As Canada’s capital city, Ottawa — the country’s fourth largest city — has established its reputation as the nation’s political hub. And it’s a rightful marker; it’s where laws are created and issues debated. But, Ottawa is much more than a government town steeped in bureaucracy. Discover Ottawa with our beginner’s guide and uncover a whole new side to Canada’s political capital.
Parliament Hill is one of the first sights you’ll see when entering downtown Ottawa. Sitting on the banks of the Ottawa River, which acts a natural boundary between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, the Hill (its informal title) houses the Parliament of Canada. The High Victorian Gothic buildings, accented by the Peace Tower (you’re able to head up the tower for an incredible view of the entire city) are routinely cited as the most beautiful government buildings in the world.
Parliament Hill is also the home to numerous events throughout the year, including the dazzling Mosaika Sound and Light Show during the summer.
The architectural wonders continue with Fairmont Château Laurier. The elegant hotel recently celebrated its centennial and is arguably the most recognizable building after the Parliament Buildings.
The Rideau Canal, which weaves its way through the city, settles next to the hotel in downtown Ottawa. The 202km-long waterway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. Runners and cyclists populate the pathways along the canal during the warmer months; when the temperature drops below freezing, the canal transforms into the longest naturally frozen ice rink in the world and is one of the centrepieces during Winterlude, a three-week winter carnival that takes place in February.
As the capital of Canada, Ottawa has an abundance of cultural institutions. From the National Gallery of Canada and Canadian War Museum, to the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian Museum of Nature, there are a number of opportunities to immerse yourself in Canadian culture that’s both fascinating and exciting for all ages.
Of course, wandering through Ottawa’s neighbourhoods represents one of the best ways to get better acquainted with the city’s evolving culinary scene. The historic ByWard Market allows you to experience the changing tides of Ottawa. During the day find crafters and farmers selling their wares, and during the evening the downtown market turns on the lights to an array of dining options, from Canadian comfort food at Murray Street to Mexican-inspired fare at Navarra.
Head just west of downtown and you’ll reach the areas of Wellington West and Westboro. While you’re there, check out Beyond the Pale, one of the many breweries in the city, and Canvas Resto-Bar-Etc., serving a great selection of fresh, unfussy dishes. These neighbourhoods also offer a wide variety of boutiques, art galleries and quaint cafes.
Ottawa is also blessed with world-class festivals throughout the year including Ottawa Bluesfest— named one of the top 10 music festivals in the world by Billboard Magazine Tulip Festival and National Capital Craft Beer Festival.
Header image: Ottawa River © National Capital Commission
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Have you visited Canada’s capital city? Did you “discover Ottawa”? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Travis Persaud
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About the author: TravisPersaudTravis Persaud
Travis Persaud is a writer and editor who splits his time between Toronto and Ottawa. He writes on a variety of topics including automotive and travel for Zoomer Magazine and CAA, and dabbles in music writing for Exclaim!