The ByWard Market itself – now one of the oldest farmers’ markets in Canada – was established in 1826 by Lieutenant-Colonel John By, Builder of the Rideau Canal. The area was created as a commercial sector to support the builders of the Rideau Canal. Soon, stores, taverns, hotels, residential and industrial buildings sprang up, and Rideau Canal labourers of mostly French-Canadian and Irish origin settled in. As the area evolved, so did the architectural styles. Many of the original buildings still house a melting pot of businesses and cultures – all of which contribute to the area’s eclectic charm.
The ByWard Market Square is home to indoor food vendors and unique shops, as well as a year-round outdoor market brimming with artists’ handcrafted goods, seasonal fresh farmers’ produce and flowers. Once inside the main part of the building, look up to see the large papier mâché sculpture hanging from the ceiling. Created in 1978, the impressive piece called McClintock’s Dream depicts colourful market vendors from times past in an enormous cloud.
Whatever culinary experience you’re craving, you’ll find it in the ByWard Market area. Gourmet dining at Restaurant e18hteen; high end dining in a casual atmosphere at Play Food & Wine; Middle-Eastern flavours at Fairouz Café; affordable international eats in the ByWard Market Square; 24 hour diner fare at Zak’s diner. And no one can resist a sweet or savoury BeaverTail pastry at its original location.
If you’d prefer to try multiple restaurants in one go, book a dining tour with Experience Food or Ottawa Tasting Tours and let them take care of the planning. Or for a broader look at the ByWard Market food scene (including samples), join a C’est Bon Ottawa Food Tour which visits foodie stops like Mantovani 1946. These tour companies also offer tours in other neighbourhoods.
In the evening, the neighbourhood’s many pubs, bars and clubs fill up with revelers, and in the warm months, the many outdoor patios provide the perfect setting to people watch or to be seen. Live music and DJs keep you dancing into the night at favourite local haunts like the Rainbow Bistro or Mercury Lounge. Enjoy Irish pub hospitality at venues like the Heart & Crown or brewpubs like Lowertown Brewery. Or for a truly local experience, visit the Château Lafayette. Known locally as The Laff, this classy tavern meets dive bar is the city’s oldest bar!
Independently-run boutiques, shops and galleries are around every corner in the ByWard Market area. Stroll along high-end Sussex Drive and browse international brands at schad or Trustfund; unique creations at Kaliyana and Farah Studio; works of art at the Gordon Harrison Canadian Landscape Gallery; and home designs at The Modern Shop and Zone. At the North end of Dalhousie Street known as NorthDal, Workshop Studio & Boutique exclusively carries Canadian brands including their own quirky creations; Sukhoo Sukhoo makes haute couture designs; and Chapeaux de Madeleine creates beautiful hats. And don’t miss tucked away jewels like Milk Shop on William Street, Roadtrip in the Clarendon Courtyard and Librairie du Soleil on York Street.