Where to live in Ottawa?
June 7, 2007 11:35 AM   Subscribe

I've just been offered a job in Ottawa and I need to decide where to live.

As of July 16th, I am going to be working in Ottawa for the Canadian federal government. Right now, I am living in Oxford, UK. As such, I am trying to get a sense of the housing possibilities from a distance.

I am looking for a single bedroom apartment in an interesting part of town (along the lines of Greenwich Village in New York or Commercial Drive in Vancouver). I want to be close to an interesting commercial area, with cafes, restaurants, theatres, and the like. Good infrastructure for cycling and public transport is a major asset. I am used to living in a university environment, so I want to live somewhere where I can socialize with other fairly young people. I am looking for a place that will cost around $1000 a month, with utilities and internet included. Lastly, I want it to be in reasonable walking or cycling range from the Les Terrasses de la Chaudière Building in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa proper.

Where are the good areas in Ottawa/Gatineau for a single twenty-three year old male to live?
posted by sindark to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
...along the lines of Greenwich Village in New York or Commercial Drive in Vancouver... Well, you might be in for a bit of a let-down, but it's not too bad. I don't think it really has a name, but the area around Bank & Elgin Streets, from Somerset say down to Gladstone is probably closest to what you're looking for. It's where most of the interesting stuff is - pubs, venues, galleries, coffeeshops, good food, poutine etc. Plus it's chock-a-block with walkup apartment buildings where you won't have a problem finding something decent.
This neighbourhood is bordered to the north by the commercial downtown, the Rideau canal to the west, and to the south by an expressway, and a ways further south the Glebe, which is a bit more gentrified. It'd be an easy 15 minute ride through downtown and over the river to work.
(Strangely enough, I moved from Ottawa to Oxford a few years ago)
posted by Flashman at 11:53 AM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I lived there over a decade ago just after I graduated from university. My memories are that there are no good places for a 23 year old male to live. Dream on getting anything a fraction as interesting as any neighbourhood in Manhattan.

Seriously, Wikipedia has a Ottawa neighbourhood map. I'd suggest Riverview, Sandy Hill and the Glebe, the longstanding "cool" neighbourhoods in town. I'd suggest staying close to the University of Ottawa and not Carleton, solely based on geography and not on a relative preference of the universities. But I'm sure more current Ottawa residents will have more specific suggestions.
posted by GuyZero at 11:54 AM on June 7, 2007

Whoops - Rideau Canal is to the east, and Chinatown to the west...weird thing about Ottawa is it has no natural axis, so directions always seem screwy...these are pretty bastardized approximations.
posted by Flashman at 11:56 AM on June 7, 2007

Response by poster: "Dream on getting anything a fraction as interesting as any neighbourhood in Manhattan"

I meant to indicate a preferred kind of neighbourhood, not my belief that something exactly equivalent could be found. I am looking for somewhere young, clever, and alive.
posted by sindark at 12:00 PM on June 7, 2007

As someone who recently relocated to Ottawa (for university) and is currently working for the federal government, I hope I can offer a little bit of insight...

If you're looking for an area with plenty of young people/uni students and tourists, the place to look would be the Byward Market. It's full of clubs and restaurants and is only a short walk to the National Arts Centre, Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal and various other interesting places. Living in the Market can be expensive, but I'm sure you could find something within your range.
I live a little further afield, myself, but I'm still close to many a tiny cafe and restaurant, so anywhere in the "Downtown" area would probably suit your needs.

Ottawa has a fantatic transit system. I bus to and from work everyday, and I have never had a problem finding a bus that is going in my direction. Buses are frequent and, more often than not, on time. Althought I've never taken a bus there specifically, OC Transpo probably runs a bus directly to TLC. Check their web site or the STO (Quebec buses) site for more info.

There are also many lovely and accessible bike/walking paths along the Ottawa River...but they are closed in the winter, so be forewarned.

I have some friends who live on the Gatineau side, because it's apparently much cheaper than Ottawa - this is with regards to shared student housing, though. However, I'm not familiar with the Hull sector of Gatineau (other than a few of the bars), so I can't give you any information about it.

