Ottawa Travel Guide

Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is located on the river that gives it its name, near the place where it crosses the Rideau River, in a lush green area surrounded by forests and hills.

On Parliament Hill are three imposing Gothic-style buildings that jut out over the Ottawa River, offering a truly iconic skyline that is a must in your photographs of Ottawa. But in addition to its serious political face, this city has a sociable heart that loves to have fun.

Gatineau also offers miles of hiking trails next to the Canadian Children’s Museum. In addition, the city offers architectural highlights such as Notre-Dame Cathedral, a number of impressive embassies, especially the U.S. one, as well as outdoor adventures, sophisticated restaurants and attractive shopping areas such as ByWard Market.

Top 5 reasons to visit Ottawa

Château Laurier

Ottawa has the historic Château Laurier, famous for its location and for having served as accommodation for various politicians on their institutional trips.

Spectacular and entertaining museums

Ottawa is home to many interesting collections and museums, including the Canadian Museum of War, the Canadian Museum of History and the Science and Technology Museum of Canada.

Major’s Hill Park

Major’s Hill Park is the most beautiful green space in Ottawa, especially for its panoramic views of the river, the Parliament and the Château Laurier.

Hiking and other activities

This city has almost 180 kilometers of paths and parks where you can enjoy walking or running. Furthermore, in winter it offers excellent opportunities for skiing and the possibility of skating on the Rideau Canal.

Cultural events

Ottawa’s year-round cultural program offers great alternatives, including performances at the National Arts Centre and famous festivals such as the Ottawa Jazz Festival, the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival and the Ottawa Blues Festival.

What to do in Ottawa

Exploring Parliament Hill

The impressive Victorian buildings that make up the Parliament of Canada are breathtaking and provide an ideal backdrop for the changing of the guard ceremony, the daily outstanding sound and light show or the fireworks on July 1st, Canada Day. It houses the huge Gothic building of Parliament, which is the seat of Canada’s legislature. It also has emblematic buildings that flank the public square, such as the Peace Tower and the National War Memorial.

Tour the Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal runs through the city, connecting the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario. This historic waterway, recognized by UNESCO, was built in 1832 and is a centre of activity. The canal, which is over 200 kilometres long, is home to seasonal activities such as canoeing and ice skating. In addition, the historic Château Laurier Hotel stands out on the water with its wonderful classic French style. Further down is the Pretoria Bridge, still used as a drawbridge.

Admire the National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is one of the most important art museums in Canada. It is a contemporary granite and glass building that offers panoramic views of the Parliament’s surroundings. It houses a world-famous collection focusing on Canadian artists, but also includes famous works of modern and contemporary art.

Strolling through the Lower Town

The Lower Town is the historic French-Canadian heart of Ottawa and its oldest neighbourhood. Today it is a melting pot of cultures and languages, a developing area that brings together the old and the new. Stroll through its narrow streets, visit its parks and stop by the ByWard Market in the prosperous northern business district.

Reflect on the Canadian Museum of War

This huge museum captures Canada’s military past, a history not usually taught internationally, yet worth exploring. From the conflicts that occurred on Canadian soil to those problems that have required the participation of this country, all its details are exposed here. The new building allows you to offer even more immersive exhibits – don’t miss the Diefenbunker, the emergency seat of government built during the Cold War!

When to visit Ottawa

The cold weather and snow make Ottawa a less popular destination in winter, between December and February, but it’s a good time to find travel deals. Winter sports are popular, so it’s always on the tourist map. Spring and summer are the most popular times for tourists, coinciding with numerous festivals and outdoor events. As a reference, remember that the average temperature is 6.9 ºC.

How to get to Ottawa

By plane

Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW) receives flights from major domestic and international destinations. It is located about five miles from downtown. A taxi will cost you from C$25. On the other hand, OC Transpo Route 97 schedules frequent trips for C$3.40.

By train

The Ottawa station is centrally located and receives multiple train journeys from different Canadian cities, including Toronto in the west and Montreal in the east, where additional connections to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are included. The train ride from Toronto to Ottawa costs about C$35.74.

By car

Ottawa is about a four-hour drive from Toronto. To make the trip, drive along Provincial Highway 401 and TransCanada Highway, then continue on Provincial Highway 118. Highway 417 connects to Montreal, just a couple of hours west. It is also possible to drive from Vermont and New York State.

By Bus

Ottawa’s centrally located main bus station receives intercity travel from Montreal, Toronto and Sudbury, with connections available to New York, Philadelphia and the West Coast. Bus companies that operate these routes include Greyhound Canada, Thom Transport and Ontario Northland. The ticket from Montreal to Ottawa costs from C$ 31.09.

Airports near Ottawa

(YUL) Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau Intl
(YOW) Ottawa
(YGK) Kingston

Where to stay in Ottawa

The Fairmont Château Laurier is one of Ottawa’s finest hotels, whose opulent style resembles the landmark buildings of Parliament. ARC THE HOTEL offers modern luxury and minimalist design.

In addition, there are numerous chains, B&B hotels and long-stay accommodations such as the Apart-hotel Les Suites. Prices for a night in a double room range from C$ 86.80 at the Ambassador B&B to C$ 360.16 at the SOHO Residences Champagne.

Interesting neighborhoods in Ottawa

ByWard Market is a historic, downtown neighborhood full of funky restaurants and eclectic shops like L. A. Pai Gallery, sculpture and jewelry, or OXXO Silk & Gift. It is also home to the Notre-Dame Basilica.

Little Italy, also called Corso Italia, is a renovated neighborhood with wide sidewalks, ideal for tasting Italian or other specialties in the many restaurants in the area.

Chinatown has an abundance of shops and restaurants from almost all over the world, especially Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Filipino and Mediterranean.

Getting around Ottawa

Public Transport

The extensive public transportation network, which includes Ottawa O-Train buses and light rail, is operated by OC Transpo. A single ticket costs adults C$3.40, while a day pass costs C$10.25. In addition, there are special prices for holidays and families.

Taxi

There are several taxi companies operating in Ottawa, whose fares are approximately C$17.35 for a trip of about 8 kilometres.

Car

Although it is not essential within the city, renting a car is very good for exploring the surroundings. Enterprise and Hertz offer compact vehicles from C$ 16 per day.

Cost of living in Ottawa

Shopping streets

The opportunities for shopping in Ottawa are many, from the high-end boutiques of CF Rideau Centre, Bayshore and Place d’Orléans shopping centres to the renovated Bank Street, which includes stores such as Octopus Books, Reza and other fashion and jewellery boutiques.

Groceries and others

Sobeys and Loblaws are large national mid-price supermarket chains. A liter of milk costs about C$2.35; and a dozen eggs, C$3.80. At Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts, within the exclusive Rockcliffe Park neighborhood, you can buy specialties and gourmet items. Buying a half-litre domestic beer at the market will cost you about C$ 2.58.

Where to Eat in Ottawa

Aulde Dublin & Pour House is one of many bar-restaurants inspired by Irish heritage. Its menu offers classic pub food and Irish specialties from C$ 13. If you feel like a high level dinner, Mezzanotte Bistro Italiano serves main dishes from C$ 20. Beckta Dining & Wine is another haute cuisine option, with three-course fixed price menus starting at C$ 60 per person.

Other Canada Destinations:
Calgary Travel Guide
Montreal Travel Guide
Toronto Travel Guide
Vancouver Travel Guide