The capital of Canada is also a G8 capital and the country’s political centre. Multicultural and ethnically diverse Ottawa is a delightful destination that welcomes tourists from all over the world. Its 1.2 million inhabitants make it the fourth-largest city in Canada but it immediately strikes visitors as being on a much slower pace than its sister city Toronto. The Ottawa river that flows through the city lends a charm that is never diminished by the capital’s political stature. A multicultural city with a rich heritage there is certainly no shortage of things to do or see here. The city is dominated by Parliament Hill, the majestic seat of the Canadian government and the Ottawa River gently which flows gently across the city.
Ottawa’s political authority is omnipresent throughout the city. There are numerous government buildings and hundreds of foreign embassies and high commissions. It is the seat of Canada’s Parliament, the Senate and the Supreme Court of Canada. While Canada’s two official languages are English and French approximately fifty percent of the population is Anglophone and thirty-two percent speak French. Both languages share equal juridical status within the realm of government services and visitors will immediately notice bilingual signage when visiting government buildings or accessing public services.
Ottawa’s historical buildings are visited by millions of tourists each year. Situated on the southern banks of the Ottawa River is the area known as Parliament Hill with its Neo-Gothic government buildings that punctuate the city’s landscape. The Gothic revival architecture provides a striking backdrop against the city’s urban sprawl with its lancet windows, pointed arches, and ribbed vaults reminiscent of European cathedrals and castles.
Ottawa’s structure and interface is a successful commingling of history, growth and technology. The city has been nicknamed Silicon Valley North thanks to the considerable growth in the high-tech industry during the past twenty years.
Located in the Canadian province of Ontario Ottawa lies close to the Québec border on the banks of three rivers: Ottawa River, Rideau River and Gatineau River. The neighbouring province of Québec is divided by the Ottawa River which separates the city of Ottawa from the city of Gatineau. The Ottawa-Gatineau metropolitan area is known as the National Capital Region. The urban area is surrounded by a greenbelt originally conceived to limit the urban development and preserve the surrounding rural areas. The Ottawa Greenbelt forests, fields and wetlands comprise the largest parklands in the world used for recreation, research, farming and limited urban development.
The city of Ottawa is divided into three distinct sections: the old city called Lower Town, Downtown Ottawa and Centretown. The city’s financial and commercial district are situated Downtown along the Ottawa River on the North and the Rideau Canal on the east. This area is dominated by Parliament Hill.
Part of Downtown Ottawa is included in the Centretown which lies on the east by the Rideau Canal. Lined with restaurants, bars, stores and residences Elgin Street is one of two main streets in this part of the city. The second street, Bank Street, is the major road in Ottawa running south to north through the neighbourhoods of The Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Alta Vista, Hunt Club, Blossom Park, Leitrim Vernon, Spring Hill, Greely, Metcalfe and South Gloucester.
Ottawa’s name is the heredity of Canada’s colonial past. it is an adaptation of the Algonquin language adawe which means “trading.” Like many areas of Canada and the rest of North America this area was one of many trading posts set up by European explorers and adventures. The native words used to name places and areas are the sober reconstruction of a vanished life. The early explorers’ acquaintance with native words that mattered was the result of their insatiable demand for furs and the word adawe or atawa meant business – in every sense!
European explorers visited the area as early as 1610 when the natives, who traded fur pelts with Europeans, were identified as les Outaouais by the French. French explorers, missionaries and map makers preceded the English by at least 100 years and it was in the early 1800s that the English adaptation of Outaouais became Ottawa.
It was during the 1800s that British military engineer John By oversaw the layout for the foundation of a town on the Rideau Canal that was initially named after him, Bytown. It acquired official status as a city in 1855 along with the new name of Ottawa.
In the early days when other Canadian cities were prone to attacks and pillaging Ottawa’s geographic position provided the area a degree of security. With this in mind in 1857 Queen Victoria declared Ottawa the capital of the North American British colony, then known as the United Province of Canada.
At the turn of the twentieth century Ottawa experienced a devastating fire that destroyed part of the city and most of the Gatineau area across the river. Part of the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings was destroyed. Entire areas, including the destroyed buildings on Parliament Hill were gradually rebuilt.
The disaster provided an opportunity for a modernization of the city’s layout. Landscape architect and urban designer Jacques Greber was called upon to work on a new master plan for the city of Ottawa. This resulted in a complete overhaul of the urban structure that saw a limitation of the urban development by creating a greenbelt around the city.
Although Ottawa’s lowest recorded temperature is -36 ºC (-32.8 ºF) the city does have four distinct seasons. The climate in Ottawa is classified as humid continental which is typical of North American regions. Summers range from pleasantly warm to humid and muggy. Temperatures of 30 ºC (86 ºF) or higher are common in Ottawa and summer temperatures with high humidity index are not infrequent.
The weather between seasons is often unpredictable. Although any time during spring or fall the temperature could rise to 30 ºC (86 ºF) this is generally not the norm. Winters are frigid and temperatures fluctuate with days above freezing and nights below -20 ºC (-4 ºF). With 224 centimetres (88 inches) of average annual snowfall visitors planning a trip to Ottawa during the winter season should dress and be prepared for snowy and icy weather conditions.
Did You Know?
- Ottawa has the highest concentration of residents with PhD degrees. The residents of Ottawa are among the most educated in Canada. Over half the population has a college and/or university degree. Ottawa has the highest concentration of engineer and scientists in Canada.
- There are 134 foreign diplomatic missions in Ottawa including embassies, high commissions and consular offices. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Argentina, most countries have diplomatic missions in the city of Ottawa that visitors can contact should they need special aid or assistance.
How to Get Around Ottawa
Located within the southern portion of downtown Ottawa, at 1000 Airport Parkway, the Mcdonald-Cartier international Airport is one of Canada’s busiest airports. The airport has United States border preclearance facilities and serves as a Canada Border port of entry for foreign visitors and newcomers. The Ottawa airport’s International Air Transport Association (IATA) airport code is YOW. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) airport code is CYOW.
Visit Ottawa’s Airport Page for more detailed information about flights to and from YOW.
Airport Transportation- OC Transpo Train
Downtown Ottawa can be reached via taxi, car rental, limousine, public transportation, priority patient transfer service and private car. The distance from the airport to downtown Ottawa is approximately 20 minutes, depending on traffic, weather conditions and mode of transportation.
The average cab fare to downtown Ottawa is about CAD$29*.
Visit the Ottawa taxi fare calculator page to calculate how much it will cost you to get around by taxi.
OC Transpo Train
Ottawa’s public transportation system, which includes buses and trains, is operated by the city’s OC Transpo (1500 St. Laurent Blvd., 613-741-4390). With over 900 buses and three trains it serves over 375,000 riders on a daily basis. The OC also operates the Para Transpo, a door-to-door bus service for disabled people.
