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City (single-tier)
City of Ottawa
Ville d'Ottawa
Centre Block on Parliament Hill, the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Rideau Canal and Château Laurier.
Flag of Ottawa
Coat of arms of Ottawa
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): "Bytown"[1]
Motto: "Advance-Ottawa-En Avant"
Written in the two official languages.[2]
Location of Ottawa in the Province of Ontario
Location of Ottawa in the Province of Ontario
Ottawa is located in Canada
Location of Ottawa in Canada
Coordinates: Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Country Canada
Province Ontario
Region National Capital Region
Established 1826 as Bytown[3]
Incorporated 1855 as City of Ottawa[3]
Amalgamated 1 January 2001
 • Mayor Jim Watson
 • City Council Ottawa City Council
 • MPs
 • MPPs
 • City (single-tier) 2,778.13 km2 (1,072.9 sq mi)
 • Urban 501.92 km2 (193.79 sq mi)
 • Metro 5,716.00 km2 (2,206.96 sq mi)
Elevation 70 m (230 ft)
Population (2011)[4][6]
 • City (single-tier) 883,391 (4th)
 • Density 316.6/km2 (820/sq mi)
 • Urban 933,596
 • Urban density 1,860.1/km2 (4,818/sq mi)
 • Metro 1,236,324 (4th)
 • Metro density 196.6/km2 (509/sq mi)
 • Demonym[7][8] Ottawan
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC−5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Postal code span K0A, K1A-K4C[2]
Area code(s) 613, 343
GDP US$ 58.2 billion [9]
GDP per capita US$ 44,149[9]

Ottawa (Listeni/ˈɒtəwə/ or /ˈɒtəwɑː/) is the capital city of Canada. It stands on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario. Ottawa borders Gatineau, Quebec; the two form the core of the Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) and the National Capital Region (NCR).[10] The 2011 census reported a population of 883,391 within the city, making it the fourth-largest city in Canada, and 1,236,324 within the CMA, making it the fourth-largest CMA in Canada. The City of Ottawa has since estimated it had a population of 951,727 in 2014.[11]

Founded in 1826 as Bytown, and incorporated as "Ottawa" in 1855, the city has evolved into a political and technological centre of Canada. Its original boundaries were expanded through numerous minor annexations and were ultimately replaced by a new city incorporation and major amalgamation in 2001 which significantly increased its land area. The city name "Ottawa" was chosen in reference to the Ottawa River nearby, which is a word derived from the Algonquin word Odawa, meaning "to trade".[12]

The city is among the most educated in Canada,[citation needed] with several post-secondary, research, and cultural institutions. Ottawa has a high standard of living and low unemployment. It ranks 2nd out of 150[13] in the Numbeo quality of life index, 14th out of 221 in the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, and it contains a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


With the draining of the Champlain Sea around 10,000 years ago the Ottawa Valley became habitable.[14] The area was used for wild edible harvesting, hunting, fishing, trade, travel, and camps for over 6500 years by local populations. The Ottawa river valley has archaeological sites with arrow heads, pottery, and stone tools. The area has three major rivers that meet, making it an important trade and travel area for thousands of years.[15] The Algonquins called the Ottawa River Kichi Sibi or Kichissippi meaning "Great River" or "Grand River".[16][17][18][19]

Étienne Brûlé, the first European to travel up the Ottawa River, passed by Ottawa in 1610 on his way to the Great Lakes.[17] Three years later, Samuel de Champlain wrote about the waterfalls of the area and about his encounters with the Algonquins, who had been using the Ottawa River for centuries.[20] The early explorers and traders were later followed by many missionaries. The first maps of the area used the word Ottawa to name the river.

Philemon Wright, a New Englander, created the first settlement in the area on 7 March 1800 on the north side of the river, across from Ottawa in Hull.[21][22] He, with five other families and twenty-five labourers,[16] set about to create an agricultural community[23] called Wrightsville. Wright pioneered the Ottawa Valley timber trade (soon to be the area's most significant economic activity) by transporting timber by river from the Ottawa Valley to Quebec City.[24]

Bytown, Ottawa's original name, was founded as a community in 1826 when hundreds of land speculators were attracted to the south side of the river when news spread that British authorities were immediately constructing the northerly end of the Rideau Canal military project at that location.[25][26] The following year, the town would soon be named after British military engineer Colonel John By who was responsible for the entire Rideau Waterway construction project. The military purpose of the canal was to provide a secure route between Montreal and Kingston on Lake Ontario, bypassing the stretch of the St. Lawrence River bordering the state of New York that had left the British forces easily exposed to American enemy fire during the War of 1812.[27] Colonel By set up military barracks on the site of today's Parliament Hill. He also laid out the streets of the town and created two distinct neighbourhoods named "Upper Town" west of the canal and "Lower Town" east of the canal. Similar to its Upper Canada and Lower Canada namesakes, historically 'Upper Town' was predominantly English speaking and Protestant whereas 'Lower Town' was predominantly French, Irish and Catholic.[28] Bytown's population grew to 1,000 as the Rideau Canal was being completed in 1832.[29][30] Bytown encountered some impassioned and violent times in her early pioneer period that included Irish labour unrest that attributed to the Shiners' War from 1835 to 1845[31] and political dissension that was evident from the 1849 Stony Monday Riot.[32] In 1855 Bytown was renamed Ottawa and incorporated as a city.[33]

Bytown in 1853. Military Barracks on hill top was occupied by "A" Company of the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment, presently home to Parliament Hill.

