The charming ByWard Market District is the heart of Ottawa’s downtown. Located a stone’s throw from the handsome Parliament buildings and with Quebec visible across the Ottawa River, the central spot is dotted with cozy pubs, indie boutiques and, of course, the original BeaverTails stand. It’s a must-visit for the visitor seeking out a charming introduction to the city.
There’s no question—the Ottawa shopping scene is a far cry from Toronto’s hustle and bustle. While there’s the Rideau Centre Mall available for everyone’s Zara fix, the streets surrounding the market building itself are home to a number of more homespun shops that are more than worth checking out.
Top 5 Must Stop Shops in Ottawa’s Byward Market
1) Victoire, 209 Dalhousie St
Head north from the market square to Dalhousie Street, where there’s a cluster of stellar shops to step into. With a slogan that reads “smitten with Canadian design,” Victoire is a clothing and accessories boutique for the ladies. In a Venn diagram, Victoire’s aesthetic that sits in the middle between “vintage” and “rock ‘n’ roll” with plenty of fun frocks sharing space with edgier pieces.
The boutique got its start in Hintonburg in Ottawa in 2006, branching out to this location and most recently, one on Toronto’s Ossington strip. Here, racks are rife with whimsical dresses from Act Three and Birds of North America, with the latter label remaining true to name, obviously possessing a fondness for vibrant woodland prints. My personal faves were the Goldeen necklaces boldly proclaiming DUH, THUG and, yes, BAE. Clearly the mini chain’s M.O. has really resonated with shoppers.
2) goods, 210 Dalhousie St
The well-named goods (yes, that’s lowercase in the bell hooks sense) boasts just that: a well-curated assortment of goods. Goods for the bod? They’ve got the trendy made in Canada Leaves of Trees line of scented argan oils and that Eucalyptus Mint deodorant. Goods for the home? Soothing wall hangings and pristine glass planters for your succulents. Goods for the mind? Grab an issue of Gather Journal, like the one with rainbow toast and recipes that go by colours of the rainbow. I mean, how else do you coordinate your dinner parties? Most of the stuff is locally-made, and if it’s not, you know it’s a superworthy piece. This gets my vote for the place to grab a gift for your design snob pal and get mad friend points for it.
3) Wunderkammer, 234 Dalhousie St
Literally translating into ‘miracle chamber’ from Deutsch, Wunderkammer takes its name seriously. My third stop on Dalhousie Street is a jewellery lover’s delight. Those familiar with Canadian names in baubles may recognize the design house Frug; this shop comes from its designer duo Tamara Steinborn and Nathan Dubo, and is a way for them to display their own wares along with those of their contemporaries. Non-local finds include Israel’s Ayala Bar; anyone with a fondness for high-impact colour and pattern (such as yours truly) will fall for her designs. Apart from jewellery, fun finds include a trompe l‘oeil faux wood stump stool (it’s fabric!), standout vases and an assortment of ceramic Day of the Dead skulls.
4) Wolf & Zed / Schad, 519 Sussex Dr
Leaving Dalhousie, veer over in the direction of the National Museum of Canada and you’ll arrive at Sussex Drive, home to both Wolf & Zed and the soon-to-be Trudeau residence (following those renos, that is). Located down a few steps in an airy subterranean space, Wolf & Zed is my go-to for shoes in the ‘hood.
With names like Chie Mahara, Bed Stu, and Camper spotted on the shelves, the styles for both men and women tend to be more fashion-forward than elsewhere in Ottawa. The well-curated selection always manages to include wackier silhouettes while still toeing the line (ahem) and making sure the shoes will stand the test of time and, yes, weather. (Those Capital winters tend to be pretty brutal.) Personal favourites include Vancouver designer John Fluevog and Miista, a UK label which does very comfy shoes that wear well (I own a pair). Look out for their sales, which offer good value.
For those keen on matching their new shoes with some spiffy threads, sister shop Schad can be entered through W&Z, and serves up high street labels such as Canadian Smythe and Mackage for those able to spend a little more.
5) Adorit, 153 York St
Step into this quirky shop on the opposite side of the market from Wolf & Zed, and the bubbly Emma Inns is sure to give you a warm greeting at Adorit—most likely with a baby on her hip. Her admittedly adorable shop is chock-a-block full of stuff which winks at you from all directions.
To the left sits locally-made goods including T-shirts sewn from upcycled materials. At the back, sift through some vintage and second hand garb, such as a smart oxblood leather coat that’ll hit all your curves. Jewellery is tucked all over the place, but those with a penchant for knuckle dusters boasting giant stones should hit up the silver ring collection in the centre of the room. Finally, items sourced from Tibet, India and Nepal dominate the other side of the entrance. (Yes, there is a smell of incense, were you curious.)
Emma says that the Ottawa public initially didn’t “get” what she was doing with her eco-friendly, fair-trade, hand-made wares, but she never let that curb her enthusiasm. With a commitment to social justice, Emma established micro-financed programs in Tibet, a country she first fell in love with after leading bicycle tours all over the Himalayan region. Adorit has been around for the best part of a decade, making a mark on the community since before the the horrific factory collapse at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. After the tragedy, local shoppers desired a greater understand of where their clothing came from and her customer base expanded. Of the five shops on my shopping journey, this one is closest to my heart. You’ll leave feeling just that much happier!
Written by Karolyne Ellacott @kellacott