Living in Ottawa: Pros and cons

Ottawa is no doubt a very beautiful city. It’s a mix of historic and majestic buildings in its downtown core, surrounded by luscious forests and crossed by three waterways. I’ve always thought that the urban designers did a great job in designing Canada’s capital.

But as everything in life, nothing is perfect and no city is perfect. And as much as I love Ottawa, I know there are things that not all everyone would like. So, what are the pros and cons of living in Ottawa?


It’s a safe city

Ottawa is one the safest cities in Canada. The crime rate is low compared to other major Canadian cities. In the three years that I’ve been living in Ottawa I’ve never experienced fear or felt unsafe. There are no pickpockets in the streets, or gangs of house robbers.

Obviously there are some “sketchy” areas but they are minimal and mostly associated with the presence of drug addicts, who sometimes fight among themselves.

There’s not much traffic

Ottawa is a city of one million people, and that means it has decent traffic. But it is not like the traffic jams in big cities like Toronto or Vancouver, where the commute to go to work or to study can take 90 minutes to two hours.

I used to drive one hour and a half to get to work in my hometown, Lima. Here in Ottawa, I drive just 15 minutes to my workplace. It is much more pleasant!

It’s stable

Being a government town and a capital, things seem more stable in Ottawa than in other places. This is something that became noticeable in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The unemployment rate increased more in other cities like Toronto and Montreal than in Ottawa.

Likewise, the real estate market in Ottawa never stalled during the pandemic, and the properties continued to be sold and the prices kept climbing. The average freehold house price in Ottawa was $799,940 in March, an increase of 30.8% compared to the same month previous year when the pandemic started.

It’s a green city close to nature

Ottawa was so beautifully designed that it has big and beautiful public parks everywhere as well as vast natural areas. It has two rivers, the Ottawa river and the Rideau river, plus the beautiful and historic Rideau Canal. Wherever you see you’ll see green.

Besides, Ottawa has the privilege of being so close to the even more natural settings. Dense forests and beautiful lakes await you just a 30 to 40 minute drive away from downtown.

Offers a good work-life balance

Being so close to nature and having a big network of bike paths, trails for hiking, lakes and rivers, means that people who live in Ottawa can have a very active and healthy lifestyle. You can leave work and in 30 minutes you can be kayaking in a beautiful lake, biking on trails by the banks of the Ottawa river or hiking the amazing hills in Gatineau Park.

No doubt this contributes to living a less stress-free life contrary to the crazy rhythm of a big metropolis.


Little diversity of jobs

The main industries in Ottawa are the federal government and the IT sector, with the first one being the largest employer. That means there is not the variety or diversity of jobs that one can find in a big city like Toronto.

Approximately 110,000 people work for the federal government in Ottawa, while 63,000 work in the technology sector. Ottawa is a technology center that concentrates a large number of big companies that specialize in telecommunications, software development, and environmental technology.

Cold winters

Ottawa’s winter weather is not a stroll in the park. It’s very cold. Usually Ottawa stands among the 10 coldest capitals in the world, and on some days it can be the coldest. Temperatures in winter can drop to almost -30 degrees Celsius, and with the windchill the feeling could be almost -40.

Besides, it’s a snowy city. Snowfalls can start in the middle of November and last until the beginning of April. But don’t get confused. Ottawa is not cold all year round. Its summers are really hot with temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees.

Not much nightlife and entertainment

Ottawa is not known as a party city. In fact it is known as being quite the opposite. Many say it’s boring because it doesn’t have the exciting night life that one can find in Toronto or Montreal. It doesn’t have the same number of restaurants, bars, cafes, discos, and shopping centers that the bigger cities have.

You could say that Ottawa is a city that goes to sleep early, but that doesn’t mean that there are no places to party. The main entertainment spot is the Byward Market, the oldest part of the city, where you could find bars open until 2 am in pre-Covid times.

Kind of expensive city

Ottawa is not a cheap city but it is not as expensive as Toronto or Vancouver either. But compared to Montreal, which is the closest big city, Ottawa certainly seems more expensive.

The rent is higher in Ottawa, eating in restaurants is expensive and the cost of daycare is way more expensive, so is car insurance.

What is my personal opinion? I think that the pros of living in Ottawa outweigh the cons, but that’s my personal point of view. Sure, every person has different circumstances and it depends on them whether they will find it attractive living in Ottawa.

For me, as I have said many times, Ottawa is a dream city, where I found a beautiful and safe place to live a happy life. How about you? Do you like to live in Ottawa? What are the best things about living in Ottawa? Take care.

5 thoughts on “Living in Ottawa: Pros and cons

  1. I love Ottawa. I grew up here, and had the best time. I don’t live here anymore, but come back for half the summer. We used to get very cool bands back in the 80s; you could hang out in the Byward Market or skip across the river and you’re in Quebec with a different vibe. Where else can you do that? Even though the water may be a bit off, there’s lots of beaches and outdoorsy things to do. The river is huge, we have the best museums, and when you’re bored, you can drive to Montreal for the day. Can’t wait to retire and return!!

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