When to visit
- Very Favourable
What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
Nestled at the junction of three scenic rivers and home to Canada’s federal government, Ottawa is considered to be one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Its famous Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, becomes the world's largest natural skating rink in winter. It's no surprise that our capital is often part of a Canada self-drive itinerary.
Situated just across the river from the province of Quebec, Ottawa is a dynamic environment with strong French and English roots and a rich cultural and ethnic diversity.
Located in the forecourt of Parliament Hill, the Centennial Flame commemorates Canada’s 100th anniversary as a Confederation. The flame burns in the centre of a fountain surrounded by the 12 coats of arms of Canada's provinces and territories, and is the symbol of Canadian unity.
The Centennial Flame offers a superb view of the Parliament Buildings. Time to get out your camera! The flame burns year-round, in summer and winter alike!
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
You can enjoy the music and colourful drills of the changing of the guard (much like the one at Buckingham Palace). It begins on Parliament Hill at 10:00 every morning, but be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of time to get a good spot. Best of all, it's free of charge!
Daily from the end of June until the end of August when weather makes it possible.
This superb sound and light show will take you on an unforgettable audiovisual journey through the history of Canada against the backdrop of the iconic Parliament Buildings.
Presented free of charge on Parliament Hill every evening in summer from early July to early September, at 10 p.m. in July, 9:30 p.m. in August and 9 p.m. in September. The show lasts 30 minutes.
BOAT CRUISE ON THE OTTAWA RIVER
Take a sightseeing cruise on the famous Ottawa River for superb views of Rideau Falls, Parliament Hill and the sumptuous homes of Sussex Drive, including the Prime Minister's residence.
Daily from mid-May to early October, departing at 10:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. From mid-June to early September, additional departures at 5:15 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Established in 1826, the ByWard Market (Marché By in French) is one of Canada's oldest and largest public markets. This quaint market, covered in winter, is home to farmers with their fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables throughout the warm months, and local artisans and specialty food shops year-round. The area also features many cafés, restaurants, boutiques and tea shops, as well as a dynamic night life!
Open year round.
SPARKS STREET MALL
Sparks Street is an attractive and thriving pedestrian mall lined with trees and colourful flowerbeds, shops and cafés, located just south of Parliament Hill.
It is also home to a wide variety of events and activities throughout the year.
RIDE ON THE RIDEAU CANAL
The Rideau Canal is the heartbeat of Ottawa and an integral part of the lifestyle of its residents. One of the best ways to explore the Canal and its magnificent views of the city is with a sightseeing cruise on its calm waters. You will learn all about the history of Canada's Capital and its main attractions from your on-board tour guide. Departing from the National Arts Centre (1 Elgin St) below the Plaza Bridge (Rideau St. bridge).
Daily from mid-May to early October (departing at 10 a.m., noon, 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.). From mid-June to early September, an additional departure is possible daily at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m.
CANADIAN MUSEUM OF HISTORY
This museum complex is dedicated to 1,000 years of Canadian history. Learn about the arrival of the Vikings, the art and traditions of Canada's First Peoples and the country's 275 ethnic groups. You will have the chance to admire the world's largest indoor collection of totem poles in the heart of a reproduction of a West Coast tribal village. The museum houses an impressive collection of 5 million artifacts, with a focus on Canadian cultural traditions.
Visit the Canadian Children's Museum for a trip around the world, where you and your children will discover a host of fascinating people and places. The complex also features an IMAX theatre.
Open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (7 p.m. on Thursdays).
NOTRE-DAME CATHEDRAL BASILICA
This magnificent Neo-Gothic style cathedral was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990 because of its great heritage value. The building's notable features include its stone exterior, its two square towers, an ornately decorated interior with vaulted ceilings and extensive woodwork, and its interior sculptures carved by notable Canadian sculptor, Philippe Hebert.
Paid guided tours are possible by reservation only, Tuesday-Friday at 9 a.m. and Wednesday-Thursday at 1:30 p.m. or 3 p.m.
Art, history and science buffs are sure to enjoy their stay in the nation's capital. Ottawa is home to many world-class museums including seven of Canada’s nine national museums. Here are some that you won't want to miss:
**Note: Nepean Point will be undergoing redevelopment over the next few years, resulting in closure or reduced access to the site.
