: river, parks, green belt paths, playful squirrels, a baby deer, a porcupine, a fox and hares in a park across my building.
City infrastructure is very good. One does not have to have a personal car; public transport is very accessible. It is easy to get around the city. Settlement information is available at many locations throughout the city. I never had any cravings for my ethnic food. I was able to find anything I wanted at local stores. I had not problems finding and enrolling my child into a school and daycare.” - Natalia and Alex, Ukraine
Full of signs of history
“Ottawa is a beautiful city that is quite suitable for a family with little kids and full of signs of history. If you go to Downtown Ottawa you just enjoy the beauty of the old buildings.” – Yomna, Egypt
Range of museums and diversity of people
“I chose Ottawa because it is the headquarters of the Federal government. Apart from this fact Ottawa is quite near to the exciting metropolitan areas of Montreal and Toronto, and Ottawa also has a range of museums and diversity of people that makes living in the city an enriching experience.” – Fitzgerald, USA via Guyana and Jamaica
Well known, outstanding Universities and Colleges
“I chose Ottawa, because it is a capital of Canada, and I use to live in the capital city of my country. The more I researched about Ottawa, the more I fell in love with this beautiful city. It has well known, outstanding Universities and Colleges, it is a clean government city, surrounded by nature, the beautiful Ottawa River. It is very safe to raise a family, has beautiful museums, art centres, even an NHL hockey team, not to mention the Rideau Canal. Most importantly Ottawa has endless opportunities to obtain a meaningful employment and education.” – Livia, Slovakia
Low rate of crime
“Because, my brother and many of the friends are living in Ottawa. Ottawa is a nice, clean city with a low rate of crime with great people and good educational institutions (school, college and university). (BUT VERY COLD IN INTER)” – Siamak, Iran
The life tempo is slow
“The education in Ottawa is quite good for the children. There are several public schools. It is a safe and quiet city with a lot of natural signs, and wonderful snowing. The life tempo is slow here, so you can take a breath.” – Weyii, China
Good city to raise children
“Ottawa is a good city to raise children.” - Maria, Colombia
High quality of life, variety of restaurants and cuisine
“I like Ottawa because it is a good place to be with a high quality of life. Ottawa has a lot to offer and has the amenities of a big city like different neighbourhoods, and a variety of restaurants and cuisine, while having a charming small town feel to it. I like the festival season a lot, with the tulip festival and Bluesfest, for example. But I also like Winterlude very much. Ottawa is also very green with lots of parks and some beaches and close to the Gatineau Park. I also very much appreciate the bilingualism in Ottawa. Even though I don't use my French very much, there are many opportunities to take courses here. I have been going to French class for the past two years to keep up my language skills which I find very important in Ottawa. I feel that I have integrated very well here.
I feel very integrated into the culture here, which is quite diverse in Ottawa. There are people from many different backgrounds and I have made many friends from all over the world. Having my partner and his family has also helped me a lot to integrate, and are definitely a reason why I call Ottawa my home.” – Nina, Germany
Every single cry and laughter, minute, hour, month and year was worth it
“Our Director forwarded your testimonial form to my attention. I completed it today , and as it took me back to the journey of my life as a newcomer 23 years ago, the first thing came to my mind was; “Every single cry and laughter, minute, hour, month and year was worth it !!!” Hope the information, based on my experience as an immigrant will be helpful for future new comers to Canada, this beautiful country I am so proud to call home.” – Livia, Slovakia
[Salimatou] Hello, my name is Salimatou and I am from Guinea. I have been living in Ottawa now for 10 years. I decided to move here after finishing school in order to find a job that suited my career path. I chose Ottawa first and foremost because it is a very safe city. It is a city with a lot of opportunities for immigrants.
Ottawa offers many opportunities for families. It is a city with a lot of hospitals, a lot of sports teams, and a lot of Francophone schools. So, it is truly a very dynamic lifestyle for Francophone immigrants because there is a very vibrant Francophone community here.
Not only is Ottawa the best place to live in Canada, but it is also ranked the 14th best place to live in the world and 3rd in North America.
[Bernard and family] Hello. My name is Bernard. We have been in Canada for two and a half years. We came here in the hope of finding the best place for us as a couple. We visited several cities and areas in Canada. And finally, we returned to Ottawa, finding that it was the best compromise between a large city and having nature close by.
[Visual of Group of people]
Ottawa is our home.
