Ottawa – the Capital City of Canada The City of Ottawa in Ontario is the nation's Capital and it is located right on the Ottawa River, with the official border between Ontario and Quebec right here running down the middle of the River, with the city of Gatineau (Hull) located on the Quebec side of the River over the Portage Bridge and Alexandra Bridge. The city and near surrounding districts has a population of around a million people, and with Ottawa being the Capital City of Canada, all the big Museums, Art Galleries, government offices are here too along with the Canada's Parliament.
The City has lots of parks and green space, and while it gets very cold in winter, it is a great city to visit no matter what the weather. In winter, one of the big attractions is the Rideau Canal that freezes over and becomes the biggest ice-rink in the world, 7.8 kilometres long while in the fall the trees and leaves create a wonderland of colour, and in spring and summer the gardens become a mass of flowers and fresh greenery. May is Tulip month in Ottawa. There is a lot to see in the City and these are some of the main attractions –
- Parliament Hill – Wellington Street. Most Capital Cities in the world have pretty impressive Parliament Houses, and Canada's is no exception. The massive stone building with its central Peace Tower and centre, east and west wings stand tall above the massive parklands on the hillside.
Ottawa was chosen as the site for the Capital of Canada by Queen Victoria in 1857, and you can imagine the lobbying by Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Kingston to secure the Capital status before the decision was made.
Building the Parliament Building then began in 1859 with the East and West Blocks completed by 1866. In 1916 a fire almost destroyed the building, but it was then restored and rebuilt in 1922, with the Peace Tower, following World War I built in 1927, with its 53 carillon Bells in the tower and a viewing platform on top. It is an amazing building and inside the use of marble, stone, stained glass and imaginative use of some of Canada's most beautiful timbers are admired by all who visit here. The floors, the walls, doorways, entranceways, windows, ceilings and paintings, Queen Victoria marble sculpture and ambience of the building are something not to be missed.
Canada has like Britain, a House of Commons, but instead of a House of Lords, they have a Senate as the Upper House – as they do in the USA and Australia. It is possible to take a tour of the Parliament building and it is a MUST SEE. If you can take a guided tour Tel: (613) 996 0896. This way you will get to understand more about the building and some of its secrets.
- Bytown Museum – 1 Canal Lane. See www.bytownmuseum.com is not far from Parliament Hill right next to the Ottawa Locks in the small stone Commissariat Building, built in 1917 that was used as the Treasury and Storehouse when the Rideau Canal and Locks were being built. The Museum has a collection of around 7000 objects related to Ottawa's history dating back to the time when the city was a village called Bytown, with the town being the site where many of the workers on the Rideau Canal lived.
- Fairmont Château Laurier – 1 Rideau Street, is a short distance from Parliament Hill on the other side of the Rideau Canal. See www.fairmont.com/laurier This massive Hotel built like a French Château with towers and turrets is just as stunning inside as it is from outside. It first opened on June 1st, 1912, built for Grand Trunk Hotels, a subsidiary of the Grand Trunk Railway Company as part of its plan to attract passengers to use its railways. The President of the Company, Charles Melville Hays (1856-1912) was on his way back from London for the grand opening of the hotel, and was on-board the ill-fated Titanic that sunk on April 14, 1912 off Halifax in Nova Scotia.
The hotel initially opened with 306 rooms and a further 240 rooms were added in 1929. Inside the Hotel you will see the use of fine timbers, granite, white Italian marble, Tennessee Marble, Indiana Limestone, a magnificent Travertine Marble staircase, with furnishings to match, Sèvres vases, Czech Crystal all reflecting the opulence of the era when the hotel was built. This is one of the finest hotels in the world and a true landmark in Ottawa. If you can stay here, great, but if not, at least come here to enjoy a High Tea.
- Rideau Canal – with its block stone walls is one of the best places to enjoy being in Ottawa. In summer you can take a Voyageur Cruise boat on the canal, or canoe, or just walk, run or cycle along its shores, while in winter between December and February, when the canal is iced over, it becomes a giant ice-skating rink 7.8 kilometres long. The Canal itself is 202 Kilometres long (126 miles) and runs from Ottawa to Kingston in Ontario, connecting the Ottawa River, Styx and Cataraqui Rivers in Kingston and 16 lakes along its way. It was built by Colonel John By (1779-1836) as supervisor of the British Royal Engineers between 1826 and 1832, with 47 locks, a fair distance of the canal dug out by hand. Over 1000 workers of the 4000 workers died in its construction due to the hardship of the task, the cold and malaria. Today the Rideau Canal is listed as a World Heritage Site. There is a commemorative plaque next to the Locks and in Majors Hill Park there is a statue of Colonel By too overlooking the Canal. The original name of Ottawa, Bytown was named in his honour and also Lake By too.
- Byward Market – 55 Byward Market Square is not far from the Fairmont Château Laurier between George and York Street. This market was first opened in 1826 and is where you will find fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and all sorts of shops, restaurants and cafés.
- Rideau Centre - 50 Rideau Street covers a whole city block and has all the big name shops and brands to buy. The Ottawa Tourist Information Centre is here too.
