We are here to help you answer all your questions about living in Ottawa before moving here. Where is Ottawa? What is the cost of living in Ottawa compared to other Canadian cities? What is the standard of living? If you have any questions, post them in the comments section and we will get the answer for you.
- Where is Ottawa?
- About Ottawa
- Weather in Ottawa
- Cost of Living
- Things you will notice about Ottawa
- Dining out in Ottawa
- Ottawa Nightlife
- Festivals in Ottawa
- Transit in Ottawa
Find and rent your next apartment, house, or condo in Ottawa on Rentals.ca. Use the detailed filters to find rentals that meets your needs, then call or email the property manager.
Another great site to try is TorontoRentals.com which has fewer listings, but some exclusive properties in Ottawa you will not find elsewhere.
Ottawa borders Gatineau, Quebec, and together they form the National Capital Region (NCR). Founded in 1826 as Bytown and incorporated as “Ottawa” in 1855, the city has evolved into a political and technological centre of Canada. Initially an Irish and French Christian settlement, Ottawa has become a multicultural city with a diverse population.
The 2011 census had the city’s population as 883,391, with a Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) population of 1,236,324. Mercer ranks Ottawa with the second highest quality of living of any large city in the Americas, and 14th highest in the world. It is also rated it the second cleanest city in Canada, and third cleanest city in the world. In 2012, the city was ranked by MoneySense as the best community in Canada in which to live for the third consecutive year.
Ottawa is a vibrant and youthful city, with two large universities dominating the city centre: University of Ottawa and Carleton University. As the capital city, it boasts beautiful architecture, a bustling downtown core and interesting neighborhoods.
Ottawa has four distinct seasons, with the winter admittedly much colder to what many immigrants would be used to. Cold snaps occur from late October, with snow falling from December to March. Cold weather can be expected to last until April, and dressing accordingly is an essential lesson to learn for any new immigrant. The average January minimum temperature is -14.8 °C (5.4 °F).
The spring is short and fresh, with some rain showers and fair, mild weather, and usually lasts from April to May.
Summer is a scorcher, and lasts from June to September. Daytime temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) or higher are commonplace, and humidity can rise dramatically throughout the summer.
Fall lasts from September to November, and can provide some of the most beautiful scenes in the country.
The city is commendable in the fact that it suits each season to a tee, and life continues with no difficulty despite winter lows and summer highs. Winter in Ottawa is a particular delight, with the Rideau Canal transforming into the longest skating rink in the world, and winter activities easily accessible — skiing and snowshoeing being available within about 20 minutes of the city centre. Ottawa has many public parks and green areas to enjoy the summer, and festivals run routinely while the sun shines. Spring and Fall are ideal times to picnic or hike in local parks, Gatineau Park on the Quebec side being a well known example.
Cost of Living in Ottawa
Ottawa is a safe, clean and welcoming city, but does have an above average, yet still affordable, cost of living. Depending on your location, renting an apartment can range from $700-1400 per month, again depending on preference, number of housemates, and certain criteria. However, cheap housing can be found easily, largely due to the importance of local universities. Household utilities — internet, electricity, refuse — is often included in the rent, but is relatively affordable if this is not the case.
Groceries and eating out, however, can be expensive. A pint of beer can be bought for as little as $6, but foreign imports can be as expensive as $9 in more touristy and popular areas. Tipping is standard practice (15-20% for good service), and the local tax rate is 13% (federal and provincial taxes combined).
Things you will notice about Ottawa
Ottawa is an extremely clean and green city. The Rideau Canal runs throughout the city, and offers beautiful and scenic trails, walkways, running paths and bike lanes all the way through. The canal is world renowned due to its conversion into the world’s longest skating rink in the winter months.
Ottawa is very bike friendly, with many of the main roads having specific bike lanes so cyclists can enjoy traffic-free commutes, and the “Capital Pathway”, a 220 kilometre route that it shares with Gatineau. Many Ottawa natives enjoy a healthy lifestyle, and can be seen jogging, cycling, or skating at all hours of the day.
