- PRICES LIST
- HOTELS (BEST RATED)
- HOTELS (BEST VALUE)
- SIGHTS & LANDMARKS
- MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
- THINGS TO DO
- FESTIVALS & EVENTS
- THINGS TO KNOW
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Ottawa is the capital of Canada. The city is situated on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, opposite Gatineau, Quebec. The metropolitan population of Ottawa is just under a million and it is currently the sixth largest city in Canada (fourth largest if Gatineau is included), and the second largest in Ontario after Toronto.
Founded in 1826 as Bytown, and incorporated as "Ottawa" in 1855, the city has evolved into a political and technological centre of Canada. Its original boundaries were expanded through numerous minor annexations and were ultimately replaced by a new city incorporation and major amalgamation in 2001 which significantly increased its land area. The city name "Ottawa" was chosen in reference to the Ottawa River nearby, which is a word derived from the Algonquin word Odawa, meaning "to trade".
Unique as a North American capital, the city is bilingual. English is the first language of a majority of the population, but French is the first language of roughly 15%, and in fact Ottawa is home to Canada's largest French-speaking population outside of Quebec. Staff in most stores and restaurants speak both well and, in general, bilingualism is common.
Ottawa is home to many of the world's cultures as thousands of immigrants from around the world now call Ottawa home. The city is probably best known as the nation's capital but has become one of the fastest growing cities in North America owing to the booming high-tech business sector.
The city is the most educated in Canada, with several post-secondary, research, and cultural institutions. Ottawa also has the highest standard of living in the nation and low unemployment. It ranks 2nd out of 150 worldwide in the Numbeo quality of life index, and it contains a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|POPULATION :||City: 883,391 / Metro: 1,236,324|
|FOUNDED :||1826 as Bytown, 1855 as City of Ottawa|
|TIME ZONE :||Eastern (EST) (UTC−5) Summer: EDT (UTC-4)|
|LANGUAGE :||English (official) , French (official)|
|RELIGION :||Christian 65%, Muslim 6.7%, Hinduism 1.4%, Buddhism 1.3%, Judaism 1.2%, None 22.8%|
|AREA :||2,778.13 km2 (1,072.9 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||70 m (230 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||45°25′N 75°41′W|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 48.8% |
• Female: 51.2%
|ETHNIC :||British Isles origin 28%, French origin 23%, other European 15%, Amerindian 2%, other, mostly Asian, African, Arab 6%, mixed background 26%|
|AREA CODE :||613, 343|
|POSTAL CODE :||K0A, K1A-K4C|
|DIALING CODE :||+1 343|
Ottawa is the capital of Canada. The city is situated on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, opposite Gatineau, Quebec. The metropolitan population of Ottawa is just under a million. It is the sixth largest city in Canada (fourth largest if Gatineau is included), and the second largest in Ontario after Toronto.
The city is bilingual: English is the first language of a majority of the population, but French is the first language of roughly 15%. Ottawa is home to Canada's largest French-speaking population outside of Quebec. Staff in most stores and restaurants speak both well and, in general, bilingualism is common.
Ottawa is home to many of the world's cultures as thousands of immigrants from around the world now call Ottawa home. The city is probably best known as the nation's capital but has become one of the fastest growing cities in North America owing to the booming high-tech business sector and has earned the name "Silicon Valley North".
Museums and performing arts
Amongst the city's national museums and galleries is the National Gallery of Canada; designed by famous architect Moshe Safdie, it is a permanent home to the Maman sculpture. The Canadian War Museum houses over 3.75 million artifacts and was moved to an expanded facility in 2005. The Canadian Museum of Nature was built in 1905, and underwent a major renovation between 2004 and 2010. Across the Ottawa river in Gatineau is the most visited museum in Canada, the Canadian Museum of History. Designed by Canadian aboriginal architect Douglas Cardinal, the complex, built at a cost of 340 million USD, also houses the Canadian Children's Museum, the Canadian Postal Museum and 3D IMAX theatre.
The city is also home to the Canada Agriculture Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Billings Estate Museum, Bytown Museum, Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Canadian Ski Museum, Currency Museum, and the Portrait Gallery of Canada.
The Ottawa Little Theatre, originally called the Ottawa Drama League at its inception in 1913, is the longest-running community theatre company in Ottawa. Since 1969, Ottawa has been the home of the National Arts Centre, a major performing arts venue that houses four stages and is home to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and Opera Lyra Ottawa.Established in 1975, the Great Canadian Theatre Company specializes in the production of Canadian plays at a local level.
Historic and heritage sites
The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and in 2007, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, there are 24 other National Historic Sites of Canada in Ottawa, including: the Central Chambers, the Central Experimental Farm, the Château Laurier, Confederation Square, the former Ottawa Teachers' College, Langevin Block, Laurier House and the Parliament Buildings. Many other properties of cultural value have been designated as having "heritage elements" by the City of Ottawa under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.
In addition to the Capital Information Kiosk, the tourist office's eager helpers can be found in public places, ready to answer questions in French or English. You can identify them by their blue uniforms with white question marks ("?").
- Capital Information Kiosk, 90 Wellington Street (opposite Parliament Hill), , toll-free: , e-mail: [email protected]. 10AM-5PM daily. Excellent first stop for all kinds of tourist information, in friendly and fluent English and French. This is the office which issues free tickets for tours of the Parliament buildings. free.
Ottawa started as a humble lumber town called Bytown; it was named after Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers who oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, much of which was done by hand, between 1826 and 1832. Lumber mills were built along the Ottawa River in the mid-nineteenth century and those brought employment and wealth to the growing population. The centre of action then, as now, was the ByWard Market. While it's still the centre of the city's nightlife, it has changed appreciably from the rough and tumble early days of brothels and taverns.
In 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada. The choice was controversial, partly because it sidestepped the rivalry between Toronto and Montreal (then, as now, Canada's largest cities), and partly because the new capital was still a tiny outpost in the middle of nothing much — an American newspaper famously commented that it was impregnable, as any invaders would get lost in the woods looking for it.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the telephone was demonstrated to the Canadian public for the first time and the city was electrified. The first electric streetcar service was started in 1891. A menu from 1892 states that, "the first instance in the entire world of an entire meal being cooked by Electricity" was in Ottawa.
Today, the major economic sectors are the public service, travel and tourism and the high-tech industry. Ottawa has proudly remained a green city and is situated at the confluence of three rivers (Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau) as well as the Rideau canal. Many residents make regular use of Ottawa's parks and green spaces, bikeways and cross country ski trails. Many national attractions are located in Ottawa: Parliament Hill; the National Library and Archives; the National Gallery; as well as the Museums of Civilization, Contemporary Photography, Nature, War and Science & Technology.
Ottawa has a humid continental climate with four distinct seasons and is between Zones 5a and 5b on the Canadian Plant Hardiness Scale.
The average July maximum temperature is 26.5 °C (80 °F). The average January minimum temperature is −14.8 °C (5.4 °F).
Summers are warm and humid in Ottawa. Daytime temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) or higher are commonplace. Ottawa averages many days with humidex (combined temperature & humidity index) between 30 and 40 °C (86 and 104 °F) annually.
Snow and ice are dominant during the winter season. Ottawa receives about 224 centimetres (88 in) of snowfall annually. Days above freezing and nights below −20 °C (−4 °F) both occur in the winter.
Spring and fall are variable, prone to extremes in temperature and unpredictable swings in conditions. Annual precipitation averages around 940 millimetres (37 in). There are about 2130 hours of average sunshine annually (46% of possible).
