A Guide to Ottawa

What to do in Canada's capital for adventurers, culture lovers, foodies and political wonks.


Ottawa is breaking out of its capital-city mould this year by playing up its many attributes beyond Parliament Hill, including a growing food scene, enviable pathway system and some of the country’s best museums. What’s more, it’s at the centre of Canada’s 150th birthday party with a slew of special events planned all summer, from pop-up light displays to Inspiration Village, a collection of shipping containers housing art exhibits, fashion shows and more in ByWard Market.

Active Adventurer

Yoga at Parliament Hill, photo by Kenya-Jade Pinto

Where to stay: The Westin Ottawa sits opposite the Rideau Canal, with easy access to riverfront running trails. The hotel offers mapped routes, which can be done solo or on a guided excursion with the hotel’s “run concierge.” Après-workout, slip into a plush robe and enjoy the hotel’s amenities, including a turndown service.

What to do: Cycle past the city’s historic landmarks, including Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal locks, then over the Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau, Que., on a guided trip with Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals. Or practice sun salutations in front of Centre Block with free yoga on Parliament Hill, Wednesdays at noon all summer.

Where to eat: Park your bike at the Mill Street Brew Pub, located in the historic Thompson-Perkins Mill right on the Ottawa River pathway system, just west of downtown. Refuel with shareable bar bites such as loaded nachos or pulled pork carnitas, and rehydrate with a pint of refreshing Organic Lager or seasonal Belgian Wit.

Culture Lover

Photo courtesy of Fairmont Chateau Laurier

Where to stay: With neo-Gothic vertical lines that mirror those of the nearby Parliament Buildings, the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is one of the city’s grandest hotels with an exterior façade of Indiana limestone and a copper roof. Don’t miss the hotel’s famous afternoon tea, which is Canadian-themed in honour of the sesquicentennial.

What to do: Visit the National Gallery of Canada. To mark the country’s birthday, the gallery has unveiled Our Masterpieces, Our Stories, a massive display of Canadian art featuring more than 1,000 works ranging from paintings and photography to sculpture and beadwork, integrating indigenous and non-indigenous art pieces.

Where to eat: Riviera, in a neo-classical bank building on Sparks Street, is traditional on the outside only. Inside, an open, stainless-steel kitchen, contemporary banquettes, brass bar and impossibly high ceilings impress, while the food is culinary art. Sample the beef tartare classique and black cod with carrot purée.

Food Fan

Charcuterie at Play food & wine, photo by Andrew Alexander

Where to stay: Stellar views, local artwork, rainfall showers and 400-thread-count sheets make the new Andaz Ottawa Byward Market a comfortable stay. But it’s the on-site restaurant Feast + Revel with Canadian-cuisine dishes such as braised Ontario lamb shoulder and locally smoked boar that hits the mark for visiting gourmets.

What to do: Wander through burgeoning ByWard Market’s more than 100 specialty food shops and restaurants ranging from Thai to Italian. Explore the market building with its mix of cafés and boutiques, as well as the adjacent open-air market where vendors sell local, seasonal produce, from fresh raspberries to purple carrots.

Where to eat: Play food & wine serves small plates and wines by the glass in a bright space on York Street in ByWard Market. Order savoury bites of charcuterie and cheese, pork belly or crispy tofu, with suggested wine pairing. It’s a great way to sample a wide variety of seasonal food and grape varietals in one place.

Political Wonk

Alt Hotel Ottawa, photo courtesy of Group Germain Hotels

Where to stay: Blocks from Parliament Hill, the stylish Alt Hotel Ottawa is located in the business district. Its eco-friendly features include geothermal heating and cooling and an LED lighting system. The beds have goose-down duvets and feather pillows and rooms feature workstations. Enjoy free Wi-Fi hotel-wide.

What to do: Take a free tour of the impressive neo-Gothic structures that make up Parliament’s Centre Block. This building houses the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament. Take an elevator to the top of the Peace Tower, the largest monument to peace in Canada, for a view of the city and Ottawa River Valley.

Where to eat: “Hill hour” at Metropolitain Brasserie, located at 700 Sussex Dr., features deals on burgers and poutine during weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m. But the real attraction is the politically charged conversation of the politicians, cabinet ministers, lobbyists and political staffers who frequent the restaurant.

Getting there: WestJet flies to Ottawa 20 times a day from seven Canadian cities.


Ottawa is one of our must-visit destinations for 2017

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