Every country needs a capital city and Canada has Ottawa for theirs. It regularly shows itself in the top ten coldest capitals each year. Located right on the border of Ontario and Quebec, Ottawa mixes the English and French ways of life to create a city worth visiting. It has a population of about one million people who will showcase their city anytime of the year. During the summer, there are festivals which will fill your calendar and your belly. Over the winter you can skate in the world’s largest ice skating park.
For a unique accommodation, try staying at the Ottawa jail for the night. Don’t worry though; you can leave this jail anytime you want. Hostelling International operates a 150 bed hostel making use of the cells. Check out the review.
Once you have your accommodation sorted, now it’s time to see some of the attractions. One of my favourites to visit in Canada so far was the National History Museum. On Thursdays you can also take advantage of the free admission after 4pm otherwise it will set you back $15. I would allow a good couple of hours to have a look through all the exhibitions. Although Canada has only been recognised as a country since 1867, people have lived here for many years before hand. The Aboriginal people of Canada are made up of hundreds of tribes and communities, all of which have come together and created a superb exhibition of their way of life. The museum is open most days from 9.30am – 5pm except for Thursday, where it is open from 9.30am – 8pm.
Another museum worth visiting is the National War Museum. The museum is open most days from 9.30am – 5pm except for Thursday, where it is open from 9.30am – 8pm. Heard those times before? Well you will be glad to know it is also free on Thursdays afternoons.
The Byward market is named after Ottawa’s former name, Byward. It is Canada’s largest and oldest markets dating back to 1826. Today you will find local artists, fresh fruit and veg, multiple pubs and restaurants and French bakeries. One famed bakery is located right in the centre and sells what is known as an Obama cookie. Upon Barrack Obama’s election win, the President visited Ottawa and decided to go off script and visit a local bakery. It is from here where he purchased a maple leaf shape cookie with red and white icing saying Canada. The Moulin De Provence has since raised the price of the cookies and blasted marketing material showing Mr Obama buying the cookie. The Byward Market area is home to the oldest pub in Ottawa, Chateau Lafayette or more commonly known as ‘The Laff’.
Two streets to check out away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre are Eglin Street and Bank Street in Glebe. The streets are dotted with small shops and hidden bars. A quaint little bar called The Manx. Head here for scotch, craft beer and good food.
Now is time to do a cultural experience and it won’t cost you a cent. The Parliament buildings are located in the centre of Ottawa and they offer a tour of the inside. The tour experience will last for about an hour. 15 minutes of this will be to get through the airport like security. The tours are run every 40 minutes or so and can be taken in French and in English. In order to get yourself on a tour, you will have to head to opposite the Parliament and choose a designated time from the ticket office. If you want to choose the time you go, I would recommend getting to the ticket office at 9 in the morning as they do have a tendency of running out of space.
The first Three weeks in February, you will find yourself in the middle of a winter festival called Winterlude. This is a snow and Ice appreciation festival with many artists submitting pieces of carved ice to the exhibition. You can play in North America’s largest Snow Park. Ride the toboggans, have snow ball fights, build snowman or skate on the Rideau Canal.
The Rideau Canal was originally built in 1832 as a precaution for impending war with the USA. It turned out that it wasn’t needed and was soon used as a commercial waterway. The canal starts in Kingston and ends in Ottawa where multiple locks allow access to the Ottawa River. Each year during the winter months, the waterway freezes over and creates the Rideau Canal Skate way, the largest Ice skating park in the world. The skate way is free to use if you have your own equipment, but otherwise you can rent from shops set up along the way.
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