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Ottawa Rundown

The tidy and laconic capital of Canada may never eclipse Montreal for culture and cuisine, the urban wallop and wealth of Toronto or the epic vistas of Vancouver but Ottawa is good with that. The city of 1.1 million people cajoles ample kudos from the usual global livability index gurus and makes up for a patent lack of a wild and crazy side with excellent museums, parks and festivals.

Ottawa is easy to essay for first-time visitors too, with a compact bunch of superb points of interest all within close distance of each other. The obvious place to start is Parliament Hill. The heart of the federal government of Canada lures more than 3 million visitors a year. The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which, in genuine Canadian style, turns into the most prodigious ice rink on the planet when the mercury plummets. The ByWard Market and iconic Château Laurier frame a collection of magnificent museums, from the National Gallery of Canada to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, while in the distance, Gatineau Park beckons. To top it off, annual events in Ottawa like Winterlude, Bluesfest, Canada Day and the Canadian Tulip Festival lure hundreds of thousands to the eminent city.

Ottawa’s Top 10

10. Canadian Museum of Nature has a first-rate collection from the Geological Survey of Canada and cool heritage digs.

5. ByWard Market is an historic farmers’ market and commercial district.

9. Canada Science & Technology Museum is a fun place to nerd out with a thoroughly Canuck context.

4. Parliament Hill is the elegant seat of Canada’s federal government.

8. Canada Aviation & Space Museum chronicles the country’s significant contributions to aeronautics and the space program.

3. Canadian Museum of Civilization is the most visited museum in Canada.

7. The Royal Canadian Mint conducts comprehensive tours and operates a remarkable boutique.

2. The National Gallery of Canada, designed by Moshe Safdie, is a world class art museum.

6. The Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, is a National Historic Site named for former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

1. Rideau Canal is one of only six cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada.

Ottawa History

  • Parliament Hill – This is one of Ottawa’s main attractions overlooking the Ottawa River and built in the gothic style.
  • Supreme Court of Canada – The country’s highest court and best sample of art deco architecture.
  • Rideau Hall – The official home of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Governor General of Canada.
  • Rideau Canal – The oldest continuously operated canal system in the continent and on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Laurier House National Historic Site – This victorian home with a copper roof was built in 1878 and home to two prime ministers.

Ottawa Art & Culture

  • Museum of Civilization – This site recounts the story of the people of Canada.
  • Canadian War Museum – Tells the history of Canada’s involvement in armed conflicts worldwide through the ages.
  • Canadian Museum of Nature – Home to galleries and exhibits of mammals, birds, fossils and geology.
  • Diefenbunker (Canada's Cold War Museum) – Once a secret bunker to protect the government from nuclear attack and now a National Historic Site of Canada.
  • Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival – This summer festival in Ottawa is the largest of its kind in the world.

Ottawa Shopping

  • ByWard Market – The most well-known shopping area is found in the heart of Ottawa.
  • Sparks Street – A wonderful walking street and place to see the sights as you shop.
  • Bank Street – A unique area with a one of a kind shopping area, stores and eateries.
  • Downtown Rideau – This shopping area in downtown Ottawa has something for everyone.
  • Westboro Village – A trendy area with shops, boutiques and restaurants in a charming area of town.

Gay & Lesbian Ottawa

  • Flamingo – A great restaurant and nightclub in Ottawa.
  • Swizzles Bar and Grill – Features great music, karaoke and lounge.
  • Sizzle – This bar offers live music and lots of fun.
  • Edge Club and Lounge – A popular downtown dance club.
  • Lookout Bar – A cosy place to hang out and meet new people.

Ottawa Outdoor

  • Wakefield – A picturesque town, rich in culture and lovely natural surroundings.
  • Aventure Laflèche – Great outdoor activities with lovely nature trails, historical caves and an aerial park.
  • Eco-Odyssée – Great place for nature lovers and includes a water maze that gives a peek into the local marsh environment.
  • Tulip Festival – Held each year in the spring and includes well-known concerts and popular music groups.
  • Aboriginal Village – This amazing recreation offers a peek into the first inhabitants of Ottawa and the area.

