Ottawa is Canada's capital. With over a million citizens, it is Canada's fourth-largest city, and Ontario's second-largest city. Across the Ottawa River is Gatineau, Quebec.
While most Ottawans are English-speaking, 15% are native French speakers, making Ottawa Canada's largest Francophone city outside of Quebec. Visitors come to Ottawa to see Parliament Hill, as well as Canada's national museums.
Ottawa swallowed the entirety of the former Carelton County that surrounded it in 2001. However, this guide deals (primarily) with the urban area of the Ottawa, sometimes called "Old Ottawa". Wikivoyage has separate guides on the suburbs of Kanata and Carp.
Ottawa started as a humble lumber town called Bytown, named after Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers who oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal (now a UNESCO World Heritage site which doubles as a giant skating rink in the winter), much of which was done by hand between 1826 and 1832. Lumber mills were built along the Ottawa River in the mid-19th century, and brought employment and wealth to the growing population. The centre of action then, as now, was the Byward Market. While it is still the centre of the city's nightlife, it has changed appreciably from the rough–and–tumble early days of brothels and taverns.
In 1857, Ottawa was chosen (in the legend "by Queen Victoria", really by Canadian politicians) as the capital of Canada. The choice was made to avoid a controversy, because it sidestepped the rivalry between Toronto and Montreal (then, as now, Canada's largest cities). But the new capital was still a tiny outpost in the middle of nothing much — an American newspaper famously commented that it was impregnable, as any invaders would get lost in the woods looking for it.
Unlike many federal capitals such as Canberra in Australia or Washington, D.C. in the United States, Ottawa is not part of a special federal district. There is an official National Capital Region containing Ottawa, Gatineau, Quebec across the Ottawa river, and surrounding areas in both provinces. However it is not a separate administration; the two cities have just regular municipal governments and are parts of their respective provinces. Each has its own Wikivoyage article.
During the latter half of the 19th century, the telephone was demonstrated to the Canadian public for the first time here and the city was electrified. The first electric streetcar service was started in 1891. A menu from 1892 states that, "the first instance in the entire world of an entire meal being cooked by Electricity" was in Ottawa.
Today, the major economic sectors are the public service, travel and tourism and the high-tech industry. Ottawa has remained a green city and is situated at the confluence of three rivers (Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau) and of the Rideau Canal. Many residents make regular use of Ottawa's parks and green spaces, bikeways and cross country ski trails. Many national attractions are in Ottawa: Parliament Hill, the National Library and Archives, the National Gallery, and the Museums of History, Contemporary Photography, Nature, War, and Science & Technology.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Ottawa has a humid continental or hemiboreal climate, featuring four distinct seasons, including warm summers and cold, snowy winters. Precipitation, falling mostly as snow in winter and as rain in the rest of year, is plentiful year-round. The city is neither particularly sunny or cloudy, though spring and summer are sunnier than autumn and winter.
Most people who visit Ottawa come during the summer, which lasts from the beginning of June to early September, when the days are longest and when the average high is around 25 °C (77 °F). During heatwaves, which can occur from May to September, temperatures can rise above 30 °C (86 °F), although there are also cooler and often rainier periods.
Autumn (fall) sets in during September and lasts until early-to-mid November. It features cooling temperatures, with mostly mild and occasionally warm days in September and pleasantly cool days in October and early November. The season is known for its bright colours and vibrant foliage.
Similar to most other Canadian cities, winters in Ottawa are long and cold with short days. There is an average of 225 cm of snowfall per winter, which usually begins falling in late October, with the ground typically being blanketed in a layer of snow from late November to the end of March, while the last of the snow falls in April. Temperatures in the winter months average between -7 and -10 °C (14 and 19 °F), although there are short thawing periods where they can rise to above 0 °C (32 °F) in addition to brief cold snaps where they can drop to below -20 °C (-4° F). Most bodies of water in and around the city freeze over during the winter, notably the Rideau Canal, which transforms into world's largest skating rink. The 2023 skating season on the canal was cancelled due to unusually warm winter temperatures.
