ByWard Market is where you can buy specialty foods, produce and local art in Ottawa. It’s also an entertainment district and popular tourist attraction.
As many as 50,000 people or more visit the neighbourhood on busy days in the summer, and over 6 million tourists each year.
Ottawa’s ByWard Market
ByWard Market is the name of a shopping and entertainment district as well as a world-famous market. There are market buildings with vendors selling things indoors. There is also a large outdoor market area.
The market is one of the largest of its kind in Canada and arguably the country’s most iconic. It was first established in 1826 by John By, who was an English Lieutenant Colonel. He went to Canada to help build the Rideau Canal. While there he established a community in the area named Bytown (which today is now Ottawa).
The canal separates the area into two sides. The Western portion is Upper Town and the Eastern one Lower Town. Lieutenant Colonel By wanted to establish a central area to help the canal workers so he decided to construct a market building. Stores then began to pop up around the building and ByWard Market was established in Lower Town in the mid-1820s.
The market building has gone through many changes over the past 200 years and the current one is its fifth iteration. Previous versions were either destroyed in fires, taken down or relocated. Fortunately, there hasn’t been a need for a new building for almost a century. Let’s hope it stays that way to preserve the heritage value of the site.
Where is ByWard Market
ByWard Market is located in the heart of downtown Ottawa. It’s bordered by St. Patrick Street to the north, King Edward Avenue to the east, Rideau Street to the south, and Mackenzie Avenue to the west.
The district is practically across the street from the Château Laurier Hotel and just a 10-minute walk from the Parliament Buildings. It’s also across the street in another direction from the CF Rideau Centre Shopping Mall.
When is the Market Open?
As of the early summer of 2021, the outdoor market operates seven days a week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The venue’s regular hours, however, have been between 7:00 am and 5:30 pm at other times. In the summer some vendors stay open until late evening.
The district and most of its shops are open every day of the year except for Christmas and New Year’s Day. It’s busiest and most interesting between late spring and mid-autumn. Farmers’ market-style vendors usually set up and participate between May and November. Artisan vendors are usually in the area from May until October.
What to Expect at ByWard Market
The market includes a mix of brick-and-mortar stores and temporary vendor stalls. There are also restaurants, bars and coffee shops. In addition to several hundred permanent businesses, as many as 250 farmers’ market and artisan vendors set up during the day between May and October. A few can be found at other times too.
In the area there are a hundred or so restaurants as well as two dozen bars and night clubs including the city’s oldest tavern.
The most interesting times to visit the area are during market hours between late spring and early fall. It can also get lively on weekends, especially in the summer.
Events at ByWard Market
A number of events take place at ByWard Market each year. Street performers often entertain in the area, especially in the summer and on weekends. Larger annual events in recent years have included the Stew Cook-Off in February, the Auto Classic car show in June, Oktoberfest in October, and Christmas activities in December.
Iconic Stores at ByWard Market
ByWard Market is home to several of Canada’s most iconic stores, one of which is BeaverTails. Pam and Grant Hooker opened the original BeaverTails store at the market in the late 1970s. The couple sold fried pastries with various toppings and the store has now become a Canadian icon with locations across the country.
There are now almost 150 BeaverTails around the world. Some locations are in Europe and Asia. Nutella with icing sugar or cinnamon are common toppings for the pastries. Fried dough is the store’s specialty but they sell savoury foods such as hot dogs and poutine too. BeaverTails are a must-try if you ever visit ByWard Market!
Another unique store at the market is the Gordon Harrison Canadian Landscape Gallery. The gallery showcases numerous works of art by Gordon Harrison. His paintings represent a variety of Canadian landscapes across the country. Harrison also offers online and in-person coaching sessions in the New Edinburgh district of Ottawa.
There are also many clothing stores available at the market if you’d like to go shopping. Workshop Boutique sells unique women’s clothing such as dresses, jumpsuits and casual sweatshirts. They also carry some male products like T-shirts. Another interesting store is Chapeaux de Madeleine. They specialize in hats for men and women. You’ll feel like a fashion model wearing one!
In addition to the above stores, ByWard Market is also home to the city’s oldest tavern. The Chateau Lafayette dates back to 1849!
For more information about the market see the Byward Market website.
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