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City of Ottawa
Ville d'Ottawa  (French)
From top, left to right: Centre Block on Parliament Hill, the Government House, Downtown Ottawa, the Château Laurier, the National Gallery of Canada and the Rideau Canal
From top, left to right: Centre Block on Parliament Hill, the Government House, Downtown Ottawa, the Château Laurier, the National Gallery of Canada and the Rideau Canal
Flag of Ottawa
Coat of arms of Ottawa
Coat of arms
  • Bytown
  • "O-town"
"Advance-Ottawa-En Avant"
Written in the two official languages.
Ottawa is located in Ontario
Location in Ontario
Ottawa is located in Canada
Location in Canada
Country Canada
Province Ontario
Established 1826 as Bytown
Incorporated 1855 as City of Ottawa
Amalgamated 1 January 2001
 • Type Single-tier municipality with a Mayor–council system
 • City 2,790.30 km2 (1,077.34 sq mi)
 • Urban
520.82 km2 (201.09 sq mi)
 • Metro
6,767.41 km2 (2,612.91 sq mi)
70 m (230 ft)
 • City 1,017,449 (4th)
 • Density 365/km2 (950/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Urban density 1,954/km2 (5,060/sq mi)
 • Metro
1,488,307 (4th)
 • Metro density 185/km2 (480/sq mi)
 • Demonym
Time zone UTC−05:00 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−04:00 (EDT)
Postal code span
Area codes 613, 343
GDP (Ottawa–Gatineau CMA) CA$76.6 billion (2016)
GDP per capita (Ottawa–Gatineau CMA) CA$57,849 (2016)

Ottawa ( Canadian) is the capital city of Canada. Located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the southern portion of the province of Ontario, Ottawa borders Gatineau, Quebec, and forms the core of the Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) and the National Capital Region (NCR). As of 2021, Ottawa had a city population of 1,017,449 and a metropolitan population of 1,488,307, making it the fourth-largest city and fourth-largest metropolitan area in Canada.

Founded in 1826 as Bytown, and incorporated as Ottawa in 1855, the city has evolved into the political centre of Canada. Its original boundaries were expanded through numerous annexations and were ultimately replaced by a new city incorporation and amalgamation in 2001 which significantly increased its land area.

Ottawa has the most educated population among Canadian cities and is home to a number of colleges and universities, research and cultural institutions, including the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, the National Arts Centre, the National Gallery of Canada, and numerous national museums.


With the draining of the Champlain Sea around ten thousand years ago the Ottawa Valley became habitable. 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. The Algonquins called the Ottawa River Kichi Sibi or Kichissippi meaning "Great River" or "Grand River".

Étienne Brûlé, the first European to travel up the Ottawa River, passed by Ottawa in 1610 on his way to the Great Lakes. 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. 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. He, with five other families and twenty-five labourers, set about to create an agricultural community 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.

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. 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. 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. Bytown's population grew to 1,000 as the Rideau Canal was being completed in 1832. 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 and political dissension that was evident from the 1849 Stony Monday Riot. In 1855 Bytown was renamed Ottawa and incorporated as a city. William Pittman Lett was installed as the first city clerk guiding it through 36 years of development.

Bytown in 1853
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. In reality, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had assigned this selection process to the Executive Branch of the Government, as previous attempts to arrive at a consensus had ended in deadlock. The 'Queen's choice' turned out to be the small frontier town of Ottawa for two main reasons: Firstly, Ottawa's isolated location in a back country surrounded by dense forest far from the Canada–US border and situated on a cliff face would make it more defensible from attack. 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. 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. 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. Queen Victoria made her 'Queen's choice' very quickly just before welcoming in the New Year.

Construction of central parliament building
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. Rail lines erected in 1854 connected Ottawa to areas south and to the transcontinental rail network via Hull and Lachute, Quebec in 1886. The original Parliament buildings which included the Centre, East and West Blocks were constructed between 1859 and 1866 in the Gothic Revival style. 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. By 1885 Ottawa was the only city in Canada whose downtown street lights were powered entirely by electricity. 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. Public transportation began in 1870 with a horsecar system, 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. 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. On 1 June 1912 the Grand Trunk Railway opened both the Château Laurier hotel and its neighbouring downtown Union Station. On 3 February 1916 the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings was destroyed by a fire. The House of Commons and Senate was temporarily relocated to the then recently constructed Victoria Memorial Museum, now the Canadian Museum of Nature 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. 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. 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.

Rideau Street 04
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

From the 1960s until the 1980s, the National Capital Region experienced a building boom. This was followed by large growth in the high-tech industry during the 1990s and 2000s. 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 1 January 2001, when it amalgamated all the municipalities of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton into one single city. 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 15 October 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, 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.

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. 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.


Hot Air Balloon ride Ottawa II
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. 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 and home to the Parliament of Canada and numerous federal government department headquarters, notably the Privy Council Office. On 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.

Located within the major, yet mostly dormant Western Quebec Seismic Zone, Ottawa is occasionally struck by earthquakes. Examples include the 2000 Kipawa earthquake, a magnitude-4.5 earthquake on 24 February 2006, the 2010 Central Canada earthquake, and a magnitude-5.2 earthquake on 17 May 2013.

Ottawa sits at the confluence of three major rivers: the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the Rideau River. 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. The Rideau Canal (Rideau Waterway) first opened in 1832 and is 202 km in length. It connects the Saint Lawrence River on Lake Ontario at Kingston 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 waterfalls 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. 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).

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. 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 NCC for conservation and leisure, and comprising mostly forest, farmland and marshland.


Rideau Canal Winter
Ice skaters on the frozen Rideau Canal looking south from Laurier Avenue Bridge

Ottawa has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) with four distinct seasons and is between Zones 5a and 5b on the Canadian Plant Hardiness Scale. 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. On average 11 days of the three summer months have temperatures exceeding 30 °C (86 °F), or 37 days if the humidex is considered. Average relative humidity averages 54% in the afternoon and 84% by morning.

Snow and ice are dominant during the winter season. On average Ottawa receives 224 centimetres (88 in) of snowfall annually but maintains an average 22 centimetres (9 in) of snowpack throughout the three winter months. An average 16 days of the three winter months experience temperatures below −20 °C (−4 °F), or 41 days if the wind chill is considered.

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 17 April (as in 2002) or as late as 22 September (as in 2007), although such events are unusual and brief. Annual precipitation averages around 940 millimetres (37 in).

Ottawa experiences about 2,130 hours of average sunshine annually (46% of possible). Winds in Ottawa are generally Westerlies averaging 13 km/h but tend to be slightly more dominant during the winter.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Ottawa was 37.8 °C (100 °F) on 4 July 1913, 1 August 1917 and 11 August 1944. The coldest temperature ever recorded was −38.9 °C (−38 °F) on 29 December 1933.

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. Modern Ottawa is made up of eleven historic townships, ten of which are from Carleton County and one from Russell.

The city has a main urban area but many other urban, suburban and rural areas exist within the modern city's limits. The main suburban area extends a considerable distance to the east, west and south of the centre, and it includes the former cities of Gloucester, Nepean and Vanier, the former village of Rockcliffe Park (a high-income neighbourhood which is adjacent to the Prime Minister's official residence at 24 Sussex and the Governor General's residence), and the communities of Blackburn Hamlet and Orléans. The Kanata suburban area includes the former village of Stittsville to the southwest. Nepean is another major suburb which also includes Barrhaven. The communities of Manotick and Riverside South are located on the other side of the Rideau River, and Greely, southeast of Riverside South. A number of rural communities (villages and hamlets) lie beyond the greenbelt but are administratively part of the Ottawa municipality. Some of these communities are Burritts Rapids; Ashton; Fallowfield; Kars; Fitzroy Harbour; Munster; Carp; North Gower; Metcalfe; Constance Bay and Osgoode and Richmond. Several towns are located within the federally defined National Capital Region but outside the city of Ottawa municipal boundaries, these include the urban communities of Almonte, Carleton Place, Embrun, Kemptville, Rockland, and Russell.


Historic Population
Year Pop. ±%
1901 101,102 —    
1911 123,417 +22.1%
1921 152,868 +23.9%
1931 174,056 +13.9%
1941 206,367 +18.6%
1951 246,298 +19.3%
1956 287,244 +16.6%
1961 358,410 +24.8%
1966 413,695 +15.4%
1971 471,931 +14.1%
Year Pop. ±%
1976 520,533 +10.3%
1981 546,849 +5.1%
1986 606,639 +10.9%
1991 678,147 +11.8%
1996 721,136 +6.3%
2001 774,072 +7.3%
2006 812,129 +4.9%
2011 883,391 +8.8%
2016 934,243 +5.8%
Note: Population figures are extrapolated for current municipal boundaries
Chart format

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Ottawa had a population of 1,017,449 living in 407,252 of its 427,113 total private dwellings, a change of 8.9% from its 2016 population of 934,243. With a land area of 2,788.2 km2 (1,076.5 sq mi), it had a population density of 364.9/km2 (945/sq mi) in 2021.