Climate data for Ottawa
|Record high °C (°F)||15.6|
|Average high °C (°F)||−5.8|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−10.2|
|Average low °C (°F)||−14.4|
|Record low °C (°F)||−37.8|
|Source: Environment Canada|
Ottawa is situated on the south bank of the Ottawa River and contains the mouths of the Rideau River and Rideau Canal. The older part of the city (including what remains of Bytown) is known as Lower Town, and occupies an area between the canal and the rivers. Across the canal to the west lies Centretown and Downtown Ottawa, which is the city's financial and commercial hub. As of 29 June 2007, the Rideau Canal, which stretches 202 km (126 mi) to Kingston, Fort Henry and four Martello towers in the Kingston area was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located on a major, yet mostly dormant fault line, Ottawa is occasionally struck by earthquakes. Examples include a magnitude 5.2 earthquake on 1 January 2000, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake on 24 February 2006, a magnitude 5.0 earthquake on 23 June 2010, and a magnitude 5.2 earthquake on 17 May 2013.
Ottawa sits at the confluence of three major rivers: the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the Rideau River.
Ottawa's primary employers are the Public Service of Canada and the high-tech industry. The city has a high standard of living and low unemployment. Mercer ranks Ottawa with the third highest quality of living of any large city in the Americas, and 16th highest in the world. It is also rated the second cleanest city in Canada, and third cleanest city in the world. In 2012, the city was ranked for the third consecutive year as the best community in Canada to live in by MoneySense.
The region of Ottawa-Gatineau has the third highest income of all major Canadian cities. The Federal government is the city's largest employer, employing over 110,000 individuals from the National Capital region. Ottawa is also an important technology centre; in 2015, its 1800 companies employ approximately 63,400 people. The concentration of companies in this industry earned the city the nickname of "Silicon Valley North." Most of these companies specialize in telecommunications,software,development,and environmental technology. Large technology companies such as Nortel, Corel, Mitel, Cognos and JDS Uniphase were founded in the city. Ottawa also has regional locations for 3M, Adobe Systems, Bell Canada, IBM, Alcatel-Lucent and Hewlett-Packard. Many of the telecommunications and new technology are located in the western part of the city (formerly Kanata).
Another major employer is the health sector, which employs over 18,000 people. There are four active general hospitals in the Ottawa area: Queensway-Carleton Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital, Montfort Hospital, and Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. There are also a number of specialized hospital facilities, such as the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. Business, finance, administration, and sales and service occupations rank high among types of occupations.Approximately ten percent of Ottawa's GDP is derived from finance, insurance and real estate whereas employment is in goods-producing industries is only half the national average. The City of Ottawa is the second largest employer with over 15,000 employees.
The National Defence Headquarters located in Ottawa is the main command centre for the Canadian Armed Forces and hosts the Department of National Defence.The Ottawa area includes CFS Leitrim, CFB Uplands, and the former CFB Rockcliffe. During the summer, the city hosts the Ceremonial Guard, which performs functions such as the Changing the Guard.
Modern Ottawa is made up of eleven historic townships, ten of which are from Carleton County and one from Russell.
The city has a main urban area but there are many other urban, suburban and rural areas within the modern city's limits.The main suburban area extends a considerable distance to the east, west and south of the centre, and it includes the former cities of Gloucester, Nepean and Vanier, the former village of Rockcliffe Park and the community of Blackburn Hamlet, the community of Orléans. The Kanata suburban area includes the former village of Stittsville to the southwest. Nepean is another major suburb which also includes Barrhaven. There are also the communities of Manotick and Riverside South on the other side of the Rideau River, and Greely, southeast of Riverside South.
There are a number of rural communities (villages and hamlets) that lie beyond the greenbelt but are administratively part of the Ottawa municipality. Some of these communities are Burritts Rapids; Ashton; Fallowfield; Kars; Fitzroy Harbour; Munster; Carp; North Gower; Metcalfe; Constance Bay and Osgoode and Richmond. There are also a number of towns located within the federally defined National Capital Region but outside the city of Ottawa municipal boundaries, these include the urban communities of Almonte, Carleton Place, Embrun, Kemptville, Rockland, and Russell.
The area codes for Ottawa are 613 and the overlay code 343. Hull (819, overlaid with 873) has the full Ottawa local calling area. Ten-digit dialling (area code+local number) is required for all local calls.
Prices in Ottawa
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.70|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$10.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$34.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$45.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$62.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$6.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$4.50|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$4.30|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$7.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$14.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.20|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$8.00|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$1.75|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$50.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$30.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$80.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$2.50|
44 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
247 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
The renovated and expanded Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (IATA: YOW) is Ottawa's main airport with regular arrivals and departures from most major Canadian and many American cities. Services outside North America, however, are limited to a daily flight to London Heathrow and a daily flight to Frankfurt with Air Canada, plus seasonal service to London Gatwick. Air France, KLM, and Swiss International Airlines provide shuttle bus services between Ottawa and Montreal that facilitate connections with their flights operated from Trudeau International Airport. This trip takes about two hours. Via Rail also operates a shuttle bus from the Dorval train station to nearby Trudeau International Airport. This free shuttle service allows one to travel from Ottawa to Dorval (a suburb of Montreal) by rail, and then transfer directly to the airport on a dedicated on-demand bus.
Macdonald-Cartier is easily reached by public transit or taxi and most of the major car rental agencies have a presence at the airport terminal in the parking garage. A taxi to downtown hotels should cost between $25 and $35, while a taxi to nearby hotels should not cost more than $10. YOW Airporter operates a mini-bus shuttle to most downtown hotels for $14 one-way and $24 return.
To reach downtown via public transit, take the #97 bus (the only bus at the airport, outside at arrivals at pole #12)) and get out at the Mackenzie King transitway stop (14 stops away) at the Rideau Centre shopping mall. If you take this route before 6AM, you will likely follow the more meandering early morning route but will still get to Mackenzie King. To get to the train station, you still take the #97 bus but get out at Hurdman station (10 stops away) and transfer to the #95 eastbound bus to the next stop which is the train station. The bus fare is $3.40 ($3.00 with pre-purchased tickets) which gives you 1.5 hours of unlimited bus travel or $7.95 for an all-day pass. Exact change is required, Remember to ask the bus driver for a transfer even if you do not intend to transfer to another bus. OC Transpo security personnel may get on the bus at any given stop and ask passengers for proof of payment. You will be required to show your transfer or else you will be fined. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it can be embarrassing and expensive.
Passenger train service is run by Via Rail in Canada and the main train station in Ottawa, Ottawa Station (IATA: XDS), is less than ten minutes from downtown by car, taxi or bus. There are six trains daily leaving for Montreal and intermediate points, with five trains daily to Toronto and points in between. Service is reduced on Saturday, Sundays and holidays.
Ottawa has two train stations, the Ottawa Station near downtown, and a secondary station, Fallowfield Station, in the western suburb of Barrhaven, convenient for Nepean and Kanata points. All trains to Toronto stop at Fallowfield; two of the six weekday trains to Montreal originate or terminate at Fallowfield.
Ottawa Station is on a high frequency bus route (#94 or #95) and takes only 5 minutes to get you downtown, heading west. Fallowfield station is also on the #94 and #95 bus route but at the far south-west end.
It is possible to get downtown from the main train station on foot, although it requires a bit of navigation. This path should not be taken alone after dark and may be flooded after periods of intense rain or snow melting. Have a street map with you so you can locate yourself once you have reached Strathcona Park. The station to Strathcona Park takes about half an hour (2.5 km). Another half hour from the park to downtown. A map is available online. (Note: due to the construction of Light Rail, these directions might not be accurate until the end of 2018)
- On exiting the station, walk along the west (left-hand) arm of the vehicle loop and across the Transitway bridge.
- Before reaching Tremblay Road, take the bike path to your left going west.
- The path will take you along the bus lanes and will pass over Riverside Drive.
- You will merge with a path coming up from Riverside Drive; continue walking west, away from the street.
- Shortly after that, you will come to a fork; go right (north) and continue until you see a pedestrian bridge on your left.