Bus fares (as of July 2014) on regular routes for adults and students 13-19 years old are CAD$3.45*, seniors 65+ pay CAD$2.60* and children 6-12 years old pay CAD$1.85*. Free rides on OC public transportation are for children 5 years of age or younger. There is a surcharge for express rides depending on the passenger category, adults pay an extra CAD$1.45*. The express ride surcharge does not apply to seniors 65+ and those holding family passes.
The OC Transpo website has details about fares, passes, changes to fares and more.
Day passes are CAD$8.10* for everyone, regardless of age or category (except children 5 or under).
For regular routes adults pay CAD$ 100.75*, students 13-19 years old pay CAD$80.25*. Seniors 65+ pay CAD$40.75* on regular and express routes.
PRESTO Pre-Paid Card
This is an electronic card, much like a pre-paid credit card that is loaded with a desired amount and used on a pay-per-ride basis, eliminating the need for cash, public transportation tokens or passes. The card has an electronic chip that calculates the fare when it is scanned by special PRESTO machines located at public transportation stations throughout Ottawa. You can load as little as CAD$10 or as much as CAD$1000, each time you scan or tap your card the right fare amount is deducted from the card balance.
Bear in mind that if you are only staying a few days in Ottawa a PRESTO card may not be the right option for you because it generally takes 7-10 days to arrive by mail.
Para Transpo Fares
This is a door-to-door service for people with disabilities. Adults and students 13-19 years old pay CAD$2.75 per ride, seniors 65+ pay CAD$2.10 per ride.
Ottawa International Airport’s major rental car companies are located across the street from the passenger terminal building. Passengers can make online reservations, modifications and cancellations by visiting the Ottawa Airport or car rental company websites. It is highly recommended that reservations be made at least 48 hours in advance.
For a full list of places where you can rent a car in Ottawa, please visit Expedia’s car rental guide.
There are a number of limousine companies operating out of Ottawa International Airport and within the city. Each limousine company has services for groups, corporate groups, special events and VIPS with varying rates for distances, special services, and so forth. These are on-demand services and should be booked in advance.
Priority Patient Transfer Service
Passengers with wheelchairs who are planning to travel to Ottawa can request private medical transportation by calling the number provided or accessing the company website website.
The company tries to accommodate passengers at any time, however, advanced booking (24 hours) is generally recommended to ensure availability of service. This is a personalized service and therefore rates vary. Individual quotes are available by calling them or visiting the website for more information.
Getting to Ottawa by Car
If you are driving to Ottawa from the U.S. you can cross the border from New York State, then take the interstate 81 until you reach highway 401 east, continue north along the 416 until you reach Ottawa. If you are crossing the U.S./Canada border from the west you’ll need to get on highway 401 east and then on highway 416 north.
Ottawa Car Share
There is a car share network throughout Canada and the main Canadian cities all have their own car share organizations. Ottawa’s point of contact is Virtucar. Rates vary depending on the driving frequency and mileage. For car reservations members have 24/7 access by internet or phone. Cars are parked throughout the city of Ottawa at self-serve locations. Members can drive as often as they wish. When they are finished driving they simply return the car at the same station. Members are billed via credit card and receive monthly invoices. Learn more about rates, membership, plans and conditions by visiting the website.
To apply you must meet the basic requirements:
- A clean driving record and a class “G” Ontario license. Visitors with foreign licenses should visit the organization’s website.
- Drivers aged 21 to 24 years need a five-year good driving record.
Ottawa Night Life
When the sun goes down Canada’s capital is dotted with entertainment spots that light up the northern sky. The city’s hotspot for entertainment is centred mainly around the ByWard market, an area in Lower Town, near the government and business district.
Ottawa maintains a lower profile, with respect to Toronto, it does provide entertainment for all ages, tastes and genres. There is no shortage of bars, lounges, restaurants, pubs and live entertainment. The music venues range from A to Z – literally. From Absinthe to Zaphod Bebblebrox, to Absolute Comedy and Yuk Yuk’s on Ottawa’s renowned Elgin Street.
The real attraction for many visitors is the Casino du Lac-Leamy. With over 1,800 slot machines, 65 poker tables, a roulette table, a Texas hold’em poker room, blackjack tables, baccarat, bars and live entertainment, the casino is a magnet that attracts thousands of visitors daily. Located on a rocky quarry across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, about 10 minutes from downtown Ottawa, the casino is also accessible by boat.
There is a Hilton on the premises, a theatre, an outdoor heated pool, restaurants and a café. Responsible gamblers and casino-goers can also watch the annual international fireworks competition which attracts competitors from around the world.
Find up-to-date information about night life, entertainment, attractions, and everything else in between, check out the official Ottawa tourism website for more details.
Ottawa has dozens of jazz venues all over the city featuring different styles of jazz music for different tastes. From easy listening piano jazz to avant-garde and jazz mash-ups, there are dozens of jazz venues all over Ottawa. It’s just a matter of finding the venue and genre that suit your mood.
The city has a few better known jazz venues with mixed reviews. Whether they live up to their reputation or fall short of customer expectations, visitors can judge for themselves. The Mercury Lounge (56 ByWard Market, 613-789-5324) has been around since 1996 and features old school and contemporary jazz. It recently expanded when it merged with two other adjacent clubs. Mercury’s philosophy is a cultivation of creativity that includes other artistic pursuits such as poetry readings, art exhibitions and dance performances. You can listen to a range of jazz styles and sample the finger food on the menu.
Located within the Brookstreet Hotel the Options Jazz Lounge at Brookstreet (525 Legget Dr., 613-271-1800) features a live jazz line-up and weekly jam sessions. There are regular and guest musicians that feature a range of jazz styles from blues, funk, folk, raggae rock, R&B, soul and Latino. Listen to old school jazz classics like Cole Porter, Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and contemporary jazz sounds. The venue is open seven days a week, Friday ad Saturday it stays open until midnight. Reservations are not required.
The good thing about pubs is that you don’t have to wait until it’s dark outside to pay them a visit because they are generally open all day long. Just like their English counterparts, pubs are inviting places with a warm, jovial atmosphere where you can spend a few minutes or a few hours eating, drinking and just being yourself. Pubs are multi-faceted places that offer entertainment, food and drink, flexible operating hours and plenty of atmosphere.
The warm boiserie décor of the Earl of Sussex (431 Sussex Drive, 613-562-5544) is an invitation to step inside, relax, and try the food. Weekly live music performances liven up the place. Visitors can also visit the Earl of Sussex for brunch featuring traditional English fare like fish & chips and bangers. Reasonably priced, it is located in the ByWard Market area and it is open from 11:30 am to 12:00 am on Mon, Tue and Sun. It is open until 2:00 am on Thurs, Fri and Sat.
The Senate (33 Clarence St., ByWard Market, 613-696-5523) is a pub offering traditional tavern grub and fast food. There is no live entertainment but sport buffs are fond of the sports-oriented atmosphere and sports-themed menus and specials. The Senate is named after the Ottawa Senators hockey team. There is a shuttle service to the Ottawa Senators games for fans.