On New Year's Eve 1857, Queen Victoria as a symbolic and political gesture was presented with the responsibility of selecting a location for the permanent capital of the Province of Canada.[34] In reality Prime Minister John A. McDonald had assigned this selection process to the Executive Branch of the Government as previous attempts to arrive at a consensus had ended in deadlock.[35] The 'Queen's choice' turned out to be the small frontier town of Ottawa for two main reasons:[36] Firstly, Ottawa's isolated location in a back country surrounded by dense forest far from the American border and situated on a cliff face would make it more defensible from attack.[37][38] Secondly, Ottawa was located approximately midway between Toronto and Kingston (in Canada West) and Montreal and Quebec City (in Canada East). Additionally, despite Ottawa's regional isolation it had seasonal water transportation access to Montreal over the Ottawa River and to Kingston via the Rideau Waterway. By 1854 it also had a modern all season Bytown and Prescott Railway that carried passengers, lumber and supplies the 82 kilometre distance to Prescott on the Saint Lawrence River and beyond.[16][37] The small size of the town it was thought would make it less prone to rampaging politically motivated mobs, as had happened in the previous Canadian capitals.[39] The government already owned the land that would eventually become Parliament Hill which they thought would be an ideal location for building the Parliament Buildings. Ottawa was the only settlement of any substantial size that was already located directly on the border of French populated former Lower Canada and English populated former Upper Canada thus additionally making the selection an important political compromise.[40] Queen Victoria made her 'Queen's choice' very quickly just before welcoming in the New Year.

Centre Block on Parliament Hill under construction in 1863

Starting in the 1850s, large sawmills began to be erected by entrepreneurs known as lumber barons, and these became some of the largest mills in the world.[41] Rail lines erected in 1854 connected Ottawa to areas south and to the transcontinental rail network via Hull and Lachute, Quebec in 1886.[42] The original Parliament buildings which included the Centre, East and West Blocks were constructed between 1859 and 1866 in the Gothic Revival style.[43] At the time, this was the largest North American construction project ever attempted and Public Works Canada and its architects were not initially well prepared. The Library of Parliament and Parliament Hill landscaping would not be completed until 1876.[44] By 1885 Ottawa was the only city in Canada whose downtown street lights were powered entirely by electricity.[45] In 1889 the Government developed and distributed 60 'water leases' (still currently in use) to mainly local industrialists which gave them permission to generate electricity and operate hydroelectric generators at Chaudière Falls.[46] Public transportation began in 1870 with a horsecar system,[47] overtaken in the 1890s by a vast electric streetcar system that lasted until 1959. The Hull–Ottawa fire of 1900 destroyed two thirds of Hull, including 40 per cent of its residential buildings and most of its largest employers along the waterfront.[48] The fire also spread across the Ottawa River and destroyed about one fifth of Ottawa from the Lebreton Flats south to Booth Street and down to Dow's Lake.[49] On 1 June 1912 the Grand Trunk Railway opened both the Chateau Laurier hotel and its neighbouring downtown Union Station.[50][51] On 3 February 1916 the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings was destroyed by a fire.[52] The House of Commons and Senate was temporarily relocated to the then recently constructed Victoria Memorial Museum, now the Canadian Museum of Nature[53] until the completion of the new Centre Block in 1922, the centrepiece of which is a dominant Gothic revival styled structure known as the Peace Tower.[54] The current location of what is now known as Confederation Square was a former commercial district centrally located in a triangular area downtown surrounded by historically significant heritage buildings which includes the Parliament buildings. It was redeveloped as a ceremonial centre in 1938 as part of the City Beautiful Movement and became the site of the National War Memorial in 1939 and designated a National Historic Site in 1984.[55] A new Central Post Office (currently the Privy Council of Canada) was constructed in 1939 beside the War Memorial because the original post office building located on the proposed Confederation Square grounds had to be demolished.

Looking east down Rideau Street. In view: the Union Station on the right, and the (now demolished) Daly Building on the left. 1922

Ottawa's former industrial appearance was vastly altered by the 1950 Greber Plan. French architect-planner Jacques Greber was hired by then Prime Minister Mackenzie King to design an urban plan for managing development in the National Capital Region to make it more aesthetically pleasing and thus more befitting a location that was the political centre of Canada.[56][57] Greber's plan included the creation of the National Capital Greenbelt, the Parkway, the Queensway highway system, the relocation of downtown Union Station (now the Government Conference Centre) to the suburbs, the removal of the street car system, the decentralization of selected government offices, the relocation of industries and removal of substandard housing from the downtown and the creation of the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River pathways to name just a few of its recommendations.[56][58][59] In 1958 the National Capital Commission was established as a Crown Corporation from the passing of the National Capital Act in order to implement the Greber Plan recommendations which it successfully accomplished during the 1960s and 1970s. In the previous 50 years, other commissions, plans and projects had tried and failed to implement plans to improve the capital such as the 1899 Ottawa Improvement Commission (OIC), The Todd Plan in 1903, The Holt Report in 1915 and The Federal District Commission (FDC) established in 1927.[60] In 1958 a new City Hall opened on Green Island near Rideau falls where urban renewal had recently transformed this former industrial location into green space.[61] Until then, City Hall had temporarily been located for 27 years (1931-1958) at the Transportation Building adjacent to Union Station and now part of the Rideau Centre. In 2001, Ottawa City Hall moved back downtown to a relatively new building (1990) on 110 Laurier Avenue West that had been the home of the now defunct Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. This new downtown location was very close to Ottawa's first (1849-1877) and second (1877-1931) City Halls. Also included in this new city hall complex was an adjacent 19th century restored heritage building formerly known as the Ottawa Normal School.[61]

From the 1960s until the 1980s, the National Capital Region experienced a building boom.[62] This was followed by large growth in the high-tech industry during the 1990s and 2000s.[63] Ottawa became one of Canada's largest high tech cities and was nicknamed Silicon Valley North. By the 1980s, Bell Northern Research (later Nortel) employed thousands, and large federally assisted research facilities such as the National Research Council contributed to an eventual technology boom. The early adopters led to offshoot companies such as Newbridge Networks, Mitel and Corel.

Ottawa's city limits had been increasing over the years, but it acquired the most territory on January 1, 2001, when it amalgamated all the municipalities of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton into one single city.[64] Regional Chair Bob Chiarelli was elected as the new city's first mayor in the 2000 municipal election, defeating Gloucester mayor Claudette Cain. The city's growth led to strains on the public transit system and to bridges. On October 15, 2001, a diesel-powered light rail transit (LRT) line was introduced on an experimental basis. This line, known today as the Trillium Line, was dubbed the O-Train and connected downtown Ottawa to the southern suburbs via Carleton University. The decision to extend the O-Train (today the Trillium Line), and to replace it with an electric light rail system was a major issue in the 2006 municipal elections where Chiarelli was defeated by businessman Larry O'Brien. After O'Brien's election transit plans were changed to establish a series of light rail stations from the east side of the city into downtown, and for using a tunnel through the downtown core. Jim Watson, who had been the last mayor of Ottawa prior to amalgamation, was re-elected in the 2010 election.[65]

In October 2012, City Council approved the final Lansdowne Park plan, an agreement with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group that will see a new stadium, increased green space, and housing and retail added to the site.[66][67] In December 2012, City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the Confederation Line, a 12.5 km light rail transit line, to be fully operational by 2018.[68]


In view from left to right: Gatineau the Ottawa River and Downtown Ottawa

Ottawa is situated on the south bank of the Ottawa River and contains the mouths of the Rideau River and Rideau Canal.[69] The older part of the city (including what remains of Bytown) is known as Lower Town, and occupies an area between the canal and the rivers. Across the canal to the west lies Centretown and Downtown Ottawa, which is the city's financial and commercial hub. As of 29 June 2007, the Rideau Canal, which stretches 202 km (126 mi) to Kingston, Fort Henry and four Martello towers in the Kingston area was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[70]

Located on a major, yet mostly dormant fault line,[71] Ottawa is occasionally struck by earthquakes. Examples include a magnitude 5.2 earthquake on 1 January 2000,[72] a magnitude 4.5 earthquake on 24 February 2006,[73] a magnitude 5.0 earthquake on 23 June 2010,[74] and a magnitude 5.2 earthquake on 17 May 2013.[75]

Ottawa sits at the confluence of three major rivers: the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the Rideau River.[76] The Ottawa and Gatineau rivers were historically important in the logging and lumber industries and the Rideau as part of the Rideau Canal system for military, commercial and, subsequently, recreational purposes.[76] The Rideau Canal (Rideau Waterway) first opened in 1832 and is 202 kilometers in length. It connects the Saint Lawrence River on Lake Ontario at Kingston, Ontario to the Ottawa River near Parliament Hill. It was able to bypass the unnavigable sections of the Cataraqui and Rideau Rivers and various small lakes along the waterway due to flooding techniques and the construction of 47 water transport locks.The Rideau River got its name from early French explorers who thought that the water falls located at the point where the Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River resembled a 'curtain'. Hence they began naming the falls and river 'rideau' which is the French equivalent of the English word for curtain.[77][20] During part of the winter season the Ottawa section of the canal forms the world's largest skating rink thereby providing both a recreational venue and a 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi) transportation path to downtown for ice skaters (from Carleton University and Dow's Lake to the Rideau Centre and National Arts Centre).[78]