- Take the pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River.
- Immediately after the pedestrian bridge, turn right towards the north.
- Take the paved bike path, go under the highway bridge and keep following the Rideau River northward for about 1 km.
- Once you reach the end of the path, you are in Strathcona Park.
- Use a street map or an on-line map service to find your way from Strathcona Park to your downtown destination; at the north end of the park is Laurier Avenue, a major east-west street; parallel to it and several blocks north is Rideau Street.
There is a Greyhound terminal in Ottawa with regular service to Montreal(departure on the hour from 6AM to midnight), Toronto and other cities in North America. The bus terminal is downtown on the corner of Catherine Street and Kent Street, between Bronson Avenue and Bank Street. Though the bus terminal is downtown, a 15-20 minute walk will get you to most hotels and downtown attractions. Alternatively, a 5-10 minute local bus ride will do the same. (Bus #4, with its stop around the corner from the terminal on Kent Street, is the bus that you will want to take.)
Greyhound buses coming from Montreal also usually make an intermediary "University of Ottawa" stop (actually at Laurier Station near the corner of Laurier Avenue East and Waller Street) before going to the Catherine Street terminal. This stop is closer walking distance to the Byward Market, the Rideau Canal, and Parliament Hill, and is a more central city transit hub. It may be necessary to request the stop with the driver.
In 2014, a coach from Toronto would cost between $34 and $73 ($48 with a Hostelling international discount) and would take 5 to 6 hours. There were 8 coaches a day.
A taxi to most downtown hotels should cost between $8 and $15, and buses are $3.55 cash (change is not available) or $3.20 with pre-purchased tickets. This gives the riders approximately 2 hours of use. A daily bus pass is also available for purchase on the bus for $8.30.
By car, Ottawa is about a 4.5 hour trip from Toronto via the 401 and 416 highways, or via highway 7. Montreal is 2 hours away via Highway 417, the Trans-Canada Highway. The American border at Prescott-Ogdensburg is forty-five minutes from Ottawa's western suburbs (at the opposite end of Highway 416) with Interstate 81 60km (40 miles) further upriver in the Thousand Islands.
The Ottawa (Outaouais) River is navigable from Ottawa to Montréal, but is blocked to the west by rapids within Ottawa-Hull.
The city is also accessible via the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which runs from the St. Lawrence River at Kingston to the Ottawa River at Ottawa where it empties via a series of locks. It is possible to dock at Dow's Lake Pavilion and at points along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River near downtown.
Transportation - Get Around
By Public Transport
The city's public transit is run by OC Transpo and includes the bus service and the O-Train light rail system. The network includes the Transitway, a bus rapid transit system running through and out of downtown partly on bus-only roads, with frequent service (on the order of 1 to 2 minutes, depending on your stop and final destination, at rush hour). The City of Ottawa is building a light rail system; many OC Transpo routes will be affected during the 2013-2018 construction period.
The bus fare for regular routes is $3.55 or two tickets. Tickets cost $1.60 each and are available from local stores in sheets of six (but some stores will sell smaller numbers at a time). Children 6 to 11 years of age require only one ticket. Upon boarding, make sure that you are given a transfer, which allows you to ride any number of buses or trains until its expiry (in roughly 1.5 hours). The transfer is also your proof of payment in case fare enforcers board the bus to check that passengers have paid. A day pass can be purchased on any bus for $8.30 and is good for both buses and the train. On Sundays, families (up to two adults and four children, age 11 and under) can share a day pass.
The O-Train operates on a "Proof of Payment" (POP) system. Valid proof of payment is a bus transfer (see above), or an O-Train ticket purchased from the automated vending machines for $3.55. The vending machine does not accept bus tickets, nor are bus tickets acceptable proof of payment. Children 11 and under can ride the O-Train for free. Articulated buses (the long ones) use this same POP system as well, where rear boarding is available to pass holders.
Although the downtown is very walkable, if you are within the downtown area (Lebreton station to Campus station), you can take any bus going east-west. If you are going to the Byward Market from the Transitway (#95, #96, #97, #85, #86, #87), get off at Rideau Centre and walk through the mall to the other end. To go North-South, take the #4 (to Catherine Street, edge of Centretown), the #7 (edge of Old Ottawa South) or the #1 (all the way down Bank Street to Ottawa South).
The city's two main universities are accessible from this system: University of Ottawa at the Laurier or Campus stations on the 95/97/etc. line, and Carleton University at the Carleton stop on the O-Train line or bus line #7. The U of O area (Sandy Hill) is well endowed with pubs, coffee shops and restaurants. Carleton's immediate surroundings do not have those; their student hangouts are away from the university, mostly in the Glebe.
The Ottawa Transitway (dedicated roads on which only buses are allowed) offers speedy travel to outlying areas, where you can then transfer over to local buses, if walking is not an option.
Taxis are easy to find downtown; elsewhere, phone for a cab. All taxis should have a meter and the base charge is $2.45, and overall rates are quite high compared to most other North American cities. A ride from downtown to the airport will be costly, running between $25 and C$35. Cabs will not take credit cards for fares below $10. Most cab drivers know Ottawa well, but have clear instructions if you're going anywhere in the suburbs as many developments in the outskirts are relatively new. Ottawa cabs aren't supposed to pick up customers off the street on the Quebec side; the converse applies to Quebec cabs in Ottawa. You may phone a Quebec cab if you are in Ottawa and vice versa.
Uber is active in Ottawa too. Since 2016 they are allowed to operate under certain rules.
Parking at most attractions is convenient, though on-street parking in downtown areas is at a premium (more expensive than most other cities in North America). If you are driving to downtown on the weekend, parking is free in the garage at the World Exchange Plaza. There are entrances to the garage on both Metcalfe Street and Queen Street. A map is useful if you are going to be driving around downtown as many of the streets are one-way and more than one visitor has complained about navigating the downtown core. Be warned that drivers in Ottawa are rated as some of the worst in Canada, often failing to signal for lane changes or making "illegal" turns into far lanes rather than the ideal/closest lane.
Most major car rental companies have several offices in Ottawa with all of them represented downtown and at the airport.
Ottawa is a great city to explore on foot, though in winter you need good clothes and boots to consider it. With pedestrian-friendly streets and the density of attractions, a car is expensive and unnecessary for the most part. An excellent place to start any tour of Ottawa is the Capital Information Kiosk, located at 90 Wellington Street, directly across from the Parliament buildings. They have maps and brochures for most tourist attractions in Ottawa, many of which are within walking distance.
Popular pedestrian areas, especially during spring and summer months, are the various streets in the Byward Market. Sparks Street, running through downtown parallel to the Parliament Buildings, is a popular pedestrian area during the day and night, particularly in the spring and summer months.
Guided walking tours are available with Ottawa Walking Tours and others such as Around About Ottawa . All tours include some history as well as other tidbits of trivia not commonly known. Especially popular is the Haunted Walk of Ottawa that provides a variety of walking tours focusing on the city's darker and more offbeat past.
Ottawa is a city with a truly continental climate. In winter, exposed skin can freeze in minutes or less, so layer up on the clothing and protect yourself by wearing a hat (toque or hunters cap), gloves and boots. Despite being closer to the North Pole than the equator, summer temperature and humidity can be oppressively high, so bring water if you're doing any amount of walking or cycling. If you are on the public pathways near the canal or the river, there are drinking fountains to refill your bottles. Also, don't forget the mosquito repellent.
If you happen to be in Ottawa around early June, make sure you check the website of Jane's Walk Ottawa, an annual festival of free neighbourhood walking tours organised by volunteers. Jane's Walk is a pedestrian-focused event that improves urban literacy by offering insights into local history, planning, design, and civic engagement through the simple act of walking and observing. They are a lot of fun and you will hear stories that you won't find in any guide book.