The Marlborough Pub (6594 4th Line Rd., 613-489-2278) has been around since 1910 but it has undergone extensive renovation. It features pub fare oriented towards North American food and live music after 8pm. The venue is open all day long from 7am to 11pm, 12am and 1am.
Invitingly continental on the exterior, the Lunenburg Pub & Bar (14 Waller St. ByWard Market, 613-860-2277) features live music, food and local beer. The daily live entertainment features comedy, improvisation acts, local singers, jamming nights with up and coming bands.
Entertainment in Ottawa
Ottawa’s Avant-Garde Bar (135½ Besserer St., 613-321-8908) makes a bold statement with Russian art. The walls are plastered with it. Russian constructivist philosophy is the underlying theme that permeates the bar’s atmosphere. The entertainment is eclectic and depending on which evening you go you might end up sitting through a poetry reading, listening to a live band or watching a vintage film while sipping Russian vodka. The music is lively, entertaining and decidedly avant-garde. The live acts play acid jazz, Latin soul, blues, and rock music. Some of the artwork and other Russian-themed nostalgia pieces are sold in the gift shop on the premises.
The Rainbow Bistro (76 Murray St., 613-241-5123) is “Ottawa’s legendary home of the blues.” The warm and cozy atmosphere of this bar is set on two floors. The place is equipped with good acoustics. The diverse music genres include classic rock, Reggae, alternative, pop, Ska, country and funk. Dan Ackroyd performed here back in the early Blues Brothers days.
Club Caliente (110 York Street, 613-513-7830) is where people shake their hips to the rhythm of the salsa and merengue. Live Latin music bands provide the background music for some hot tropical nights. If you don’t feel that your dancing is up to par you and your date can sign up for free dance lessons. The sizzling tropical atmosphere and mojitos will do the rest.
Barrymore’s Music Hall (323 Bank Street, 613-565-9999) provides nostalgia nights for those who were in their teens in the 1980s and 1990s. Weekends are filled with Retro 80s and 90s music. Although the venue has been around for over 40 years its golden days were the days of disco music and the music that followed. Past live performances include names like Bryan Adams, Burton Cummings, Kris Kristofferson, Buddy Rich, Donovan, Al Stewart, Suzanne Vega, just to name a few. Today the venue features a broad range of music from Punk to Celtic Rock, with crowds belonging to different generations.
By its own words, Zaphod Beeblebrox (27 York Street, 613-562-1010) is “The Nightclub at the Edge of The Universe!” The locals will tell you that it is a must-see of the Ottawa night life scene. If you are looking for old school jazz this may not be for you. The venue features live concerts in a range of music genres and themed nights with progressive, garage, funk, electro, disco, Italo, Indie, alternative and tech, among others. Zaphod has featured celebrity performances by Alanis Morissette, Southern Cutlure, Nickleback and Ben Harper.
Located at 137 Besserer St. (613-680-7661) the Ritual Nightclub is a live music venue featuring Hip Hop/R&B/Dub music .
Babylon (317 Bank St- 613-594-0003) is the venue for Hip Hop music and themed nights centred around contemporary artists like Katy Perry, and Beyoncé. Evenings often involve social or political themes and include Soul/Mod/Ska/R&R/Brit-pop.
Ottawa’s Centretown Pub (340 Somerset St., 613-594-0233) is one of the better known gay bars in the area. This is lively bar with Karaoke nights, live music, Toga parties, a host of fund raising events for homeless pets and a lot more. With so much going on this is really a place to mingle and meet people.
The Ottawa Senators are the city’s most successful sports team. Founded in 1883 the Senators played in Canada and initially enjoyed a successful string of winnings. They played in the National Hockey League and won eleven Stanley Cups until 1934. Financial losses forced the team to migrate south of the border. However an unsuccessful season in St. Louis, Mississippi earned them a suspension.
The Ottawa Senators resumed playing in 1992-1993 thanks to the initiative of several businessmen who financed a new NHL franchise. For the next few years the Senators went through a series of unsuccessful games and poor management. In 2006-2007 the Senators became the first Ottawa team to be in the Stanley Cup final since 1927. They enjoyed a brief success during the 2011-2012 season. The team is at its eighth captain in the history of the franchise and currently play at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Ottawa’s football team is the Ottawa Renegades, a relatively new team that replaced the defunct Ottawa Rough Riders. The previous Canadian Football League team lasted 120 years before folding in 1996. Making their debut in 2006 the Ottawa Renegades didn’t fare any better than the Rough Riders and stopped playing shortly thereafter. A new football team called the Ottawa Redblacks has replaced the Renegades and have managed to stay around thus far. They play at the TD Place Stadium in Ottawa.
Ottawa is home to a number of curling clubs. The city has been hosting the annual OVCA Ottawa Men’s Bonspiel curling tournament since 1956. It is one of the largest curling tournaments in the world. Founded in 1851 Ottawa’s curling club is also one of the oldest in the world.
The Canadian Tire Centre (1000 Palladium Drive) is home to the Ottawa Senators. It is located in the west end of Ottawa about 22km (14 miles) southwest of downtown Ottawa in an area known as Kanata. It has a seating capacity of over 19,000. You can find more details about the arena by visiting the Canadian Tire Centre website. If you are planning an overnight or weekend stay in the area to attend a Senators game there are several hotel options located near the arena.
A short distance from the arena is the Country Inn & Suites (578 Terry Fox Drive, Kanata), a mid-range hotel with free parking, free Wi-Fi and an indoor pool. Located within range is the Holiday Inn & Suites Kanata (101 Kanata Avenue) which offers discounts for travelling sports teams.
When sports fans work up an appetite there are several restaurants and diners in the area that cater to them. Some of them are within walking distance. The closest eateries are right on Palladium Drive. Frank Finnigan’s (on site) is where you can get burgers, fish and chips and salads. About half a kilometre away (1000 Palladium Dr.) you can get your typical pub grub at the Check Point Sports Pub and Grill. If you are up to travelling about 1.7 km away from the arena you can eat at Costco Food Court (770 Silver Seven Rd.) and save money, or try the American and Italian fare at Cabotto’s Fine Italian Cuisine (5816 Hazeldean Rd., Stittsville).
Home of the Ottawa Redblacks the TD Place Stadium (1015 Bank St.) is a outdoor sports and entertainment venue with a 24,000 seating capacity and a 10,000-seat indoor arena. It is located in the Lansdowne Park fairgrounds in Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood, south of the city’s downtown area bordered by the Queensway highway.
The Stadium’s central location in the city means there is no shortage of hotels and restaurants within a short distance. Located about 2km from the Stadium, The Business Inn & Suites (180 MacLaren St.) is a mid-range hotel with fairly large rooms in a good central location of the city.
Although the Sheraton Ottawa Hotel (150 Albert Street) is a little farther from the Stadium it is located a couple of blocks away from Parliament Hill and 10 minutes from ByWard Market.