Spring begins in April and lasts until the end of May, featuring progressively warmer temperatures and many blossoms. It can sometimes be prone to swings in conditions (such as snow in April and brief episodes of summer-like conditions in the second half of May); however, the weather is generally pleasant.
In addition to the Capital Information Kiosk, the tourist office's eager helpers can be found in public places, ready to answer questions in French or English. You can identify them by their blue uniforms with white question marks ("?").
- 1 Capital Information Kiosk, 90 Wellington Street (opposite Parliament Hill), ☏ +1 613-239-5000, toll-free: +1-844-878-8333, [email protected]. 10AM-5PM daily. Excellent first stop for all kinds of tourist information, in friendly and fluent English and French.
- 1 Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (YOW IATA), 1000 Airport Parkway Private (roughly 10.2 km south of downtown), ☏ +1-613-248-2000, [email protected]. Ottawa's main airport offers regular flights to major Canadian (and many American) cities. The airport's US Customs Pre-clearance facilities allow for seamless domestic and international transfers through a number of major US airports.
ATMs and a currency exchange booth are available in the arrivals hall (lower level). There is one International Currency Exchange (ICE) branded ATM near the baggage carrousels which charges higher transaction fees and offers poor exchange rates and one Royal Bank ATM near the washrooms with lower transaction fees and better exchange rates. There is a 24 hour baggage storage facility (Pars 2000) in the arrivals hall. Luggage can be stored for $5 per day or $8 overnight. There is also an information booth in the arrivals hall.
There are a number of restaurants and a few bars inside the departures area.
Direct flights to Ottawa within Canada include from Calgary (3.75 hours), from Edmonton (3.75 hours), from Halifax (1.75 hours), from Iqaluit (3.25 hours), from Montreal (45 minutes), from Toronto (1 hour), and from Vancouver (4.5 hours).
Direct flights to Ottawa from the United States of America include from New York City (1.5-1.75 hours) and Washington, D.C. (1.5-1.75 hours)
Services to Ottawa from outside North America, however, are limited to a daily flight from London Heathrow and a daily flight from Frankfurt with Air Canada, plus seasonal service from London Gatwick, which has been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Air France-KLM does not serve Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, it provides a shuttle bus connection for passengers booked between Ottawa Train Station (XDS IATA) and Montreal Trudeau International Airport (YUL IATA). This trip takes about two hours. Via Rail trains bound for Montreal also connect to Montreal Trudeau International Airport via a free shuttle bus from the nearby Dorval station.
Canadian airlines operating to Ottawa:
- Air Canada, ☏ +1-514-393-3333, toll-free: +1-888-247-2262. Canada's largest airline with hubs in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. It operates across Canada and services international destinations. Some flights between Toronto and Montreal involve Toronto Pearson International Airport and some involve Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
- Air Transat, ☏ +1-514-636-3630, toll-free: +1-877-872-6728. Canada's third largest airline with some year round destinations and specializing in seasonal flights to vacation destinations (Europe in the summer and warmer, southern international destinations in the winter).
- Canadian North, toll-free: +1-800-267-1247, [email protected]. A regional airline primarily operating flights in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and flights traveling between that region and a few large cities in Canada.
- Flair Airlines, toll-free: +1-833-711-2333. A new low-cost airline with flights across much of Canada.
- Lynx Air, toll-free: +1-877-897-5969, [email protected]. A small low-cost airline with flights to parts of Canada.
- PAL Airlines, toll-free: +1-800-563-2800, [email protected]. One of the largest regional airlines operating in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and to Ottawa.
- Porter Airlines, toll-free: +1-888-619-8622. Operates flights in Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and some flights to the United States of America. For flights departing from or arriving in Toronto, the airline's turboprop plane flights land at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The airline's jet plane flights and flights by all other airlines almost exclusively land at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
- Sunwing Airlines, toll-free: +1-877-786-9464. Low cost Canadian airline that operates some flights within Canada throughout the year and specializes in seasonal flights to warmer, southern international vacation destinations in the winter.
- Swoop, ☏ +1-587-441-1001. WestJet's low-cost airline with flights to less-busy airports. Swoop charges a fee for new reservations or changes to reservations made over the phone.
- Westjet, toll-free: +1-877-952-0100. Canada's second largest airline services with hubs in Calgary and Toronto. It operates across Canada and services international destinations.