Ottawa is very accessible to cyclists. In the summer, the downtown bike corridor on Laurier Ave counts 70,000 bike rides a month. The bike routes along the canal see around 350,000 bike rides a year. Again, you may want to start immediately opposite Parliament Hill to pick up a map of the area (in the World Exchange Plaza's NCC booth in the main hallway) or find a bicycle rental. Cycling to the attractions around downtown Ottawa is a great way to get around, but don't ignore the Gatineau side of the river. The city has several attractions along the river including the Museum of History and if you want to really stretch your legs, Gatineau Park has many great cycling paths; the Champlain Look Out has a wonderful view over the Ottawa Valley.
There are usually a few options for renting bicycles downtown, including Bike Dump,Right Bike and of course you can always bring your own. You can also get a bicycle for shorter time periods via VeloGo bike sharing system. About 20 bike stations are to be found mainly in downtown Ottawa and a bit further south along te canal and Dow's Lake. and across the Ottawa River in Gatineau. Velogo is designed for short trips; find pricing on their website. Rentabike, a central and well equipped bike rental place is across from the hotel Chateau Laurier underneath the intersection. From here you can start your adventures by cycling south or north along the Rideau canal on its pathways.
The city is criss-crossed by over 170 km of multi-use paths, shared with pedestrians and in-line skaters. Dogs on leash are allowed along many of the paths, but only if the owner is on foot. Many paths are unlit at night, so careful that you don't ride into a leash between the dog and its owner. The maximum speed on the pathways is 20km/hr (13 m/hr).
The city provides interactive maps . In addition, the National Capital Commission closes 50 km of roadways to cars every Sunday during the summer from Victoria Day (late May) to Labour Day (early September) allowing for cycling, in-line skating and walking on these roadways. For route suggestions, check local bloggers websites:
OC Transpo has bicycle racks on the front of many buses (seasonally). You can load your bike on the rack and then ride the bus for the normal passenger fare. The O-Train will take bikes as well.
The City of Ottawa has bike repair stations in public spaces along paths and across from City Hall, at libraries and community centres. The stations consist of a pump and the most important tools, connected to a base with steel cables.
Long time advocacy group Citizens for Safe Cycling (since 1984) maintains an extensive website with information on infrastructure progress. Contact them also with questions about routes, concerns and popular destinations. Although it is a volunteer run organisation, they are usually fairly fast in responding. #ottbike is the commonly used hashtag.
- BEST RATED -
- BEST VALUE -
- Byward Market(downtown, located east of the Canal and Sussex Drive, north of Rideau). Among other things, this is a farmer's market; in summer, stalls selling fresh produce and flowers line the streets, and maple syrup bought here costs half the price of souvenir shops elsewhere in the city. It is also a craft and tourist market with a range of shops and the city's busiest entertainment district with restaurants, pubs, bars and many street performers. Could be interesting to see it during day and another time in evening.
- Sparks Street. Is a pleasant pedestrian street one block off Parliament Hill and a common tourist thoroughfare for seeing the sights. Along this street you'll find the majority of the tourist shops selling postcards, magnets, and maple syrup. The Astrolabe Gallery, located on this street, is a treasure trove of antique maps as well as vintage posters. There are several outdoor cafes and restaurants to choose from also.
- Westboro Village. In recent years a stretch along Richmond Road in the "near west" of Ottawa from Golden east to Tweedsmuir has become a popular tourism and shopping zone, and includes several outdoor stores (clothing and equipment), restaurants and coffee shops. Notable shops include the Mountain Equipment Coop, Ten Thousand Villages, Starbucks, Bridgehead (fair trade coffee), Kitchenalia, a chocolatier and several others.
- Bank Street Promenade. Great mix of stores ranging from chain restaurants to specialty shops. District extends from Wellington St to Gladstone Ave.
- Wellington West. Wellington West is the commercial district of Hintonburg and Wellington Village, located in the west end between Little Italy and Westboro. It is home to independent businesses in Ottawa, such as boutiques, restaurants and food shops, and local art galleries, as well as the Parkdale Market. Notable shops include Hintonburger, Suzy Q, Elmdale Tavern and several others.
The last Saturday in May, Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood hosts the annual Great Glebe Garage Sale. Hundreds of residents set-up tables in their garages or on their lawns and sell used goods ranging from household knick-knacks to electronics to clothing. Businesses in the area also hold sidewalk sales, and vendors sell artwork, baking, and refreshments. Driving and parking during the sale itself is unnecessary and nearly impossible. Arrive on foot or park and walk into the neighbourhood. For parking, and for the best deals (especially on larger items like furniture), arrive early. The event is bustling by 8 AM but continues well into the afternoon. Vendors are encouraged to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Ottawa Food Bank.
Ethnic foods from around the world are available at a wide variety of restaurants and street vendors throughout the city. The Byward Market area has a wide selection of different cuisines; the Chinatown area is along Somerset West (#2 bus from downtown). between Bronson Ave. and Preston St; Little Italy runs along the length of Preston Street, from Carling Avenue to Albert Street (#2 to Somerset & Preston or #3 along Preston).
Also try the tasty BeaverTail, a doughy, deep-fried pastry associated with Ottawa, although a number of places claim to have created it. It's available in sweet and savory versions, topped with cinnamon, sugar, icing sugar, etc. In the winter, many places will offer it on the canal. During the summer, the only place downtown to offer it is in the Byward Market on George St. There are a variety of toppings and the taste of the beaver tail arguably stands out more with the classic sugar & cinnamon. However, the locals' favourite is the Killaloe Sunrise, a topping of cinnamon sugar and lemon juice. Try a poutine from Smoke's Poutinerie, or a Shwarma from one of the many around the city.
Coffee shops are found throughout the city, and include dozens of two specialty chains Second Cup and Starbucks, in addition to the mainstreamTim Horton's (seemingly planted at every intersection). Bridgehead is a fair trade coffee house and can be found at a half dozen or so locations. Try their small double shot lattes, which are significantly better than their competitors'. There are several coffee houses in Little Italy, on Preston Street. One of the most popular, Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana (200 Preston Street, +1 613 594-5303), also houses an award-winning pastry shop. Raw Sugar in Chinatown is a great little coffee shop with a kitschy decor and tasty homemade snacks. At night it turns into a hipster music venue.
Ottawa has a huge number of shawarma (kebab and fixings in pita bread) restaurants and most of them will serve up a great shawarma for around $5. Their busy times are typically weekdays at lunch-hour, and on weekends after the bars close. The Byward Market and Elgin St. have several restaurants to choose from. Shawarma Palace, on Rideau St and in several suburban locations, are another popular choice.
The usual range of diners, bagel shops and fast food restaurants can be found in shopping areas throughout the city. You will also find "chip wagons" or "chip trucks" parked in various locations around the city at lunch time. They serve hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage-in-a-bun, pogos (deep fried, breaded hot dogs on a stick), chips (French fries) and poutine (French fries covered with cheddar cheese curd and gravy - very popular in Quebec and eastern Ontario).
- Ahora on Dalhousie is a good little Mexican canteen. It serves up mains, zippy margaritas, and drinks imported from Mexico.
- La Bottega Nicastro, Byward Market. A fantastic little Italian specialty market, La Bottega also features the best $5 sandwiches the city knows, featuring amazing bread (esp. the focaccia) usually baked on the premises. The sit-down lunch kitchen is also well worth a visit.
- The Buzz on Bank Street is a favourite for those looking for a meal in a little bar with great ambience and attractive people. Great mixed drinks.
- DiRienzo's Deli, Beech Street (just west of Preston Street). This little deli tucked away in Little Italy, a secret known to many locals, is famous for the best and freshest deli sandwiches in the city for $5 (taxes included). During the week the lineup can stretch outside the packed little store, but they are arguably the fastest sandwich makers anywhere so don't worry about a long wait. There is also another newer location run by the family at Meadowlands Drive and Fisher Avenue.
