Ottawa’s Gem – Byward Market

Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, is known mostly for the politicians and bureaucrats these days. I bet there are few residents and even fewer visitors that know the history of how Ottawa come to be the capital city. As it turns out, Ottawa‘s history isn’t the dry expect tale of politicians and typical political jargon. In fact, it’s a little known gem of interest in Canadian history.

Lieutenant-Colonel John By founded Bytown in the early 1800s. As retired military official, he was given the responsibility of settling the remote area surrounding the Ontario River. He built the famous Rideau Canal that runs through the city and the Rideau lock system that connects the canal to the Ottawa River. At this time, Bytown was a little known shanty town with a thriving timber business, far from Canada’s major cities and plagued with the vulgar unruliness of pioneers.

The town grew steadily through the century and by 1855, it was declared a city and renamed Ottawa after the Odawa tribe of the Algonquin tribe. Only two years later, Queen Victoria chose the still rugged logging city to be the nation’s capital. There is no historical record as to why she chose Ottawa but some speculate that she merely placed a hairpin on a map or like the colours surrounding the area on the map.

Today, few people know about Ottawa‘s unique history or founding father. Many people just think of Ottawa as a stuffy old city revolving around politics. But aside from the history, Ottawa has another hidden jewel: the Byward market, the greatest legacy of the Lieutenant-Colonel. Byward market is tucked away behind the towering Chateau Laurier and the famous parliament buildings. Sure you can grab some fruits and veggies for dinner but while you’re there, stop to admire pieces from Ottawa‘s local art talent, have a bit to eat or check out the nightlife.

The market is full of aspiring creative minds, everything from wooden carvings to jewelry to knit wear. If you visit during the winter, knit wear is exactly what you’ll be wanting. To warm up your artistic excursion, stop by the wooden shack on the corner for a truly Canadian treat: a Beavertail. A flat piece of fried dough doused with sugar and cinnamon is the classic, but there are various as well.

If you are looking for a meal, not a day trip, the market is still the place to be. Most of Ottawa‘s best restaurants are in the area. For breakfast or brunch, take a trip down to the Empire Grill and if you’re there in the summer, ask to sit on the patio and soak up the surrounding artistry. For lunch, try Kinky’s Asian fusion menu. If you’re adventurous at dinner time, go to Sweet Grass which serves Aboriginal cuisine. If none of those appeal to your palate, the market is sure to house a restaurant that will satisfy your appetite. Or if it’s a sweet tooth making your tummy rumble, there are a variety of dessert houses offering an array of treats.

Finally, if you’re looking for the Ottawa nightlife, the market is the heart of the scene. The clubs and bars range from rock and roll style bars like the Great Canadian Cabin to more sophisticated venues like the like the Fourth Avenue Wine Bar with live jazz bands. No matter where you go or what you’re looking for, the Byward market promises to have it.

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