- National Gallery of Canada – 380 Sussex Drive. See www.gallery.ca This is the biggest and best gallery in Canada to see the work of International and Canadian artists, including Inuit artists all in a spectacular towering glass and granite building with great views over the River looking towards Parliament Hill. There are 6 Gallery Pavilions, the Great Hall, Courtyards and gardens and you will also be able to see a small wooden chapel, built with iron columns, once the Chapel of the Convent of our Lady of Sacred Heart.
- Canadian Museum of Nature – 240 McLeod Street. See www.nature.ca Here you can see amazing Dioramas of Canadian Animals on display, get up close to see a Blue Whale – the biggest animal ever to have lived on Earth. Also see over 450 different Canadian birds, a massive dinosaur and other fossils, as well as bugs and a whole lot more.
- Notre Dame Cathedral- Basilica – 385 Sussex Drive. A MUST SEE this Cathedral was first built between 1841 and 1865 with the interior Gothic Decoration added between 1876 and 1885. It is the oldest Catholic Church in Ottawa, with its 2 steeple towering above its roofline. Inside the Cathedral there is just so much to see from the Nave to the gothic arches and terraced galleries, to the stained glass windows, 4700 pipe organ, the stalls in the Sanctuary, altar and more. There is a lot to see here in what must be one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in the world.
- HOUSE MUSEUMS – see Laurier House, built in 1878 – 335 Laurier Avenue. Also see www.ottawamuseumnetwork.com for other houses and museums.
- Rideau Hall – 1 Sussex Drive. See www.gg.ca This is the home of Canada's Governor General and there are tours of the Hall that will take you to different parts of the building including the State Rooms. For Reservations Tel: 613 991 4422. The Gardens cover an area of 79 acres with some 10,000 planted trees, a rose and Heritage garden here too.
- Canada Aviation and Space Museum – 11 Aviation Parkway. See www.aviationtechnomuses.ca Here you will find a number of historic planes to see and learn about Canadian Aviation history.
- Royal Canadian Mint – 320 Sussex Drive. See www.mint.ca This is where you will see coins being made. There are tours to show you the process of designing and minting the coins.
- Canada Agriculture and Food Museum – 901 Prince of Wales Drive. See www.cafmuseum.techno-science.ca Here you can see tractors, harvesters, threshers and livestock presenting a history of how food has been grown and consumed over the ages.
- Saunders Farm – 7893 Bleeks Road. See www.saundersfarm.com Here you will find lots of activities for kids and teenagers, including a maze and other activities.
- Canadian Museum of History - 100 Laurier Street, Gatineau (on River, opposite Parliament Hill). See www.historymuseum.ca This is a huge museum where there is an IMAX Theatre, and exhibits that cover Canadian History from its very beginnings. There is a huge amount to see here, and also a children's Museum too with the 6 storey high window wall having views over the River.
- Canadian War Museum – 1 Vimy Place (west along the River from Parliament Hill) cnr. Booth Street and Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway. See www.warmuseum.ca This museum in a dramatically designed building presents the history of Canadians during the Wars, from the earliest times to current day, with battlefield photos, artefacts, technology used in war, aircraft, military vehicles and more.
- National Arts Centre – 150 Elgin Street. See www.nac-cna.ca This has both English and French Theatre shows, as well as music and dance happening here.
- Ottawa LittleTheatre – 400 King Edward Avenue (near Byward Market) See www.ottawalittletheatre.com They have some great shows here, so worth checking to see what's on and if you can get tickets.
- Nordik Spa – 16 Chemin Nordik, Chelsea. Tel: 819 827 1111. This is one of the biggest Spa complexes in North America, and if you love a Spa or Spa treatment, this is the place to come.
- Canadian Tire Centre – Arena – 100 Palladium Drive. See www.canadiantirecentre.com this is where the Ottawa Senators Ice Hockey team play, and also some other big events and music performances happen here too. Tel: 613 599 0100. For other ice hockey games – see www.sensplex.ca
- Gatineau Park – 33 Scott Road, Chelsea. See www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca Here you will find 361 square kilometres of Parkland, where you can hike, swim, cycle and camp. You can also hire and use canoes at Philippe Lake and La Pêche Lake too. There are 50 lakes in the park, and in winter there is cross country ski trails to follow or snow-shoe.
- Dows Lake and Marina – 1001 Queen Elizabeth Drive. Here you will find a large Pavilion overlooking the marina and lake. There are restaurants here too, and in summer you can hire paddle boards, kayaks and canoes, while in winter you can skate, or hire skates, even sleighs to go out on the frozen lake. The Lake freezes over between January and mid -March depending on the season.
- Casino – Casino du Lac Leamy – 1 Boulevard du Casino. See www.casinoduquebec.com/lacleamy This casino has big name show entertainers as well as restaurants, bars, hotel and gaming tables.
- FOOD – there is no shortage of food and good places to eat in Ottawa. Two of the main restaurant streets are Murray Street and Elgin Street; Chinatown is in Somoset Street (between Bay Street and Rochester Street) and Little Italy is on Preston Street.
Ottawa has many festivals during the year, so no matter what time of year that you come here, you are bound to have a good time. There are tours that will take you to see different parts of the City, but you could easily do your own planning too, seeing sites that are close by in the City centre.
I hope you have a great time here in Ottawa.