The eateries within range of the TD Place Stadium range from pizza and fast food restaurants to frozen yogurt. If you are in the mood for pizza you can walk over to ZaZaZa Pizza with Pizazz (915 Bank St.) and try a one of several overly dressed pizzas. If this is not within your budget there is always Pizza Pizza (933 Bank St.) with a less fancy menu and less fancy prices to match.
Right on 1015 Bank St. the Beavertails offers everything you would expect from a greasy spoon plus a few gooey desserts to match the caloric menu. A short walking distance away Kettleman’s Bagle Co. (912 Bank St.) offers a slightly healthier alternative at reasonable prices. The menu has a choice of about twenty types of bagels, sandwiches, salads, breads and desserts.
Did you Know?
- Ottawa has fifteen curling clubs in the city alone. This is higher than any other municipality in eastern Canada.
- The Ottawa Rough Riders, the Canadian Football League team were one of the oldest sports franchises in North America before their demise in 1996.
Every major North American city has its share of shopping malls and Ottawa is no exception. The major shopping malls in the city are commercial sites where you can eat, shop, relax and find a multitude of Canadian, American and international brand name items.
Located east of Parliament Hill on Rideau Street bordering ByWard Market and the Rideau Canal, is the three-level Rideau Centre. The 68,733 metre (739,842 sq.-ft) mall houses 150 mid and mid-high range stores. International brand names include Lacoste, Michael Kors and Coach. Visit the website for more information about how to get there, parking and other useful tourist information.
St. Laurent Centre shopping mall is located off the Queensway, minutes from downtown Ottawa at 1200 St-Laurent Boulevard. Ottawa’s largest mall opened in 1967 and has 90,2000 square metres (971,000 sq.-ft.) of retail space. It is home to almost 200 retail stores and services. It is easily accessible via public transportation. OC Transpo’s St. Laurent station provides direct access to the mall. Canadian brand names dominate the mid-priced retail scene in this mall, with a few exceptions like H&M, Guess and a few others. Visit the website for more information.
The eastern portion of Ottawa, off RR174/Highway 17 at 110 Place d’Orléans Dr. and St-Joseph Boulevard is where you can find Place d’Orléans shopping mall. The mall houses two major department stores and almost 200 shops, restaurants and a host of services. The Hudson’s Bay Company and Target provide department store retail shopping with prices that range from low and mid-range for Target and mid to mid-high for The Bay. This is where locals and visitors shop for reasonably priced jewellery, footwear, ladies’, men’s and children’s apparel, popular greeting cards, stationery, discount items, jeans and eyeglasses. For directions and more store information visit the website.
Driving from downtown Ottawa (10-15 minutes) along the Trans-Canada Highway will take you to the Bayshore Shopping Centre (100 Bayshore Dr.). This busy three-storey mall recently underwent extensive renovation adding a new food court and thirty new stores. There are 165 retail venues and services offering everything from apparel for the whole family to pet supplies, beauty salons and spas, gift shops, books, travel services and a lot more. Visit the website for more details about hours of operation and store information.
Ottawa‘s Bank Street
Ottawa’s downtown area is dominated by Bank Street. Running south to north in the heart of Ottawa the street encompasses several districts. The business and shopping district is located between Wellington Street and Gladstone Avenue. Known as the Bank Street Promenade, this part of town has the main street lined with stores, services, banks, grocery stores, book and magazines stores, coffee and sandwich shops, bars, pubs and restaurants, hair/tanning/nail salons and tattoo parlours, just to name a few.
Depending on your tastes and orientation you can leave Bank Street with something original or atypical like a tattoo, a tan or native art gifts. This part of town abounds in hair, nails, tanning salons and spas. It also has its share of adult shops with more or less inconspicuous names.
Look for essential oils or soap making ingredients, indulge in handcrafted edible fruit arrangements or stock up on a collection of designer underwear for men. Visitors with conservative or traditional taste in clothing and accessories will likely limit their Bank Street stroll to just that! Parking on weekends is always free.
The area between Gladstone Avenue and Somerset Street West is known as Ottawa’s gay village. One look around and you will see that the types of businesses and stores are a reflection of the community.
Ottawa‘s ByWard Market
If you’re only going to visit a single shopping place in Ottawa be sure to visit the ByWard Market. Located in the Lower Town district bordered by Rideau Street on the south, Cumberland Street on the east and Sussex Drive on the west, this may well be your one-stop-shopping for eating, entertainment, souvenir shopping and much more.
Initially established in 1826 as an outdoor public market that catered mostly to French and Irish communities, over the years the area has been attracting restaurant, café, retail and night club operators excited by the prospect of having a business in an area that is always abuzz with people. As a result, this has grown into an entertainment district densely populated with bars, clubs and restaurants heavily frequented by university students.
During the warmer months ByWard Market is famous for its open air stalls where locals buy fresh produce, but there is so much more than just food. There are hundreds of retailers that sell rugs, artefacts, handmade crafts, artisan chocolate, wine, fashion accessories, jewellery, casual and elegant fashions from Canadian and European designers, wedding gowns, footwear, crystal jewellery, sterling silver jewellery, Swarowski jewellery, embroidered hand bags, scarves, fair trade items and fabrics, gemstones, one-of-a-kind jewellery, home decor, furnishings and thousands of other items. Visit the website for a list of events and a store directory.
Places to Eat in Ottawa
Ottawa has a varied restaurant scene with its share of fine dining venues, mid-range restaurants, traditional greasy spoons, fast food chains and everything in between. Recent years have witnessed an increase in number and quality of restaurants in Ottawa, especially in and around the bustling ByMarket area. The increased competition drives each business to offer consistently better food to stay afloat.
Fine Dining in Ottawa
Quality dining in the capital city is characterized by the initiative of several chef-entrepreneurs whose focus on quality ingredients, international and local wine lists and locally sourced sustainable ingredients, are (literally) a recipe for great taste and success.
Ottawa’s Absinthe (1208 Wellington St.) provides plenty of atmosphere and food to match. With a menu that is heavily centred on meat this restaurant caters mostly to a carnivore crowd. The menu, which includes duck, tuna, beef tartare, salmon and pork, is in French, but hungry customers will hardly need a translator. The variety of the menu and mostly locally-sourced organic produce speak for themselves.
The environmentally-conscious will be happy to know that Ottawa has a place for them with a fancy gourmet menu. ZenKitchen (634 Somerset St. West) is true to its own motto that “a gourmet meal can be created out of healthy and environmentally friendly foods.” The menu, reputation and jazz nights draw crowds of vegans and meat eaters alike.
The winner of several awards, Restaurant 18 (18 York St.) has an impressive wine list designed specifically for pairing with the food. The French-based menu is definitely for discerning connoisseurs for whom quality (rather than quantity) is the essence of Epicurean living. The menu includes elk tartare, oysters and tuna niçoise.