Ground transportation from airport to downtown
- Public transit - To reach downtown via public transit, take bus 97 (the only bus at the airport, outside arrivals at pole #12) to Hurdman Station. At Hurdman, transfer to the O-Train Confederation Line (west to Tunney's Pasture) to the downtown stations Lyon, Parliament or Rideau (west to east). To get to the Ottawa Train Station, take bus 97 to Hurdman Station and transfer to the O-Train Confederation Line (east to Blair) to Tremblay Station, the next O-Train stop, which is next door to the train station. The bus fare is $3.50 which gives you 1½ hours of unlimited bus travel or $10.50 for an all-day pass. If you don't have a Presto card, exact change is required; remember to ask the bus driver for a transfer to use as proof of payment for fare inspectors.
- Taxi - A taxi to downtown hotels should cost between $25 and $35, while a taxi to nearby hotels should not cost more than $10. Uber and Lyft serve the airport and a ride to downtown hotels should cost between $20 and $25.
- Car rental - Most of the major international car rental agencies have a presence in the parking garage across from the airport terminal.
- 2 Ottawa/Rockcliffe Airport (YRO IATA) is closer to downtown but does not have regular service; it is open to general aviation only.
- Autobus Gatineau, toll-free: +1-888-880-0439. Operates a weekday bus service from smaller regional centres in the Outaouais region of West Quebec (to the north of Ottawa). The route travels between Ottawa and Grand-Remous including stops in Gatineau, Wakefield, Kazabazua, Gracefield, and Maniwaki. Travel time to Ottawa from Wakefield is 50-60 minutes and from Grand-Remous is 2.75-3 hours. In Grand-Remous, there is service under the Autobus Maheux brand from Montreal, Rouyn-Noranda, and Val-d'Or.
- Autobus Maheux, toll-free: +1-866-863-6066, [email protected]. Operates bus routes within Quebec with some connections to Ontario. Operates a bus route between Montreal and Ottawa including stops in Laval and Gatineau. Travel time to Ottawa from Montreal is 3.5 hours.
- Book A Ride. Service from Kingston, Brockville, Belleville, and Toronto.
- FlixBus. Service from Windsor, London, Chatham-Kent, Hamilton, Toronto, Whitby, and Kingston.
- Megabus, toll-free: +1-866-488-4452. Ottawa-Kingston-Toronto, twice daily Th-Su, leaving Toronto at 10:30AM and 5PM. Departures from Ottawa (OCTranspo St Laurent) at 10:30AM and 4:30PM. Toronto from $52 (5 hours 10 min), Kingston from $32 (2 hours).
- Rider Express, toll-free: +1-833-583-3636. Offers service to Ottawa from Toronto via Kingston and Belleville. Travel time to Ottawa from Toronto is 5.25 hours and from Kingston is 2 hours. There is also service from Peterborough two days a week.
- Ontario Northland (Buses depart from Ottawa VIA station (see below)), toll-free: +1-800-461-8558. Connects Ottawa to a number of smaller regional centres in Northern Ontario.
- Operates a route between Ottawa and Sudbury including stops in Kanata, Arnprior, Renfrew, Pembroke, Petawawa, Mattawa, and North Bay. Travel time to Ottawa from Arnprior is 6 hours, from Pembroke is 4.75 hours, and from Petawawa is 4 hours, from North Bay is 1.5 hours, and from Sudbury is 7 hours. Connections are available from Winnipeg (1 day 8.5 hours) with transfers in Thunder Bay, Sault Sainte Marie, and Sudbury. Connections are available from Toronto with a transfer in either North Bay or Sudbury.
- Orléans Express, ☏ +1-450-640-1477, toll-free: +1-833-449-6444. Operates bus routes primarily in Quebec. A bus route operates to Ottawa from Montreal (2.25-2.5 hours).
- Tour Express, ☏ +1-514-228-2303, [email protected]. Intercity service Montréal-Ottawa and Montréal-Gatineau. Travel time to Ottawa from Montreal is 2 hours.
- 417 Bus Line. Commuter bus service from Cornwall, Embrun, Russell, Casselman, and Limoges. Tickets must be purchased in cash from the bus driver.
