One City & A World Full of Surprises In Ottawa

The historic, neo-Gothic Parliament Buildings hold pride of place on a hill overlooking the Ottawa River in Canada’s capital ©Ottawa Tourism

Located along the Ottawa River in eastern Ontario, Ottawa is Canada’s capital city. While it is home to the iconic Parliament buildings, the “Green City” has so much more to offer visitors. From world-class museums and historic sites to outdoor adventures, culinary delights, and vibrant festivals, Ottawa should be on your travel bucket list. Below are the top five reasons to visit this scenic metropolis.

Stunning Parliament Hill and Historic Sites

As the seat of Canada’s federal government, the Gothic Revival-style Parliament buildings and scenic grounds are a must-see. Take the walkway and admire the views across the Ottawa River out to the Gatineau Hills and don’t miss out on a free guided tour of “The Hill.” Through the summer, from late June through late August, the daily “Canada on the March” ceremony is a sight to behold, the music-only event replacing the Changing of the Guard.

Beyond Parliament, Ottawa has no shortage of national museums and historic sites like the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, Rideau Hall, and 24 Sussex Drive, the official residence of the prime minister of Canada. In fact, the capital is the perfect starting point for your trip, as it’s the centrepiece for understanding the country’s diverse history.

Fantastic Festivals and Events

From winter skating along the famous Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s largest skating rink) during Winterlude, to enjoying the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in the summer, Ottawa hosts exceptional events and festivals all year long.

One of the best sights every spring in Canada is the blossoming of the tulips in Ottawa ©Ottawa Tourism

Winterlude also comes complete with towering ice sculptures, dragon boat racing, tasty BeaverTails. and Snow Kingdom, which is a huge winter playground for all ages, with tubing, a kiddie zone, a maze, obstacle courses and a zipline.

For a more gentle paced spring outing, where you can stop and smell the flowers, there is always the Canadian Tulip Festival, the annual celebration symbolising international friendship. With over three million colourful tulips blooming each May its just another great reason to plan an Ottawa trip. A national historic site that was established in 1889, the Ornamental Gardens host several events every year, the Tulip Festival being one of them. Ideal for the green thumbed, there is also the Peony Festival in the summer.

Looking to delve deeper into Ottawa’s diverse communities? Mādahòkì Farm—an Indigenous cultural agritourism farm—celebrates First Nations culture year-round through seasonal events, including the Sìgwan spring festival. Shop at an Indigenous market, learn to craft at workshops, enjoy horse drawn wagon rides, discover the history of the endangered Ojibwe Spirit Horses (five stabled here), and watch live performances of storytelling and dance.

Thrilling Outdoor Adventures

While Ottawa offers all the amenities of a capital city, over one-third of its green space is dedicated to rivers, woods, and parklands. That’s all the more reason to go hiking, biking, canoeing, or kayaking along the water and surrounding countryside.

One of the best ways to experience this sprawling urban paradise has to be from the water, and there’s nothing quite like a summer cruise on the Rideau Canal. Along the way, you will glide past Parliament Hill, the National Arts Centre, and other Ottawa landmarks with spectacular scenery falling in on all sides.

The Pink Lake trail lookout in Gatineau Park: the lake’s rare beauty makes it one of the most popular sites in the Park ©Ottawa Tourism

Just two and half miles north of downtown Ottawa lies the main entrance to Gatineau Park—this hikers haven a sanctuary for more than 100 species of rare plants and animals, as well as more common flora and fauna. If you visit in winter, you might even have the opportunity to experience dogsledding or snowshoeing in this stunning unspoilt landscape. Alternatively, try the Gatineau Park Nocturnal Snowshoeing Adventure & Dinner, the park’s newest guided experience giving you the opportunity to stroll through the snow under the stars.

A living testament to Ottawa’s geological evolution, only 20 minutes from Parliament Hill, lies a quiet forest trail that winds its way towards a land-locked beach. But here, you won’t find any waves lapping on the shoreline, just a series of dunes known as the Pinhey sand dunes. A reminder of an ancient landscape, this fine white sand was once submerged under the Champlain Sea, the dunes a by-product of the last Ice Age.

And, yet another surprise, Ottawa is home to some of the best beaches in Canada, in fact, Ottawa boasts four sandy public beaches on the shores of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers.

A Cutting-Edge National Arts Centre

An architectural gem, the National Arts Centre is one of the world’s foremost showcases for the arts. One of the largest and most popular performing arts venues in Canada, the centre hosts an impressive 600 performances each year, with the program including exceptional ballet, theatre, orchestra, visual arts displays, musical acts, and more.

One of the city’s most versatile performance spaces, this state-of-the-art venue hosts full-scale musical revues as well as spectacular solo performances ©Ottawa Tourism

Before or after the show you will have the opportunity to enjoy distinctive cuisine. Some of Ottawa’s finest restaurants are only steps away, making the combination of art and food lovers an enticing reason to spend an evening here.

Diverse, Gastronomic Delights

From high-end tasting-menu restaurants like Perch on Preston Street showcasing international dishes to all-Canadian fare at the ByWard Market and vegan bakeries and cafés, Ottawa’s foodie revolution continues with new and traditional takes on regional and world cuisine.

A uniquely Canadian tradition, hand-made Beavertail pastries are served up with a variety of toppings at special events throughout the year ©Ottawa Tourism

Pair your meals with some of Canada’s finest wines, craft beers, cider, and even maple cocktails, or grab delicious shawarma, poutine, and treats like BeaverTails as street food on the go. A cultural melting pot, Ottawa boasts a almost never ending list of mouth-watering, culinary options to suit everyone’s taste buds.

These are only a handful of excellent reasons why you should visit the wonderful city of Ottawa on your Canada holiday, and there are many more. With such rich diversity in history, culture, cuisine, nature, and the arts you might even even decide to make a repeat trip.

Come and experience the city for yourself and book our new 4-night Ottawa city break to truly understand why the capital of the Great white North is considered to be one of the country’s bucket list destinations.

For more information and to book, call us on 020 8776 8709 or email us at ATOL PROTECTED No 5405 ABTA W3207.