Where to Stay in Ottawa

SD › Best Places to Stay in Ottawa
Updated: January 6, 2023
By Santorini Dave

Our Favorite Ottawa Hotels

• 5-Star Hotel: Fairmont Chateau Laurier
• Boutique Hotel: Le Germain
• Cheap Hotel: The Business Inn & Suites
• Family Hotel: Delta City Centre
• Best Pool: Hilton Lac-Leamy (outdoor) • Sheraton (indoor)
• Near Airport: Fairfield Inn & Suites

Best luxury hotel in Ottawa, Canada.

The 5-star Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.

The Best Area to Stay in Ottawa

The capital of Canada, Ottawa is a cosmopolitan city of just over one million people, with a spread of excellent museums and historic sights, as well as the Canadian parliament and government buildings, the National Arts Centre, and an outdoorsy culture fueled by numerous parks and gardens, miles of bicycle and hiking trails, and water sports on the Ottawa River, Rideau River, and Rideau Canal. The city’s major sights are mostly clustered on the south bank of the Ottawa River, in Downtown and around Parliament Hill, or on the other side of the Rideau Canal, where ByWard Market anchors Ottawa’s culinary and nightlife scenes. These central neighborhoods are where you should aim to stay – most of the hotels are here, and the rest of the city is easy to access.

Centretown lies just to the south of Downtown, worth exploring for its eating and shopping opportunities, as well as the Canadian Museum of Nature. On the other side of the Ottawa River in francophone Gatineau, Quebec, sits the massive Canadian Museum of History. To the west of Downtown lie a series of intriguing neighborhoods worth exploring if you have more time, or if this is your second visit, though accommodation options are thin on the ground: Chinatown, Little Italy, and the hip enclaves of Hintonburg, Wellington Village, and Westboro.

If you intend to spend most of your time in and around Downtown, there’s no need to rent a car – you’ll be able to walk between Parliament Hill and ByWard Market, and taxis (Uber and Lyft both operate in Ottawa) or buses are otherwise easy to find. Buses – and Ottawa’s light rail system (O-Train) – are operated by OC Transpo, while Société de Transport de l’Outaouais, operates on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Single fares are C$3.65 (a bit cheaper with a PRESTO stored value card), and a one-day pass is C$11. Renting a car can save you time and money if you want to explore the outer neighborhoods and visit sights such as the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Canada Science and Technology Museum, and Gatineau Park.

Ottawa Travel Tips

  • Ottawa International Airport is around 8 miles (13km) south of Downtown. OC Transpo bus #97 is the cheapest way to get into the city ($3.65).
  • Though cycling is very popular, Ottawa has no bike share scheme currently, opting instead to allow e-scooters to operate in the city (usually April to November only): Bird Canada, Lime and Neuron.
  • Note that although Uber and Lyft drivers can drop off customers on the Quebec side of the river, they currently cannot pick them up there – this is especially important to know if you opt to stay in Gatineau.
  • For shuttle trips across the Ottawa River in the summer, check out the eco-friendly Aqua Taxi.
  • If you are aiming to visit all Ottawa’s big museums, you’ll save a bit of cash by investing in the Capital Museums Passport, valid for seven days and costing C$45 (sold at the seven participating museums).

The Best Places to Stay in Ottawa

Hotel near Shaw Centre in downtown Ottawa.

The Westin Hotel and the Shaw Centre convention centre.

• Note that Ottawa is a major business conference and convention hub, so it’s worth checking events on the tourism website before you plan your visit – rates vary accordingly. You’ll snag the best discounts when there are no conferences and when the Canadian parliament is in recess (or on weekends generally).