- See also: Rail travel in Canada
Walking downtown from Ottawa station
It is possible to get downtown from the main train station on foot, although it requires a bit of navigation. This path should not be taken alone after dark and may be flooded after periods of intense rain or snow melting. Have a street map with you so you can locate yourself once you have reached Strathcona Park. The station to Strathcona Park takes about half an hour (2½ km). Another half hour from the park to downtown. A map is available online.
- 3 Ottawa station (XDS IATA), 200 Tremblay Road (4 km east of downtown), toll-free: +1-888-842-7245. Daily 5:30AM to 11:30PM. Passenger train service is run by VIA Rail Canada and the main train station in Ottawa is less than ten minutes from downtown by car, taxi or O-Train. The station has a lounge for Business class ticket holders and a small cafe offering coffee, pastries, and light meals.
- To reach downtown from the station, passengers can take the light rail (Tunney's Pasture direction) from Tremblay O-Train Station, next door to Ottawa Station. The trip should take about 10 minutes. Tremblay Station has O-Train ticket vending machines which accept cash and credit cards. Taxis are also available and should cost about $10-15 for a trip downtown. There is a phone kiosk offering car rentals. Routes operating to Ottawa station:
- Between Ottawa and Toronto including stops in Smiths Falls, Brockville, Kingston, Napanee, Bellevile, Cobourg, Port Hope, and Oshawa. Numerous trains per day. Travel time to Ottawa from Kingston is 2.25-2.5 hours and from Toronto is 4.75-5 hours.
- Between Quebec City and Ottawa including stops in Drummondville, Saint-Hyacinthe, Saint-Lambert, Montreal, Dorval, and Alexandria. Multiple trains per day travel the entire route and some additional trains travel between Montreal and Ottawa. Travel time to Ottawa from Quebec City is 6 hours, from Drummondville is 3.75-4 hours, and from Montreal is 2-2.25 hours.
- Travellers from Cornwall can reach Ottawa by changing trains in Kingston. It's possible to shorten the trip by instead changing trains at Brockville; however Via will not guarantee this connection, and both legs have to be booked separately.
- 4 Fallowfield station, 3347 Fallowfield Road (southwest of downtown), toll-free: +1-888-842-7245. Daily 5:30AM to 11:30PM. Ottawa also has a secondary station (Fallowfield station) in the western suburb of Barrhaven, convenient for Nepean and Kanata points. All trains to Toronto stop at Fallowfield; two of the six weekday trains to Montreal originate or terminate at Fallowfield.
- Fallowfield Station is around 10 kilometers to the west of Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport, making it the closest railway station to the airport. The airport is accessible by taxi or car in around 15 minutes. By comparison, OC Transpo buses departing from the adjacent Fallowfield bus station head north to downtown before looping back south to the airport and generally take more than an hour.
- It is also possible to cycle from Fallowfield to the airport (over relatively flat terrain) in about 33 minutes. The route begins by heading south to Fallowfield Road, turning left and eventually crossing Woodroffe Avenue. Then turn left again and follow the path which bends to the right in front of the Via train tracks. The trail continues along the tracks and through a wooded area to Prince of Wales Drive and Black Rapids Lockstation on the Rideau River.
- From there, turn left and cautiously ride up Prince of Wales Drive north to Hunt Club Road and turn right. Be especially careful at the intersection and on the bridge, as traffic moves quite quickly and it is not particularly friendly for cyclists. Continue down Hunt Club, turn right in front of the Days Inn by Wyndham and finally ride down Paul Benoit Drive through the employee parking lot to the lower level arrivals area.
The Ottawa River is navigable to Ottawa from Montréal, but is blocked to the west by rapids in Ottawa-Hull. There are no ferry services to Ottawa. However, there is a tourist-oriented water taxi that runs between Ottawa and Hull for about $6 one way.
The city is also accessible via the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which runs from the St. Lawrence River at Kingston to the Ottawa River at Ottawa where it empties via a series of locks. It is possible to dock at Dow's Lake Pavilion and at points along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River near downtown.