Across the Ottawa River, which forms the border between Ontario and Quebec, lies the city of Gatineau, itself the result of amalgamation of the former Quebec cities of Hull and Aylmer together with Gatineau.[79] Although formally and administratively separate cities in two separate provinces, Ottawa and Gatineau (along with a number of nearby municipalities) collectively constitute the National Capital Region, which is considered a single metropolitan area. One federal crown corporation, the National Capital Commission, or NCC, has significant land holdings in both cities, including sites of historical and touristic importance. The NCC, through its responsibility for planning and development of these lands, is an important contributor to both cities. Around the main urban area is an extensive greenbelt, administered by the National Capital Commission for conservation and leisure, and comprising mostly forest, farmland and marshland.[80]


Ottawa has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb)[81] with four distinct seasons and is between Zones 5a and 5b on the Canadian Plant Hardiness Scale.[82] The average July maximum temperature is 26.5 °C (80 °F). The average January minimum temperature is −14.8 °C (5.4 °F)

Summers are warm and humid in Ottawa. Daytime temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) or higher are commonplace. Ottawa averages many days with humidex (combined temperature & humidity index) between 30 and 40 °C (86 and 104 °F) annually. Snow and ice are dominant during the winter season. Ottawa receives about 224 centimetres (88 in) of snowfall annually. Days above freezing and nights below −20 °C (−4 °F) both occur in the winter.

Spring and fall are variable, prone to extremes in temperature and unpredictable swings in conditions. Hot days above 30 °C (86 °F) have occurred as early as March (as in 2012) or as late as October, although such events are unusual and brief.[83] Annual precipitation averages around 940 millimetres (37 in). There are about 2130 hours of average sunshine annually (46% of possible).

Neighbourhoods and outlying communities

Map of Ottawa showing urban area and historic townships

Ottawa is bounded on the east by the United Counties of Prescott and Russell; by Renfrew County and Lanark County in the west; on the south by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry; and on the north by the Regional County Municipality of Les Collines-de-l'Outaouais and the City of Gatineau.[85] Modern Ottawa is made up of eleven historic townships, ten of which are from Carleton County and one from Russell.[86]

The city has a main urban area but there are many other urban, suburban and rural areas within the modern city's limits.[87] The main suburban area extends a considerable distance to the east, west and south of the centre,[87] and it includes the former cities of Gloucester, Nepean and Vanier, the former village of Rockcliffe Park and the community of Blackburn Hamlet, the community of Orléans.[88] The Kanata suburban area includes the former village of Stittsville to the southwest.[88] Nepean is another major suburb which also includes Barrhaven.[88] There are also the communities of Manotick and Riverside South on the other side of the Rideau River, and Greely, southeast of Riverside South.[88]

There are a number of rural communities (villages and hamlets) that lie beyond the greenbelt but are administratively part of the Ottawa municipality.[87] Some of these communities are Burritts Rapids; Ashton; Fallowfield; Kars; Fitzroy Harbour; Munster; Carp; North Gower; Metcalfe; Constance Bay and Osgoode and Richmond.[88] There are also a number of towns located within the federally defined National Capital Region but outside the city of Ottawa municipal boundaries,[87] these include the urban communities of Almonte, Carleton Place, Embrun, Kemptville, Rockland, and Russell.[88]


Distribution map compiled from the 2001 census showing percentage of individuals that indicated French as their mother tongue

In 2011, the populations of the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa-Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) were 883,391 and 1,236,324 respectively.[89][90] The city had a population density of 316.6 persons per km2 in 2006, while the CMA had a population density of 196.6 persons per km2.[89][90] It is the second-largest city in Ontario, fourth-largest city in the country, and the fourth-largest CMA in the country.

Ottawa's median age of 39.2 is both below the provincial and national averages as of 2011.[89][91][92] Youths under 15 years of age comprised 16.8% of the total population as of 2011, while those of retirement age (65 years and older) comprised 13.2%.[89] In 2011, females made up 51.5% of the amalgamated Ottawa population.[89]

Between 1987 and 2002, 131,816 individuals relocated to the city, which represents 75% of the population growth for that period.[93] Over 20 percent of the city's population is foreign-born, with the most common non-Canadian countries of origin being the United Kingdom (8.8% of those foreign-born), China (8.0%), and Lebanon (4.8%). About 6.1% of residents are not Canadian citizens.[94]

Members of visible minority groups (non-white/European) constitute 23.7%, while those of Aboriginal origin make up 2.1% of the total population. The largest visible minority groups are: Black Canadians: 5.7%, Chinese Canadians: 4.0%, South Asians: 3.9%, and Arabs: 3.7%. Smaller groups include Latin Americans, Southeast Asians, Filipinos, and West Asians.[94]

Around 65% of Ottawa residents describe themselves as Christian as of 2011, with Catholics accounting for 38.5% of the population and members of Protestant churches 25%. Non-Christian religions are also very well established in Ottawa, the largest being Islam (6.7%), Hinduism (1.4%), Buddhism (1.3%), and Judaism (1.2%). Those with no religious affiliation represent 22.8%.[94]

Bilingualism became official policy for the conduct of municipal business in 2002,[95] and 37% of the population can speak both languages as of 2006,[96] making it the largest city in Canada with both English and French as co-official languages.[97] Those that identify their mother tongue as English constitute 62.4 percent, while those with French as their mother tongue make up 14.2 percent of the population. In terms of respondents' knowledge of one or both official languages, 59.9 percent and 1.5 percent of the population have knowledge of English only and French only, respectively; while 37.2 percent have knowledge of both official languages. An additional 20.4 percent of the population list languages other than English and French as their mother tongue. These include Arabic (3.2%), Chinese (3.0%), Spanish (1.2%), Italian (1.1%), and many others.[94]


Developed in the early 1950s, Tunney's Pasture is an area that is exclusively reserved for various federal government buildings.

Ottawa's primary employers are the Public Service of Canada and the high-tech industry.[93] The city has a high standard of living and low unemployment.[98][99] Mercer ranks Ottawa with the second highest quality of living of any large city in the Americas, and 14th highest in the world.[100] It is also rated the second cleanest city in Canada, and third cleanest city in the world.[101] In 2012, the city was ranked for the third consecutive year as the best community in Canada to live in by MoneySense.[102]

Ottawa had the fourth highest GDP growth rate among major Canadian cities in 2007 at 2.7%, which exceeded the Canadian average of 2.4%.[103] It is estimated that the National Capital Region attracts around 7.3 million tourists annually who spend about 1.18 billion dollars.[104]

The region of Ottawa-Gatineau has the third highest income of all major Canadian cities.[103] The average gross income in the region amounted to $40,078, an increase of 4.9% compared to the previous year.[103] The annual cost of living rate in 2007 grew 1.9%.[103]

The Kanata Research Park is home to many companies, mostly high-tech

The Federal government is the city's largest employer, employing over 110,000 individuals from the National Capital region.[105] Ottawa is also an important technology centre; in 2015, its 1800 companies employ approximately 63,400 people.[106] The concentration of companies in this industry earned the city the nickname of "Silicon Valley North."[63] Most of these companies specialize in telecommunications, software development and environmental technology. Large technology companies such as Nortel, Corel, Mitel, Cognos and JDS Uniphase were founded in the city.[107] Ottawa also has regional locations for 3M, Adobe Systems, Bell Canada, IBM, Alcatel-Lucent and Hewlett-Packard.[108] Many of the telecommunications and new technology are located in the western part of the city (formerly Kanata).

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is a major children's hospital and university teaching hospital that serves Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec.

Another major employer is the health sector, which employs over 18,000 people.[109] There are four active general hospitals in the Ottawa area: Queensway-Carleton Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital, Montfort Hospital, and Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. There are also a number of specialized hospital facilities, such as the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre.[110]Nordion, i-Stat as well as the National Research Council of Canada and OHRI are part of the growing life science sector.[111][112] Business, finance, administration, and sales and service occupations rank high among types of occupations.[96] Approximately ten percent of Ottawa's GDP is derived from finance, insurance and real estate whereas employment is in goods-producing industries is only half the national average.[113] The City of Ottawa is the second largest employer[114][115] with over 15,000 employees.[115][116]

The National Defence Headquarters located in Ottawa is the main command centre for the Canadian Armed Forces and hosts the Department of National Defence.[117] The Ottawa area includes CFS Leitrim, CFB Uplands, and the former CFB Rockcliffe. During the summer, the city hosts the Ceremonial Guard, which performs functions such as the Changing the Guard.[118]

In 2006, Ottawa experienced an increase of 40,000 jobs over 2001 with a five-year average growth that was relative slower than in the late 1990s.[103] While the number of employees in the federal government stagnated, the high-technology industry grew by 2.4%. The overall growth of jobs in Ottawa-Gatineau was 1.3% compared to the previous year, down to sixth place among Canada's largest cities.[103] The unemployment rate in Ottawa-Gatineau was 5.2% (only in Ottawa: 5.1%),[119] which was below the national average of 6.0%.[103] The economic downturn resulted in an increase in the unemployment rate between April 2008 and April 2009 from 4.7 to 6.3%. In the province, however, this rate increased over the same period from 6.4 to 9.1%.[120]


A troupe of performers in Confederation Park during the 2014 Winterlude celebrations