Good luck with your new job. Can I ask what Department you're going to be working for?
posted by meesha at 12:00 PM on June 7, 2007

Response by poster: Can I ask what Department you're going to be working for?

Environment Canada
posted by sindark at 12:02 PM on June 7, 2007

I'd suggest Riverview, Sandy Hill and the Glebe, the longstanding "cool" neighbourhoods in town. I'd suggest staying close to the University of Ottawa and not Carleton, solely based on geography and not on a relative preference of the universities. But I'm sure more current Ottawa residents will have more specific suggestions.

Sandy Hill would be good if you're looking to socialize with students. However, the crime rate has been going up around their recently (or so I'm told), and it tends to get noisy and dirty on the weekends (parties, broken bottles, etc.)

Good luck finding an apartment for that price in the Glebe. You'll pay that for a room and a shared bathroom...it's crazy expensive there, and the transit's not so great.

But I do agree that you should stay near OttawaU (Go Gee Gees!)...ahem. Carleton is way the hell out in the middle of nowhere, and definitely not within riding distance of TLC.
posted by meesha at 12:19 PM on June 7, 2007

Westboro is the new Glebe anyhow! I'm in Westboro, and I love it, although it's starting to get a bit too gentrified for my tastes. Hintonburg is one neighbourhood closer to downtown than Westboro and has a lot of the charm Westboro had five or six years ago before it became all condos, but the very eastern end by the tracks, Mechanicsville, can be a bit rough. Hintonburg is coming up fast too, mind you -- the Great Canadian Theatre Company just built its new theatre right in the middle of the neighbourhood.

The Byward Market and Sandy Hill are excellent, but again watch for where they become Vanier to the east and it begins to get rough again.

The Glebe is as gentrified as it gets. Nice neighbourhood, yes, but gentrified.
posted by mendel at 12:35 PM on June 7, 2007

I'd say live in Centretown as it's the closest reasonable place to les Terasses de la Chaudière (if by close you mean a 20-40 minute walk), but the north-west part of Centretown (closest to Hull) is farthest from basic amenities like grocery stores, restaurants, etc and is just canyons of highrise apartments, hotels and condos. The more interesting part of Centretown for the young crowd is probably Bank Street, with Elgin Street skewing a bit older and being more pubby/restauranty compared to Bank Street's live music venues and skeezy "dive-pubs" for lack of a better word. An apartment for under $1000 is quite doable provided you don't want parking.
posted by cardboard at 12:42 PM on June 7, 2007

Centretown -- roughly, the downtown area between Bronson and Elgin -- fits your distance criteria, and you shouldn't have any trouble finding a place that fits your price/size criteria. It's a little uninteresting -- especially further north towards Laurier -- but at least it's only a few blocks from the interesting parts of downtown Ottawa. (Inasmuch as anything in Ottawa is interesting.)

The #8 Ottawa bus goes to your workplace, so the key streets, in terms of getting there on foot, are Albert and Slater: that's the downtown bus corridor that the #8 traverses. Otherwise, Gatineau buses take Wellington Street, which is further up.

(On preview: I concur with cardboard.)
posted by mcwetboy at 12:48 PM on June 7, 2007

cardboard and mcwetboy: I actually live in Centretown. I didn't recommend it precisely because it is just so very boring. But it's Ottawa, so pretty much anywhere the OP chooses will probably be boring and gentrified.
posted by meesha at 1:16 PM on June 7, 2007

I'll second Westboro.

-It's far enough away from downtown to be much cheaper in terms of rent;
-Close enough to be a 10 dollar cab ride from the downtown core
-Excellent access to public transportation;
-Right on the river for sunsets, driving the parkway or biking on Ottawa's network of bike trails;
-Lots of little artsy shoppes/cafés;
-Quiet and friendly;

Unless you have your heart set on a pure-urban environment, Westboro is where you want to be. Accessible, Beautiful and most of all, well-priced.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:34 PM on June 7, 2007

Also- westboro is oh-so-close to Terrasses. Definitely biking distance, and an easy commute on the bus for the winter.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:36 PM on June 7, 2007

Response by poster: A bit more info on the job in case anyone is interested.

