Vanier lies east of the Rideau River, between Rockcliffe and New Edinburgh to the north and Gloucester to the southeast. Vanier has a relatively small area with a high population density.
Montreal Road is the main thoroughfare of the community. Vanier has an abundance of strip malls and lower end retail outlets; with easy access to the rest of the city via the Vanier Parkway and the Queensway/417. Vanier North is the portion of the community north of Montreal Road, closest to the Beechwood Cemetery.Vanier South is south of Montreal Road.
In 1908, the communities of Janeville, Clarkstown and Clandeboye merged into the village of Eastview, which incorporated as a town in 1913. It grew as a popular neighbourhood for civil servants who wished to live away from downtown, and later saw a large influx of French Canadians to become the main francophone area in the capital. In 1963 it became a city, and in 1969 was renamed after the recently-deceased Governor General of Canada, Georges Vanier.
Vanier has long been home to most of Ottawa's francophone population, and has a large Catholic population, with many churches and an outdoor Catholic shrine, the Grotte des Lourdes. Recently, its francophone population has shrunk to less than 40% from the 63% level of the early 1980s with 18,000 residents in a 3 km2 area. The population is about 5% unilingual French, 58% bilingual, and 36% unilingual English
Neighbourhoods closer to the Rideau River, are more affluent, like around Kingsview Park.
Vanier has undergone significant gentrification, as one of the last relatively inexpensive Ottawa neighbourhoods with a desirable location next to downtown. Both subsidized and self-financed housing is available here, with several existing and proposed upscale condominiums and infill developments.
Vanier North is predominantly an older neighbourhood: 17% of homes pre-date 1946, 17% were built 1961 - 1970, 11% between 1971 and 1980, 15% were built 1981 - 1990, and 3% were built after 1991. Vanier North's 4,200 dwellings are 15% single family, 4% semi-detached, 5% row houses, 17% apartment duplexes, 11% high-rise apartments , and 47% low-rise apartments. Given the number of apartments, the great majority of residents (65%) rent, while 35% own their homes.
Development in Vanier South occurred mostly after WWII, with 8% of homes pre-dating 1946, 36% of homes constructed 1946 - 1960, 39% built 1961 - 1980, and 12% built since 1981. Of Vanier South;s 3,700 dwellings, 13% are single family, 4% are semi-detached, 7% are row houses, 8% are apartment duplexes, 25% are high-rise apartments (over 5 stories), and 43% were low-rise apartments. Given the number of apartments, most of the residents (69%) rent, while 31% own their homes.