At the census metropolitan area (CMA) level in the 2021 census, the Ottawa - Gatineau CMA had a population of 1,488,307 living in 604,721 of its 638,013 total private dwellings, a change of 8.5% from its 2016 population of 1,371,576. With a land area of 8,046.99 km2 (3,106.96 sq mi), it had a population density of 185.0/km2 (479/sq mi) in 2021.

Ottawa's median age of 40.1 is both below the provincial and national averages as of 2016. Youths under 15 years constituted 16.7% of the total population in 2016, while those of retirement age (65 years and older) made up 15.4%.

As of 2016, over 20 percent of the city's population is foreign-born. About 6.8% of residents are not Canadian citizens.


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%.


As of 2016, approximately 69.1% of Ottawa's population was European, while 4.6% were aboriginal and 26.3% were visible minorities (higher than the national percentage of 22.3%). Approximately 23.6% of Ottawa's population is also considered to be immigrants. Below is a breakdown of the demographics.


Distribution map from the 2001 census showcasing the percentage of individuals whose mother tongue is French

Bilingualism became official policy for the conduct of municipal business in 2002, and 37.6% of the population can speak both languages as of 2016, making it the largest city in Canada with both English and French as co-official languages. Those who 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 a knowledge of both official languages. The overall Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) has a larger proportion of French speakers than Ottawa itself, since Gatineau is overwhelmingly French speaking. 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.


Winterlude Drummers Ottawa
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. 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.

Ottawa hosts a variety of annual seasonal activities—such as Winterlude, the largest festival in Canada, 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. 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.

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 Elizabeth—to his parliament, on 19 May 1939. VE Day was marked with a large celebration on 8 May 1945, the first raising of the country's new national flag took place on 15 February 1965, and the centennial of Confederation was celebrated on 1 July 1967. Elizabeth II was in Ottawa on 17 April 1982, to issue a royal proclamation of the enactment of the Constitution Act. In 1983, Prince Charles and Diana Princess of Wales came to Ottawa for a state dinner hosted by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. 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.


Ottawa Elgin Street at Queen
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 Buildings' gothic revival architecture. Ottawa's domestic architecture is dominated by single family homes, but also includes 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. 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). 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.

Museums and performing arts

Giant spider strikes again!
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

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. The Canadian War Museum houses over 3.75 million artifacts and was moved to an expanded facility in 2005. The Canadian Museum of Nature was built in 1905, and underwent a major renovation between 2004 and 2010. Across the Ottawa river in Gatineau is the most visited museum in Canada, the Canadian Museum of History. Designed by Canadian Aboriginal architect Douglas Cardinal, the curving-shaped complex, built at a cost of 340 million USD, also houses the Canadian Children's Museum, the Canadian Postal Museum and a 3D IMAX theatre.

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.

The Ottawa Little Theatre, originally called the Ottawa Drama League at its inception in 1913, is the longest-running community theatre company in Ottawa. 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. Established in 1975, the Great Canadian Theatre Company specializes in the production of Canadian plays at a local level.

Historic and heritage sites

Langevin Block September 2010
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. In addition, 24 other National Historic Sites of Canada are 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.


Canadian Tire Centre 1
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. The Ottawa Redblacks are a professional Canadian Football team playing in the Canadian Football League. Professional soccer club Ottawa Fury FC play in the United 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, following the departure of the Lynx International League franchise. Several non-professional teams also play in Ottawa, including the Ottawa 67's junior ice hockey team.

Collegiate teams in various sports compete in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. The Carleton Ravens are nationally ranked in basketball, 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. Casual recreational activities, such as skating, cycling, hiking, sailing, golfing, skiing and fishing/ice fishing are also popular.

Current professional teams

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


Intercity Transport Hubs in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Map of Intercity Transport Hubs in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
O Train 15773300606
An O-Train crossing the Rideau River. The O-Train is a light rail public transportation service provided by OC Transpo.