Atelier (540 Rochester St.) is for the gastronomically-adventurous. Each guest is immediately informed that the prix fixe dinner lasts an average of three hours. A 12- course tasting menu is served and it always comes with surprises. The molecular gastronomy menu at Atelier (540 Rochester St) is for the gastronomically-adventurous. After crossing the entrance and taking your seat you are immediately informed that the prix fixe dinner lasts an average of three hours. The 12-course tasting menu never ceases to surprise because it changes with each visit. Items such as Yolko Uno are, as the French say, tout un programme.
Casual Dining in Ottawa
In Ottawa there is a pub and a bistro around every corner. Generally speaking, these fall in the moderately priced restaurant category. There is no shortage of pizza, sandwich shops and cafés, which satisfy the budget of the average traveller. The city also has a number of ethnic restaurants that are reasonably priced and fare quite well among the locals.
If you are feeling Greek and long for a taste of the Mediterranean The Greek Souvlaki Shack (258 Bank St.) has a growing reputation for serving tasty food. Unlike many pseudo-ethnic restaurants, the owner is Greek and the food matches the cultural and culinary heritage and colour.
Talay Thai (511 Bank Street) is a popular Thai restaurant among the locals in Ottawa. The modern interior and attentive service contribute to the overall pleasant atmosphere. Customers with food allergies should read the menu carefully as it is clearly marked which ingredients contain gluten and which do not.
The Merivale Fish Market & Seafood Grill (1480 Merivale Rd.) is one of several destinations for fish and seafood. The restaurant is operated by the owners of a small, family-run fish market who know their fish. The menu includes mussels, clams, oysters and sushi for real fish lovers who crave much more than fish and chips.
La Cabaňa (848 Merivale Rd.) features tasty Salvadoran cuisine that makes up for the lack of ambiance and décor. Known for its pupusas and cashew apple drink, classic Latin American dishes like carne asada and chorizo con casamiento are menu staples.
If you are looking for low cost vegetarian meals head over to Govinda’s (212 Somerset St. E.) The restaurant’s Hare Krishna-inspired temple doors are open to everyone as long as they remove their shoes when entering the premises. Located in the vicinity of Ottawa’s University, the restaurant prices are adjusted for students. For about CAD$7 ($5 for students) you can indulge in an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet. The menu is limited to 6-7 items but the overall atmosphere, the freshness and simplicity of the meat-free food make for a spiritually fulfilling experience for just a few bucks.
The Table Restaurant Vegetarian Organic (1230 Wellington St. West) offers a more varied menu for people with a higher budget. Customers know exactly what they are eating because ingredient lists are available for every dish on the menu. This is where evil ingredients like refined sugar and white flour meet their match. Everything is prepared with healthier ingredient-substitutes. An on-site gourmet shop allows customers to purchase fresh and frozen meals to take home with them.
Ottawa’s Street Food Vendors
According to the city of Ottawa there are about sixty food vendors out on the streets. These street vendors are divided into three categories: street trucks, carts and stationary trailers. Food trucks are mobile eateries with colourful, hard-to-miss vehicles that compete for attention and work hard to bring food to the streets.
No matter where you are in Ottawa, you’re bound to run into any one of them. They serve up affordable, simple food like soup and sandwiches or more complex meals that you would probably want to eat sitting down. Ottawa street food vendors feed hungry locals and world travellers with menus as varied as baked potatoes, frozen yogurt, Mexican churros, crepes, American soul food, traditional Texas street food, rotisserie chicken, fish, seafood and salads. To view a listing and street maps of street food vendors visit the City of Ottawa’s official website.
Where to Stay in Ottawa
Like all the major capitals of the world Ottawa offers a range of hotels that includes popular hotel chains, budget hotels and a few boutique hotels. The latter are surprisingly affordable. The overall hotel scene in Ottawa maintains a conservative profile with a few exceptions. Unlike major cities like Toronto, Ottawa hotels include many reasonably priced* options.
Popular Ottawa Hotels
Econo Lodge Downtown East (112 Montreal Road) is a quality budget hotel about ten minutes from Parliament Hill and within walking distance of the rail station and bicycle trail. While it may not be as centrally located as other hotels in the city there are a number of free amenities that make this hotel a good value for the money. Each room is equipped with a Jacuzzi bathtub – something that comes with a price tag in many pricier hotels. Breakfast, morning newspaper, local calls and in-room wireless are all free. Hotel rates range from CAD$$90 to CAD$110. Pets are not permitted in the hotel.
The Marriot Ottawa (100 Kent St.) is located just minutes from the city’s Government Buildings, from the Rideau Canal, Rideau Centre, the National Gallery of Canada and the ByWard Market. There is beautiful indoor pool with a Spa feel and the staff is helpful and attentive.Rates start at CAD$170.
Days Inn Downtown Ottawa (319 Rideau St.) provides adequate lodging with the standard amenities you would expect from a mid-range hotel chain. The convenient, central location right in the heart of Ottawa, close to ByWard Market and the National Gallery, makes up for the fact that some of the rooms may be in need of a makeover to give them a more contemporary look. The hotel is also pet friendly and guests with pets are always happy to overlook minor cosmetic details when a hotel opens its doors to their furry buddies. Rates start at CAD$120.
The Embassy Hotel and Suites (25 Cartier St.) is a small 130-room hotel in downtown Ottawa less then five minutes from Parliament Hill. It is a short distance from Elgin St., Somerset St. and Chinatown. A number of surrounding parks create a suburban atmosphere for this centrally located hotel. Confederation Park, Minto Park and Jack Purcell Park are within walking distance. Average rates start at CAD$123.
If you are travelling with your family or a small group of friends the Cartier Place Suite Hotel (180 Cooper St.) has rooms large enough to accommodate your clan by providing extra beds or cots. Fido is allowed to join you in this pet friendly hotel. The hotel is close to restaurants and shops. Parliament Hill is ten minutes away and the ByWard Market is 15 minutes away. Extended stay guests appreciate the fact that each room is equipped with a full kitchen and on-site laundry facilities. Average rates begin at CAD$145
High End Ottawa Hotels
Blending well with the landscape and a stone’s throw from the Parliament Buildings is the site of the majestic Fairmont Chateau Laurier (1 Rideau St.). The French chateau-inspired architecture of this limestone building is nestled along the Rideau canal. The elegant building dominates the urban area and affords 360 º views of the city. The interiors are a tasteful mix of French, European and North American décor that works well to recreate an atmosphere of historic European grandeur. The average rate is about CAD$260 for a standard room.
Located a few blocks from Parliament Hill is the site of the Hotel Indigo (123 Metcalfe St.). This boutique hotel has all the comforts of a quality hotel without the standardized look of a chain hotel. This cozy hotel features 106 rooms with an indoor pool, a fitness room, a meeting.
Within a short distance from the ByWard Market district, the Rideau Canal and Parliament Hill you will find the Novotel Ottawa (33 Nicholas St.). The hotel décor retains a look that has likely seen better days but the 24-hour service, the rooms with shower and bathtub, in-room microwave, refrigerator, coffee making facilities and great central location certainly make up for it. Guests who are tired after a day of sightseeing can head over to the hotel spa for a seawater or thermal springs treatment. Rates range from CAD$161 to CAD$210.
