Ottawa has been for centuries a city of merchants and it is proud to boast the oldest and largest covered farmers’ market in Canada: the Byward market.
The Byward market, located in the building by the same name, has gained so much importance in the city that the municipality has recently decided to call the entire neighbourhood by this name.
The builder of the Rideau canal in Ottawa proposed to build an open-air market between George street and York street at the end of the 19th century. But it had to be very broad to accommodate the horse-drawn carriages that farmers and local producers used to bring their products to the stalls. Over the centuries the market has become one of the most important gathering places and one of the most picturesque areas in Ottawa.
It used to be an empty area with just the market but it is now so popular that living in this area is quite expensive and it is now THE hipster place to be in Ottawa also because of its thriving nightlife.
The Byward market is a great place to shop for organic or gourmet foods, a place where to eat lunch, have a snack or drink a beer and it's also the liveliest part of the city at night.
Indeed in this market, not only you can find stalls selling flowers, fresh fruit, vegetables and typical products of the area like most farmers’ markets in Canada and elsewhere but there are also craft stalls, souvenirs stands, coffee shops, restaurants, ice cream parlours and even fine boutiques here. If you want to buy maple products take advantage of this market because the prices are the lowest, I have seen and the quality is great. Maples syrup (the real one, not the one sold in the supermarkets which is just corn syrup or sugar) is a staple product of this market and one of the first products sold here.
Some merchants are so proud of their maple syrup that they will take time to tell you its story and how it’s made.
There is a cute bakery-café-bistro in which Obama dropped in to buy cookies during his visit to the city a few years back. If you wish you can eat those cookies, which as you would expect are called Obama cookies in his honour.
For a snack on the go, I recommend the beaver's tail sold here at various stalls. It is a specialty that can be eaten sweet but also savoury. Various are the toppings to choose from: cinnamon, sugar and lemon, chocolate, banana, apples-cinnamon or even garlic butter or cheese. My favourites are the first two because in origin this snack is supposed to be sweet.
The market is open 365 days a year and in the most central streets there are people with an unmistakable yellow vest that will provide you with all the necessary information and guide you to find what you are searching for (yes, it’s that big!).
The paths along the river that surround the market are also very pleasant to reach the market on foot or, to go faster, by bike! But it is in winter that the channels reveal their hidden charm, when their course turns into a gigantic ice rink, the largest in the world. And considering that its access is free of charge makes it even better for a family outing.