Your Trip to Ottawa: The Complete Guide
Formerly known as a laid-back city to members of the civil service and diplomats, Ottawa has recently become a hot spot for startups, creatives, and young professionals, and with the influx of culture and capital has emerged a flourishing food and festival scene.
Much more than parliaments and government buildings (although they are certainly still an attraction), this charming city boasts world-renowned museums, a plethora of government-funded festivals, and a surprising amount of natural splendor in the city center.
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Source: Erin Elizabeth
Planning Your Trip
- Best Time to Visit: While it really depends on what you hope to get out of the trip, the best time to visit Ottawa is between June and August - the weather is mild and there are plenty of festivals and outdoor activities to visit. If you are hoping to experience the winter season, consider booking in December or January before it gets too cold.
- Language: French and English; Although both are official languages in Canada1, most people in Ottawa speak English despite being on the Quebec border.
Canadian dollar currency
- Getting Around: Downtown Ottawa is very easy to get around and can be explored almost entirely on foot. Public transportation is also available and quite reliable for trips outside of the city center.
- Climate and Climate: The climate in Ottawa ranges from extremely hot in summer to very cold in winter, and the in-between seasons are short. The city has a typical Canadian winter climate, with heavy snowfall and a constant layer of snow on the ground. The temperature is usually around 21.6 degrees F in winter and can reach 80 degrees F in summer.
Things To Do
Ottawa often has an unfair reputation for dull or quiet due to the abundance of government officials in the city center, but in reality, it is quite the opposite. Whether you're planning to spend Canada Day in the capital or exploring winter activities during the Christmas season, there are plenty of things to see and do throughout the year.
While it's not Toronto or Montreal when it comes to shopping, Ottawa still has a significant number of shops and markets to explore. Be sure to check out ByWard Market - A mix of tourist shops, boutiques, and farmer's market stalls, this open-air market in the center of town draws locals and visitors alike. From there, visit the CF Rideau Center, a sprawling four-story mall with distinguished Canadian retailers, including The Hudson's Bay and Chapter's.
Visit Parliament Hill
Ottawa's main attraction is undoubtedly the historic government building on Parliament Hill, on the banks of the Rideau Canal. The exterior of the parliament building, which dates back to 18592, is an interesting photo opportunity thanks to the Neo-Gothic architectural style, but consider booking a guided tour of the interior buildings if you have time. You can even watch a debate in the official House of Commons if you have the correct day.
Feel like absorbing some art and culture? You got lucky! Ottawa is home to some of the best museums and galleries in the country. Visit the National Gallery of Canada to view classic and contemporary artwork by Canadian and international artists, then head to the Canadian Museum of History for a journey back in time through distinctive Canadian artifacts. From there, be sure to visit the Canadian Museum of Nature, especially if you are traveling with children, where you will find an impressive permanent collection of dinosaur fossils and Arctic artifacts, as well as seasonal exhibits for visitors.
Get Involved in Events and Festivals
Ottawa hosts a wide variety of festivals and activities, ranging from Canada's largest blues festival and North America's second-largest, Ottawa Bluesfest, to the world's largest skating rink. the Rideau Skateway Channel. The common celebration in the capital is Canada Day. Every July 1, the city welcomes thousands of travelers with fireworks, live music throughout the city, street performers, and other festivities to celebrate all things Canada.
What to Eat & Drink
While Ottawa isn't particularly known for its dining scene, in recent years the tides have started to shift the capital's restaurants. Today, the city abounds with classic Canadian dishes, local wine bars, and excellent international cuisine, as well as smaller cafes and bakeries that rival those of neighboring Toronto and Montreal. From third-wave cafes to exclusive establishments, there is something for all palates in Ottawa.
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