If you are travelling with pets you will find that the Radisson Hotel Ottawa Parliament Hill (402 Queen St.) is a pet friendly hotel located in the heritage district about 2km from Rideau Canal and ByWard Market. The average room rate is about $250. The hotel has all the amenities and comforts of a large chain hotel plus complimentary Wi-Fi.
The Sheraton Ottawa Hotel (150 Albert St.) is conveniently located in a central location with restaurants and shopping venues. Hotel guests with bikes can ask the friendly, helpful staff to provide storage during their stay. The spacious rooms are equipped with comfortable beds, and depending on the package, rates can range from CAD $139 to CAD $475.
One-of-a Kind Ottawa Hotels
The owners of this boutique hotel probably had more in mind than just providing a place to sleep with the usual one-size-fits-all hotel amenities. ARC The Hotel (140 Slater St.) is for guests who are interested in living a more personalized experience when they travel. The hotel is steeped in ambiance thanks to the modern decor that confers a modern version of a quasi Zen-like atmosphere. Each of the 112 rooms is uniquely decorated to reflect the uniqueness and taste of each guest.
All the purely materialistic amenities like the Egyptian linens, Roman Style bathtubs, the bathrobes, the complementary glass of wine at your arrival and the Spa products in each room are part of a clever design to create a relaxing atmosphere and provide a lasting impression. All this comes with a price tag, and although the room rates are reasonably affordable travellers should read the fine print carefully to find out what is not included in the rate.
Situated in Ottawa’s historical district of Sandy Hill the Swiss Hotel (89 Daly Avenue) is a historic building that dates back to 1872. The hotel building has undergone may changes throughout the years. From an apartment complex it was remodelled into a house until 1945 when it was reopened as the Gasthaus Switzerland Inn. It was recently renovated into a modern boutique hotel.
The building exterior and surrounding property provide a charming European setting within the city. The freshly renovated rooms have enough modern décor to give them a contemporary look without taking away any of the flair and Old World charm. The Mediterranean patio offers a relaxing area to chill out or enjoy breakfast during the warmer months.
Visit Expedia.ca’s Ottawa Hotels page for a full list of places to stay along with detailed information such as pricing, reviews, and current deals.
Ottawa Organized Tours
Canadian law mandates that tour guides be fully qualified and licensed so you can bet that you’re in good hands when you reserve a guided tour of Ottawa. There are a number of companies that operate city tours with prices that range according to length and complexity of the tour. View the city by land or water on Hop-on Hop-off tours, river cruises and walking tours. Before you reserve a tour make sure you understand the tour operator pricing options and ask about any additional costs. What you see on their websites is not necessarily what you pay.
Ottawa Short Tours
First timers to Ottawa can take introductory tours that cover the city’s main historic and geographic landmarks without overwhelming visitors with too much information. These are short fifty minute tours that can serve as a good starting point for further personal exploration. Fifty minute bus or double-decker bus tours start at about CAD$30.*
Ottawa City Hop-on Hop-off Tour and Cruise
This tour begins at 10am and ends at 3pm. It includes a bus tour and a boat tour of either the Ottawa River or the Rideau Canal. You can hop on and off the open double-decker bus as many times as you wish (during your paid tour) to take photos, shop or grab a bite to eat. This tour covers Ottawa’s main attractions and one of the two aforementioned waterways. The tour itself is 75 minutes long but the bus circles the tour route for five hours to allow people to hop on and off at their leisure. This tour starts at about CAD$53.*
Ottawa Walking Tours
To get closely acquainted with Ottawa, the best way to explore it is on foot. A number of Ottawa walking tours allow you to retrace the city’s historic path through its landmarks, buildings and art. Depending on how long you are willing to walk, tours range from ninety minutes to two and a harlf hours. Prices start at CAD$15* per person for the two and a half-hour tours.
Ottawa City Amphibus Tours
The Amphibus Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime and original way to see Ottawa by land and water without getting off the bus. If you’re brave enough to get on a bus and drive straight into the river this tour is for you. These are fully bilingual guided tours and begin at the company kiosks located at 59 Sparks St. and Elgin St. They are available from April to October. Prices start at CAD$30.97.*
*Always verify prices, taxes and any additional costs with your chosen tour operator or company.
What to See in Ottawa
Ottawa’s numerous heritage and cultural landmarks have been forged by the historical and political role of this city. They are the most predominantly striking characteristics of the city mapped out throughout the well-planned urban sprawl.
Parliament Hill (111 Wellington St., 613-992-4793) dominates Ottawa’s cultural and urban landscape. Known as “The Hill” to locals the area comprises a Centre Block with the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons. The Peace Tower and the Library of Parliament face the Centre Block. The East and West Blocks contain the Ministers’ and Senators’ administrative areas. Built in 1859 the entire block went through several phases of extensions and reconstruction after a devastating fire in 1916. Visit the Parliament of Canada website for information about guided tours.
Ottawa is divided by the ubiquitous Rideau Canal, a 202 km (126 miles) waterway that runs through the city providing a picturesque urban landscape. The Canal, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, is non-navigable for commercial purposes. It is used mainly for recreational purposes such as leisure boating and sightseeing. A number of companies operate tours, pleasure cruises and canoe rentals. During the winter when weather conditions permit the Rideau Canal becomes the lengthiest skating area in the world.
The Official seat of the Canadian Monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) in Ottawa is Rideau Hall (1 Sussex Dr.). Built in 1838 one of Ottawa’s most important heritage sites is used for state affairs. Also home to the Governor General of Canada this is where foreign dignitaries and heads of state are received.
The 175-room edifice comprises the original smaller building in the Regency architectural style, with extensions added later in the Romanesque architecture and further additions in an Italianate style reminiscent of Florentine architecture. Interior portraits of English monarchs Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Victoria bear witness to the symbolic power of the English monarchy in Canada. Rideau Hall is open to visitors for guided tours.
Supreme Court of Canada
If you are a law student or graduate you won’t want to miss the appeal hearings at the Supreme Court of Canada (301 Wellington St.). The court’s hearings are public and run from October until June-July. Built in 1939 the building’s entrance and lobby showcase marble floors and walls that make an authoritative statement upon entering the stately edifice. The highest court in Canada is situated right on the banks of the Ottawa River.
Nested in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill neighbourhood is a Victorian Mansion known as Laurier House. This was the home of Canada’s first francophone prime minister Wilfrid Laurier in 1897 and his successor, prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. For over fifty years the mansion had an important role in Canadian political life. Illustrious visitors include Charles de Gaulle, Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, among others. Currently owned by Parks Canada Laurier House is now a public museum.