Ottawa is served by a number of airlines that fly into the Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport (IATA: YOWICAO: CYOW), as well as two main regional airports Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport, and the Ottawa/Carp Airport.

Inter-city trains and buses

Ottawa station (IATA: XDS) is the main inter-city train station operated by Via Rail. It is located 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) to the east of downtown in Eastway Gardens (adjacent to O-Train Tremblay station) and serves Via Rail's Corridor Route. The city is also served by inter-city passenger rail service at Fallowfield station in the southwestern suburban community of Barrhaven.

Intercity bus services are currently provided by a number of carriers at various stops throughout the city, following the closure of the former Ottawa Central Station bus terminal on June 1, 2021. Major carriers include:

  • Megabus, at St-Laurent station Stop E (to Kingston, Scarborough and Toronto)
  • Ontario Northland, at Ottawa station and Terry Fox station Stop 3A (to North Bay and Sudbury)
  • Autobus Gatineau, at 265 Catherine Street and various stops downtown (to Grand Remous).
  • Orléans Express, starting at Promenades Gatineau and with stops at Place du Portage, University of Ottawa and the VIA Rail station to Kirkland (some trips), Montréal-Trudeau Airport (some trips) and Montréal.

Greyhound Canada no longer serves Ottawa after having ceased all Canadian operations on May 13, 2021.

Bus and rail transit

OC Transpo, a department of the city, operates the public transit system. OC Transpo operates an integrated, multi-modal Rapid Transit system which includes:

  • Line 1, also known as the Confederation Line, which operates medium-capacity trains which travel under the city's downtown core,
  • Line 2, also known as the Trillium Line, which is a north-south light rail transit corridor connecting the airport and south end of Ottawa to Line 1, and
  • a vast system of over 190 bus routes served by a fleet of ordinary, articulated and double-decker buses along grade-separated, transit-only corridors with long distances between stops and full station amenities (including platforms, walkways, ticket booths, elevators and convenience stores), which connects Ottawa's suburbs to the inner city.

The Rapid bus service network operates all day, 7 days a week, reaching Kanata to the West, Barrhaven to the South-West, Orléans to the East, and South Keys to the South. There are also several night bus routes that cover Line 1's downtown stations while it is shut off for the night, and backup service to downtown while the train is delayed.

Both OC Transpo and the Quebec-based Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) operate bus services between Ottawa and Gatineau.

OC Transpo also operates a door-to-door bus service for disabled individuals known as ParaTranspo.

Construction was recently completed on the Confederation Line, a 12.5-kilometre (7.8 mi) light-rail transit line (LRT), which includes a 2.5-kilometre (1.6 mi) tunnel through the downtown area featuring three underground stations. The project broke ground in 2013, and opened in September 2019. A further 30 km (19 mi) and 19 stations will be built by 2023, referred to as the Stage 2 plan. There is a proposed LRT system that could link Ottawa with Gatineau.

Canal Rideau - 007
The Capital Pathway is a multi-use trail interlinking many parks, waterways, and sites throughout the National Capital Region.

Freeways and parkways

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 at the 401. 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, the 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.

Cycling and by foot

Numerous paved multi-use trails, mostly operated by the National Capital Commission, 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 many streets either have wide curb lanes or bicycle lanes, cycling is a popular mode of transportation throughout the year. As of 31 December 2015, 900 km (560 mi) of cycling facilities are found in Ottawa, including 435 km (270 mi) of multi-use pathways, 8 km (5.0 mi) of cycle tracks, 200 km (120 mi) of on-road bicycle lanes, and 257 km (160 mi) of paved shoulders. 204 km (127 mi) of new cycling facilities were added between 2011 and 2014. A downtown street that is restricted to pedestrians only, Sparks Street was turned into a pedestrian mall in 1966. On Sundays (since 1960) and selected holidays and events, additional avenues and streets are reserved for pedestrian and/or bicycle use only. In May 2011, the NCC introduced the Capital Bixi bicycle-sharing system.

Twin towns – Sister cities

Ottawa is twinned with:


Tunney's Pasture
Developed in the early 1950s, Tunney's Pasture is an area that holds several federal government buildings. The federal government is the city's largest employer.