- Elgin Street Diner (374 Elgin Street, downtown) is a popular 24-hour diner. One of its specialties is the ESD (Elgin Street Diner) Poutine (though true Quebecers should probably abstain). Generally, poutine is French fries, served with cheese curds and gravy on top; they have several versions including the addition of caramelized onions and bacon, Montreal smoked meat, Philly steak, a four cheese blend or Chili. The substitution of mashed potatoes fried with onions and seasoning (called their home fries), or onion rings instead of regular French fries is also an option. Expect the adventure to set you back $6–8 depending on toppings. The diner's hamburgers/cheeseburgers are significantly better than typical fast food fare, and breakfast is served 24/7 365 days a year with no exception.
- Shanghai (on the north side of Somerset, a few doors east of Bronson) has been a local favourite since 1971, when it was the only Chinese place in the area that is now Chinatown; it is still run by the same family. It boasts drag-queen karaoke on Saturday nights, frequent vernissages for Ottawa's up-and-coming artists, and some of the best Asian cuisine in town.
- For the best non-traditional Canadian eats, head down Somerset street (West) near Bronson to the heart of Chinatown. Here you have a choice of places for Vietnamese, Thai, Cantonese, etc. Vietamese soup-houses,Pho Bo Ga and Pho Bo Ga La, are well-rated. The Yangtze Restaurantand Chu Shing Restaurant (across the street from it) are large box Chinese restaurants popular with Ottawa's Chinese clientele. TheJadeland Restaurant is a small popular Chinese restaurant set in a converted house and has been well reviewed for its tasty dishes and low prices. Another good source for ethnic foods is the stretch on Rideau between King Edward and the bridge to Vanier. You can find Middle Eastern, African and Asian food here.
- For a great Thai fusion, check out Hot Peppers on Somerset (just off Kent). Be sure to try the coconut rice.
- For Indian, there is Rose's Cafe (in the Byward Market and one on Gladstone), but also try Curries (Gloucester and O'Connor, between Bank and Elgin near the business district). Or Moni Mahal (closed down in 2015) on Laurier Street (business district, near Parliament Hill) for a large buffet with tons of vegetarian and vegan options (well labeled). For a somewhat higher-end buffet experience, yet, authentic, try "Host India" on Montreal Rd.
- The best milk-shakes are found at Zak's, a 24-hour diner in the Byward Market. They're really good, made with ice-cream, and for the $5.50 they cost you get a large glass full plus the shaker with what didn't fit in the glass. Other dishes are quite good, with a "more calories for your money" attitude (as illustrated by the massive amount of milkshake served), which is nicely honest about fast food; however it may seem a bit expensive as some of the burgers are in excess of $12. Late on week-end nights (2 - 3AM), it's packed as people go for their after-bar poutine.
- Mello's in the Byward Market is a good greasy spoon with retro (not faux-retro) decor and lots of local colour. Good for breakfast after a night of drinking.
- Rangoon (114 Gloucester St near O'Connor) is a one-of-a-kind family-run Burmese restaurant with cheap lunch specials where you can get an appetizer, main course and a drink for about $10! Try the fish noodle soup (mohingha), chicken curry or eggplant curry. A real hidden gem.
Major restaurant areas can be found on Elgin Street, on Bank Street in Centretown, on Bank Street in the Glebe, in Westboro and in the Byward Market, with entrees ranging from $12–$25. Similar restaurants can be found in major suburban shopping areas too.
- The Empire Grill, 47 Clarence Street, . Has a great patio in the summer and delicious food year-round. Expect to pay about $25+ for an entree. $30 main courses.
- Johnny Farina's, 216 Elgin Street, . Italian food
- Vineyards. In the Byward Market. An excellent restaurant with the widest selection of world beers and wines in Ottawa.
- Pub Italia, 1/2 Preston Street (near Dow's Lake and the Experimental Farm). 434. An Irish/Italian pub with hundreds of bottled beers listed in its "Beer Bible". Noted for its intimate faux Medieval/Gothic décor.
- The Highlander Pub, 115 Rideau Street (in the Byward Market). a solid restaurant with good pub fare, and traditional Scottish food, such as haggis. It is a good place also after a long day of sightseeing and you need a drink, with any spirit, wine or beer you can think of. It has a warm, friendly environment, with plenty of patio room. An average tab for a full meal for 2 should be about $40.
- Santé Restaurant, 45 Rideau St (at the corner of Rideau and Sussex, across from the Rideau Centre,). Santé is a cosmopolitan yet casual. It’s a delicate line to walk, but Santé Restaurant does it with panache - offering exotic Asian Fusion and Thai cuisine in a comfortably elegant setting.
- The Works, 362 Richmond Road. In Westboro, 580 Bank Street in the Glebe, 363 St. Laurent Boulevard in Manor Park, and various suburban locations. Hard to argue that these are not the best burgers around. The selection is top notch and toppings are bountiful. Also served are delicious onion rings, milk shakes and cold beer, all in a funky industrial decor. Expect to pay $12 for a burger with sides, and not to regret it.
- da Sergio, 338 Preston Street. Is an owner operated authentic Italian Bistro with attention to detail in its appetizers, pasta, sauces and secondi. Calamari are fresh and melt-in-your-mouth, and the carpaccio served simply with capers, olive oil and Parmesan curls. They have a large patio with shade making it a good spot for a sunny summer afternoon or evening.
Ottawa has excellent options for fine dining if you feel like spending a bit extra. Budget C$150 for a three course dinner for two, including wine and gratuity.
- Domus, 85 Murray Street (in the ByWard Market). An outstanding restaurant with an award winning chef serving regional Canadian cuisine.
- Signatures, . At Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute (453 Laurier Ave. East), Tues-Sat: 5:30PM–10, is a French restaurant with a five-diamond rating from CAA/AAA that is considered among the very best in the city.
- E18hteen, 18 York Street (in the Byward Market), . An upscale, modern restaurant and bar located in a renovated 19th century heritage building. It is THE place to see and be seen.
- Merlot, 100 Kent Street (At the Marriott Hotel). Merlot has received glowing reviews for its cuisine and is Ottawa's only revolving restaurant.
- Beckta, 226 Nepean Street (downtown Ottawa). Excellent modern restaurant with a variety of tastes centred on locally available foods. Also features an extensive wine list.
- Perspectives Restaurant. At the Brookstreet Hotel (525 Legget Drive), offers fine dining featuring a fusion of Oriental flavours with top-quality regional ingredients.
Vegetarian and vegan
- CafeMyHouse, 1729 Bank St. At offers vegan friendly cuisine and is located within 10 minutes of the airport and of the train station. The restaurant specializes in brunch and lunch options, and average around $15 a meal.
- The Green Door, 198 Main St (Still open during construction, May 2016; "local traffic only" includes customers of Main St), , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Tue–Sun 11:00am–9:00pm, Mon closed. At offers a vegetarian and vegan buffet and is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa. It offers private and communal tables.
- Govinda's Restaurant, 212 Somerset St. E (just E of King Edward, off the University of Ottawa campus), . Mon–Fri 5:00pm–8:00pm, Sun yoga festival 5:00pm–8:00pm. offers a simple vegan buffet for $5–$7. The best cheap eats in town. Operated by ISCKON (Hare Krishna movement). $5-7 per person.
- Perfection-Satisfaction-Promise, 167 Laurier Ave E. (Near University of Ottawa, Sandy Hill), . M-Tu 8AM-8PM, W 8AM-5PM, Th-F 8AM-8PM, Sa 4PM-9PM. Fully vegetarian with a great vegan selection. "Unquestionably some of the best vegetarian food in the city" - Ottawa Xpress, 2007. 6.50 - 12.00.
