Insider's ByWard Market Day Tour

Planning a visit to the Nation’s Capital or want to explore the heart of your own city?  We've composed a day trip for you-- a thread that engages with contemporary art to draw you through the energetic local businesses in a rich and varied cultural milieu. 

We recognize that the ByWard Market/Ottawa is located on unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation.  

Our ByWard Market 

The historic heart of Ottawa is a thriving hub of restaurants, boutiques, galleries and museums. Accessible by train or bus into the Rideau Station we, near the National Gallery, are a 5-minute walk away. Public parking is available on most streets, at the National Gallery, or consult parkopedia for parking lots.  

 Let's start at the National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive with its recently revamped and integrated galleries. Visit the meditative space of the Michael and Sonja Koerner Family Atrium showcasing so beautifully the permanent installation of Michael Belmore’s Lost Bridal Veil (2015)  [Works by Michael Belmore currently in L. A. Pai Gallery]

Michael Belmore, Lost Bridal Veil (2015), National Gallery of Canada

Don't forget to visit the artworks on the grounds and take in the view from the Nepean Point promontory formerly dominated by the statue of French explorer Samuel de Champlain. From there you can see Major's Hill Park, (photographed in Barry Ace's Kitchi Zibi Omàmìwininì Anishinàbe currently at the L. A Pai Gallery), the Chateau Laurier with the Parliament across the Ottawa Locks of the Rideau Canal, and stretching all the way up the Ottawa River to the Canadian War Museum built by Moriyama and Teshima. Across the river is the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Québec, designed by Douglas Cardinal.  From this side of the river you can't quite glimpse Mary Anne Barkhouse's sculpture, Namaxsala, with its bronze wolf in a copper canoe that is keeping its eye on the Parliament, but it's worth the trip across by foot or ferry shuttle. [Works by Mary Anne Barkhouse currently in the L. A. Pai Gallery]

Mary Anne Barkhouse, Namaxala, Canadian Museum of History, John and Bonnie Buhler’s support for the creation of 'namaxsala is dedicated to all Canadians. 

But the deep dive into the museums is for another day!  Today we're staying fresh and lively with contemporary art and living culture.

Just down from the National Gallery and the Notre Dame Basilica (1846)  and through the Beaux-Arts Courtyard you will find us, L.A. Pai Gallery, are located one block south, with the venerable Patrick McGahern bookstore (since 1969) beside us and fine local designer boutiques around the corner on Sussex: Isabelle and Kaliyana, among others. In the Tin House Courtyard facing us on Murray Street you'll find three public artworks, along with the elevated façade. Across the courtyard is the precious paper shop Paper Papier.

 Tin House façade by Honoré Foisy, tinsmith, salvaged in 1961 and reconstructed by artist Art Price.

Feel like a native and stroll the five linked courtyards just behind Sussex that extend all the way from St. Patrick to George Streets with a temporary photographic presentation Through the Lens of … Landscape in Contemporary Canadian Photography and Telling Stories, Sharing Worlds running throughout.  You'll end up at the Ottawa School of Art where the Totem Pole of Canada stands (with the spiritual guidance of the Kitanmax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art at Hazelton British Columbia and the support of the Assembly of First Nations). 

Throughout your day, choose from almost any cuisine in the world at any of the cafes and restaurants that surround all major points of interest in the market. On the way to our next contemporary gallery is the always-excellent French Baker (since 1995) with its hidden gem, Chez Benny, and cater-corner is the local's go-to jukebox pub, Chez Lucien. Turning left on Dalhousie brings you to a few solid independent shops, anchored at the end with fine meals at Das Lokal and Ideal Coffee.

 Back to contemporary art!  Galerie St-Laurent + Hill, is a few blocks away from us at 293 Dalhousie. Founded in 1977 by Pierre Luc St-Laurent, it has been one of Ottawa’s leading contemporary art galleries for decades and is a must-visit. Just a short walk further, passing through the ByWard Market hub, is the Ottawa Art Gallery at 50 Mackenzie King Bridge. Founded in 1988, the OAG was recently built anew and is a beautiful space for current and historic art. There also is the vibrant SAW Gallery and other arts' organizations, and Jackson cafe/restuarant is a delight.

Anna Williams, Canada House (2018), at the opening exhibition of the new Ottawa Art Gallery. [Works by Anna Williams currently in the L. A. Pai Gallery

Continue up across the bridge to your right (passing the Rideau Centre where, kudos to them, Nordstrom and Simons integrate contemporary art throughout) and you arrive at the last stop in our ByWard Market tour: the Karsh-Masson Gallery, which is inside the Ottawa City Hall at 110 Laurier Ave West. Proudly named after photographer Yousuf Karsh and painter Henri Masson, peer-assessed exhibitions run annually.  Note the artworks around and throughout the building, and don't miss gallery artist Paula Murray's Nautilus hanging in the south entry. [Works by Paula Murray currently in the L. A. Pai Gallery]  

Paula Murray, Nautilus, Ottawa City Hall 

Across from Ottawa City art galleries is the Canada Council for the Arts at 150 Elgin Street, with its Âjagemô art space location. The building also houses the engaging Korean Cultural Centre.

For more information on the ByWard Market and Ottawa, visit the Ottawa Gallery Map, the ByWard Market website and the local newspaper The Echo.