Royal Canadian Mint
Located at 320 Sussex Dr. the Tudor Gothic-style building that houses the Royal Canadian Mint is a Canadian Crown Corporation owned by the Canadian Government. It produces coins for Canada and other countries. You can easily spend several hours inside the heavily guarded building and learn about the fascinating process of coin making and silver and gold refining. An on-site gift shop allows visitors to purchase coins and souvenirs. There are several very informative guided tour options that can last several hours.
What To Do In Ottawa
Ottawa abounds in seasonal and year-long events. During the summer Ottawa’s ByWard Market becomes a colourful open air market local and imported produce. Complete without a trip to Ottawa’s historical market.
The Rideau Canal affords visitors the opportunity to view the city by boat, canoe or vessel. The areas around the canal are areas of great historical interest that can be explored when the weather does not permit boating tours.
Ottawa’s parks are clean, family and pet friendly and are favourite year round destinations for pursuing outdoor activities or taking part in a number of annual festivals and other events. Ottawa museums are favourite destinations for cultural, historical and artistic pursuits, and Ottawa Museums can be visited year round, regardless of weather conditions.
Ottawa Museums and Galleries
There are about fifty-two museums in the city of Ottawa showcasing artefacts, objects and artwork of Canadian and non-Canadian provenance in many areas, disciplines and fields. Art, science, humanities, history, technology, geology, social sciences, geography and natural sciences find their righteous place within the walls of each museum and gallery and aim to educate, promote awareness and surprise thousands of visitors and locals.
The large bronze and stainless steel sculpture of a spider situated on the grounds of the National Gallery of Canada (380 Sussex Drive) makes it impossible to miss the gallery. The Striking glass and granite building is the home of the most comprehensive collection of Canadian works. The nine permanent collections include international works, sculptures, indigenous art and photography distributed on three levels. Many of these works are donations by notable Canadians.
The international collection includes works by Francis Bacon, Cézanne, Chagall, Klimt, Dalì Léger, Matisse, Mondrian, Rembrandt, Van Gough and Andy Warhol. Admission is CAD$12 for adults, CAD$10 for seniors and students (with ID), CAD$6 for youths (ages 12-19) and free for children (ages 11 and under). The gallery is generally closed on Mondays.
The Canadian War Museum (1 Vimy Place) is approximately 2 km from Parliament Hill. It is a piece of Canadian and world history retold through a gallery of artefacts that range from war machines, artillery, aircraft, and an assortment of bibliographical testimonials. There are permanent exhibitions about Canadian wars, 20th century world wars, the Cold War, peace support operations and more.
The Canadian War Museum relives the human conflicts of the last century and although the main focus is on Canada’s war experience it inevitably involves major historical, global events. This is a museum of great interest for its historical and human relevance. Admissions start at CAD$13 for adults, CAD$11 for seniors, CAD$10 for students, CAD$8 for children (ages 3-12) and CAD$32 for families (max 5 people).
Winter Skating on Rideau Canal
When the temperature drops the Rideau Canal becomes the largest skating rink in the world.
It is open to skaters daily from January to February. The admission is free, however, donations (that go to the National Capital Commission) to help maintain the skating rink are always welcome. To experience the canal’s 7+ km of skating area you can bring your own ice skates or rent them on site. Skating on the canal is always subject to the weather and ice conditions so be sure to always check with the authorities or the Ottawa tourist board before venturing out with your ice skates.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
There are probably very few people around who don’t recognize this Canadian symbol. Your visit to Ottawa is a chance to get to know the RCMP. The Musical Ride tour is a show with trained horses. While there may be nothing intellectually stimulating about watching horses raise this or that leg, the real appeal lies in the historical context and legacy surrounding the RCMP. You can see the beautiful horses, tour the stables and the riding school and get a glimpse of the Landau carriages used to escort Canada’s visiting monarchs. The Centre can be easily reached by public transportation. To schedule tours of the RCMP museum, find out about visiting hours, RCMP souvenir shop and other related information visit the RCMP website.
National Arts Centre of Ottawa
Ottawa’s National Arts Centre (53 Elgin Street) was created in 1967 with the visionary aspirations and determination of several patrons of the arts and then-Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Throughout the years the NAC suffered several setbacks due mostly to a chronic lack of funding from the government. However the Centre experienced a resurgence thanks to the initiative of several private supporters whose help injected a dose of optimism and much needed funds to keep the NAC alive.
The National Arts Centre of Ottawa is a must-visit place for lovers of the arts. The artistic repertoire includes ballet, opera, classical music, tragedy, solo performances and bands featuring pop music, folk, glam, blues, and much more. Plays are featured in English and French. The on-site restaurant, Le Café provides the opportunity to attend a NAC performance and stay for lunch or dinner.
You might say that Ottawa is a city within a large green parkland area divided by waterways. It appears that the urban development has been planned around the green spaces in the area. There are literally hundreds of parks and trails for biking, golfing, hiking and skiing.
There are almost 90,000 acres of scenic parkland across the Ottawa River that host year round activities. Gatineau Park is perhaps even more beautiful in the fall when the foliage changes from green to a mixed palette of red and yellow. A natural habitat and ecosystem for hundreds of bird species and other local fauna the park overlooks the Canadian Shield and St. Lawrence Lowlands.
It is a dream for campers, hikers and cross-country skiers. During warm summer days the park’s beaches draw crowds of sun worshippers. If sports are not your thing you can always arm yourself with a camera to immortalize the views of the Champlain Lookout and the Canadian Shield. For more information visit the official website.
West of the Parliament Buildings across the canal lies Major’s Hill Park, in this neighbourhood you will find the Notre Dame Basilica and the United States Embassy, among others. The park also hosts a number of yearly festivals like the Ottawa International Jazz Festival.
Mooney’s Bay Park sits on the Rideau River and is accessed by the main entrance on Ottawa Road #19. The park is the site of year long activities. The sandy beaches and children’s playground attract families and swimmers. Winter skiing is available and an on-site ski school can teach you the ropes. The park is also the site of the Terry Fox Stadium.
Did You Know?
During the winter Ottawa residents who live near the Rideau Canal save money on gas by skating to work on the frozen canal.
Day Trip in Ottawa
A single day in Ottawa deserves a visit to the city’s main heritage landmarks. If you are like many people you will probably also want to buy something to take back home. A stop at Ottawa’s ByWard Market district is a cultural experience with lots of local colour. You will likely spend an average of 3-4 hours at each of these sites, possibly longer if you reserve a guided tour.
Begin your tour at 111 Wellington Street. Parliament opening hours vary and public visits are usually not permitted during state visits so be sure to check the website. You have several options for touring Canada’s Parliament, there are self-guided options, guided tours, you can also arrange to meet a Senator, MP or a parliamentary committee. The Centre and East Blocks are usually open from 9-10 am to 4:30 pm.