Traditionally the ByWard Market (in Lower Town), Parliament Hill and the Golden Triangle (both in Centretown – Downtown) have been the focal points of the cultural scenes in Ottawa.[121] Modern thoroughfares such as Wellington Street, Rideau Street, Sussex Drive, Elgin Street, Bank Street, Somerset Street, Preston Street and Sparks Street are home to many boutiques, museums, theatres, galleries, landmarks and memorials in addition to eating establishments, cafes, bars and nightclubs.[122]

Ottawa hosts a variety of annual seasonal activities — such as Winterlude, the largest festival in Canada,[123] and Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill and surrounding downtown area, as well as Bluesfest, Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, Ottawa International Jazz Festival, Fringe Festival and Folk Music Festival, that have grown to become some of the largest festivals of their kind in the world.[124][125] In 2010, Ottawa's Festival industry received the IFEA "World Festival and Event City Award" for the category of North American cities with a population between 500,000 and 1,000,000.[126]

As Canada's capital, Ottawa has played host to a number of significant cultural events in Canadian history, including the first visit of the reigning Canadian sovereignKing George VI, with his consort, Queen Elizabethto his parliament, on 19 May 1939.[127] VE Day was marked with a large celebration on 8 May 1945,[128] the first raising of the country's new national flag took place on 15 February 1965,[129] and the centennial of Confederation was celebrated on 1 July 1967.[130] Elizabeth II was in Ottawa on 17 April 1982, to issue a royal proclamation of the enactment of the Constitution Act.[131] In 1983, Prince Charles and Diana Princess of Wales came to Ottawa for a state dinner hosted by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.[132] In 2011, Ottawa was selected as the first city to receive Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge during their tour of Canada.


Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa, looking northwards towards the Parliament Buildings from Queen Street

Influenced by government structures, much of the city's architecture tends to be formalistic and functional. However, the city is also marked by Romantic and Picturesque styles of architecture such as the Parliament Building's gothic revival architecture.[133] Ottawa's domestic architecture is dominated by single family homes. There are also smaller numbers of semi-detached, rowhouses, and apartment buildings. Most domestic buildings are clad in brick, with small numbers covered in wood or stone.

The skyline has been controlled by building height restrictions originally implemented to keep Parliament Hill and the Peace Tower at 92.2 metres (302 ft) visible from most parts of the City.[134] Today, several buildings are slightly taller than the Peace Tower, with the tallest located on Albert Street being the 29-storey Place de Ville (Tower C) at 112 metres (367 ft).[135] Federal buildings in the National Capital Region are managed by Public Works Canada, while most of the federal land in the region is managed by the National Capital Commission; its control of much undeveloped land gives the NCC a great deal of influence over the city's development.[136]

Museums and performing arts

The Maman sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, a 9.144 m or 30 ft bronze cast of a spider located at the National Gallery of Canada[137]

Amongst the city's national museums and galleries is the National Gallery of Canada; designed by famous architect Moshe Safdie, it is a permanent home to the Maman sculpture.[138] The Canadian War Museum houses over 3.75 million artifacts and was moved to an expanded facility in 2005.[139] The Canadian Museum of Nature was built in 1905, and underwent a major renovation between 2004 and 2010.[140] Across the Ottawa river in Gatineau is the most visited museum in Canada, the Canadian Museum of History.[141] Designed by Canadian aboriginal architect Douglas Cardinal, the complex, built at a cost of 340 million USD, also houses the Canadian Children's Museum, the Canadian Postal Museum and 3D IMAX theatre.[142]

The city is also home to the Canada Agriculture Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Billings Estate Museum, Bytown Museum, Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Canadian Ski Museum, Currency Museum, and the Portrait Gallery of Canada.[143]

The Ottawa Little Theatre, originally called the Ottawa Drama League at its inception in 1913, is the longest-running community theatre company in Ottawa.[144] Since 1969, Ottawa has been the home of the National Arts Centre, a major performing arts venue that houses four stages and is home to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and Opera Lyra Ottawa.[145] Established in 1975, the Great Canadian Theatre Company specializes in the production of Canadian plays at a local level.[146]

Historic and heritage sites

The Langevin Block, home to the Prime Minister's Office and designated a National Historic Site of Canada

The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and in 2007, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[147] In addition, there are 24 other National Historic Sites of Canada in Ottawa, including: the Central Chambers, the Central Experimental Farm, the Château Laurier, Confederation Square, the former Ottawa Teachers' College, Langevin Block, Laurier House and the Parliament Buildings. Many other properties of cultural value have been designated as having "heritage elements" by the City of Ottawa under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.[148]


The Canadian Tire Centre is the home arena of the National Hockey League's Ottawa Senators.