If you want the most spectacular panoramic view of Ottawa and the lights on Parliament Hill, visit Nepean Point, a site developed for Canada’s centennial in 1967. The view is also magnificent during the day, and the site features a majestic statue of Samuel de Champlain, who explored the Ottawa River in 1613.
Nepean Point is behind the National Gallery of Canada (380 Promenade Sussex), just steps from Alexandra Bridge.
This park, just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, is the largest green space in the Outaouais region, known for its rich biodiversity and its rolling green hills and forests. People come here in summer to visit historic sites, such as the Mackenzie-King Estate, to hike along its 183 km of trails (accessible from April 15 to September 15), and to cycle, swim and camp. In winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are the activities of predilection.
There are also scenic drives leading to lookouts, lakes and waterfalls. The park is open 24 hours a day, all year round, except during severe weather.
The Visitor Centre is open daily in May-October from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and in November-April from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (closed December 25).
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
SENSOTEI RAMEN ($$)
The first Sansotei Ramen opened in Toronto and it now has several locations including this one in Ottawa, which is gaining new fans all the time. They serve a wide variety of ramen noodle soups made from broths prepared daily on site and side dishes such as chicken wings, Zangi (fried chicken), gyoza (pan-fried Japanese pork dumplings), seaweed salad and gyudon (rice with beef and caramelized onions). If you're in the mood for dessert, try the mango cheesecake.
Open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
FLORA HALL BREWING ($$)
This brewpub opened in October 2017 in a remodelled 1927 building that formerly housed an automotive radio repair business. It has since become a popular Ottawa gathering place with its wide variety of quality craft beers, warm and welcoming space, and menu offering creative and contemporary takes on classic comfort foods from around the globe, with ingredients sourced locally and seasonally.
Open Monday-Friday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. (closed later on Fridays) and Saturday-Sunday from noon.
Their slogan, “Town loves you and wants you to be happy”, says it all! Creative cuisine made with fresh locally-sourced ingredients, accompanied by good music, a warm atmosphere and excellent service, at a reasonable price.
Open Thursday-Monday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m
PLAY FOOD & WINE ($$$)
Play food & wine offers generous small plates to share, with a solid selection of sweet and savory dishes, charcuteries and cheeses, and the perfect wines by the glass to accompany them. Local, sustainable and seasonal products from local farms are used in the kitchen.
Open Tuesday-Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday-Saturday for the lunch from noon to 3 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
BECKTA DINING & WINE ($$$$)
Beckta Dining & Wine is the flagship restaurant of Stephen Beckta, one of Ottawa's most renowned chefs. You will love the refined, modern, seasonal cuisine, prepared with local organic produce. The exceptional service adds to the pleasure of your fine dining experience.
Open Tuesday-Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
*** Hours may vary ***
BRASSERIE BAS CANADA ($$)
If you find yourself in Gatineau and you love a good beer, a visit to Brasserie Bas Canada is a must! This brewpub is known for its quality craft beers, including fabulous IPAs. You can also enjoy one of the delicious dishes prepared by the team of Les Vilains Garçons restaurant, with an upscale bistro-style menu.
Open Tuesday-Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Canadian Tulip Festival
Dates: mid-May 2022
What began with a gift from the Netherlands as a symbol of international friendship quickly blossomed into one of the most celebrated festivals in Canada and the largest tulip festival in the world. Ottawa, with its official flower, the tulip, has become the tulip capital of North America. The highest concentration of tulips can be viewed in Commissioners Park, where some 300,000 flowers bloom. A shuttle service follows the Tulip Route, allowing visitors to admire the colourful tulip beds and spectacular gardens along the canal.
Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival
Dates: end June 2022
Ottawa's Dragon Boat Festival is the largest of its kind in North America. The festival takes place at Mooney’s Bay Park. About 200 teams made up of some 5,000 paddlers compete in different race categories. More than 70,000 spectators enjoy a wide range of on-site cultural presentations, concerts and family activities.
Dates: July 7 to 17, 2022
RBC Ottawa Bluesfest is one of the top ten music festivals in the world, according to Billboard Magazine. It is a multi-staged, two-week music showcase featuring some of the best talent available on the planet. Blues, R&B, rock, pop and much more.
Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light
Dates: mid-August 2022 (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
The Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light is one of the largest fireworks competitions in Canada. Watch the sky over the lovely shores of Leamy Lake light up in a dazzling pyromusical display. Magical moments, colourful lights, music and entertainment combine to create a fun atmosphere that will appeal to the whole family.
- Very Favourable