Quality of life
A family friendly place to live
A 2012 ranking of Canadian cities, in terms of their appeal to families, ranked Ottawa second in all of Canada (Reader’s Digest Best Canadian Cities to Raise a Family).
This is because Ottawa has one of the lowest violent crime rates of all cities in Canada, great public transportation, lots of easy-to-reach family-friendly libraries, and a relatively young population. Families feel at home in Ottawa and no matter what the season, there’s always lots for them to do, from skating on the canal to biking and picnics in one of the many parks. The Ottawa Canal is frozen in the winter, producing a Skateway that is seven kilometres long and can be used free of charge. Ottawa also boasts over 170 kilometres of bike paths, and an abundance of city parks.
There’s lots of room for everyone in Ottawa, with more space per person than in other big Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal. And if you are looking to get out of the city for the day, Ottawa is surrounded by farmland, rolling hills, and areas of natural wilderness.
[Hala, Farida and Omar] Hi my name is Hala. My name is Farida. And my name is Omar. We’re from Egypt.
[Hala] Hi My name is Hala. I am from Egypt. I came here almost two years ago. I came August 2011. What I like about Ottawa is that it's the capital city.
And I asked about it because I went to many places in Canada. I went to Vancouver Toronto, Quebec. I went through really everything 13 years ago then when I decided to come and bring my kids and live. They told me Ottawa is the best place because for my family. And I want to bring my kids in safe place with lot of cultures, like you know people from everywhere. I like the idea that in Ottawa I can mingle with everyone because everyone respects each other to a very good degree. They give us opportunities (the CIC the Catholic immigration Center) everywhere I've been to really they help immigrants to find their way. They give us every kind of education so that we can know the Canadian culture and what we can expect from this great city. I love everything about it
Hello, my name is Omar I've been here for a year. I really like the multi-cultural style of Ottawa. It doesn't make me feel like I'm too far away from my ethnic background because every occasion, every celebration that we celebrate, it’s celebrated here
And it doesn't feel like I'm…I don't feel different. I feel like this is where I belong, and everyone just makes me feel so at ease. And the fact that my university there is so many different cultural people, so many different cultural backgrounds it's very easy to get along and just enjoy. Enjoy life.
It’s really helped me figure out exactly what I've been for my future, so that’s good too. It is a fun place there's a fairly large amount of things to do in Ottawa, there are a lot of different places a lot of different things to experience. It's just a wonderful place and I can't imagine myself living anywhere else in Canada, other than Ottawa.
[Visual of Group of people]
Ottawa is our home.
The schools in Ottawa provide a first-rate education, with Ottawa students on average scoring higher than provincial averages in most areas of reading, writing, and mathematics. Outside of school hours, there are many organized activities for children and youth in Ottawa, including sports, arts, and music. There are even organized activities for families, from nature walks to crafts and parent-child fitness classes. And Grandma and Grandpa won’t be left out: there are also seniors recreation programs and activities to choose from. Don’t think you can afford these activities? The City of Ottawa offers financial help to those who can’t afford to pay program fees for City-run programs. Find more information on sports, recreation, and other fun activities for residents of Ottawa.
Abundance of parks and paths for walking, hiking, and cycling
Ottawa is known for its greenery and the choices it offers for a leisurely stroll or a bike ride through its natural areas. There are over 1,000 parks in the city and four beaches.
The city is also surrounded by natural areas including Gatineau Park and The Ottawa Greenbelt, including over 200 square kilometres of protected greenspace.
Paths for bicycling, walking, jogging, and in-line skating are plentiful, and range from recreational pathways in the city to hiking and cycling paths through surrounding forests and wilderness areas. Visit the NCC or cycling in Ottawa and Gatineau for a listing of recreational paths in Ottawa and the surrounding region.
Excellent health care
Ottawa has excellent medical facilities, and world-class health care. There are four major hospitals in the city, including The Ottawa Hospital, The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Queensway-Carleton Hospital, and Montfort Hospital. The Ottawa Hospital is one of the largest teaching hospitals in Canada, and one of Ottawa’s largest employers. There are also a number of specialized hospitals and clinics in the area, including the Royal Ottawa Hospital that provides mental health care.
Ottawa is fortunate to have a good ratio of doctors to patients in the city, with 2.64 doctors for every 1,000 people, quite a bit higher than the Canadian average of 2.20 doctors for every 1,000 people. It is also the case that over 5% of city residents are health professionals. Visit Ottawa Public Health or the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres for more information on accessing medical services in Ottawa.