Ottawa Sport

  • The Ottawa Senators hockey team plays in the Scotiabank Place.
  • To see a game of the Ottawa Harlequins rugby team, stop by the Twin Elm Rugby Park.
  • Ottawa offers some great ice skating on the Rideau Canal, the largest outdoor skating rink in the world.
  • The Canadian Football League offers Canadian football games.
  • For great basketball games, check out the Carleton Ravens at the Frank Clair Stadium.

Ottawa Events

The Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League play at Scotiabank Place in the suburb of Kanata.

Bluesfest is one of Canada’s top outdoor music festivals and takes place every July on the grounds of the Canadian War Museum.

The Canadian Tulip Festival celebrates the end of winter and is arguably the largest flower fest on the planet, with annual attendance well over the half million mark.

The Rideau Canal transforms into the world’s biggest ice rink every winter. The Skateway runs for 4.35 mi (7 km), from downtown to the National Arts Centre. Skate rental sites, change huts and snack bars span the canal.

Winterlude is another way to warm up in Canada’s capital. The premier winter bash takes place over three weekends in February.

Canada Day on Parliament Hill is a must for anyone in or close to Ottawa on July 1. Over 100,000 people gather to celebrate the foremost national holiday with concerts and fireworks.

Ottawa Jazz Festival takes place over ten days in late June and early July.

The National Arts Centre is a premier showcase of the arts. The house orchestra has a world class conductor in Pinchas Zukerman.

Gatineau Park is massive. The de facto national park covers 89,000 acres (361 square kilometres) of wilderness, nature trails, forest, lakes and lookouts.

When To Go

Like much of the rest of urban Canada, Ottawa enjoys a four seasons humid continental climate. Quite predictably, the divergence between July and January in the city is chasmic.

The winter season, from December to March, sees temperatures dip between 4.5°F (-15°C) and 36°F (2°C) and heavy blankets of snow.

Summer, on the other hand, from June to September, generates temperatures as high as 80°F (26.5°C) and often well beyond, as well as 12 days of rain per month on average.

Getting Around

Ottawa is 124 mi (200 km) from Montreal, 280 mi (450 km) from Toronto and 447 mi (720 km) from New York City. Coach bus fleets and Via Rail inter-city trains serve the city well.

Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is usually the first place a foreign dignitary sees when he or she lands in the capital. Outside of Canada from Newfoundland to B.C., the hub serves the likes of Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Frankfurt and London.

Within metropolitan Ottawa, visitors can rely on a very good light rail and bus system, in addition to taxis. Thankfully, the compact core of the city is remarkably easy to navigate on foot.

General Information

Canada's neat and compact capital city may never compete with Montreal for culture, Toronto for sheer size or Vancouver for scenery but then again, Ottawa need not even try. The city with a metro population over 1.1 million can stand alone, content in the knowledge that as the capital city of the Great White North, it contains a slew of fine attractions.

The Parliament and seat of the federal government of Canada for one, home to monuments galore and over the course of a year, more than 3 million visitors. The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that turns into the most famous ice rink on the planet in the cold winter months. As a national capital, museums abound in Ottawa, from the exquisite National Gallery of Canada to the superb Canadian Museum of Civilization. With the grand Château Laurier as a backdrop, the city has a lively nightlife and many fine restaurants from which to choose.

Attractions & Activities

Attractions

  • Château Laurier
  • Rideau Canal
  • National Gallery of Canada
  • National Museum of Science and Technology
  • Canadian Museum of Civilization
  • Activities

  • Ottawa Senators NHL Hockey
  • Tulip Festival
  • Ottawa Bluesfest
  • Carnival of Cultures
  • Canada Day on Parliament Hill
  • Restaurant & Nightlife

    Restaurants

  • Urban Pear
  • Navarra Street
  • Domus
  • Eight8teen
  • Beckta
  • Nightlife

  • Helsinki
  • The Umbrella Room
  • D'Arcy McGees
  • Avant-Garde
  • Zaphod Beeblebrox
  • Climate

    Ottawa has a humid continental climate with long, cold winters and short, hot summers.

