Along with being Canada’s capital, Ottawa is large: 2,760 square kilometres. It stretches along the Ottawa River from the edges of Arnprior in the west to just shy of Rockland in the east and south to the Rideau River near Kemptville.
The city has four distinct regions, including a central core located inside a band of largely undeveloped land known as the greenbelt. The population hit 934,243 in 2016; when combined with Gatineau, that makes it the fifth largest city in Canada.
Listed below are general descriptions of Ottawa’s key neighbourhoods. Population figures are taken from the most recently available Statistics Canada data. Check here for information from the city on things like recreational facilities, libraries, schools and even community gardens. Read more …
1 Central Ottawa
This large area includes the downtown core, where you’ll find Parliament Hill and the popular ByWard Market. There are also adjacent residential areas such as Sandy Hill, featuring a mix of owner-occupied and rental properties popular with students from the nearby University of Ottawa, and slightly more distant neighbourhoods including the affluent Glebe and Old Ottawa South, near Carleton University, as well as Old Ottawa East, which is undergoing a major revitalization thanks to the massive Greystone Village development.
Centretown, which is part of Central Ottawa, offers a mix of residential, retail and commercial. West of downtown are areas like Chinatown and Little Italy; the latter is the site of trendy restaurants and a clutch of planned or in-progress condo towers as well as a future LRT (Light Rail Transit) station.
Housing in Central Ottawa ranges from condos to infills, low- and high-rise apartments, and single-family homes. With a population of roughly 87,000, Central Ottawa also hosts a blend of families, young professionals and empty nesters who gravitate to the area’s vibrant street life and abundance of retailers and services.
2 East side of the urban core
Ottawa extends well beyond this area, which includes Overbrook (an up-and-coming area with infill developments), Manor Park (a largely residential area on the edge of affluent Rockcliffe Park) and Vanier. The latter is a stone’s throw from downtown and still has many affordable properties, although Vanier is considered to be Ottawa’s next area of gentrification and high-rise condos are starting to dot the area, especially along its western edge bordering the Rideau River.
Vanier also has an historic sugar bush that still operates every spring in its popular Richelieu Park. Rockcliffe Park, Ottawa’s poshest community, is sometimes considered part of the east end. Roughly 47,000 people live in this area.
The area includes older suburbs like Carson Grove, Beacon Hill (it includes the terrific Green’s Creek toboggan run) and Blackburn Hamlet. These three neighbourhoods, which have a total population of 29,000, are among others that were part of the former City of Gloucester.
3 Rockcliffe Park
Ottawa’s wealthiest neighbourhood, Rockcliffe Park is a quiet, mature enclave of some 2,000 residents that was established in 1864 just to the east of downtown. Homes are set far apart on large lots, are built of natural materials, and show a mix of styles from many eras. Much of the area is still wooded and it boasts Rockcliffe Park, a lovely public green space on the cliffs of the Ottawa River.
The community includes Stornoway, home of the federal government’s Opposition leader, as well as the residences of many diplomats and business leaders. Nearby neighbourhoods include New Edinburgh, home of both the prime minister and the Governor General of Canada.
4 South side of the urban core
Like the west end, Ottawa’s southern edges extend far beyond this area, which features a mix of older homes from the 1950s and earlier, as well as newer subdivisions; big box stores and well-established malls; the popular beach/recreation area of Mooney’s Bay; and the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.
With a population of over 92,000, the south end includes Alta Vista, an area in transition about seven kilometres from downtown. Hunt Club, just north of the airport, has extensive green areas; Elmvale Acres includes many moderately priced, mid-century homes; and Riverview offers major medical facilities such as the General Campus of the Ottawa Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
5 West side of the urban core
Although the City of Ottawa now extends further west to include major suburbs such as Kanata and Stittsville, the west end is a common term for multiple, well-established neighbourhoods within a dozen kilometres or so of the city’s centre.
The area is a transitional one between busy downtown and the suburbs, offering a bit of bustle but also a more laid-back feel than the downtown core. Amenities include the large Bayshore Shopping Centre. The pretty Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, which meanders along the edge of the Ottawa River toward downtown, starts in this area. West-end neighbourhoods include Britannia, with its sandy beach on the river, the upscale Island Park and Civic Hospital areas (the latter is home to the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital), and Carlingwood with its lively multicultural mix and many smaller, post-war houses. Westboro and adjacent areas (see next entry) are sometimes included in the west end. Total population of the west end is about 145,000.
