One block south of Parliament Hill, historic and pedestrian Sparks Street is nestled in the hustle and bustle of Ottawa’s urban core.
Nicholas Sparks owned a large stretch of what proved to be poor farmland where Sparks Street is today. As the city evolved, Sparks’ land became home to businesses, government offices as well as residences for Parliamentarians. In 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation, was assassinated outside of his home on Sparks Street. In 1961, the street was transformed into North America’s first permanent outdoor pedestrian mall. It remains a commercial area with a blend of long established and newer businesses housed settled in heritage architecture.
Shopping and dining
Sparks Street is still lined with a variety of businesses that are especially busy during weekdays and special events. Dine at restaurants like the refined Riviera and have a pint at pubs like the aptly named D’Arcy McGee’s. Find specialty souvenirs at The Snow Goose Gallery, and shop for jewelry, fashion and more.
Thousands of people gather on Sparks Street for popular festivals throughout the year. The Sparks Street Poutinefest celebrates the decadent Canadian dish made of fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. The Ottawa Ribfest welcomes BBQ rib vendors from all over North America cooking their specialties. And the International Busker Festival features street performers from around the world who show off their talents. Admission to these events is free!
Tour companies offer fun ways to explore the city, and a few are based on Sparks Street. Cloaked guides from the Haunted Walk recount the spooky side of Ottawa year-round, including tours of the old Carleton County Jail which is now the HI – Ottawa Jail Hostel. During the warm months, you can board Lady Dive Tours’ Amphibus or their hop-on, hop-off bus, or explore on two wheels with Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals.