The 14 best things about living in Ottawa

Since moving to Ottawa in 2018 I have become quite fond of the city. I think Canada’s capital meets all the characteristics anyone would look for in finding the best city in Canada, that is, the ideal place to live.

That’s my personal view of course. If you have kids, and you’re an active person who enjoys the outdoors, then I’m pretty sure you’d love Ottawa.

In this post I summarize the best things about the capital city and what I value most, or in other words, the reasons why I wouldn’t change Ottawa for any other Canadian city!

1. Low traffic

One of the best things about Ottawa is that you’re not going to struggle with bad traffic, like you would find in a bigger metropolis. In the capital, commute times are really decent.

The longest time I’ve spent in traffic in Ottawa was 1 hour and 30 minutes to go from the East end to the West end during rush hour. Imagine the same scenario in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. How long would that take? Three, four, or five hours?

2. Medium size

Ottawa is a medium-sized city with the advantages of big cities. The fact that it is medium-sized means that it’s free of the disadvantages of living in bigger cities, such as traffic and a lot of crime.

Ottawa has first class municipal services, all the foreign embassies are right here, and it also has amazing museums. Not for nothing is it Canada’s capital.

chateau laurier view from major's hill park
Chateau Laurier, view from Major’s Hill Park

3. Historic downtown

Ottawa has fine historic buildings, starting with the majestic Parliament Hill, the center of political power. There isn’t any other building like this in all Canada.

The city can also boast of the beauty of its historic downtown, with the Parliament and surrounding buildings, the Chateau Laurier (Fairmont Hotel), old churches, and the Rideau Canal, built in the 19th century. The canal was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2007.

parliament hill in ottawa
Parliament Hill

4. Bilingualism

As the capital of Canada, Ottawa is a bilingual city where the country’s two official languages are spoken. All public signs, like traffic signs, government buildings names, and some publicity, are written in English and French.

The two languages are also represented in the four school boards that operate in the city: two for French and two for English.

It’s really nice being surrounded by a bilingual environment. You could be having a coffee with friends speaking English and, on the table next to you, other people are speaking French. Sooner or later, one feels the urge or curiosity to learn French if one doesn’t speak it already.

5. Nature

This for me is one of the best things about Ottawa and it certainly helps people have a healthy lifestyle. You might have a busy and stressful work day, but after leaving the office, you’d be able to be in just 30 minutes in a beautiful lake, surrounded by an amazing and lush forest in the Gatineau Park on the Quebec side.

No stressful commutes or long drives, it’s just as simple as that.

6. A healthy and active lifestyle

One characteristic of the residents of Ottawa is that they love the outdoors. As soon as the weather gets warm, people move massively outside. They walk, they skate, they ride their bicycles, they go canoeing, paddle boarding, kayaking, or fishing, or any number of other outdoor activities.

But not only in the summer. They keep active during the cold months enjoying winter sports or activities like ice skating, cross country skiing, downhill, snowshoeing, and sledding.

dow's lake in ottawa
Dow’s Lake

7. Waterways abound

I love that Ottawa is surrounded by three waterways: the Rideau river, the Ottawa river and the Rideau Canal. And the urban planners did a great job in taking advantage of that in designing the city.

All the river banks are beautiful places for people to enjoy their city. There are bike paths, trails, parks, or beaches where people can gather, or have fun doing sports.

rideau river in old ottawa east neighborhood
Rideau river (Old Ottawa East)

8. The Rideau canal

This historic canal is one of Ottawa’s main attractions. If Parliament Hill is Ottawa’s heart, the Rideau Canal is Ottawa’s backbone. It was built by the British between 1826 and 1832 for military purposes amid conflicts with the Americans, but it never served for that original purpose.

Nowadays it is used for recreation. In the winter, the canal becomes the largest skating rink in the world, and in the summer it is a waterway open to the boats. If you have a canoe, you can throw it in the canal and have a great and pleasant ride!

rideau canal skateway in ottawa
Rideau Canal Skateway

9. Bike paths and trails

There’s a network of 800 kilometers of bike paths in Ottawa, allowing everyone to tour the city from one end to the other by bike. It is simply amazing. These bike paths cross forests, fields of  crops, and the Greenbelt. They go all along the river banks, and they offer great views and scenery.

The same with the trails. There are lots of trails to explore and to hike in and around the city. Usually, the bike paths and trails become popular winter trails for people to go skiing or snowshoeing during the colder months.

bike path in a forest in the east of ottawa

10. It’s a safe city

Ottawa is among the safest cities in Canada. Actually, it’s the safest city of over a million people. Check this out: https://www.universitymagazine.ca/the-safest-cities-in-canada-2020/

11. People’s kindness

Ottawans are really kind and nice people, and one notices that by the way the clerks in stores greet you or say goodbye. One characteristic of people here is that they are prone to say sorry for whatever reason. If you bump into someone accidentally, that person might say I’m sorry, even though it is your fault.

12. Cleanliness

Ottawa is really a clean city. I have been to many cities in Latin American, North America and Europe, and I would say that Ottawa is among the cleanest I’ve seen. In Spring and Fall, the city launches a campaign of cleaning by calling volunteers to help pick up litter and remove graffiti.

The idea is to ensure that Ottawa “stays clean, green, and graffiti and litter-free”.

If you want to volunteer, click here: https://ottawa.ca/en/living-ottawa/environment/community-environmental-and-beautification-programs/cleaning-capital-program

13. People are respectful

People in Ottawa are very respectful of the law, and rules and regulations. The best example has been the Covid-19 pandemic, during which Ottawans overcome three waves just by following the advice of Health officials.

14. Beautiful scenery

Ottawa is a beautiful city full of green and spacious areas and public parks for the enjoyment of its residents. Its historic downtown, waterways and forests; all three contribute to create awesome landscapes.

minto bridge in new edinburgh neighborhood
Minto bridge

So, these are the reasons why I love Ottawa so much. What about you? What are the best things about Ottawa for you? Please, share. Take care.

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