- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Ottawa Guide (PDF)
Expats living in Ottawa will have their pick when it comes to leisure pursuits. Whether it's shopping, eating out or partying the night away, Ottawa has something to suit everybody.
There are great opportunities to immerse oneself in arts and culture thanks to the city’s abundance of galleries, museums and dynamic exhibitions. As if that wasn’t enough, Ottawa also plays host to a number of top international cultural and music festivals.
The locals enjoy an active lifestyle and the sports scene is vibrant and active throughout the year. Those with an open mind and sense of adventure are sure to make the most of all the leisure activities available in Ottawa.
Shopping in Ottawa
From Ottawa’s large malls and outlet centres to the more expensive designer stores and quirky boutiques, the city has myriad shopping options.
Most of these lie in the city’s downtown area. Shoppers who like having everything under one roof can head to the CF Rideau Centre, while those looking to find unique fashion or a special gift can visit the boutiques, craft stores and farmer's stalls at ByWard Market, or check out historic Sparks Street.
Those looking for a bargain can opt to travel slightly out of town to peruse one of Ottawa’s outlet malls, such as the Ottawa Train Yards or the Carlingwood Shopping Centre. Other popular shopping malls include the Bayshore Shopping Centre to the west of the city and Place d’Orleans and St Laurent Shopping Centre in east Ottawa.
Nightlife and entertainment in Ottawa
The locals often say that Ottawa wakes up when the sun goes down. Most of the city’s nightlife centres on the ByWard Market district – by day this area is home to the local farmers, artisans and boutique shops but by night it transforms as revellers descend for fun and merriment.
A large number of bars and nightclubs are located within ‘The Market’. Music lovers will also have the opportunity to catch live performances from up-and-coming artists at one of the city’s famous music lounges.
For those who want to win big, Casino du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau has over 1,800 slot machines, poker tables and roulette wheels to keep people entertained.
There are also lots of opportunities to catch the latest shows and performances at one of Ottawa’s theatres such as the National Arts Centre or Theatre du Casino.
Eating out in Ottawa
Ottawa has a thriving gastronomic scene with many top international chefs opening up restaurants in the city. It is one of Ontario’s designated culinary tourism destinations and through an initiative called Savour Ottawa, restaurant owners actively work with local food producers to bring diners the best of what the region has to offer.
Whether diners enjoy French, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Ethiopian or Fusion cuisine, Ottawa has scores of restaurants and cafes. Expats are sure to find something they like, and can even get a taste of home.
Outdoor activities in Ottawa
Ottawa is one of the world’s greenest cities and around its urban core lies what is known as the ‘emerald necklace’, a preserved green belt of federally-owned parklands, forests and wetlands.
Expats who enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle will love Ottawa’s abundance of green parks, lush forest, waterways and open spaces. The region has hundreds of kilometres of cross-country ski trails as well as a great system of parkways which provide opportunities for cycling, rollerblading and jogging along the scenic routes of Ottawa’s rivers and canals.
Just a short journey from the city centre there are some of Ontario’s best beaches, which are a favourite for residents during the summer months. For the avid golfer, Ottawa has more golf courses within easy reach than any other city in Canada. In the winter, Ottawa’s residents fully immerse themselves in the winter-sports scene, whether it's ice skating on the world’s largest outdoor rink, taking to the slopes or simply being a spectator at an ice hockey game.
Finally, for those looking for an adrenaline rush, Ottawa offers opportunities to try out adventure activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, windsurfing, white-water rafting, scuba diving and kayaking.
►To learn more about the best annual events in Ottawa check out the What's On in Ottawa page
"Overall, Ottawa is an easy city to live in. It’s safe, clean, family friendly, and it’s arguably one of the most picturesque cities in Canada."
Read more on the lifestyle in Ottawa in our interview with Juliette Giannesini.
Are you an expat living in Ottawa?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ottawa. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global can tailor an international health insurance plan to perfectly fit the needs of you and your family. With 86 million customers in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
William Russell is a boutique insurance company, that values itself on its great customer service and is underwritten by Allianz. They provide health, life, and income protection insurance for expats around the world. With a global network of 40,000 hospitals and doctors, their health insurance plans are designed so that they follow you to whatever country you move to next.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.