The capital of Canada has the best of both worlds – a relaxing and cultural atmosphere along with a thriving and energetic urban setting. Ottawa offers year-round activities, a vast expanse of natural beauty, and a culturally diverse environment, making it the perfect place to be no matter what you’re looking for.
With so many things to see and do, we’ve narrowed down the list so you can get the most out of this exceptional city.
ByWard Market is one of the oldest and largest public markets in Canada and one of the best places to be for shopping and food. Here, unique boutiques and regional artisans and vendors offer a place to do some local shopping, or to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Best of all are the many bars and restaurants that will suit even the pickiest eater.
There’s a reason Parliament Hill is the most visited attraction in Ottawa. In the summer months, there is a daily Changing of the Guard ceremony in the morning, accompanied by the Sound and Light Show every evening – all of which are free! Not only that, Parliament Hill is a huge part of Canadian heritage, with magnificent architecture and historical art.
Ottawa has a prolific cultural scene, bursting with museums and historical landmarks. One of the most popular museums is the Canadian Museum of Civilization, where visitors are taken back in time exploring the exhibitions on Canadian history and the First Peoples. The National Collection hosts more than four million artifacts, specimens, art, written documents, recordings, as well as an IMAX 3D movie theatre to create a truly immersive experience worth the trip.
Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. For this, one of the best places to relax is the Central Experimental Farm. Just a few kilometres from downtown Ottawa, it boasts five public areas to explore. These include the Arboretum, the Ornamental Gardens, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Tropical Greenhouse, and the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. It’s the perfect way to take a break from the sometimes hectic business life.
Shopping and cultural experiences go hand-in-hand on Sparks Street, being the first outdoor pedestrian mall in Canada. Shop around and admire the sculptures and fountains without worrying about cars or traffic, or take part in a fun event in the area. If you ever get tired, stop by a café and grab a bit to eat while you watch one of the many street performers.
In Ottawa, there is no reason to be bored in the winter. For three weekends, Winterlude celebrates the winter season with remarkable snow and ice sculptures, 30-ft snow slides, live entertainment, and North America’s largest snow playground. With all this activity, you won’t even notice how cold it is!
The Rideau Canal provides activities for any season – in the warm months, it’s a beautiful expanse for walking, running, or even boating and paddling. Moreover once the canal freezes over in the winter, it transforms into the world’s largest skating rink, with skate rentals and on-ice shops selling hot chocolate.
Every spring, over a million tulips in 50 varieties bloom across the National Capital Region area. This celebration is based on Holland’s gift to Ottawa in 1945, where 100,000 tulip bulbs were given as appreciation for the help from Canada during World War II. A variety of fun activities are available, including fireworks, vintage military enactments of WWII, music, and live performers! Tip: You can see the highest concentration of tulips (300,000!) on the bank of Dow’s Lake in the flower beds of Commissioners Park.
There is no way you can live in Canada’s capital city without being a part of the country’s biggest birthday extravaganza. Every July 1, Ottawa pulls out all the stops to create a patriotic celebration full of ceremonies, shows, fireworks, activities and musical acts.
Everyone needs the perfect place to have dinner and maybe a drink or two. Conveniently located on Elgin Street, Oz Kafe has a number of delectable meal options. With menu items such as “Steak & Caesar” (thick-cut AAA Ontario beef sirloin with Caesar Salad), Crispy-Skin Duck Breast, and Vegetarian Bento Box, no matter what your dietary restrictions are, Oz Kafe has something delicious to eat. Even better, they have a bar and kitchen open until 2AM for those late night outings.