Thanks for all the information so far.
posted by sindark at 1:45 PM on June 7, 2007

Here's the routes for the two main buses from the Ontario side that will be going to your work: Bus #8 (a regular route) and Bus #27 (an express route). There is Bus #88 and Bus #40 which only runs at peak hours. I don't suggest driving as it's hell during rush hour, I'm told.

Here's a page with some links to apartment rental searches. I used to use the Ottawa Citizen's classifieds search for apartments back when I was renting. I got smart and bought a house out in the sticks.

As for locations, based on your description, the Byward Market and Lowertown sounds like a good place for you. Be warned that anything east of King Edward is a bit sketchy. If you wanted to take the bus, you could catch both the #8 and the #27 at the Rideau Centre at the Mackenzie King Bridge (lower right-ish area on the map). If you wanted to bike or walk, you'd take the Alexandria Bridge (upper left line across the water).

I lived in Lowertown on St. Andrew Street and Dalhousie and it was a close walk to the National Art Gallery, the Byward Market, Major's Hill Park (where they have lots of music venues in the summer), cafes, restaurants, shops, etc. It was great walking home as I could pick up fresh stuff for dinner in the Market and people watch. I also lived in Sandy Hill on Stewart Street and Friel Street near the University of Ottawa. Lots of university pubs and restaurants as well as the Bytowne Cinema. Can get a little rowdy and noisy at times, especially after 2 AM during Frosh Week. Lots of embassy buildings too. If you lived in Sandy Hill area, you'd probably only take the bus to work at catch it at the Laurier or Campus stops. You could bike to work but it'd be a lot farther.

I don't suggest the Glebe as public transportation is really crappy along Bank Street and I don't think it's going to change any time soon.

You may want to consider Little Italy on Preston Street as it's really close to your work, has a lot of restaurants and neat grocery stores. It does have the Great Canadian Theatre Company. A nice thing about Little Italy is that it's just down the hill from Chinatown on Somerset Street.

You could also live in Hull but someone else will have to tell you about that.

Good luck and congratulations!
posted by KathyK at 2:02 PM on June 7, 2007

I recommend the Byward Market or Centertown. The Market is pretty dense and full of restaurants, clubs and young people. It is also full of cars and tourists. Centretown is a bit more spread out and relaxed (unless there's a hockey final going on, hopefully not too often). It's also somewhat easier to get from there to other parts of the city, and a bit less expensive. Both those neighbourhoods are close enough for you to walk to work in about half an hour, I would guess. They're close to the transitway too, which is (the only) dependable public transit.

The Glebe, Westboro, Little Italy, and Sandy Hill are ok choices too, but I think they don't match your requirements as well.

(I moved away from Centretown for a couple of years to be closer to work, but am moving back shortly. It's hard to give up living in a walkable neighbourhood and being close to nightlife.)
posted by blue grama at 2:57 PM on June 7, 2007

I've lived here my entire live and so let me share with you my opinions...and biases.

Centretown can't be beat for the location, amenities and friendly folks. Sure, it's also where you're going to find all kinds of social problems, but unlike the suburbs the problems are in plain view. Streets that feed off of Bay and Percy are both good bets if you want to pay less than what you would in the Elgin/Golden Triangle area. Be wary of the area bounded by Bronson, Sommerset, Booth and Gladstone. That's become a real shit hole. And I'm being charitable.

Granted, Centretown living space isn't cheap, but it will be less than what you'd pay for living in the Glebe or Westboro, both of which have become over-run with people who have more money than brains...and and annoying sameness to their lives.

One area to avoid completely is the Lees Avenue apartments. They're in a cluster and lure newcomers with the appeal of being close to downtown, the canal and the Market. But it's also where you'll find higher crime. That's just my experience talking, but one that comes from having friends who've lived there and who got out as soon as they could.