Ottawa is not the cheapest place to live in Canada, but compared to cities like Toronto and Vancouver, residents of Ottawa generally need to spend less of their monthly income on housing, and on average they are able to save up for a down payment on their own home within 3-4 years. Ottawa has a variety of vibrant neighbourhoods to live in, and a large range of housing options.
Safe and secure
Ottawa is a safe place to live, with a low crime rate. In fact, in 2011, the rate of violent crimes in Ottawa - 821 per 100,000 people - was well below the Canadian national average of 1,231 per 100,000, making it a much safer place to live than cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, and lower than the rates for many smaller towns. Overall, Canada also has a much lower violent crime rate than the United States. What better place to raise a family and to enjoy your life than in safe Ottawa?
Convenient transportation within the city and to locations around the world
Ottawa has an award-winning public transit system - OC Transpo - that includes a regular bus service on fixed routes, a rapid transit bus system with high frequency service on a Transitway used by buses and emergency vehicles only, and a light rail transit system – the O-Train – operating on a north-south route. Options are available for people with mobility impairments, with all buses and trains wheelchair accessible, and a dedicated service called Para Transpo for those who are unable to take buses and trains because of their disability. All this adds up to a convenient system of public transportation, with over 1,000 buses and three trains currently serving nearly 370,000 daily riders. In addition, the City of Ottawa’s world-class light rail transit system is now under construction. Visit OC Transpo for more information on services, routes and maps.
For those times when a car is needed, Ottawa has a convenient car-sharing service called VRTUCAR.
Many people in Ottawa also walk or bike to work, with over 31,000 residents walking to work, and about 9,000 riding their bikes. There are bike and walking paths along the canal and two rivers of Ottawa, and a separated-off bike lane on designated streets in the downtown to make travelling to work easier.
Ottawa is home to the 6th busiest passenger traffic airport in Canada, with direct routes to many locations within Canada and throughout the world. This airport serves the needs of more than 4 million travellers annually, and in 2012 it was ranked first in North America for customer satisfaction with services and facilities by the Airports Council International, which conducts yearly surveys of passengers.
Trains to other cities are also available, through Via Rail. Trains are especially an affordable way to travel, and are generally clean and comfortable.
Arts and culture
Festivals and events
Ottawa is a city of festivals and events, with over 100 taking place each year. In the spring there is the Canadian Tulip Festival, which has been taking place in Ottawa for over 60 years.
Summer festivals include the Ottawa Bluesfest – one of the top 10 outdoor music festivals in the world, the Festival franco-ontarien, the Ottawa International Children’s Festival, the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, and of course, the Canada Day celebration.
Fall festivals include the Ottawa CityFolk Festival and Little Italy’s Grapefest.
The most well-known winter festival is Winterlude – a celebration of winter activities spanning three weekends in February. Ottawa festivals and events will get you out of the house and enjoying all that Ottawa has to offer.
View a listing of Ottawa festivals and events.
There are also many festivals and events in Ottawa that celebrate cultural groups throughout the city. These include:
- Haiti en fête
- Italian Week
and many others.
Agricultural Fairs are a great outing for the whole family, with many available in and around Ottawa including:
- the Carp Fair
- the Richmond Fair
- the Navan Fair
- and the Metcalfe Fair
People from all over the world
As Canada’s capital, Ottawa attracts people from all over the world to tour its historic sites and landmarks, enjoy its arts and culture, and appreciate its sights and sounds. Ottawa is recognized as a beautiful city by day and night, where families and visitors of all ages will find something to enjoy. More than 7 million visitors a year are attracted to the Ottawa region, and tourism is the third largest industry and job creator in the city.
Restaurants and foods from around the world
As a truly multicultural city, Ottawa is able to serve up foods from around the world. Whether it is in restaurants, markets, or specialty food stores for use at home, foods from everywhere are readily available and easy to obtain. This includes foods from China, India, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Eastern and Western Europe, and many other places.
Farmers markets in various areas of the city (e.g., the Westboro Farmer’s Market, the Brewer Park Market, and others) mean that fresh produce can be obtained in season: see Ottawa farmers market for a listing of markets throughout the city.
ByWard Market, not too far from Parliament Hill, hosts one of Canada’s oldest farmers’ markets, as well as cafes, restaurants, and clubs.