Leafy streets, thriving restaurants and boutiques, and attractions such as Westboro Beach define this rapidly evolving community of 22,000 people about six kilometres west of downtown. Dating to the 19th century and once considered cottage country (it borders the Ottawa River to the north), Westboro underwent significant gentrification in the early 2000s and now offers a blend of traditional resale homes, contemporary-themed infills and a growing number of condo projects.
With its lively street scene, village-like atmosphere and access to public transit, Westboro is one of Ottawa’s most desirable communities. Nearby neighbourhoods include trendy Wellington Village, Hintonburg (home of the Great Canadian Theatre Company), and up-and-coming Mechanicsville.
A largely rural area for most of its history, Orléans, which is 16 kilometres east of downtown, is now a booming community of 108,000 people. It once straddled the former cities of Gloucester and Cumberland, and while it has a significant francophone population, Orléans is fully bilingual.
New and existing subdivisions abound, with prices generally lower than in the west end of Ottawa. A large mall, Place d’Orléans, anchors the community’s mix of small and large retailers. The Shenkman Arts Centre offers pottery, theatre and other classes along with regular concerts and other events. There’s swimming at nearby Petrie Island on the Ottawa River, and sports facilities are plentiful.
Orléans comprises numerous neighbourhoods, including newer developments like Cardinal Creek Village, Avalon Encore and TrailsEdge and well-established areas such as Chapel Hill. The southerly portion of the Avalon neighbourhood was one of Ottawa’s fastest growing according to the 2016 Census.
8 Rural east
This area is a blend of agricultural land, some country estates with large, custom homes, and smaller one-off subdivisions. Cumberland, just east of Orléans and 28 kilometres from downtown, has some high-end enclaves. And, like nearby Navan, Cumberland has a full-scale hockey arena. Independently owned corner stores, many with a liquor licence, are the order of the day in Ottawa’s rural areas as is snowmobiling, pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms, and a pride in self-sufficiency.
This still-growing suburb 21 kilometres south of downtown was one of those established outside the greenbelt in the 1960s. Although it took decades before shopping centres or even a movie theatre arrived, Barrhaven – which was part of the City of Nepean before amalgamation – now has full-scale retail services, entertainment choices, schools, public transit and green space.
Thanks to both new and existing housing developments, the community offers a mix of homes, including singles, towns and some low-rise condos. Farmland still surrounds much of Barrhaven, which is bordered to the east by the Rideau River and contains part of the Jock River. Its population is 73,000. Barrhaven includes the golf-course community of Stonebridge, Chapman Mills, Half Moon Bay and Longfields. Half Moon Bay-west Stonebridge were Ottawa’s fastest growing communities according to the 2016 Census, more than doubling in population from 8,016 to 16,747 between 2011 and 2016.
10 Findlay Creek / Leitrim
This south suburban area is growing rapidly as developers build homes, retailers set up shop, and professional services open offices. Findlay Creek will eventually comprise some 3,500 homes, including towns, singles and bungalows and was among Ottawa’s fastest growing communities according to the 2016 Census, almost doubling from 4,486 to 8,865 people in five years. While the bulk of development has been to the west of Bank Street, more recent home building has taken place east of Bank as new communities launch. Highlights of Findlay Creek include the adjacent Leitrim Wetland, which the community’s home builders help maintain.
11 Riverside South
This south suburban area is growing rapidly as developers build homes, retailers set up shop, and professional services open offices. Located 18 kilometres south of downtown and not long ago mostly farm or vacant land, now has a population of 11,000 and offers a range of housing types and styles built by leading Ottawa developers. Ottawa’s LRT (Light Rail Transit) system will eventually extend to Riverside South.
12 Rural south
This is a large area that includes a mix of farmland and small towns such as Richmond, North Gower and Metcalfe. Lower house prices and generous lots, strong communities, and country fairs are among the highlights of life in rural Ottawa. Some towns, including Manotick, which is about 35 kilometres from downtown, are seeing steady growth thanks in part to their proximity to existing Ottawa suburbs and because some big builders have begun creating subdivisions in them.