As of 2015, the region of Ottawa-Gatineau has the sixth highest total household income of all Canadian metropolitan areas ($82,052). The median household income after taxes is $73,745 which is higher than the national median of $61,348. The unemployment rate in Ottawa in 2016 was 7.2%, lower than the national rate of 7.7%. In 2019 Mercer ranks Ottawa with the third highest quality of living of any Canadian city, and 19th highest in the world. It is also rated the second cleanest city in Canada, and third cleanest city in the world.

Ottawa's primary employers are the Public Service of Canada and the high-tech industry, although tourism and healthcare also represent increasingly sizeable economic activities. The Federal government is the city's largest employer, employing over 110,000 individuals from the National Capital region. The national headquarters for many federal departments are in Ottawa, particularly throughout Centretown and in the Terrasses de la Chaudière and Place du Portage complexes in Hull. The National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa is the main command centre for the Canadian Armed Forces and hosts the Department of National Defence. The Ottawa area includes CFS Leitrim and the former CFB Rockcliffe. During the summer, the city hosts the Ceremonial Guard, which performs functions such as the Changing the Guard. As the national capital of Canada, tourism is an important part of Ottawa's economy, particularly after the 150th anniversary of Canada which was centred in Ottawa. The lead-up to the festivities saw much investment in civic infrastructure, upgrades to tourist infrastructure and increases in national cultural attractions. The National Capital Region annually attracts an estimated 7.3 million tourists, who spend about 1.18 billion dollars.

Silicon valley north
Kanata Research Park is home to many companies, mostly in high-tech industries.

In addition to the economic activities that come with being the national capital, Ottawa is an important technology centre; in 2015, its 1800 companies employed approximately 63,400 people. The concentration of companies in this industry earned the city the nickname of "Silicon Valley North". Most of these companies specialize in telecommunications, software development and environmental technology. Large technology companies such as Nortel, Corel, Mitel, Cognos, Halogen Software, Shopify and JDS Uniphase were founded in the city. Ottawa also has regional locations for Nokia, 3M, Adobe Systems, Bell Canada, IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Many of the telecommunications and new technology are in the western part of the city (formerly Kanata). The "tech sector" was doing particularly well in 2015/2016.

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is a major children's and teaching hospital. The health sector is another major employer in Ottawa.

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

In 2006, Ottawa experienced an increase of 40,000 jobs over 2001 with a five-year average growth that was relatively slower than in the late 1990s. 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. In 2016, the unemployment rate in Ottawa was 7.2%, which was below the national unemployment rate of 7.7%. 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, this rate increased over the same period from 6.4 to 9.1%.

Ottawa already has the largest rural economy among Canada's major cities. In Ottawa, the rural economy contributes over $1 billion to the GDP. Agriculture alone accounts for $400 million, $136.7 million of which is farm-gate sales. Rural economic activity includes such things as agriculture, retail sales, construction, forestry and mining (aggregates), tourism, manufacturing, personal and business services, and transportation, to name a few. Rural employment expanded by a healthy 18% from 1996 to 2001.


Tabaret Hall Ottawa 2014
Established in 1848, the University of Ottawa is the oldest post-secondary institution in the city.
La Cité collégiale Ottawa Canada November 2006
La Cité collégiale is the largest French-language college in Ontario.

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

The city has two main public universities:

  • Carleton University was founded in 1942 to meet the needs of returning World War II veterans and later became Ontario's first private, non-denominational college. Over time, Carleton transitioned into the public university it is today. In recent years, Carleton has become ranked highly among comprehensive universities in Canada. The university's campus sits between Old Ottawa South and Dow's Lake.
  • The University of Ottawa (originally named the "College of Bytown") was the first post-secondary institution established in the city in 1848. The university later grew to become the largest English-French bilingual university in the world. It is also a member of the U15, a group of highly respected research-intensive universities in Canada. The university's campus is in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood, just adjacent to the city's downtown core.

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. Other colleges and universities in nearby areas (namely, the neighbouring city of Gatineau) include the University of Quebec en Outaouais, Cégep de l'Outaouais, and Heritage College.

Four main public school boards exist in Ottawa: English, English-Catholic, French, and French-Catholic. The English-language Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) is the largest board with 147 schools, followed by the English-Catholic Ottawa Catholic School Board with 85 schools. The two French-language boards are the French-Catholic Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est with 49 schools, and the French Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario with 37 schools. Ottawa also has numerous private schools which are not part of a board.

The Ottawa Public Library was created in 1906 as part of the famed Carnegie library system. The library system had 2.3 million items as of 2008.

Notable people

Images for kids

See also

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