As for the Market area, it's *okay* but requires two things: lots of money to pay for sky-high rents and a high-tolerance level for noise and (ahem) street activity. Sandy Hill is very much a student ghetto within five blocks east of U of O. Same goes for the Sunnyside area due to its proximity to Carleton U. Same area but East of Bank is called Riverside. It's very pleasant, but you're starting to get far from downtown now.

Don't consider living on the Quebec side in Gatineau unless you really, really enjoy paying higher taxes and fees as well as being saddled with sub-par health care.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 4:08 PM on June 7, 2007

Arg! Excuse the typos.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 4:09 PM on June 7, 2007

I lived in Centretown and thought it was great. But I lived in the area that Runningdog noted is now nasty. If you can find something in a nicer area of Centretown, you'll be in a great position. It's an easy walk or busride to just about anything around town. You can still walk to the market, canal, museums and so on. Also, in the winter, you can cut through various buildings and underground malls to avoid having to walk outside when it's freezing cold.
posted by acoutu at 5:14 PM on June 7, 2007

If you can get a space in Westboro or Hintonberg, take it -- they aren't getting any cheaper.

Centretown is great, but it's pricey.
posted by Jairus at 5:55 PM on June 7, 2007

One area to avoid completely is the Lees Avenue apartments.

Gah! Seconded and thirded! I live there for approx. a year. I would say the filthiness is more of an issue than crime, but that may have changed. Horrific places, but cheap and there's always a unit free. But don't let that suck you in. Dirty, dirty apartments.

My one funny story is that I taught a programming class in Halifax years ago. One of the "students" worked for veterans' affairs, in PEI. He was an ex-Mountie. He alleged that they used to (and may still) bug most, if not all, of the Lees Ave apartments because a lot of Russian embassy staff used to live there. The bugging would have been ~20 years ago, so take it with a grain of salt, but it sure was a funny story at the time.
posted by GuyZero at 7:31 PM on June 7, 2007

I'll just 2nd and 3rd a lot of the above comments.

Sandy Hill is moving towards student ghetto and doesn't have an interesting commercial strip.

The Market/Centretown could be nice, but is loud and expensive; I'd rather not live where I get drunk.

The Glebe is fun to visit, but is fairly expensive and has an older crowd.

I really enjoy living in the Hintonburg/Westboro area; very excited about the direction it is taking.

The thing to keep in mind about Ottawa is that it is fantastically small; all of the above neighbourhoods are easily accessible from each other.
posted by magwich at 9:52 PM on June 7, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks again for all the information. Choosing where to live in an unknown city is a pretty daunting task. The best bet is probably to find somewhere to stay temporarily and decide upon permanent accomodation once I have had the chance to walk around some of the neighbourhoods suggested above.

Centretown, Byward Market, and Little Italy are all places I will make sure to visit before I decide.
posted by sindark at 3:39 AM on June 8, 2007

Single twenty-one year old male here: I've been living in Little Italy for about a year and a half and I've really enjoyed it. You'll definitely be able to find a place for less than $1000 a month, so that's no worry. The area is also pretty well connected transitwise. There are a few ways to get downtown from here by public transit and they all take 10 - 15 minutes.

I put my address into the OC Transpo Travel Planner to see what the Little Italy to TLC commute is like and it says that the total duration is 26 minutes, with one transfer.

You could bike to work from here too, and I expect it would probably take a similar amount of time. However unless you're really hardcore I imagine you probably aren't going to want to bike to work in the winter, in which case a decent bus commute is key.

There's bars, coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants, and all sorts of stuff on Preston St. At the corner of Beech and Champagne is Di Rienzo's Deli which you should visit even if you don't end up living in Little Italy. They make great sandwiches that are amazingly cheap and everyone who works there is really nice. On Saturday mornings they have fresh pastries. Get the cannoli.

On my street things are generally pretty quiet. I think the most exciting thing that happened was when they resurfaced it a little while ago. Maybe that's a little harsh. People play bike polo across the street from the deli regularly once the weather warms up, but other than that, nothing too crazy happens.

