Ottawa: Discovering the Charm of Canada’s Capital

Ottawa: Discovering the Charm of Canada's Capital

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and is located in the southeastern province of Ontario. It is situated on the Ottawa River, which forms the border between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. As the capital city, Ottawa is home to the federal government and serves as the political and administrative center of Canada. The city has a population of over 1 million people in the metropolitan area and is known for its historic landmarks, cultural attractions, and natural beauty.

Ottawa is often compared to other capital cities such as Washington D.C., London, and Paris due to its abundance of historic landmarks and political significance. In terms of size and population, Ottawa is smaller than other Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. While these cities are larger and more cosmopolitan, Ottawa offers a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, with a strong emphasis on culture, history, and natural beauty. Ottawa is known for its picturesque setting along the Ottawa River, its charming historic district, and its vibrant arts and cultural scene. It also boasts a high quality of life and a strong sense of community, making it a popular destination for tourists and residents alike.

Short History

The land where Ottawa stands today was inhabited by the Algonquin people for thousands of years before European explorers arrived in the 17th century. The first European to reach the area was French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who visited in 1613. The French established a trading post and Jesuit mission in the area, but after the Seven Years’ War, the British gained control of the region and established a military base. In 1855, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada, and construction of Parliament Hill began. In the years that followed, Ottawa grew rapidly, becoming a major center of industry, commerce, and culture. Today, it is one of the most important cities in Canada, and a hub for politics, tourism, and technology.


Ottawa’s architecture is a mix of different styles, reflecting its history and cultural diversity. The city’s oldest buildings date back to the 19th century and are predominantly in the Victorian Gothic Revival and Second Empire styles. The most iconic building in Ottawa is the Parliament Hill, which is in the Gothic Revival style and was built in the mid-19th century. Other notable buildings in Ottawa include the National Gallery of Canada, which is in the Brutalist style, and the Canadian Museum of History, which features a contemporary design inspired by First Nations architecture. In recent years, Ottawa has also seen a surge of modernist and postmodernist architecture, particularly in its downtown core.

Museums and Galleries

Ottawa is home to a range of museums and galleries. Here are some of the most interesting ones in Ottawa:

  • Canadian Museum of History: This museum, located across the river from Parliament Hill, explores Canadian history from the First Nations to the present day. It features an extensive collection of artifacts, interactive exhibits, and a stunning Grand Hall.
  • National Gallery of Canada: The National Gallery of Canada is home to an impressive collection of Canadian and international art, including works by the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, and Tom Thomson. It also features a beautiful sculpture garden.
  • Canadian War Museum: This museum explores Canada’s military history from the early days of New France to modern peacekeeping missions. It features a large collection of military artifacts, including tanks, artillery, and aircraft.
  • Canadian Museum of Nature: This museum is dedicated to showcasing Canada’s natural history. It features exhibits on dinosaurs, marine life, rocks and minerals, and much more.
  • Bank of Canada Museum: This museum is dedicated to exploring the history and role of money in Canada. It features interactive exhibits on the evolution of Canadian currency and the Bank of Canada’s role in the economy.
  • Bytown Museum: This small museum is located in the oldest stone building in Ottawa and explores the city’s early history as Bytown, a rough-and-tumble lumber town.
  • Canadian Aviation and Space Museum: This museum is located near the Ottawa airport and features a large collection of aircraft, including military planes and vintage planes from Canada’s early aviation history.