Sport in Ottawa has a history dating back to the 19th century. Ottawa is currently home to four professional sports teams. The Ottawa Senators are a professional ice hockey team playing in the National Hockey League. The Senators play their home games at the Canadian Tire Centre.[149] The Ottawa Redblacks are a professional Canadian Football team playing in the Canadian Football League.[150] Professional soccer club Ottawa Fury FC play in the North American Soccer League, the second division in North American pro soccer after Major League Soccer. Both Ottawa Fury FC and the Ottawa Redblacks play their home games at TD Place Stadium. The Ottawa Champions play professional baseball in the Can-Am League at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park. Several non-professional teams also play in Ottawa, including the Ottawa 67's junior ice hockey team.[151]

Collegiate teams in various sports compete in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. The Carleton Ravens are nationally ranked in basketball,[152] and the Ottawa Gee-Gees are nationally ranked in football and basketball. Algonquin College has also won numerous national championships. The city is home to an assortment of amateur organized team sports such as soccer, basketball, baseball, curling, rowing, hurling and horse racing.[153] Casual recreational activities, such as skating, cycling, hiking, sailing, golfing, skiing and fishing/ice fishing are also popular.[153]

Current professional teams

Professional Team League Sport Venue Established Championships
Ottawa Senators National Hockey League (NHL) Ice hockey Canadian Tire Centre 1990 0[nb 1]
Ottawa Redblacks Canadian Football League (CFL) Football TD Place Stadium 2010 0
Ottawa Fury FC North American Soccer League (NASL) Soccer TD Place Stadium 2011 0
Ottawa Champions Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (Can-Am) Baseball Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park 2014 0


Canada Ottawa Panorama.jpg
Ottawa above the Ottawa River in May, left to right— Alexandra Bridge · National Gallery of Canada · Byward Market · Fairmont Château Laurier · Rideau Canal Locks · Parliament Hill with Library of Parliament and Peace Tower · Downtown Ottawa towers · Supreme Court of Canada
Ottawa City Hall built as the headquarters of the former Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton

Ottawa is a single-tier municipality, meaning it is in itself a census division and has no county or regional municipality government above it.[154] As a single tier municipality, Ottawa has responsibility for all municipal services, including fire, emergency medical services, police, parks, roads, sidewalks, public transit, drinking water, storm water, sanitary sewage and solid waste. Ottawa is governed by the 24-member Ottawa City Council consisting of 23 councillors each representing one ward and the mayor, currently Jim Watson,[155] elected in a citywide vote.

Along with being the capital of Canada, Ottawa is politically diverse in local politics. Most of the city has traditionally supported the Liberal Party.[156] Perhaps the safest areas for the Liberals are the ones dominated by Francophones, especially in Vanier and central Gloucester.[156] Central Ottawa is usually more left-leaning, and the New Democratic Party can win ridings there as government unions and activist groups are fairly strong. Some of Ottawa's suburbs are swing areas, notably central Nepean and, despite its francophone population, Orléans.[156] The southern and western parts of the old city of Ottawa are generally moderate and swing to the Conservative Party.[156] The farther one goes outside the city centre like to Kanata and Barrhaven and rural areas, the voters tend to be increasingly conservative, both fiscally and socially.[156] This is especially true in the former Townships of West Carleton, Goulbourn, Rideau and Osgoode, which are more in line with the conservative areas in the surrounding counties.[156] However, not all rural areas support the Conservative Party. Rural parts of the former township of Cumberland, with a large number of Francophones, traditionally support the Liberal Party, though their support has recently weakened.[156]

At present, Ottawa is host to 130 embassies.[157] A further 49 countries accredit their embassies and missions in the United States to Canada.[157]



The O-Train (Trillium Line), Ottawa's light rail train servicing a portion of Ottawa's public transit system

Ottawa is served by a number of airlines that fly into the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, as well as two main regional airports Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport, and Ottawa/Carp Airport.[158] The city is also served by inter-city passenger rail service at the Ottawa Train Station by Via Rail, and inter-city bus service operating out of the Ottawa Bus Central Station.[158]

A Downtown Ottawa segregated bike lane, as seen looking east from the corner of Bank St. & Laurier Ave.

The public transit system is operated by OC Transpo, a department of the city.[159] An integrated hub-and-spoke system of services is available consisting of: regular buses travelling on fixed routes in mixed traffic, typical of most urban transit systems;[159] a bus rapid transit (BRT) system which is a high-frequency bus service operating on the transitway (a network of mostly grade-separated dedicated bus lanes within their own right of way) and having full stations with Park & Ride facilities, further supported by on-road reserved bus lanes and priority traffic signal controls; a light rail transit (LRT) system known as the O-Train operating on one north-south route (the Trillium Line);[159] and a door-to-door bus service for the disabled known as ParaTranspo.[159] Both OC Transpo and the Quebec-based Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) operate bus services between Ottawa and Gatineau. Construction is underway on the Confederation Line, a 12.5 km (7.8 mi) light-rail transit line (LRT), which includes a 2.5 km (1.6 mi) tunnel through the downtown area featuring three subway stations. The project broke ground in 2013, with operation scheduled to start in 2018.[160] A further 30 kilometres and 19 stations will be built between the two O-Train Lines by 2023.[161]