Dow's lake is walking distance as well. You can go skating on it and the canal in the winter. You could probably skate halfway to work if you really felt like it. There's bike paths that run around the lake and along the canal as well. The arboretum is just next to the lake, and is a great place to take a walk, or just sit.

Also, as KathyK mentioned above, the proximity to Chinatown is also great. Nothing hits the spot like some Pho at 3 in the morning.

That's all I can think of right now. I'm leaving Ottawa soon, and one thing that I'm sure about is that I'm going to miss living in this neighborhood.
posted by benign at 8:22 AM on June 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd like to NTH!!!! hintonburg, which up until several years ago, was mostly known for its reputation of crackhouses and their respective whores, but thanks to increased policing, has transformed into the beautiful, aspiring neighbourhood it was meant to be. air canada's in-flight magazine (pfft) named us one of the top 10 emerging neighbourhoods in canada, ottawa magazine says we're 'hot'--just not in a paris hilton way--and we're trying to get recognition from the government for being an arts district. there are quite a few hairdressers, architects, graphic designers, foodie stores, galleries, etc. around here, and because of the gentrification coming from westboro, you get an extremely interesting juxtaposition of yuppie shops (some which i will admit are quite neat) and extremely affordable stores (like the giant tiger, a department store that basically allows the lower-income peeps around here a chance to survive). there are a lot of interesting characters around here, including a charming, overweight elvis impersonator who likes to stand outside the giant tiger for hours on end, singing songs into a microphone.

the area is not too far away from downtown, and you've got a lot of public transpo options (i'm 30 seconds away from the #2, a 5 minute walk from the #16/18 stop, and an 8 minute walk from Bayview, which is a major bus station where you can catch almost any bus, plus it's where our light-rail begins). you're a short walk away from the beautiful westboro, the great pho spots in chinatown, and little italy is a little further, but it's still within walking distance. also, because you're not directly in westboro, there are fewer chances you'll have to put up with stuck-up yoga-obsessed frappuccino-sucking yuppies.

because a lot of people still think hintonburg is a shitty place to live, the pricing is as good as it gets. you will not be bored here, and even if you are, again, downtown is only 15-20 min away.
posted by Menomena at 8:35 AM on June 8, 2007

also, where the hell did all you ottawa folk come from?!
posted by Menomena at 8:37 AM on June 8, 2007

I was thinking the same thing... I guess we all just want to sell our city- it is pretty great after all.

Also- I love living in Hintonburg.
posted by sunshinesky at 10:07 AM on June 8, 2007

Agreed sunshinesky!

Sindark I don't know of any temporary housing spots but I'm sure they exist if you look. Once you're here and looking for apartments I'd highly recommend seeking out rent signs in the neighbourhoods you're interested in. Craigslist is awesome but it can only do so much. Might I also recommend the CCOC, they maintain my building and they're pretty fabulous landlords.

And maaaaybe we should have a Mefi meetup once you're here, since there are so many capital folk on mefi now.
posted by Menomena at 12:35 PM on June 8, 2007

I work for the feds and live in Ottawa, and I have to second Flashman. I live on Somerset West just off of Elgin in Centretown, and I could not recommend it more.

It's not the market or the glebe, but personally, I think it's better. You're 15-20 min walk from either of those areas, and a decent bike ride from Terrace, as Ottawa bike paths are spectacular (although be warned, friends call it the Terrace de Shoddy Air -- take walks at lunch).

If you live here in Centretown, the #8 will get you there easily and is about a 5 - 10 minute walk, at the max. An apartment for one person under $1000 is easily found.

I recommend anywhere from Gladstone in the south to Laurier at the North, Elgin at the East and Bronson at the West.

Welcome to Ottawa! I've lived here 10 years and I love it!
posted by aclevername at 1:35 AM on June 9, 2007

And maaaaybe we should have a Mefi meetup once you're here, since there are so many capital folk on mefi now.

I concur.
posted by Jairus at 6:11 PM on June 10, 2007

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