Overall, Ottawa’s museums and galleries offer visitors the opportunity to learn about Canada’s rich history, culture, and art. With a diverse range of exhibits, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Landmarks and Monuments

Landmarks and monuments of Ottawa are a testament to its past and present. Here are some of the most notable ones:

  • Parliament Hill: Parliament Hill is the political and cultural heart of Ottawa. The hill features a number of iconic buildings such as the Peace Tower, the Library of Parliament, and the Centennial Flame.
  • National Gallery of Canada: This museum is home to over 40,000 works of art, including Canadian and Indigenous art, European and American paintings, and contemporary art.
  • Rideau Canal: The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that runs through the heart of Ottawa. Visitors can take a boat tour or enjoy a leisurely stroll along the canal.
  • Canadian Museum of History: Located just across the river in Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History is one of the most popular museums in Canada. The museum showcases the history and culture of Canada and its Indigenous peoples.
  • Canadian War Museum: The Canadian War Museum tells the story of Canada’s military history and the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers.
  • National War Memorial: Located at the intersection of Wellington and Elgin Streets, the National War Memorial is a prominent monument dedicated to Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in various conflicts.
  • Peacekeeping Monument: This monument located near the National War Memorial honours Canadian peacekeepers who have served in international conflicts.

Visitors to the city can experience the beauty of Parliament Hill, the artistic diversity of the National Gallery of Canada, and the solemnity of the Canadian War Museum. The Rideau Canal and the Canadian Museum of History offer additional opportunities to explore the city’s history and natural beauty.

Parks and Green Spaces

There are many beautiful parks and green spaces in Ottawa offering a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Here are some of the best ones worth visiting:

  • Gatineau Park: Located just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park offers over 361 square kilometers of pristine wilderness, with miles of hiking trails, scenic drives, and stunning lakes and waterfalls.
  • Major’s Hill Park: This park is located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, offering a beautiful view of the Ottawa River and the Parliament Buildings. It hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, including Canada Day celebrations.
  • Rideau Canal: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal offers beautiful views of the city, as well as a great place to bike, jog, or walk along the waterway.
  • Confederation Park: This park is located in downtown Ottawa, across from the National Arts Centre. It offers beautiful flower gardens, a fountain, and a skating rink in the winter.
  • Dominion Arboretum: This 64-acre park is located along the Rideau Canal, featuring a diverse collection of trees and plants, as well as a beautiful pond and pathways for walking and cycling.
  • Rockcliffe Park: Located in the eastern part of the city, Rockcliffe Park is a beautiful residential area with stunning mansions and estates, as well as beautiful parks and green spaces.
  • Jacques Cartier Park: This park is located in Gatineau, just across the Ottawa River from Ottawa. It offers beautiful views of the river and the city, as well as a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and picnicking.

Ottawa offers a plethora of beautiful parks and green spaces that are worth exploring. From the scenic views of Gatineau Park to the bustling downtown parks like Major’s Hill Park, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


There are no beaches in or nearby Ottawa as it is a landlocked city. The nearest beaches are located in Ontario’s cottage country, along the shores of lakes like Ontario, Huron, and Erie. Some popular beaches within a few hours’ drive from Ottawa include:

  • Sandbanks Provincial Park: Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, Sandbanks Provincial Park is known for its long stretches of sandy beaches and towering sand dunes.
  • Wasaga Beach: This is the longest freshwater beach in the world, stretching over 14 kilometers along the shores of Lake Huron.
  • Grand Bend Beach: Another popular beach on the shores of Lake Huron, Grand Bend Beach offers soft, white sand and clear blue waters.
  • Sauble Beach: With seven kilometers of white sand beach and crystal-clear water, Sauble Beach is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.
  • Port Stanley Beach: Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Port Stanley Beach offers a picturesque backdrop of rocky bluffs and clear, calm waters.
  • Southampton Beach: Nestled on the shores of Lake Huron, Southampton Beach offers soft, sandy beaches, shallow waters, and stunning sunsets.
  • Point Pelee National Park: This national park, located on the southernmost tip of mainland Canada, offers a unique beach experience with its long, narrow strip of sand and warm, shallow waters.

These nearby destinations offer a variety of sandy shores, clear waters, picturesque landscapes, and plenty of opportunities to soak up the sun and enjoy the great outdoors.