The city is served by two freeway corridors. The primary corridor is east-west and consists of provincial Highway 417 (designated as The Queensway) and Ottawa-Carleton Regional Road 174 (formerly Provincial Highway 17); a north-south corridor, Highway 416 (designated as Veterans' Memorial Highway), connects Ottawa to the rest of the 400-Series Highway network in Ontario. Highway 417 is also the Ottawa portion of the Trans-Canada Highway. The city also has several scenic parkways (promenades), such as Colonel By Drive, Queen Elizabeth Driveway, the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, Rockcliffe Parkway and the Aviation Parkway and has a freeway connection to Autoroute 5 and Autoroute 50, in Gatineau. In 2006, the National Capital Commission completed aesthetic enhancements to Confederation Boulevard, a ceremonial route of existing roads linking key attractions on both sides of the Ottawa River.[162]

There are numerous paved multi-use trails that wind their way through much of the city, including along the Ottawa River, Rideau River, and Rideau Canal. These pathways are used for transportation, tourism, and recreation. Because most streets either have wide curb lanes or bicycle lanes, cycling is a popular mode of transportation in the region throughout the year.[163] There are over 220 km (140 mi) of paths located throughout the Ottawa-Gatineau region.[164] A downtown street that is restricted to pedestrians only, Sparks Street was turned into a pedestrian mall in 1966.[165] On 10 July 2011 Ottawa saw its first dedicated, segregated bike lanes in the down town core. The lane is separated from car traffic by a low concrete barrier with many gaps to allow for loading and unloading of people and goods. Ottawa's cycling advocacy group, Citizens for Safe Cycling, has been actively promoting safer cycling infrastructure in the community since 1984.[166] On Sundays (since 1960) and selected holidays and events additional avenues and streets are reserved for pedestrian and/or bicycle uses only.[164] In May 2011, The NCC introduced the Bixi Bike rental program.[167]


Tabaret Hall at the University of Ottawa, founded in 1848 as the College of Bytown

Ottawa is known as one of the most educated cities in Canada, with over half the population having graduated from college and/or university.[168] Ottawa has the highest per capita concentration of engineers, scientists, and residents with PhDs in Canada.[169]

The city has two main public universities:

The University of Ottawa was the first post-secondary institution established in the city when the "College of Bytown" was founded in 1848. The university would eventually expand to become the largest English-French bilingual university in the world.[170] It is also a member of the U15, a group of highly respected research-intensive universities in Canada.[171] The university's campus is located in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood, just adjacent to the city's downtown core.

Carleton University was founded in 1942 growing in size to meet the needs of returning World War II veterans and later became Ontario's first private, non-denominational college. Over time Carleton would make the transition to the public university that it is today. In recent years, Carleton has become ranked highly among comprehensive universities in Canada.[172] The university's campus sits between Old Ottawa South and Dow's Lake.

Ottawa also has two main public colleges – Algonquin College and La Cité collégiale. It also has two Catholic universities – Dominican University College and Saint Paul University. There is also the University of Quebec en Outaouais, Cégep de l'Outaouais, and Heritage College in the neighbouring city of Gatineau.

There are four main public school boards in Ottawa: English, English-Catholic, French, and French-Catholic. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) is the largest board with 147 schools,[173] followed by the Ottawa Catholic School Board with 85 schools.[174] The two French-language boards are the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est with 49 schools,[175] and the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario with 37 schools.[176] The Ottawa Public Library was created in 1906 as part of the famed Carnegie library system.[177] The library system had 2.3 million items as of 2008.[178]


There are three main daily local newspapers printed in Ottawa: two English newspapers, the Ottawa Citizen established as the Bytown Packet in 1845 and the Ottawa Sun, with 900,197 and 274,628 weekly circulation respectively, and one French newspaper, Le Droit.[179] Another free commutere daily paper, Metro Ottawa was added in the 2000s. Several weekly and monthly community papers are also published. A wide range of Canadian television broadcast networks and systems, and an extensive number of radio stations, are broadcast in both English and French.

In addition to the market's local media services, Ottawa is also home to several national media operations, including CPAC (Canada's national legislature broadcaster) and the parliamentary bureau staff of virtually all of Canada's major newsgathering organizations in television, radio and print. The city is also home to the head office of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, although it is not the primary production location of most CBC radio or television programming.

Twin towns – Sister cities

Ottawa is twinned with:

Notable residents

See also


  1. NHL Media Guide 2010. The original Senators (also known as the Ottawa Hockey Club) organization won eleven Stanley Cups, not the current organization founded in 1990. Neither the NHL or the Senators claim the current Senators to be a continuation of the original organization or franchise. The awards, statistics and championships of both eras are kept separate and the NHL franchise founding date of the current Senators is in 1991.


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