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. Ottawa is also multicultural with a large and growing immigrant population that enriches the city.
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.
Take a tour of ByWard Market: (Video by Ottawa Tourism)
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.
Ottawa is one of six cities in the country receiving top marks for attracting newcomers, according to the Conference Board of Canada in a report released September 2014. Ottawa ranked well in four key categories: Society, education, innovation, and economy.
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.
Take a tour of Chinatown:
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.
Take a tour of Little Italy:
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).
Winter Experiences in Ottawa: (Video by Ottawa Tourism)