Shopping Districts

Ottawa offers a variety of shopping experiences for visitors and locals alike. From high-end designer boutiques to trendy local shops, Ottawa has a diverse range of shopping districts to explore. Here are some of the best shopping districts in Ottawa:

  • ByWard Market: One of the oldest and most popular shopping districts in Ottawa, ByWard Market offers a unique blend of shopping, dining, and entertainment. The area is home to over 600 businesses, including artisanal shops, local boutiques, and trendy restaurants.
  • Rideau Centre: Located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, Rideau Centre is a premier shopping destination with over 180 stores. It features high-end retailers such as Nordstrom and Tiffany & Co., as well as popular brands like Zara and H&M.
  • Westboro Village: Located just west of downtown, Westboro Village is a trendy shopping district with a mix of local boutiques and popular chains. It’s known for its fashion-forward clothing stores, artisanal food markets, and unique gift shops.
  • Bank Street Promenade: Stretching from Lansdowne Park to the Rideau Canal, Bank Street Promenade is a bustling shopping district with a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes. It’s home to several local businesses, as well as national retailers like Whole Foods and Staples.
  • Wellington West: This up-and-coming shopping district features a mix of local boutiques and artisanal shops, along with trendy cafes and restaurants. It’s known for its unique shopping experiences, with everything from vintage clothing stores to artisanal cheese shops.

Overall, Ottawa offers a range of shopping districts that cater to different tastes and budgets. Whether you’re looking for high-end designer boutiques or trendy local shops, Ottawa has something for everyone.

Food and Drink

Ottawa offers a diverse and exciting culinary scene, with plenty of unique and delicious dishes to try. Here are some of the top foods and drinks to sample in Ottawa:

  • BeaverTails – a fried pastry dough dessert that is shaped like a beaver tail and topped with various sweet toppings such as cinnamon sugar, Nutella, and maple butter.
  • Poutine – a classic Canadian dish consisting of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy.
  • Shawarma – a Middle Eastern dish that is popular in Ottawa. It consists of marinated meat (usually chicken or beef) wrapped in a pita bread with veggies and sauces.
  • Craft beer – Ottawa has a booming craft beer scene, with many local breweries offering unique and tasty beers. Some of the popular breweries in the city include Dominion City Brewing, Tooth and Nail Brewing Company, and Beyond the Pale Brewing Company.
  • Maple syrup – Canada is known for its maple syrup, and Ottawa is no exception. There are many local producers of maple syrup in the area, and visitors can enjoy it in a variety of forms, such as on pancakes or in maple candy.
  • Ottawa-style pizza – a unique style of pizza that is thin and crispy with a sweet sauce, typically made with honey.
  • Beavertails Cocktail – a drink inspired by the popular dessert, made with vodka, Kahlua, and hot chocolate, garnished with whipped cream and a Beavertail pastry.

These delicious and unique foods and drinks that are sure to please any visitor.


Ottawa offers a variety of options for transportation to suit different needs and preferences. Here are some of the best ways to move around in Ottawa:

  • By Bus: OC Transpo is the public transit system in Ottawa, with a network of buses and trains that connect the city and surrounding areas. It is an affordable and reliable option for getting around the city.
  • By Bike: Ottawa has a great network of bike lanes and paths, making cycling a popular and convenient mode of transportation. Bike rentals are available at various locations throughout the city.
  • By Car: Renting a car is a good option for those who want to explore the city and surrounding areas at their own pace. Ottawa has a well-developed road network, with plenty of parking options available.
  • By Foot: Ottawa is a pedestrian-friendly city, with many attractions and landmarks located within walking distance of each other. Walking is a great way to explore the city and enjoy its beautiful architecture and scenery.
  • By Ride-hailing services: Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are also available in Ottawa, providing a convenient and comfortable way to travel around the city.
  • By Taxi: Taxis are available throughout the city, providing another option for getting around.


Ottawa is generally considered a safe city, with low levels of violent crime. However, like any city, there is always a risk of petty crime such as pickpocketing and theft, particularly in busy tourist areas. Visitors should take normal precautions and be aware of their surroundings, especially at night. It is also important to follow traffic rules and use caution when driving or cycling.