- Pure Kitchen Ottawa, 357 Richmond Road, . Sun–Wed 11am–9pm, Thu–Sat 11am–10pm. Small restaurant serving vegetarian and vegan food. Wraps, burgers, rice bowls, salads. Bar offers juice, beer, wine. Reservations only for parties of 6 or more.
- So Good Restaurant, 717 Somerset Street West (2 blocks West of Bronson), . Has a separate vegetarian menu (dishes are also vegan unless stated) and there are many choices. Try anything "Wu Se" (peanut sauce). $10.
- The Table, 1230 Wellington Street West, .Mon–Fri 11:00am–9:00pm, Sat–Sun 11:30am–9pm. In the Westboro neighbourhood, also offers a vegetarian buffet with many vegan options. Meals are priced by weight. by weight, $12 or so for a full plate.
Sights & Landmarks
There are many national museums and galleries in Ottawa and neighbouring Gatineau. All museums in Ottawa have free admission on Canada Day, July 1, although they are generally very crowded then.
The primary attraction for most visitors is Parliament Hill. Parliament Hill is in the middle of downtown Ottawa, overlooking the Ottawa River. Not only is the building a fine example of the Gothic revival style, it makes an excellent starting point to visit all other points of interest in the area.
- The Changing of the Guard takes place daily on the lawns of Parliament at 9AM. The Governor General's Foot Guards can also be seen at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and at Rideau Hall.
Tours of the building are available daily with multiple tours (in English and French) available at staggered times throughout the day. If you have a group of greater than 10 people, you must make a reservation in advance by calling the reservations office at +1 613 996-0896.
- The Centre Block tour is the most popular as it includes inside views of the House of Commons, the Senate, and the newly renovated Library of Parliament. Same-day tickets are free and available on a first-come-first-served basis from 9AM. Pick up your ticket as early as possible to have the best chance of securing a start time that works for you. Tours last from 20 to 60 minutes depending on building activity.
- From July 2 to Labour Day (early September), tours of the East Block are also available; tour guides take you through the restored offices of some of the Fathers of Confederation (Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir George-Etienne Cartier, Governor General Lord Dufferin and the original Privy Council Office) explaining the beginnings of the Dominion of Canada while historical characters let you in on the daily lives of Canada's past politicians. Tours last about an hour and free same-day tickets can be picked up at the Info-tent on the Hill by West Block.
- If there are no more tickets available, or you have to wait for your time, a fine self-guided walking tour around the grounds of Parliament Hill will keep you busy. Free booklets are available at the visitors' centre.
- One of the nicer, unexpected views, looking from the bottom up, can be accessed at the back of the Parliament Buildings—that vantage point also provides a river view of the Canadian Museum of History, across the river in downtown Gatineau (a sector that was formerly the city of Hull).
- The walk down from the southwest corner of the Centre Block allows visitors to visit the Hill cats, a group of feral animals housed there by volunteers. Behind the Parliament Buildings at sunset is a sight to remember. You can walk by the Rideau Canal locks (at the east corner) and visit the Bytown Museum at the level of the canal. (No longer available as of January 2013)
The locks divide Parliament Hill from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a former railway hotel. This hotel once housed the offices of CBC Radio in Ottawa and the studio of well-known portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh. Several framed Karsh photographs are hung in the hotel lounge. His (and his wife's) home suite is now available for guests and displays a small sampling of framed prints on the walls.
- Mosaika Parliament Hill Sound & Light Show. Newly developed for 2010 by the National Capital Commission, the Sound & Light Show is a 30-minute film about Canada projected on the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings. Bleacher seating is available and no reservations or tickets are required. There is one show nightly until September at 21:30.
- Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Place, , toll-free: . Sept–June: Mon–Wed, Fri–Sun 9:30am–5pm, Thu 9:30am–8pm. June–Sept: Mon–Wed, Fri–Su 9:30am–6pm, Thu 9:30am–8pm. Moved to a new building west of downtown in 2005 but still within walking distance of the downtown attractions, the museum presents Canada's involvement in armed conflict beginning with battles between the French and British, through to the World Wars, Korea, and the country's current involvement in NATO and UN operations. $12 for adults. A joint War Museum and Museum of History ticket $18. Free on Th after 6PM.
- Museum of History, 100 Laurier Street, Hull, , toll-free: . Sept–June: Mon–Wed, Fri–Sun 9:30am–5pm, Thu 9:30am–8pm. June–Sept: Mon–Wed, Fri–Su 9:30am–6pm, Thu 9:30am–8pm. This museum presents the story of Canada's population beginning with Aboriginal migration across the Bering Strait through European settlement by the Vikings around 1000 CE, and the British and French in the 1500s. The museum has items ranging from full-size Salish totem poles to the recreation of a small prairie town complete with grain elevator. The museum also includes an exhibit on Canada Post and a separate museum for children. $10 for adult. A joint War Museum and Museum of History ticket can be purchased for $15. Free on Th after 4PM.
- Science and Technology Museum. The museum has several displays that are popular with children, including massive locomotives inside the building and electricity demonstrations. Due to a mould problem this museum is closed and is expected to re-open in 2017
- Canadian Museum of Nature. Galleries of fossils, mammals, birds and geology among others.
- National Gallery, 380 Sussex Dr, . Free admission Th after 5PM.
- Supreme Court of Canada. Canada's highest court and the best example in Ottawa of Art Deco architecture. Its marble Grand Entrance Hall is particularly impressive. The visit includes a tour in the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada hearing room. The visits last about 30 minutes and are provided by law students hired at the Court. The Court is a 5 minutes' walk from Parliament.Tours are offered in French on the half hour and in English on the hour. No reservations are needed between May 1 and August 30. Visitor reservations are required between September 1 to April 30. Free.
- Royal Canadian Mint.
- Canada Aviation Museum, 11 Aviation Parkway (at Ottawa/Rockcliffe Airport), , toll-free: , fax: . 9AM-5PM daily. Former RCAF base with civilian and military aircraft ranging from pre-World War I to modern, including 1920s-1940s bush planes, war planes from both World Wars and the Cold War, surviving components of the 1950s' Avro Arrow interceptor and Space Shuttle Endeavor's Canadarm, a Canadian-built robotic arm. Guided tours, boutique. TTY: +1 613-990-7530 $13, student/seniors $10.
- Bank of Canada Currency Museum. Free.
- Canada Agriculture Museum, 861 Prince of Wales Dr, , toll-free: . Exhibitions: 9AM-5PM daily late Feb-late Nov. Animal barns: 9AM-5PM daily all year. A working animal farm in the city. You can visit animal barns, see various demonstrations and exhibitions, and ride on a horse-drawn wagon. The museum also has a playground and picnic area. It is very popular with young children and a welcome change of pace for kids who have seen enough history after visiting some of the other sights. $7 adults, $6 students/seniors, $4 children 3-14, $16 families (2 adults and 3 children), free for children under 3. Seniors free on Tuesday. Admission to animal barns is by donation during time of year when the exhibitions are closed.
- Bytown Museum, 1 Canal Ln (at the Rideau Canal locks between Parliament Hill and Chateau Laurier), . Victoria Day weekend-Thanksgiving Day: F-W 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-9PM. Rest of year: Tu-Su 11AM-4PM. A small museum at the foot of Parliament Hill with a focus on Ottawa's early history. $6 adults, $4 seniors/students/youth, $3 children 5-12, $15 families (2 adults plus three children under 18), free for children 4 and under. Free admission Th 5PM-9PM from Victoria Day-Thanksgiving Day.
- Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Dr, , toll-free: . Residence tour (without reservations): Apr 30-Jun 26: Sa-Su 10AM-4PM, Jun 27-Sep 5: 10AM-4PM daily (unguided open-house tours available Jul-Aug), Sep 6-Oct 30: Sa-Su noon-4PM. Advance reservations required for tours at any time from Nov-Apr, and weekdays May-Jun and Sep-6-Oct 30. Grounds tour: 8AM-1 hour before sunset daily. The official residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her representative the Governor General of Canada. The grounds and the residence are open to the public for tours. Reservations are recommended during low season (September 1 - April 30). Free.
- Diefenbunker - Canada's Cold War Museum, 3911 Carp Rd, Carp (from Ottawa, take Hwy 417 west to exit 144, then go north on Carp Rd), toll-free: . Self-guided tours 11AM-4PM daily. Built to protect the government from nuclear attack, this once-secret bunker is now a museum and National Historic Site of Canada. "Diefenbunker" is a play on "Diefenbaker", a Canadian prime minister in the 1950s. In addition to preserving and promoting Canada's Cold War history, the museum offers a variety of visitor programs and services. You can learn, play or shop as you discover the bunker's secrets and relive the experience of the Cold War. Guided tours by reservation only. If you do not have access to a vehicle and are willing to do a 50 minute bus ride plus pay a $30 taxi, you can # take the OcTranpo #95 or #97; # Transfer to the #93 at Lincoln Fields; # Get off at the Legget / Ad. 515 stop; # Walk 3 minutes to Brookstreet Hotel; # Take a taxi to the Diefenbunker. $14 adults, $13 seniors, $10 students , $8 youth 6-18, $40 families (2 adults plus 3 youth), free for children 5 and under.
For the sports fan, Ottawa has professional sports teams:
Museums & Galleries
Amongst the city's national museums and galleries is the National Gallery of Canada; designed by famous architect Moshe Safdie, it is a permanent home to the Maman sculpture. The Canadian War Museum houses over 3.75 million artifacts and was moved to an expanded facility in 2005. The Canadian Museum of Nature was built in 1905, and underwent a major renovation between 2004 and 2010. Across the Ottawa river in Gatineau is the most visited museum in Canada, the Canadian Museum of History. Designed by Canadian Aboriginal architect Douglas Cardinal, the curving-shaped complex, built at a cost of 340 million USD, also houses the Canadian Children's Museum, the Canadian Postal Museum and a 3D IMAX theatre.
The city is also home to the Canada Agriculture Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, the Canada Science and Technology Museum,Billings Estate Museum, Bytown Museum, Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Canadian Ski Museum, Currency Museum, and the Portrait Gallery of Canada.
The Ottawa Little Theatre, originally called the Ottawa Drama League at its inception in 1913, is the longest-running community theatre company in Ottawa. Since 1969, Ottawa has been the home of the National Arts Centre, a major performing arts venue that houses four stages and is home to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra andOpera Lyra Ottawa. Established in 1975, the Great Canadian Theatre Company specializes in the production of Canadian plays at a local level.
Things to do
There are a number of walking tours to introduce you to the capital area.
- Ottawa Walking Tours offers historical guided walks of Ottawa's downtown core with special stops at areas of historical significance. Tours acquaint guests with the history of the city and allow visitors to learn more about Ottawa’s history, architecture and colourful political characters. Tours are offered year-round and reservations are required. For more information, call +1 613 799-1774.
- The Haunted Walk of Ottawa offers tours focusing on Ottawa's infamous haunts and darker history. Hear tales of hauntings at some of Ottawa's most well known locations, including the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Bytown Museum and the Ottawa Jail Hostel. Cloaked guides lead guests through the city streets by lantern light-the perfect atmosphere for a good ghost story. Tours run year-round, rain or shine. Reservations are strongly recommended. For more information, call +1 613 232-0344.
If you enjoy the outdoors, especially if you are a cyclist, you should definitely visit Gatineau Park just across the river from Ottawa. Bicycles can be rented during the summer months at Rentabike, 2 Rideau St, (under Rideau st on the East side of the canal). Ottawa and the surrounding area boasts over 170 km of public paved trails on which you can run, bike, walk or rollerblade. If you are looking for a place to start, head to the nearest waterway: paved trails line both sides of the Ottawa River, the Rideau Canal, and the Rideau River. The Trans Canada Trail enters Ottawa through the outskirt communities of Carleton Place and Stittsville, then joins up with the Ottawa River at Brittania Bay (near Carling Avenue at Bayshore Drive). It follows the river 13 kilometers east to Parliament Hill, then crosses over to the Quebec side, extending into and beyond Gatineau Park.
- Rideau Skateway. In winter, go skating on the largest outdoor skating rink in the world, the Rideau canal. Skates can be rented, and refreshments purchased, from vendors right on the ice. This is also a great place to enjoy a "beaver tail" (a sweet pastry). free, skates can be rented.
- Skiing. The city's trail system serves as an excellent cross-country ski trail system, as do the nearly 200 km of groomed ski trails in Gatineau Park. Downhill skiing is available across the river in three near-by sites: Camp Fortune (180 m vertical), Edelweiss (200 m vertical) and Mont Cascades (165 m vertical).
- Maple Syrup. In early spring (typically March), when the daytime temperatures are above freezing and night temperatures are below freezing, consider visiting a sugarbush for fresh maple syrup. There are many to choose from in the region if you have a car to drive out of the city.
Day trips to Québec
Since Ottawa is located right on the provincial border, daytrips to neighbouring Québec can be made easily.
- Gatineau - Right across the Ottawa river. The Canadian Museum of History is worth a visit. The nightlife in the Old Hull neighbourhood is often considered superior to Ottawa's, with a handful of loud clubs but also a decent offering of artistic cafés with good local live music.
- Gatineau Park is directly north from Hull; the Camp Fortune and Edelweiss ski areas are also north of the city, near Chelsea and Wakefield respectively. Wakefield is a picturesque artist town on the side of the Gatineau river. Rich with cultural offerings and beautiful natural surroundings (especially in autumn).
- Buckingham is downriver from Gatineau in the east, as one of the more accessible venues for rural maple sugar shack camps.
- Aventure Laflèche, . A superb destination for those interested in outdoor activities in the Gatineau Hills year round. A community-owned non-profit company that offers beautiful nature trails, tours of the historical Laflèche caves, and the province's largest aerial park for the adventurous (includes several ziplines). Calling ahead for reservations is highly recommended.
- Eco-Odyssée, . Another great option for nature lovers close to Wakefield. A water maze that's great for learning about the local marsh environments.
- Great Canadian Bungee. Is for the adventure-inclined.
Ottawa has many movie theatres to choose from, but there are also a few that specialize in "foreign" films (i.e., not American), early releases, old returning films and specialty films. The Bytowne Cinema is on Rideau Street near King Edward. The Mayfair Theatre is at 1074 Bank St. near Sunnyside. In addition, the Canadian Film Institute screens films at the National Library on Wellington and is a favourite of the specialist film crowd.
Ottawa has lots of live theatre entertainment. That includes the National Arts Centre in English and French , the Great Canadian Theatre Company, the Ottawa Little Theatre, and Tara Players (Irish theatre).
- The National Arts Centre. Also provides a major venue for Dance and Orchestral performance.
Jazz and blues lovers can find what they are looking for in these Ottawa music calendars: jazz shows and blues-jazz calendar. Venues include Vineyards in the Byward Market, GigSpace near Little Italy, and the Options Jazz Lounge in the Brookstreet Hotel (in Kanata). Many other venues offer jazz weekly or occasionally; see this club list. Find Blues at the Rainbow in the Byward Market and Irene's Pub in the Glebe.
For Folk music, see the Ottawa Folk Music Events listings.
Festivals and events
Ottawa is host to over 60 festivals and events per year, including:
- Ottawa Jazz Festival. In late June.
- Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival. In summer, one of the largest in the world
- Bluesfest. Also in summer: The largest blues festival in Canada, and featuring as well rock, pop and world music. Many visitors come to Ottawa from Atlantic Canada and New England specifically for Bluesfest.
- The Fringe Festival. Another summer offering.
- Winterlude. Winter fun featuring ice carving and snow sculptures
- The Tulip Festival. A spring bonanza of flowering bulbs, given annually by the Dutch government, and a concert series featuring well-known Canadian rock and other popular music groups.
- Ferrari Festival. In June, on Preston Street.
- Canada Day. Celebrate Canada's birthday in Ottawa on July 1.
- Pirate Adventurs, 588 hog's back road, . June-Oct. Join the swashbuckling crew of Pirate Adventures for an interactive theatre and cruise along the Rideau Canal at Mooney's Bay. Pirate costumes, face paint and new pirate names for all as the captain and his crew hunt for sunken treasure whilst fending of mischievous pirates!
The most popular bar areas are in the Byward Market, along Wellington Street in Westboro, along both Elgin Street and Bank Street between Somerset and Gladstone in the Centretown area, and further south on Bank. There are pubs and bars scattered throughout the city as well.
You can also take a small trip over the Ottawa river to Gatineau. Bars on Ottawa side close at 2AM, though the province of Québec has a last call of 3AM, an exception is made in Gatineau where bars also close at 2AM. Québec has a lower minimum age to purchase alcohol (18, vs. 19 in Ontario) and sells beer in corner stores. Note, however, that Ottawa police often set up checkpoints near the bridges to catch drunk drivers returning from Quebec after closing time.
Note that smoking is not permitted in Ontario or Quebec restaurants and bars, or on the patios of bars in Ottawa.
Bars and nightclubs
- The Standard, 360 Elgin St. A restaurant during the day, pumping club/lounge at night. The Standard is popular Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with a different style of music each night. Friday is excellent old-school and modern hip-hop/R&B while Saturday is a little of everything. Excellent beer tap selection and daily drink specials.
- Club 292, 292 Elgin St.
- E18hteen, 18 York St.
- Barrymore's, Bank St. An old converted movie theatre, their 80's night is the place to be in Ottawa on Sundays. They also have a 90's night on Thursdays and live concerts on most other nights.
- The Dominion Tavern, York St. Simple beers and some pool: picture your friend's basement apartment, even serving 40's of beer.
- Zaphod's Beeblebrox, York St (next to Dominion). Alternative rock/new age punk, hip-hop nights on Thursday. Recently short-listed in CBC Radio 3's "Searchlight: The Best Live Venue in Canada" competition. And yes, they do offer a drink they call a "Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster"!
- Foundation York St. in the alley behind E18hteen. Restaurant during the week that is open for lunch and dinner. Excellent food and one of the only restaurants in Ottawa to serve fondue. On Friday and Saturday nights it transforms into an upperclass nightclub. Dress to impress, no logos or running shoes, and be prepared to spend a few bucks on drinks.
- Options Bar located off the main lobby of the Brookstreet Hotel, 525 Legget Drive. A relaxing and sophisticated lounge, sometimes good for celebrity sightings.
- Mercury Lounge, an awesome bar that changes its themes nightly ranging from African beats to hip-hop to house (depending on the night). Spread out over 3 (relatively small) floors, this bar offers different DJs and atmospheres throughout. Hump Night is one of the best gay nights in the city and occurs on Wednesday (4$ cover).
- Edge, A popular gay bar, especially with younger people, is located at Sparks St and Bank St. Best on Saturday nights. Through the summer months the Edge has a rooftop patio that is chic, but be prepared to climb up 7 stories!
- The Lookout, is located in the Byward Market at 41 York St. They have a very popular "bois night" on Thursday that attracts lots of people. Friday and Saturday are mostly lesbian nights.
Since the mid-1990s there has been an explosion in Irish-/British-style pubs across the city. In the core you will find:
- Patty Boland's, Clarence St. Feels like an old tavern, but big. Friday and Saturday nights Patty's has live music so expect to pay cover, and mandatory coat check in the winter. During the musician breaks there is a dance floor with Top 40 music.
- Black Thorn, Clarence St. Upscale, great food, huge patio with good views.
- Irish Village, Clarence St. Ottawa's largest pub complex, including the eponymous Irish Village (loud, lots of live music) and The Heart and Crown.
- Lieutenant's Pump, Elgin St. British style pub with a good variety of food selections and inexpensive draught.
- The Manx, 370 Elgin street, . Great microbrews, wide scotch selection, bohemian/hipster feel.
- Pub Italia, Preston St. A large selection of beers from the world, especially Belgian. Excellent pizza and pastas. Interior design is a bit strange but the patio is very nice.
- D'arcy McGee's Sparks Street & Elgin St. Beautiful architecture with impressive food selection
- Clocktower, 575 Bank Street, . A microbrewery with 4 locations throughout downtown. Excellent beer at a good price with a very tasty and well priced menu. Also a location on Bank St. and Pretoria.
- Minglewoods, 14 Waller Street (The corner of Waller St and Rideau St). A great place to drink for cheap! Pitchers of domestic and premium beers are priced under $11 so if you're on a budget this is the place to go. It is close to the University of Ottawa so many students frequent Minglewoods between or after class. There is a good selection of pub fare, also for reasonable prices. On the weekend there is a packed dance floor on the second level.
- Centretown Pub (CPs) A gay pub located near the corner of Bank and Somerset.
- Chez Lucien, 137 Murray St (corner Dalhousie). one of the few pleasant, non-faux-Irish pubs downtown (a favourite along with the Manx). Serves good pub fare (including excellent fries), can get busy especially after work. A good selection of microbrew beers.
- Quinn's, 1070 Bank St. Is a small but cozy sports bar and pub located next to the Mayfair theatre. Expect good pub fare, a nice ambiance and good selection of beers.
Things to know
The two best known universities in the city are Carleton University and the bilingual University of Ottawa. Bilingual St. Paul's University is a Catholic university with ties to the University of Ottawa, offering various degrees in theology and social sciences. Dominican University College is a Dominican university where theology and philosophy can be studied at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, also in English or French. There is also Algonquin College and the francophone Cité Collégiale.
The Federal Government is the region's largest employer with the high-tech sector firmly in second place. Unless you are a Canadian resident, you will need a work visa to work in Ottawa, and some Federal Government jobs require Canadian citizenship. Most Federal Government jobs require applicants to be bilingual in English and French.
Safety in Ottawa
Ottawa is a very safe place to live and visit, so if you use common sense it is at least as safe as any other city. There are many tourists in the city, especially in summer months, and there are very few incidents of robbery or assault.
That said, buses and transit stations have had issues in recent years with violence and swarmings/robberies, even during daytime hours. OC Transpo has hired new constables and placed plainclothes security as well as cameras on select buses and trains to counter the problem. Use common sense, especially when riding at night, every transit station has multiple emergency call boxes. After dark, take extra care in areas near downtown such as Lowertown, and also Hintonburg, Vanier, Bayshore, Ledbury, Heatherington, Caldwell and South Keys. These neighbourhoods are known to have gang presence, and drug problems. The section of Rideau Street between Sussex Drive and King Edward Avenue is infamous for homeless people and panhandlers, though this rarely causes problems for anyone. Ottawa is generally very safe, but like any other city it has bad apples.
Ottawa is the fourth coldest capital city by annual average temperature, but it has the second coldest January, only topped by Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Add to that nearly 3m (10') of snow per average winter and throw in an ice storm from time to time, winter can be a challenge but locals do a great job of handling it particularly with recreation. Summers are (normally) short, hot and humid. Humidity in the summer can make the heat feel quite aggressive, while in the winter, humidity, coupled with wind chills, can make the cold feel very brutal. Dress for the weather!