Best Neighborhoods in Ottawa for…

  • Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: ByWard Market
    Staying in or around ByWard Market, just across the Rideau Canal from Downtown Ottawa, is likely to be more entertaining than staying in Downtown itself. There’s a wide range of accommodation here, and the best eating and drinking in the city all within walking distance. You can also easily access the activities on the Rideau Canal, the shops inside the CF Rideau Centre, and the National Gallery of Canada, one of the nation’s best art museums.
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood: Sandy Hill
    Just east of ByWard Market, the residential neighborhood of Sandy Hill boasts leafy streets and some wonderful Victorian homes, several of which have been converted into attractive B&Bs. You can also check out the Laurier House National Historic Site, enjoy romantic strolls along the Rideau River in Strathcona Park, or explore the ByWard Market area itself (easily walkable). Other highlights include the Happy Goat Coffee Co, Working Title Kitchen + Café, and In’s Kitchen. Two of the best places to stay include the Ambassador and King Edward bed & breakfasts.
  • Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife: ByWard Market and Centretown
    ByWard Market is Ottawa’s premier nightlife hub, heaving with pubs, bars, and clubs. Popular local haunts include live venue Rainbow Bistro, the Mercury Lounge, the Heart & Crown Irish pub, and the city’s oldest bar, Château Lafayette (akaThe Laff). The area around Bank Street in Centretown is another nightlife hub worth exploring, with legendary Barrymore’s Music Hall open since 1978 at 323 Bank Street (though it’s been closed since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and disputes over renovations). Otherwise, The Atomic Rooster is a good bet for live music, and over on Elgin Street there’s British-themed pub The Lieutenant’s Pump, cocktails at Charlotte, and DJs at The Standard.
  • Best Neighborhoods for Food and Restaurants: Little Italy and Wellington West
    Though ByWard Market is a great place to find restaurants, food stalls, and cafés of all kinds, dedicated foodies should explore neighborhoods beyond the center to sample Ottawa’s most creative scenes. Around 1.5 miles (2.5km) west from Downtown (along Somerset and Preston streets), Little Italy is a delight, with authentic bakeries such as Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana, sandwiches at Sanguiccio Deli-Café and pasta at DreamLand Café. It’s not just Italian food, though. Other highlights here include excellent coffee at Bridgehead Roastery, molecular gastronomy and fine dining at Atelier and Alice, Irish-Italian mash-up Pub Italia, and EVOO Greek Kitchen.

    • Ottawa’s annual Italian Week in June features live music, parades, races, and more.
    • Staying in Little Italy can be fun, but you’ll need to look for apartment rentals – there are no hotels. It’s otherwise only a short bus ride from Downtown.

    Another burgeoning foodie destination is Wellington West (another mile or so beyond Little Italy), especially as Wellington Street passes through the hipster enclave of Hintonburg. Top picks here include French bistro Absinthe, the sweet treats at Stubbe Chocolates, SuzyQ Doughnuts, bar snacks and craft beer at Tooth and Nail Brewing Company, gastropub Hintonburg Public House, and wood-oven pizza at Tennessy Willems. A bit further along in Wellington Village is the contemporary Canadian cuisine at Stofa, fresh seafood at Supply and Demand, and Montreal-style bagels at the Ottawa Bagelshop & Deli.

    • You can access Hintonburg quickly via the O-Train (to Tunney’s Pasture or Bayview stations). Otherwise, like Little Italy, apartment rentals are the way to go if you’d like to stay here.

    • Companies such as C’est Bon and Ottawa Tasting Tours offer a broad introduction to the city’s culinary scene.

  • Best Neighborhood for Shopping: ByWard Market and Wellington West
    The obvious place to start any shopping tour of Ottawa is the ByWard Market area, where the CF Rideau Centre mall contains all the usual stores (including Apple, Nordstrom, Tiffany & Co, Sephora and many others). The neighborhood also features plenty of independently-run boutiques, shops, and galleries, including women’s fashions at Kaliyana, Farah Studio, and Sukhoo Sukhoo; contemporary art at Galerie St-Laurent + Hill; fashion and designer gifts at Milk Shop; and books at Librairie du Soleil. The Wellington Street West corridor(between Hintonburg and Wellington Village) is another great place to peruse independent shops and specialty stores. Highlights include the handcrafted gifts and furniture at Maker House, rare vinyl at The Record Centre, vintage and consignment boutique Trove Fashion, World of Maps, the huge St. Vincent de Paul charity store, and handcrafts, fashion, and jewelry at Kindred Shop, Flock, JV Studios & Boutique, and Victoire.
  • Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: The Glebe
    South of Centretown (and Hwy-417, aka “the Queensway”), Bank Street continues into the primarily residential neighborhood known as The Glebe. It’s a relatively affluent area of Victorian-era buildings, parks, and tree-lined streets home to hip cafes and brunch spots. At the southern end of the district, Lansdowne Park contains the historic Aberdeen Pavilion as well as Ottawa’s Farmers Market and TD Place, a sports and concert venue. Otherwise the Glebe is a great place to just wander and soak up the scene. Browse the vinyl, DVDs, books and curiosities at Crosstown Traffic and footwear at Glebe Trotters, breakfast at Kettleman’s Bagels, eat Mexican food at Feleena’s, and enjoy top pub food and beers at The Rowan.
  • Unsafe Areas of Ottawa
    Central Ottawa is generally quite safe, though the usual precautions should be taken at night. The areas posting the highest crime rates tend to be the southern suburbs (Heron Gate, Russell Heights, Ledbury), but you are highly unlikely to end up here.