Expensive or Cheap

Compared to other major Canadian cities like Vancouver and Toronto, Ottawa is considered to be relatively affordable. However, it is still more expensive than smaller cities or towns in Canada. The cost of living in Ottawa is generally higher than the national average, especially when it comes to housing and transportation. That being said, there are many free or low-cost activities and attractions in Ottawa, making it possible to enjoy the city on a budget.

Best Time to Travel

The best time to visit Ottawa is during the months of May to September. During this time, the weather is pleasant, and there are many outdoor events and festivals happening. The city also offers many beautiful gardens and parks, which are perfect for exploring during the warmer months. If you enjoy winter sports, then visiting in the winter months, from December to February, would be ideal, as Ottawa offers many winter activities such as ice-skating, skiing, and snowboarding. However, it can get quite cold during these months, so be sure to bring warm clothing.

Date Ideas and Activities

Ottawa offers a range of experiences for couples, from cultural and artistic to outdoor adventures and relaxation. Here are some date ideas and experiences to enjoy in Ottawa:

  • Rideau Canal Cruise: Take a romantic cruise along the historic Rideau Canal and admire the beautiful views of Ottawa’s skyline.
  • Visit the National Gallery of Canada: Explore one of the country’s largest art museums, with over 40,000 works of art.
  • Ottawa Farmers’ Market: Stroll through the farmers’ market and indulge in fresh, locally grown produce and artisanal products.
  • Experience the Canadian Tulip Festival: Visit in May and witness over one million tulips blooming across the city, celebrating Ottawa’s connection to the Netherlands.
  • Visit Parliament Hill: Take a guided tour of the Parliament Buildings and learn about Canada’s political history and traditions.
  • Escape Manor: Test your problem-solving skills with a challenging escape room experience.
  • Wander through the ByWard Market: Explore one of the city’s oldest and most vibrant neighborhoods, filled with local shops, restaurants, and galleries.
  • Ride a bike along the Ottawa River: Rent a bike and enjoy a scenic ride along the Ottawa River, taking in the city’s natural beauty.
  • Go for a hike in Gatineau Park: Take a short drive across the Ottawa River to Gatineau Park and hike through the picturesque forest and mountains.
  • Relax at Nordik Spa-Nature: Unwind at one of the largest spas in North America, featuring multiple saunas, hot tubs, and relaxation areas.

Fun and Interesting Facts

Ottawa is a unique and fascinating city with a valuable history, diverse culture, and plenty of fun and interesting facts to discover:

  • Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and is located in the eastern province of Ontario.
  • Ottawa is a bilingual city, with both English and French being official languages.
  • The city is home to the world’s largest ice skating rink, the Rideau Canal Skateway, which measures over 7.8km in length.
  • The famous Canadian rock band, The Tragically Hip, originated in Ottawa.
  • The Canadian Museum of History, located in Ottawa, is the most visited museum in Canada.
  • The city is named after the Ottawa River, which means “to trade” in the Algonquin language.
  • Ottawa has the highest per capita concentration of engineers, scientists, and residents with PhDs in Canada.
  • The city hosts the annual Winterlude Festival, a celebration of winter with ice sculptures, snow slides, and other winter activities.
  • Ottawa is home to the world’s largest tulip festival outside of the Netherlands, featuring over one million tulips in bloom.
  • The city has been named the most educated city in Canada, with over half of its population having a college or university degree.

From its bilingualism to its engineering prowess, Ottawa has a lot to offer visitors and residents alike. Whether you’re looking to explore its museums, skate on the Rideau Canal, or take in the beauty of its tulips, Ottawa is a city that truly has something for everyone.


Ottawa is a city with a rich history, diverse culture, and stunning natural landscapes. From its historic landmarks and museums to its vibrant food and drink scene, there is something for everyone in Ottawa. Visitors can explore the city’s parks and green spaces, including the famous Rideau Canal, or take a stroll through the charming neighborhoods. Ottawa is also known for its exciting festivals and events, such as the Winterlude and the Tulip Festival. With its welcoming atmosphere and unique attractions, Ottawa is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Canada.