Ottawa is Canada’s beautiful capital city and a perfect weekend destination. The city is located on the border of Ontario and Quebec, straddling the Ottawa River in a beautiful river valley. Ottawa is the home of Canada’s Parliament and Government offices, many world-class museums, and galleries, and is steeped in Canadian history. The city features beautiful Victorian architecture, a walkable downtown, many superb restaurants, and a plethora of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. This year was my first time visiting Ottawa and I had a fantastic time. With Canada’s 150 birthday on the way, I highly recommend visiting the capital this year.
Here is how I recommend spending your weekend there:
Explore Parliament Hill
No trip to Ottawa would be complete without a visit to Parliament Hill. This is the site of Canada’s active government offices and the home of some of the best architecture in the country. The Centre Block houses the Senate and Common Chambers, the Peace Tower, and the Library of Parliament. The East and West Blocks hold meeting rooms, administrative spaces, ministers’ and senators’ offices, all designed in Gothic Revival style. If you walk West from Parliament Hill, you will see the looming Supreme Court building, and if you go East, you will reach the Château Laurier. Spend at least a few hours walking and admiring the architecture and waterfront area.
Grab a drink or bite in the Byward Market
Get into the action in Ottawa’s trendy nightlife and open-air market area. The Byward Market is walking distance to Parliament Hill, so after you are done exploring, stop in Byward Market for a drink or bite to eat. There are hundreds of unique shops, restaurants, and services, as well as an open market area where you can buy fresh produce. If you can eat gluten, then make sure to indulge in a famous Canadian Beaver Tail pastry, in its original location in the market.
Get Spooked on a Ghost Tour
Ottawa is rich with history and like many other historic places, it has its fair share of eerie tales. The ghost tour is a great way to learn about the city and be entertained by stories of the macabre. Depending on the tour, you have the option to visit the site of Canada’s last public hanging at the creepy Nicholas Street Gaol (Ottawa City Jail), now the home of the HI hostel, or walk the canal tunnels next to the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel.
Visit the Canadian Museum of History
Drive across the river into Gatineau, Quebec to visit the beautiful Canadian Museum of History. Even if museums aren’t your thing, come for the great view of Parliament Hill from across the water and to admire the incredible architecture. Nighttime is an especially beautiful time to come here, as the whole building is illuminated as is Parliament Hill across the water.
Walk the Rideau Canal
Ottawa is situated on the beautiful Rideau Canal, with fantastic walking and biking paths and an emphasis on enjoying the outdoors. Starting in the trendy Glebe neighborhood, take a walk from Lansdown Park along the canal into the city center. The entire walk is filled with lovely green spaces, treed canopies, and flower beds. It’s a great way to appreciate Ottawa’s beautiful natural setting.
Ottawa is the perfect Canadian weekend destination. I hope you enjoy your visit!