The 5 Best Neighborhoods in Ottawa for Tourists

1. Downtown Ottawa

Downtown Ottawa is the fittingly low-key political heart of Canada, with the focus of most activity (and most visitors) on Parliament Hill, a limestone bluff high above the Ottawa River. This is where you’ll find Canada’s neo-Gothic Parliament Buildings, a vast Victorian pile, most of which can be toured depending on the time of year. Canadians generally find this more enlightening than foreign visitors, but there are some highlights: Centre Block, home of the Senate and the House of Commons; and the Peace Tower, added in 1927 as a memorial to Canadians who served in World War I. The daily Changing of the Guard (late June to late Aug) is also popular, as is the free sound and light show on summer evenings. Nearby is the Bank of Canada Museum and Sparks Street, a pedestrianized strip of shops and restaurants that became North America’s first permanent outdoor pedestrian mall in 1961. Sparks Street’s eastern end folds into the National Arts Centre on the Rideau Canal, home to four stages, the National Arts Centre Orchestra,and the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra. The canal itself is lined by footpaths and has become the focus of year-round activities; in winter, frozen solid, it becomes the world’s longest skating rink. At the foot of the Ottawa Locks of the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO site) is the Bytown Museum, housed in Ottawa’s oldest building, with displays and a film charting the history of the waterway.

• The huge Canadian War Museum is around a mile (1.5km) west along the river from Downtown. Its displays and exhibits comprehensively chart Canada’s military history, including the War of 1812 and especially World War I and World War II. Just outside the museum, LeBreton Flats Park is the venue for the annual Bluesfest in July.

• Though there are a lot of hotels Downtown and it tends to be fairly lively on week days, most of the locals who work here vacate the area in the evenings and at weekends – you’ll need to explore other Ottawa neighborhoods to get a feel for what makes the city tick.

• Downtown’s Confederation Park is the venue for the annual two-week Ottawa Jazz Festival in late June/early July, one of Canada’s top music festivals.

2. Centretown

Immediately south of Downtown is workaday Centretown, with two main strips – Bank Street and Elgin Street – providing a huge dose of shopping, eating, and drinking entertainment. The main conventional attraction is the family-friendly Canadian Museum of Nature at the southern end of the neighborhood. Ottawa’s Gay Village is also located here (a six by two block area of Bank Street); this is the epicenter of the annual Capital Pride Festival in August. Until the COVID-19 epidemic, the annual GlowFair festival (https://glowfairfestival.ca), with live music and art displays, also took place along Bank Street (the tourism website should have the latest).

• Centretown is a lot more lively than Downtown, though there’s not a lot of choice here when it comes to accommodation.

3. ByWard Market/Downtown Rideau

Just over the Rideau Canal, and often considered an extension of Downtown Ottawa, the ByWard Market/Rideau district is the city’s shopping, cultural, dining and nightlife heart. It’s actually a great place to stay, though depending on the hotel, it can be noisy at night (especially weekends). The main attraction is ByWard Market itself, established in 1826 and one of the oldest markets in Canada. It’s home to numerous food vendors and unique shops selling handcrafted goods as well as seasonal farmers’ produce. The surrounding area is crammed with more shops and restaurants, including the CF Rideau Centre, the largest mall in the city. Nearby is one of Ottawa’s biggest attractions, the National Gallery of Canada, with a collection of global art exceeding 25,000 pieces and including some real gems, from Canadian art through the years (and the Group of Seven), to Andy Warhol’s Brillo Soap Pads Boxes, Rembrandt’s beautiful Heroine from the Old Testament, and the iconic Death of General Wolfeby Benjamin West. There’s also work by Klimt, Matisse, Picasso, Pollock, Rothko and Dalí. Opposite the museum stands the twin-spired Notre Dame Cathedral, completed in 1890. On the other side of the market, near the University of Ottawa campus, the Ottawa Art Gallery displays some of the best contemporary and modern art from the region. To the north of the neighborhood lies the Earnscliffe National Historic Site of Canada, the handsome former home of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first prime minister of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. Beyond here, the Rideau River is a pleasant place for a stroll, with the Rideau Falls separated by Green Island as they tumble into the Ottawa River. On the north side there’s the Official Residence of the Prime Minister of Canada (off limits to visitors) and stately Rideau Hall, home of Canada’s governors general (free guided tours available).

• Staying in ByWard Market means being able to enjoy Ottawa nightlife without needing to take taxis, but it can be noisier and a little edgier than the rest of the city, especially at weekends.