    • Winter (November to March) -16-4°C
    • Spring (April to May) -1-19°C
    • Summer (June to August) 12-27°C
    • Fall (September to October) 3-20°C

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    Hotels in Ottawa

    Recommended hotels

    From US$148

    1 Fairmont Chateau Laurier

    4 stars
    4.5 / 5 4 reviews

    1 Rideau Street Map

    Save 15% on your stay

    Reflecting the confidence, dignity and style of Ottawa, this hotel stands as a testament to this dynamic, thriving city with its magnificent limestone edifice with turrets and masonry reminiscent... More

    She is the Grande Dame of Ottawa
    It's a beautiful hotel with a rich history and top location if you plan to visit. Right next to the parliament and the Byward Market area for restaurants and shopping. Although it's quite opulent...
    2 Jun 2015
    From US$81

    2 Crowne Plaza GATINEAU-OTTAWA

    3 stars
    3.6 / 5

    2 Montcalm Street Map

    In a cosy and intimate atmosphere, the hotel offers comfortable accommodation and unsurpassed services to make your stay a pleasant one. GeneralThe Holiday Inn Gatineau-Ottawa Plz Chaudiere Hotel... More

    From US$152

    3 ARC The Hotel Downtown Boutique

    5 stars
    5.0 / 5 1 reviews

    140 Slater Street Map

    Boasting an enchanting location, the ARC The Hotel Ottawa with its comfortable accommodation as well as splendid service creates an excellent place for business and leisure travellers to reside. ... More

    From US$71

    4 Embassy Hotel and Suites

    3 stars
    4.0 / 5 1 reviews

    25 Cartier Street Map

    Business and leisure travellers looking for value-for-money accommodations in the heart of the Canada capital find ideal base at Embassy Hotel & Suites Ottawa. This centrally located Ottawa hotel... More

    From US$127

    5 Delta Ottawa City Center

    4 stars
    4.3 / 5 3 reviews

    101 Lyon St N Map

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    Whether in this Canada capital for business or leisure, cosmopolitan travellers find suitable base in the plush accommodations of Delta Ottawa City Center Hotel. With a city centre setting, this... More

    great Hotel, price, service
    Nice looking place, convenient location. Service was good. They had to do some maintenance which required shutting off the water from midnight to 4am one night, but they made sure everyone had...
    18 Aug 2014
    From US$85

    6 BEST WESTERN PLUS Ottawa Downtown-Victoria Park

    3 stars
    5.0 / 5 2 reviews

    377 O'Connor Street Map

    Save 15% on your stay

    BEST WESTERN PLUS Victoria Park Suites Hotel Ottawa is committed in giving the discerning business and leisure traveller excellent accommodations and fine services. GeneralGuests on business can... More

    From US$114

    7 Ottawa Marriott Hotel

    4 stars
    2.0 / 5 1 reviews

    100 Map

    Rate includes breakfast

    Discover the Ottawa Marriott Hotel and its warm, inviting hospitality, excellent dining options as well as exclusive event facilities in the heart of downtown Ottawa. GeneralBusiness amenities at... More

    Business Trip
    Small Room, very small bathroom, old dirty floor carpet, too expensive
    23 Nov 2013
    From US$87

    8 WelcomINNS Hotel Ottawa

    3 stars
    3.4 / 5

    1220 Michael St Map

    Welcominns Hotel Ottawa is the right choice for the travellers, seeking for comfortable accommodation and quality service for a pleasant stay. The Laurier House, Canadian Museum of Civilization,... More

    From US$82

    9 Ramada Plaza Gatineau/Manoir du Casino

    4 stars
    4.0 / 5 1 reviews

    75 rue d Edmonton Map

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    A perfect place in the city of Ottawa, the Ramada Plaza Manoir Du Casino offers excellent services and convenient facilities for a relaxing stay. GeneralA well equipped business centre as well as... More

    From US$174

    10 Hilton Lac-Leamy

    4 stars
    3.6 / 5

    3, Boulevard du Casino Map

    With its unsurpassed service and lavish comfort, the Hilton Lac leamy cater to the needs of discerning travellers for a relaxing as well as memorable stay. GeneralOffering imperial banquet and... More

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