Other great restaurant neighbourhoods include Chinatown, Little Italy, Westboro, Hintonburg, the Glebe, and New Edinburgh.
Music around the capital
The Ottawa Bluesfest is an annual outdoor music festival that takes place each July. In addition to blues, the festival also features rock and pop music. Bluesfest has become the largest blues festival in Canada and the second largest in North America.
The Ottawa Jazz Festival was founded in 1980 by local musicians who wanted a summertime jazz festival. It grew quickly, attracting international names and ever larger crowds. The festival also began to include different types of music beyond traditional jazz. Both outdoor and indoor events are featured, including popular late night jam sessions.
Ottawa Chamberfest began in 1994 as the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival with 22 concerts in two churches, and was an immediate hit. Growing steadily over the years, in 2012 Ottawa Chamberfest presented almost 100 concerts, attracting over 80,000 listeners and is the largest chamber music festival of its kind in the world. Although the concerts are primarily traditional classical music, the scope has expanded to include music by pop and jazz composers and also music from non-European countries.
The Ottawa Symphony Orchestra is a full size orchestra that includes professional, student and amateur musicians. With around 100 musicians, it is Ottawa's largest orchestra. The Ottawa Symphony Orchestra presents a series of five concerts each season at the National Arts Centre. In recent years the Orchestra has attained new levels of artistic excellence, and has experienced growth in its audiences.
Ottawa also has lots to do at night, with friendly clubs, pubs, and bars, especially at Byward Market, Elgin Street, Preston Street, Westboro, Hintonburg, Chinatown, and across the river in Hull. Many are open until 2 am or later, so you can spend time out with friends, meet new people, and enjoy music, dancing, and evening entertainment.
Museums and galleries
Ottawa is home to an amazing 29 museums - including 12 significant national museums - as well as the National Gallery, the National Arts Centre, and many historic sites.
The Canadian Museum of History, located on the Hull side of the Ottawa River, is Canada’s most visited museum, and covers 1000 years of Canadian history as well as world cultures, with a special Children’s Museum designed to provide activities and engage the curious minds of young people. Special exhibits are also brought in to provide variety and promote new knowledge.
Take a quick tour of the Canadian Museum of History (formerly called the Canadian Museum of Civilization)
The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s newest national museum, and includes both permanent and special exhibits dedicated to documenting Canada’s role in global conflicts and the effects of these conflicts on all of humanity. The museum is known for its prize-winning architecture and thought-provoking displays.
The Canadian Museum of Nature has beautiful modern galleries and exhibits displaying the natural environment of Canada that will appeal to the whole family. From dinosaurs to whales, insects to polar bears, minerals to a river aquarium, the museum has both permanent exhibits and special exhibits focusing on interesting new topics.
Take a quick tour of the Museum of Nature
The Canada Science and Technology Museum is also a place for families, where visitors can push buttons, turn dials, and pull levers to learn how things work. Displays feature Canadian inventions; trains, cars, and other forms of transportation; technological inventions such as telescopes and rockets; an energy exhibition; and modern telecommunication.
Take a quick tour of the Canada Science and Technology Museum
The National Gallery of Canada, one of Canada’s oldest national cultural institutions, houses the country’s national art collection, with international exhibitions presented throughout the year.
Take a quick tour of the National Gallery of Canada
Ottawa also have several Community museums, for a complete list of visit the “Community museums” page.
The National Arts Centre presents live performances of drama, comedies, musicals and family entertainment in both English and French.
Meridian Theatre at Centrepointe hosts performers from Canada and around the world. The theatre has welcomed more Juno-winning artists than any other theatre in the region. Many future superstars get their first opportunity to perform on Centrepointe’s stage.
The Shenkman Arts Centre provides space for performing arts presentations and visual art exhibitions, as well as space for instruction in a variety of arts. It offers services and programs in both English and French.
Canada's longest running community theatre, Ottawa Little Theatre, offers a great place to watch live theatre. Started in 1913, it is the longest-running community theatre company in Canada. It presents eight plays per year from September through May.
The Great Canadian Theatre Company is a professional company started by a group of professors and graduate students at Ottawa’s Carleton University. Its original goal was to produce only Canadian plays, especially those with social and political relevance. Today the Company features an expanded line up of plays, along with more community-based activities.
La Nouvelle Scène is a French language theatre that is used for productions by four Ottawa theatre companies, and hosts a large number of artistic activities. It attracts more than 20,000 visitors each year.