Start your Canal tour at the Rideau Canal lock station (southeast), explore the attractions and learn about the rich local history. Book a guided tour (water or foot) to learn about the history of the area, and the various local fauna (blue herons, loons, turtles). Rent a canoe or a kayak, explore the local communities, shop and have lunch. The smaller communities in the area cater to visitors and offer a range of artisan products.The maple syrup production at the Maple Sugar House and Museum is more interesting than you would think. There you can sample and buy authentic Canadian maple syrup delicacies like maple jelly or cinnamon maple butter.
Head over to ByWard Market Square, an area bordered by King Edward Avenue, Murray Street, Sussex Drive and Mackenzie Avenue. This is a great way to end your day tour of the city because you can visit the shops for souvenirs to take back home and then grab a bite to eat, have a full course dinner or enjoy some finger food at one of the pubs in the market district before heading back to your hotel.
Week Trip in Ottawa
If you have an entire week to visit Ottawa you will want to begin your tour of the city with the main heritage sites. After spending the week in the capital city of Canada you can explore (on day 7) the surrounding areas which are also areas of great historical, cultural and geological interest.
111 Wellington Street, visiting hours vary, be sure to check the official website at http://www.parl.gc.ca/Visitors/index-e.html.
Begin your tour at the the Rideau Canal lock station.
ByWard Market Square district is bordered by King Edward Avenue, Murray Street, Sussex Drive and Mackenzie Avenue.
Changing of the Guard
This is the next best thing to watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, London. The ceremony at Parliament Hill begins at 10 am daily during the summer. This is a large-scale ceremony complete with a regimental band, pipers and a march by the Guard. Be sure to arrive at least fifteen minutes early to secure the best seat(s).
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica
This beautiful Neo-Gothic cathedral is located just off Sussex Drive on your way to the Royal Canadian Mint. This is a national historic site of Canada with typical French-Canadian tin-covered steeples. While the exterior may not be anything out of the extraordinary the interior certainly deserves a visit. The cathedral is a place of quiet contemplation where you can admire the beautiful stained glass windows, religious statues, vaulted ceilings and a gilded Madonna.
Royal Canadian Mint
Travel less than ten minutes north along Sussex Drive until you reach the (320 Sussex Dr.) Royal Canadian Mint.
Situated about seven minutes northwest at 1 Sussex Drive is Rideau Hall. The home of the Canadian Monarch and the Governor General of Canada is an eclectic combination of Romanesque and Regency architecture that houses an art collection and antique furniture. There are free guided residence tours and a host seasonal activities and events. From January 6 to March 9 you can skate in the outdoor skating rink without making any reservations.
Supreme Court of Canada
There are at least five reasons to visit the Supreme Court of Canada (301 Wellington St) other than the public court hearings. The stately architecture, paintings, statues, the history and the guided tours.
Library and Archives Canada
Located west of Parliament Hill on Wellington Street next to the Supreme Court of Canada it houses over 343,000 works of art, 71,000 films, over two million photographic images, Canadian postal archives, an impressive collection of foreign language books and the largest collection of Canadian sheet music in the world.
National Gallery of Canada
Located at 380 Sussex Drive the gallery hours are: 1 Oct to 30 Apr: Mon closed, Tues – Sun: 10 am to 5 pm: Thurs: 10 am to 8 pm. May to 30 Sept: daily 10 am to 5 pm, Thurs: 10 a to 8 pm.
Bayshore Shopping Centre
The mall (100 Bayshore Drive) closes at 9 pm on Mon – Sat.
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Located in 100 Laurier Street, Gatineau, this is the most visited museum in the country. The atypical curved architecture designed by aboriginal architects houses over three million artefacts and the largest collection of totem poles in the world. Canada’s first nations section is a series of life size micro-environments and artefacts that take visitors through one thousand years of history and civilization.
The building (335 Laurier Avenue East) is closed Tues and Wed.
110 Place d’Orleans
Calypso Theme Waterpark
Families with children will love the largest theme water park in Canada. The massive park has over thirty-five water slides, a roller coaster water slide, a wave pool surrounded by white sand, six restaurants a beach bar and several boutiques. The park is open from June through the beginning of September. Visit the website for information about hours, admission, packages, season passes and lodging. The park is located half an hour east of Ottawa off highway 417.
National Arts Centre
The music and entertainment venue is located at 53 Elgin Street at Confederation Square.
Canadian War Museum
The museum is located at 1 Vimy Place on LeBreton Flats at the corner of Booth Street and MacDonald Parkway, about 10 minutes west of Parliament Hill. Museum hours: Mon, Tue, Wed & Fri: 9:30 am to 5 pm, Thurs: 9:30 am to 8 pm, Sat & Sun: 9:30 am to 5 pm.
St. Laurent Centre
1200 St-Laurent Boulevard
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
The RCMP is a Canadian institution that aims to educate the public through a host of activities for the entire family. Watch the RCMP musical rides (St. Laurent Blvd and Sandridge Rd.) and learn about the beautiful equines – an important element of the RCMP. Learn about their rescue dogs initiative, visit the stables and shop at the Mountie Shop, a non-profit corporation that funds and makes the RCMP initiatives possible. Individuals entering any of the RCMP premises are subject to a security clearance and may require an escort. Activities for kids begin at 5 pm. Always check the RCMP website for show times and admission.
Upper Canada Village
A visit to the Upper Canada Village is worth the one and a half hour drive. Located south of Ottawa on the banks of the St. Lawrence River along the United States border (13740 County Road 2, 613-543-4328) the village is open to the public from 9:30 am to 5 pm, Wed to Sun (closed Mon and Tue). The regular season runs from May until September. This is a living history site that depicts the rural life of English immigrants in the 1860s.
The sixty-acre site with forty heritage buildings is a realistic re-enactment of 19th century life in Canada complete with period machines, tools, sawmills, blacksmiths, a chapel and a school. There are guided tours, educational events, summer camps, horse-drawn wagon rides, a miniature train, a shop, and a café. The surrounding area, owned by Parks of the St. Lawrence, also deserves to be explored for its historical, recreational and geological worth. The nearby St. Lawrence Park Campsite with sandy beaches and picnic grounds or the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Casino du Lac-Leamy
When you are ready to head back to the city cross the Ottawa River and head over to Gatineau, Quebec (1, boulevard du Casino). Your destination is the Casino du Lac-Leamy. A mere ten minutes from downtown Ottawa there is more to do here than hit the slot machines or blackjack tables. Stay at the casino hotel and spend a day or longer exploring beautiful Québec, enjoy the live entertainment, dancing, great food, fireworks, and more.
The casino has developed and applies responsible gambling measures in compliance with Loto-Québec Responsible Gambling to prevent excessive gambling and ensure patrons enjoy their visit to the Casino.
Decidedly low key, with respect to the more exuberant Toronto, Ottawa’s political role and stature are palpable. The seat of Canada’s federal government has two landmark protagonists. Parliament Hill, which sits on a promontory overlooking the city and the gently flowing Ottawa River. The melange of historic and modern buildings complement each other and make Ottawa a city that is both livable and very approachable.
* Prices are subject to change without notice