Ottawa is the capital city and centre of government. Many of its citizens work with the government in the civil service, and many bars and restaurants are known for having a political clientele. Canada’s politics can be interesting and varied, and is an easy conversation starter when out and about. Don’t be afraid of expressing your opinion and opening discussion.
The French Connection
Ottawa is officially a bilingual city, and many of its services – including all civil services, some educational services, and many tourist services – are offered in both English and French.
French can be heard spoken on the streets and many of its cafes and bars have a definite French feel. English is understood by nearly all of the population, so although an attempt at French would be welcome in certain places, it is not necessary.
Ottawa has some of Canada’s oldest and most beautiful buildings, and many are a master class in design in themselves. Taking a stroll along Sparks Street or Wellington in front of the Parliament building can be breathtaking, and make sure to enjoy the free tour of Parliament to see a panoramic view of Ottawa and Gatineau, the city across the river in Quebec.
Ottawa is a tourist attraction in itself, and the Byward Market and Elgin Street areas make sure to cater to this audience. Dining out can be an experience, with restaurants and cafés catering to every need, preference and budget.
Ottawa has its own Little Italy and Chinatown, so fans of either of those cuisines should head there for tasty delights. Our recommendation: Dirienzo’s sandwiches, famous city wide, and some weekend brunch courtesy of Dim Sum in Jasmine Village. Both are affordable and scrumptious.
Local cuisine worth a try includes poutine, a French Canadian dish of chips (fries), cheese curds and gravy. It doesn’t sound the best, and it’s not the best-looking dish you will ever see, but it is delicious. Calorie counters should avoid a beavertail, an Ottawa dessert worth writing home about. In the shape of a beaver’s tail, this donut-like pastry can be topped off with nutella or maple syrup, and is a must-have when visiting the capital.
Though not renowned for its nightlife, going out in Ottawa is fun and relaxed. Many will meet in a pub after work or in the evening, share some nachos and wash them down with some beers.
For those looking for something a bit more adventurous, Elgin street and the Market have a variety of pubs and clubs on offer, from the faux-Irish Heart & Crown to the grungy Zaphods, and from hip-hop lovers Patty Bolands to Barrymore’s Dance Hall, named after Drew Barrymore’s grandfather — she once rang in the New Year there. Every palate is catered to. A special mention is afforded to The Chateau Lafayette on York Street, Ottawa’s oldest pub and home to Lucky Ron, who performs for free at 4 p.m. every Saturday. It is an experience one cannot fully comprehend or appreciate until living through it. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Winterlude is held mid-February, and is a celebration of all things winter. Ice sculptures, skating, mulled wine — it’s all there and it is beautiful.
Irish Week is held on the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day, and celebrates all things Irish. It provides an opportunity for those interested in Irish culture to appreciate the Irish community in Ottawa.
Bluesfest takes place in July, and manages to attract big acts to visit the capital. Last year’s festival had the Zac Brown Band, the Dixie Chicks and The Black Keys.
Folkfest offers a more chilled out scene, and is held in September in Hogsback Park. The 2013 festival had Vampire Weekend and Gordon Lightfoot.
The best day of festivities in Ottawa, however, is Canada Day — put this on your Canadian bucket list, as Canada Day in Ottawa is the biggest celebration of all! Canada’s national holiday, held every July 1st, marks the enactment of of the Constitution Act in 1867, when Canada first became a confederation, and therefore a country.
Ottawa is very accessible, and an efficient bus system operated by OCTranspo runs through the city. At the time of writing, a standard fare is $3.50 and one can travel around the city pretty easily. A monthly ticket, depending on your status (student/adult) ranges from $93-103 per month. Most of the main areas with available housing have a main bus route nearby. One bus route, the 95, runs throughout the night; this bus services the airport. Most other bus lines run until around 1 a.m. A separate bus route services the Gatineau area but crosses across Parliament, which is close to the main downtown area of the market.
While driving in Ottawa may seem like a daunting task, it is very well organised and not prone to major traffic jams. Canadians drive on the right side of the road, and some rules may confuse a new driver — turning right at certain times on a red light, for example. Canadian and Ottawan drivers are generally polite and patient.