Located 22 kilometres west of downtown, Kanata is one of Ottawa’s largest suburbs with a population of over 117,000. It’s home to the Ottawa Senators professional hockey team, which plays at the Canadian Tire Centre, boasts a vibrant high-tech sector, and features a lively mix of new and existing housing, including some low- and mid-rise condos.
Kanata is well-served by schools, major retailers, a three-season farmers’ market and golf courses. It’s also home to the Kanata Symphony Orchestra, the Ron Maslin Playhouse with a full season of live theatre, and numerous amateur sports organizations. New Kanata neighbourhoods include Arcadia, Blackstone, Richardson Ridge and Monahan Landing. Existing areas include Glen Cairn, Bridlewood, Beaverbrook and Kanata Lakes.
Over the past few decades, this community 31 kilometres southwest of downtown has grown from a quiet farming town to a popular suburb of more than 26,000 people. The town still retains much of its old village charm and flavour. Past and present developments by Ottawa builders, including current ones by Minto (Potter’s Key), Mattamy (Traditions II) and Tartan/Tamarack (Poole Creek Village), mean a selection of housing styles and types is available.
Stittsville has an abundance of schools, recreational facilities and shopping facilities, including big box stores and independent operations. Public transit includes express commuter buses to downtown Ottawa in the morning and back in the afternoon; there’s also an all-day bus service to major shopping centres in Ottawa.
15 West Carleton
Farms and small towns constitute much of West Carleton, which is just to the west of Kanata and about 38 kilometres from downtown Ottawa. With a population of 23,000, towns include Carp, site of the popular Carp Farmers’ Market and the Diefenbunker, a relic of the Cold War that is now a museum; Constance Bay, with two beaches on the Ottawa River; and the steadily growing Dunrobin. Many West Carleton residents commute to Ottawa for work. Housing is a mix of resale, custom and small developments.
Outside the city
Limestone buildings – some of them former mills now converted to condos – lovely Victorian homes, and small shops characterize Almonte, an historic town of 5,000 about 50 kilometres southwest of Ottawa. The town, which is bisected by the Mississippi River in a series of dramatic waterfalls, was also the boyhood home of Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. A clutch of local developers build Almonte’s new homes, along with Ottawa-based builders such as Phoenix Homes.
About 65 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa and serviced by the four-lane Hwy. 417, Arnprior has retained its small-town appeal even as it’s grown to over 10,000 residents and become home to a number of multinational technology and other corporations. The town sits at the intersection of the Ottawa and Madawaska rivers and, along with the water, one of the town’s highlights is Gillies Grove, an expanse of old-growth forest with towering white pines. Housing includes new developments by Ottawa-based Campanale Homes as well as Arnprior builders.
18 Carleton Place
The Mississippi River, a tributary of the Ottawa River, flows through Carleton Place, giving the town of almost 12,000 residents a distinct identity. About 50 kilometres southwest of downtown Ottawa, Carleton Place is a medley of fine, older homes and commercial buildings together with new homes and big-box retailers on the edge of town. There are both public and Catholic schools in the area, and two private bus lines provide commuter services to Ottawa. The town is also served by the four-lane Hwy. 7 into Ottawa.
Comprising several communities, this small city 40 kilometres east of downtown Ottawa has a population of over 23,000. The city has a majority of francophone speakers but is officially bilingual. Rockland, which borders the Ottawa River, is the major population centre and is growing rapidly, thanks to projects such as the master-planned community of Morris Village. A private bus line provides commuter service between Rockland and Ottawa. In Clarence Creek, just a little to the east of Rockland, eQ Homes is building a master-planned community that will eventually contain about 2,000 homes with plans for a community centre, retail and a marina.
Once the site of saddle-making businesses and blacksmiths, Kemptville is now home to more than 3,900 people, boasts some big box stores, offers both traditional and contemporary small businesses, and is the site of new housing developments including the golf course community of eQuinelle and Kemptville Landing condos. The town is 56 kilometres south of Ottawa, with access to the city via Hwy. 416, and there is a commuter bus service. Kemptville is close to boating, swimming and fishing on the Rideau River.
This town on the Castor River may have been established in the late 1700s, but its population of 4,400 now includes many who make the 40-kilometre commute to work in Ottawa along Hwy. 417. Older homes as well as new developments by Ottawa and other builders make the town’s real estate market an active one. Community attractions include the annual Russell Fair. Nearby Embrun, a largely francophone community with a population of 8,700, has a large grocery store and a number of independent services and retailers.