10 Things To Do in Ottawa Canada’s capital city, Ottawa sits on the south bank of the Ottawa River and is dissected by the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal. It is a bilingual city, with most locals speaking both English and French. It is also a city that is filled with cultures from all over the world, as well as being good at keeping Canada’s culture and heritage intact.
Like many capital cities around the globe, Ottawa has numerous national attractions. It also has a plethora of other things to see and do, and you could easily spend days enjoying the city.
Lets explore the 10 best things to do in Ottawa:
1. Skate along the world’s largest outdoor skating rink
In the winter months, a section of the Rideau Canal is turned into a massive skating rink. The outdoor rink is the longest in the world, stretching for nearly eight kilometers.
The skating rink is open 24-hours a day and is a great place to spend a romantic evening. In the day time, it is great for anyone; families, couples, or even solo travelers.
No skate along the Rideau Canal is complete without a Beaver Tail. These deep-fried dough sweets are sold at kiosks along with the ice rink, as well as in the Byward Market area.
2. Visit Parliament
The magnificent Gothic revival Parliament Hill sits in the middle of the city center overlooking the Ottawa River. The building is home to the Parliament of Canada but is also a major tourist attraction.
There are three buildings that makeup Parliament Hill, as well as an expansive formal garden. The grounds of the complex are the site of numerous national celebrations, demonstrations, and shows.
Tours are available multiple times throughout the day in both English and French. They last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, though you must turn up at 9 am to reserve your spot for the day.
3. Head to the market
One of the oldest markets in Canada, ByWard Market is in the heart of Ottawa’s city center. It consists of the main building that is surrounded by open-air stalls.
The main buildings are open all year, with the surrounding stalls being open when the weather is nice. It is a colorful place, where fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers can be purchased, as well as other grocery items.
ByWard Market also has restaurants, fast-food kiosks, and numerous boutiques. It is a great place to wander around and mingle with the locals.
4. Learn about Canada’s history
Being the capital city, it should be of no surprise that Ottawa is home to numerous national museums. And you don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy them.
The Canadian Museum of History, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada Agriculture Museum, and the Canadian War Museum are just a few of the museums located in Ottawa.
There are also other specialty museums that may not appeal to everyone but are quite interesting. These include the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Portrait Gallery of Canada, and the Bank of Canada Currency Museum.
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5. Learn about the darker side of the city
It is not all colorfulness and smiles in Ottawa. The city also has an infamous history, which you can learn about on the Haunted Walk of Ottawa.
The tour focuses on Ottawa’s dark past, where you will hear haunting hear stories about some of the city’s most famous spots, like the Bytown Museum, the Ottawa Jail Hostel, and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. Tours are led by guides cloaked in black and holding lanterns.
These haunted tours of the city take place all year, regardless of the weather. Halloween is, of course, the best time to learn about this side of the city, though it is enjoyable no matter when you are in Ottawa.
6. Enjoy the culinary scene
Ottawa is a melting pot of cultures, and this is carried over into its cuisine. Food from all over the world can be enjoyed here, as can a few Canadian and city classics.
As mentioned before, BeaverTails are a must and come different topping options, including cinnamon sugar, chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter, and maple syrup. Poutine is another must, which is a French Canadian dish of chips, cheese curds, and gravy.
Ottawa is also known for its superb Lebanese food, Chinese food, and Vietnamese food. French cuisine, Italian cuisine, and Mediterranean fare are also offered at restaurants across the city.
7. Go to court
The Supreme Court of Canada is a beautiful Art Deco building with a magnificent marble Grand Entrance Hall. Construction of the buildings started in 1939 when Queen Elizabeth herself lay the first cornerstone.
The courthouse is open for tours all year, although reservations must be made during the low season – September to April.
There are two flagstaffs in front of the building as well as numerous statues of Canadian Greats like Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent. Also on the grounds is a statue of Veritas (Truth) and of Justitia (Justice).
8. Enjoy a festival
Being a capital city means that Ottawa has its fair share of annual festivals, all of which are fun for any tourist. Plus, there are festivals to enjoy throughout the entire year.
The biggest festival of the winter is Winterlude, which runs over three weekends each February. Features of this winter festival include an international ice sculpting competition, as well as public skating and other activities.
The Canadian Tulip Festival is a good reason to visit Ottawa in May, while Canada Day should not be missed if you are in the city on July 1st. Bluesfest is another massive summer festival that draws in visitors from all over the country.
9. Stroll through Westboro Village
This neighborhood has become a shopping center, with several outdoor shops having flagship stores located here. It is also home to one-of-a-kind boutiques, local design houses, and unique gift shops.
Take a break from shopping or browsing and enjoy a freshly brewed cappuccino or a pastry. In the evening, relax with a pint of craft beer or delve into a delectable box of truffles.
Westboro Village is also home to wellness centers, yoga schools, and massage shops. There are also art galleries, hair salons, and barbershops.
10. Enjoy the nightlife
Ottawa has a lively nightlife scene, with its bars, pubs, lounges, and nightclubs. You can listen to live jazz or the sounds of a DJ spinning the latest dance tunes.
ByWard Market is a great place for a bar crawl, with plenty of bars and pubs to choose from. The same is true for the Centretown area.
Jazz and blues are big in the city, with live music offered at numerous venues. If chic and trendy are your thing, Ottawa will not disappoint, as there are numerous stylish lounges and nightclubs around.