Cultural Access Pass
A gift to each Canadian citizen during their first year of citizenship, the Cultural Access Pass provides complimentary admission to more than 1000 of Canada's cultural treasures from coast-to-coast-to-coast. The Cultural Access Pass creates opportunities for Canada's newest citizens to discover our rich cultural history, world-renowned artworks, historical figures and stunning parks.
Recreation and sports
Ottawa is an active city with an enormous number of outdoor and indoor recreation activities to choose from. There’s something for everyone, regardless of age. And many of the activities are free.
For those who like to be active outdoors, Ottawa's recreational paths is a great place for jogging, hiking, biking or walking. In fact, RunPlanet – a worldwide resource for runners – has referred to Ottawa as a “joggers paradise”.
The Ottawa Race Weekend each spring welcomes runners from around the world for a series of races that include the prestigious Ottawa Marathon.
For more serious walkers and hikers, the Ottawa Outdoor Club organizes outdoor recreational activities year-round at minimal cost.
A special feature of the National Capital Region is Gatineau Park. The Park is stunningly beautiful and rugged, with unique plants and wildlife. Conservation is a priority. The Park provides a fabulous venue for outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, cycling and more!
Ottawa is also a terrific city for cycling and in-line skating, with over 170 kms of recreational pathways, the most extensive off-road, multi-use system of its kind in North America. For a slightly bigger challenge, serious cyclists head to Gatineau Park to get the thrills of climbing and descending the many hills.
- Maps of cycling routes
- Here is a quick cycling tour of Ottawa: Source: Ottawa Tourism
The Canadian Cycling Association's CAN-BIKE program offers courses on all aspects of cycling safely.
Because Ottawa is surrounded and bisected by water everywhere, there are an enormous number of water related sports to choose from: swimming, rowing, kayaking and canoeing. These can be done individually but also through sports clubs that feature both recreational and elite programs.
Of course in Ottawa, outdoor activities don’t end when the weather turns cold. Instead, summer equipment is put away and active residents turn to skating, skiing, and snowshoeing.
Skate through the heart of downtown Ottawa on the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Over 200 kilometres of groomed trails exist in the Gatineau hills, for classic cross-country skiers and skate skiers.
There are also 55 kilometres of trails that are reserved for snowshoeing. And another 150 kilometres of cross-country ski trails can be found in the Greenbelt that encircles Ottawa. These trails are perfect for beginner and family outings.
For those who prefer to go downhill skiing, the area around Ottawa has a large number of hills that are used for snowboarding and downhill skiing.
And for participants who are over 50 years of age, Ottawa offers an Active Living Club.
The City of Ottawa provides inclusive sport and physical activity programs for people of all ages as well as help residents find out about organized sport organizations and associations.
Special programs are designed to encourage females to participate in sport and physical activity as players, coaches or officials: Girls ‘n Women and Sport
And, financial support is available for families and for children from the City of Ottawa’s Hand in Hand program and KidSport. Hand in Hand helps Ottawa residents take part in sports, day camps, gymnastics, dance and other activities.
The following links provide access to the City of Ottawa’s recreation guide as well as special programs for youth and adults:
- Many of the programs are offered at schools at night or at one of the City’s recreational centres or outdoor facilities. The sports include soccer, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, badminton, curling, hockey and many others.
- Parks and recreation
A source of news about local sports, news and information is the Ottawa Sportspage, published by SportsOttawa.com.
Ottawa is home to a number of professional sports franchises, the best know of which are the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League. In addition, Ottawa also hosts the Titans, a Junior A Lacrosse team; the Ottawa 67’s and its rival in Gatineau, the Gatineau Olympiques, both Major Junior Hockey League teams; and the up-and-coming Ottawa Fury soccer team.
The recreational activities and sports described elsewhere in this section of the website do not come close to describing the host of opportunities available to residents.
There is golf.
For those who are more adventurous, how about horseback riding? There is a 10-kilometre horseback riding trail in Gatineau Park which opens annually from June through October.
Or, what about rock climbing on the Eardley Escarpment at Gatineau Park where there are 64 climbing routes divided on five rock faces.
Turning to winter, there are similar adventures, such as snowmobiling. Ottawa residents have easy access to the 43,000 kms of maintained, interconnected, uncongested trails throughout Ontario.
For those who are more patient, there’s always ice-fishing on the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau Rivers, all within easy reach.