Presenting: Ottawa’s Byward Market – Special Events, Culture & Art, Boutiques and Culinary Delights in a Historic Setting

Ottawa has a myriad of sights to visit and the ByWard Market is one of the major entertainment areas in Ottawa. It combines a great selection of restaurants and night spots, with funky boutiques and retailers, galleries and artsy places and a busy outdoor market. Throw in a good dose of special events and you’ve got yourself a happening place!

I myself will be heading off to Ottawa on February 10 to sample Canada’s capital, and to check out Winterlude, Ottawa’s winter festival, which will be held this year from February 3 to 19, 2006. Winterlude includes skating on the Rideau Canal, the world’s largest outdoor skating facility according to its Guiness World Book of Records designation of November 2005.

Let me give you an idea of the enormity of this skating opportunity: the Rideau Canal’s surface is the equivalent size of 90 Olympic rinks and stretches for 7.8 km (4.8 miles) through downtown! And it features all kinds of outdoor entertainment as well as the famous Beavertails, Ottawa’s signature pastry, so skating on the Canal will be a definite must on this upcoming trip.

So, after a good round of outdoor exercise I will certainly be checking out what the ByWard Market area has to offer and quench my well-deserved hunger with a great meal.

In anticipation of my visit I had a chance to talk to Meg McCallum, from the ByWard Market Business Improvement Association, who was able to give me a great overview of this ecclectic area.

Market hall at the Byward Market

1. Please give us a general overview of the ByWard Market, its location and its history.

Established by Lieutenant Colonel John By in 1826, the ByWard Market is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. The legendary builder of the Rideau Canal, Colonel By himself laid out the street plan of the Market, designating George Street and York Street to be extra wide to accommodate the creation of a public market and gathering place. 180 years later, the Market is still going strong!

Within an area roughly four blocks square, you’ll find cafés, specialty food shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, pubs, hair & aesthetics salons and more! Easily accessible on foot, by transit, by bicycle or by car, the ByWard Market offers a unique experience for all.
Whether you’re here at dawn to welcome the outdoor vendors with their overflowing stands of fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, and art & crafts; joining some friends for brunch/ lunch/ dinner or shopping; or staying up till the wee hours at one of our hip nightspots, you’ll find the ByWard Market has something for you!

Festivals at all times of the year….

2. The ByWard Market still houses a farmers market today, please give us more information about that.

Outdoor vendors are an integral part of the ByWard Market experience. You’ll find ByWard’s vendors outside, no matter the weather, 363 days per year (closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)! At the peak of summertime, there may be 175 stands operating, selling fruits & vegetables, bedding & gardening plants & cut flowers, arts & crafts, maple syrup & honey. In the winter months, you’re more likely to find Christmas trees, natural wreaths & garlands, firewood, cut flowers, maple syrup & honey, and art & craft.

The farmers market is surrounded by specialty food retail shops – butchers, bakeries, imported items and more. As an example of the variety of goods you’ll find, there are over 1000 types of cheese to be found!

3. Please tell us about the variety of culinary experiences that are available in the ByWard Market.

With over 80 restaurants, you’ll never run out of options for dining. In the summer months, patios are the place to go, both to take advantage of the sun and warm weather and to people watch. In the winter, you’ll find a warm welcome in some of the area’s most beautiful heritage buildings, such as the Courtyard Restaurant and Mamma Grazzi’s Kitchen. The ByWard Market is home to several internationally recognized chefs and sommeliers – try the Social, Luxe, E18hteen and Domus Café. You’ll find Canadian cuisine at its finest, along with Thai, Mexican, Indian, Aboriginal, Japanese and more. If you’re in a hurry, the ByWard Market building is home to several take-out options, or you can assemble a picnic lunch with breads, meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies from the farmers market. Don’t forget dessert – there are several bakeries and gelato shops to choose from, as well as the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or Sugar Mountain for those with a sweet tooth!

There is always something going on….

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