Right in the heart of Ottawa is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets: the ByWard Market. Just minutes from Parliament Hill, the market is a hub for foodies and shoppers, and the surrounding neighbourhood is alive with cultural experiences, nightlife, and entertainment. It’s a must-visit during your trip to Ottawa.
ByWard Market has been a gathering place for nearly two centuries, connecting rural producers to urban customers since 1826. It was first established by Lieutenant-Colonel John By — an engineer who also built the famous Rideau Canal — and has been a centre of commerce ever since.
Throughout its history the ByWard Market building has burned down four times, boutiques and restaurants have replaced many industries and services, and the market has grown, changed, and evolved. But still it remains on the same site where it was first built.
Local produce, meats, fresh cheese, baked goods, artisanal goods, and crafts are all displayed in abundance at the Byward Market. Farmers and craft merchants come together to create a truly sensory experience, as you see, listen, touch, taste, and smell your way through over 150 stands.
In the summer months, people browse the bustling laneways filled with open-air stalls for flowers or supplies for their next picnic. During the winter months, the market’s many restaurants and vendors are hugely popular. In the ByWard Market Building, grab anything from bagels and Tandoori butter chicken, to ‘bubble tea’ in the restaurants and cafes, or pick up clothing, jewellery, and souvenirs from local artisans.
Over 500 businesses call the market and the surrounding neighbourhood home. This includes 109 restaurants, 22 food retailers, 48 fashion boutiques, 12 house and home stores, a handful of bookstores, and so much more. No matter what your interests are, hours of browsing await.
Once you’ve finished shopping and eating your way through the ByWard Market neighbourhood, spend some time visiting no less than 14 arts, culture, and education facilities. These include the National Gallery of Canada — home to nearly 40,000 works covering everything from Inuit sculpture to the creations of Pablo Picasso — and the Notre Dame Basilica, one of Ottawa’s oldest and largest churches. Walk the streets and enjoy the buskers sharing their talents with passersby, or pop into a salon and treat yourself to a pedicure.
As the sun sets, the area is home to some of the best nightlife in the city, with pubs, clubs, live music, and dancing for every taste.