Welcome to Ottawa, Canada!
Located in the Eastern part of Southern Ontario, Ottawa was chosen by Queen Victoria herself to be Canada’s capital. The city was originally known as Bytown, and by 1855 the city developed into a political hotspot of the country, eventually being crowned the capital--and the home of the popular Ottawa Senators hockey team! Locals know that the city of Ottawa is famous for special things that perhaps don’t get enough attention in the grand scheme of Canadian life, but this guide will help you along, so you can make sure your journey to Canada’s capital is a good one.
The downtown area of Ottawa is easily walkable, with many landmarks nearby like the Parliament building and Byward market. The bus service in the city is easily affordable and the transport links around town will bring you to many important places you’ll want to check out.
Begin at Rideau Canal
Start your journey in Ottawa by checking out one of its famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Rideau Canal. Originally built as a means of defense against a possible invasion of the United States, the Rideau Canal now serves as a type of park where you can sit back on a summer evening, watch the boats go by or enjoy a picnic by the water. It is the longest continually operated canal system in North America, and in the summer months, you can always catch locals hanging by it.
Worldwide Local Tip: During the winter months the Rideau Canal freezes and turns into the world’s longest skating rink. Rent a pair of skates and head onto the canal for a romantic evening or fun afternoon of skating on the canal. It’s a favorite local pastime for all ages.
Learn about Ottawa’s Past
As much as Canadians have a reputation for being nice, in Ottawa, times weren’t always sunshine and rainbows. The capital has had a long history, and as such, there are some darker aspects of Canada’s past. A worldwide local knows that getting a taste of local history is important to the understanding of a new place, so learn about Canada’s history in several places that may or may not be haunted. Iconic places like the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and The Ottawa Jail are said to be haunted. There are tour groups available that offer bookings to take around Ottawa’s most allegedly haunted places. It’s a good way to see the city and get acquainted while also doing something a little off-the-beaten-path.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re feeling particularly gutsy, the Ottawa Jail also offers hostel services. Book a night or two in this 150-year old jail and stay the night behind bars or even in a solitary confinement room.
Eat Like a Local
A worldwide local knows that getting a taste of the local cuisine is paramount to any traveling experience. Luckily, you don’t have to travel the world to get a taste; all you need to do is go to Ottawa. Canada’s capital has some of the most diverse food from all over the world being offered here. Ottawa is known for some of the best Shawarma in the country, but flavors from Vietnam, France, Italy, and parts of Africa also permeate the culinary landscape of Ottawa. So don’t be afraid to dig into something new.
Worldwide Local Tip: If it’s something sweet you crave, make sure to head to a “Beaver Tail” stand. Perhaps one of Canada’s most underrated food, a Beaver Tail, is fried dough in a long flat shape and often coated with sugar, cinnamon, Nutella, and a myriad of other delectable possibilities.
Shopping in Ottawa
If you’re into doing a little shopping, locals will point you to Byward Market. The main building is open all year with the outside open-air stalls available in the spring and summer months when the Ottawa weather is nicest. Locals head here to pick some fresh fruit, vegetables and there are also boutique clothes, souvenir stands, and food so you can snack while you browse around. The Byward Market is Ottawa’s oldest market so not only is it a fun place to shop but it also is a part of Ottawa’s history.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re looking for something a little more out of the way and upscale, head to the Westboro Village. The area has fast become a place for shopping with several Canadian and international brands placing their flagship stores here. There are also a lot of quaint little shops and cafes here, so you can take a break for a latte afterwards.
Enjoy Your Stay in Ottawa, Ontario!
Ottawa might not be the biggest city in Canada, but a worldwide local knows that the size of a city doesn’t always mean it’s not worth visiting. Ottawa has tons to discover from nationally acclaimed museums to World Heritage sights to delicious international food.