Centretown is at the heart of Ottawa, Ontario. It is where you will find the Parliament of Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa City Hall, the National Arts Centre, embassies and the largest concentration of government and professional offices. It’s the ideal place to live if you want to walk to work.
Centretown is generally described as the area between the Ottawa River to the north, Elgin Street to the east, the 417 highway to the south and Bronson Avenue to the west.
Most offices are concentrated near Parliament, in the area between Wellington Street and Laurier Avenue West.
Centretown and the neighbouring Byward Market form the cultural hub of Ottawa. Centretown is home to Parliament Hill, the National Arts Centre, the Canadian Museum of Nature, Library and Archives Canada and the Bytown Museum. It is also home to some of the city’s most famous monuments, including the National War Memorial on Elgin Street. As one of the oldest areas of the city, there are many beautiful historic buildings in Centretown, such as the Chateau Laurier, heritage banks and churches, and the palatial Victoria Memorial Museum. However, Centretown also has several unsightly buildings from the 60s and 70s, such as the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library. Ottawa is known for its festivals and many are based in Centretown. Most popular is Canada Day on July 1, when the north end of Centretown is closed to cars and opened to immense crowds. Other downtown festivals include the Jazz Festival, Winterlude, RibFest, the Busker Festival and many others. Centretown is also home to Ottawa’s Gay Village on Bank Street.
During workdays, Centretown is extremely busy. However, on evenings and weekends, many areas are surprisingly quiet. The neighbourhood is very safe compared to most downtown urban centres. For detailed crime stats, look up the Somerset Ward (#14) on the Ottawa Police website. Homelessness is an issue in downtown Ottawa. There are many panhandlers on Elgin and Bank streets, as well as other commercial areas, but they are often quite friendly.
The beauty of Ottawa is the number of outdoor activities you can do in the heart of the downtown area. The Rideau Canal begins in Centretown and the green spaces and recreational paths along each side make it a prime spot for runners, cyclists and inline skaters, as well as for those just taking a stroll. In the winter, it becomes the world-famous Rideau Canal Skateway, which extends south for nearly 8 km. The Ottawa River is also lined with paths, which are particularly scenic in Centretown where they pass below the cliffs of Parliament Hill. There are many gyms in the area, including two YMCA-YWCA locations and the Jack Purcell Community Centre. There are countless yoga and Pilates studios and in the summer there are free outdoor yoga classes on Parliament Hill and at Ottawa City Hall. Runners will love the abundance of races that take place in Centretown throughout the year. These include the renowned Ottawa Race Weekend and the Canada Army Run.
By and large Ottawa’s Centretown is filled with apartment buildings, either for rent or for sale. The trend in recent years is for more and more luxury, high-rise condominiums. There are some townhouse developments and there are also old houses, primarily south of Somerset Street. Many of the old houses are now used for commercial purposes, such as restaurants and offices for lawyers and doctors. There is a great range of affordability for renters. Centretown is a great place to live if you like to walk. It is where most government and business offices are located, making for an easy and eco-friendly commute. And in your free time, there is no shortage of entertainment and recreation options within walking distance.
Centretown offers the best public transportation options in the city. It is the hub for most OC Transpo bus routes and there are also many STO buses to various locations in Gatineau. The main transitway runs along Albert Street (west) and Slater Street (east). There are also many bus options on Elgin, Bank and Wellington streets. The new Confederation light rail line runs through Centretown and will begin service in 2017– 2018. Ottawa’s intercity bus station is also located in Centretown.
Centretown is primarily home to young professionals, people without children, students and retirees. However, there are some family-friendly areas in Centretown, particularly by the canal and the Glebe. There are many schools in Centretown. The Elgin Street and Centennial public schools offer classes for junior kindergarten through to grade 6. Glashan Public School on Argyle serves grades 7 and 8, and for high school, there is the Lisgar Collegiate Institute. In addition, the University of Ottawa is just across the canal.
Elgin Street is one of Ottawa’s top spots for dining and nightlife. Among Ottawa’s favourites are the Oz Kafe, the Manx, the Scone Witch, the Lieutenant’s Pump and the 24-hour Elgin Street Diner. There are also many restaurants in the core downtown area between Laurier Avenue West and Sparks Street. A high-end option is Hy’s Steakhouse on Queen Street, where you may run into members of parliament and senators. Centretown also has many unique street food vendors, with gourmet and international foods to supplement the standard chip wagons. Hartman’s is only one major supermarket in Centretown, which can be a trek when carrying heavy groceries. The other main grocery store is Boushey’s Fruit Market on Elgin Street. Some shops on the first floor of high-rise condominiums have grocery sections and there are a few supermarkets just outside Centretown on Rideau and Isabella streets. Centretown is also next to the Byward Market, which has outdoor venders throughout the year.