• The leafy neighborhood of Sandy Hill, just to the east of ByWard Market, is home to the fascinating Laurier House National Historic Site, the former home of prime ministers Sir Wilfred Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King.

4. Chinatown

Ottawa’s Chinatown lies principally along Somerset Street West, a half mile or so west of Centretown. (The traditional Chinatown Gateway, or Royal Arch, sweeps over Somerset just before Cambridge Street.) Chinese immigrants have been settling here since the 1920s, with Vietnamese arriving in numbers in the 1980s. As you might imagine, the chief attraction here is the food, with an excellent array of pho, ramen, dim sum, and Sichuan food on offer, often at bargain prices. Solid options include Cantonese and Sichuanese diner the Yangtze Restaurant, Koichi Ramen, Ha’s Dim Sum Noodle House, and the Vietnamese food at Phở Bắc Oriental Cuisine (873 Somerset St).

• The neighborhood hosts the annual Ottawa Asian Fest in July, which features a fun night market.

• There’s nowhere good to stay in Chinatown, but it’s an easy hop by bus from Downtown or Centretown.

5. Gatineau

Gatineau, across the Ottawa River in Quebec, is proud of its francophone heritage, and you’ll immediately notice the difference – most people speak French here, and the red stop signs all say “Arrêt”. The major attractions on the Gatineau side of the river include the vast and absorbing Canadian Museum of History, and the associated Canadian Children’s Museum. With a car, you’ll be able to explore the wilderness areas beyond the urban core, including Gatineau Park, Pink Lake, Lac Meech, Champlain Lookout, and many other beautiful spots.

• Access to Gatineau from ByWard Market and Downtown Ottawa is fairly easy, with buses zipping across the Alexandra and Portage bridges.

More Ottawa Neighborhoods

We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail above, but with more time these districts are also worth checking out:

  • Kanata: Some 13.5 miles (22km) southwest of Downtown, this otherwise humdrum suburb is primarily of interest because of the Canadian Tire Centre, a major concert venue and home to Ottawa’s fanatically supported National Hockey League team, the Senators. Our favorite hotels here are the Wingate Kanata West (for the Canadian Tire Center), and the Brookstreet Hotel, Homewood Suites, and TownePlace Suites.
  • Vanier: This traditionally French-Canadian neighborhood lies a few miles east of Downtown, on the other side of the Rideau River. Though it’s primarily a residential suburb, there are some interesting things to see, beginning with the Centre d’artistes Voix Visuell, a gallery displaying thought-provoking digital and contemporary art, and the Vanier Museopark, a site that comprises an absorbing history museum, maple forest, and urban sugar shack. To the northeast, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum is one of the nation’s premier museums, displaying a huge array of historic aircraft. There’s not much point in staying here (there are some cheap but poor quality motels in Vanier), but if you’re driving, nearby are the much better Hampton Inn and Courtyard Ottawa East.
  • Manotick: Some 15.5 miles (25km) south of Downtown along the Rideau River/Canal, Manotick makes for a pleasant day-trip for history buffs. It’s best known for Watsons Mill, a working 1860’s water-powered grist and flour mill, and Dickinson House opposite, constructed in 1867 for Moss Kent Dickinson, the mill owner. Manotick’s Main Street is lined with indie shops, restaurants, and cafés. Highlights include the Thai food at Khao Yum, Babbos Cucina Italiana and Mimi’s Donuts & Dairy Barn. The Gingerbread Man bakery sells locally-celebrated cookies and butter tarts. There’s not much in the way of accommodation in Manotick, but for a break from the city, we like the nearby retreat and spa at Strathmere. There’s also the Hampton Inn & Suites Ottawa West on the main highway (416).
  • Cumberland: The main reason to take the 17-mile (28km) trip east along the Ottawa River to this small village is the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, which showcases life in 1920’s and 1930’s rural Canada with historic and replica buildings. While here, stop by the superb Black Walnut Bakery for breads, desserts, pies, and more.
  • Note that the family-friendly Canada Science and Technology Museum lies 9km east from Downtown, most conveniently accessed by car.
  • The Carleton University campus, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, and tranquil Dominion Arboretum are around 3 miles (5km) south of Downtown, and again, are all easier to access by car.
  • Ottawa Airport: staying near the airport is only really worthwhile for late or early flights, or if you want to explore the greater Ottawa area by car. In that case, you’ll find cheaper rates out here. Most convenient for the airport itself are Fairfield Inn & Suites and Hilton Garden Inn; for best access to the highway system, choose the Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, or Residence Inn.

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.