Ottawa can be reach from Sudbury and North Bay by traveling east on Highway 17 and 417, which are part of the Trans-Canada Highway. Highway 17 is the non-freeway part of the highway and Highway 417 is the part that is a freeway.
Ottawa is about a 4½-hour trip from Toronto via the 401 and 416 highways. Traveling on Highway 401, Highway 7, then Highway 417 is shorter (405 km (252 mi) vs. 450 km (280 mi)) but this more scenic route through Peterborough is two lanes almost all the way, saving you no time.
Montreal is 2-3 hours away along Autoroute 40 (in Quebec) and Highway 417 (in Ontario), which are both part of the Trans-Canada Highway.
From the American border at Prescott-Ogdensburg, it is 45 minutes to Ottawa's western suburbs (at the opposite end of Highway 416). Interstate 81 is 60 km (40 miles) further upriver in the Thousand Islands.
OC transpo, ☏ +1 613-560-5000. Operates the city's bus service and the O-Train, a light rail system consisting of two lines. The Confederation Line (Line 1, red in maps), which began service in 2019, runs west-east with an underground segment through the city centre. The Trillium Line (Line 2, green) runs from the south. The lines meet at Bayview station. (Note: The Trillium Line is closed at least until at least 2023 due to construction. In the meantime, it is being replaced by the Line 2 bus.) The bus rapid transit (BRT) system, called the Transitway, has service as frequent as 1 to 2 minutes at rush hour.
The O-Train Confederation Line runs east-west under the downtown area served by Lyon, Parliament, Rideau and uOttawa O-Train stations. If you are going to the Byward Market, get off at Rideau O-Train Station. To go north-south, take bus route 6 or 7 along Bank Street from either Parliament or Rideau O-Train stations.
OC Transpo has a webpage to look up schedules and maps for all the O-Train and bus routes mentioned above. It also has a Customer Service Centre on the 3rd floor of the Rideau Centre, above the corner of Rideau Street and Colonel By Drive in downtown Ottawa. There are others at major bus stations: Lincoln Fields in the west end, Place d'Orleans and St. Laurent in the east.
As of October 1, 2019, the cash fare for regular routes is $3.60 for adults and youth (13-64), $2.70 for seniors (65+), $1.85 for children (6-12). (Fares are 5 cents cheaper if paying by Presto card.) Seniors can ride the OC Transpo system free on Wednesdays and Sundays (except Para Transpo). Children 5 and under always ride for free. Payment is by exact change or the Presto card. If you pay cash, get a transfer to act as proof of payment for fare inspection. Your fare allows you to ride any buses and the O-Train for roughly 1½ hours, longer at night. Stop-overs and return trips are permitted.
A day pass ($10.50) is good for buses and the O-Train. On weekends and holidays, up to two adults and four children (age 11 and under) can share a day pass. Buy the pass from the bus driver using exact cash or Presto card. (If you're using the card to pay for a day pass, you must ask the driver before tapping the card to the reader, or it will deduct a normal fare instead). Day passes are also available from ticket vending machines at O-Train stations and at customer service centres.
O-Train stations (except Bayview station) have ticket vending machines that issue a single-ride ticket. The O-Train ticket acts as a transfer which expires 90 minutes after purchase.
You can buy a Presto card for $6 (non-refundable) plus a minimum $10 balance at a Customer Service Centre, kiosks at O-Train stations, at selected Loblaws grocery stores or Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies, by phone (☏ +1-877-378-6123) or online (for delivery in Canada only). Have a Customer Service Centre add the birth date to a Presto card for a senior or a child to qualify for fare discounts. The Presto card is also valid in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.
Presto card readers are available on buses at the front door (and also at the rear door of long, articulated buses) and on O-Train platforms. Paying the fare by tapping the Presto card on the reader will also record a 1½ hour transfer period on the card. Tap your Presto card every time you board a vehicle. Upon the first tap, the Presto machine will momentarily display the fare deducted and the Presto balance remaining. When you tap within the transfer period, the Presto machine will display the minutes left in the transfer period.
Service to Gatineau
On weekdays (excluding holidays), OC Transpo bus 15 connects Lyon O-Train Station to Gatineau, Quebec terminating in front of the Canadian Museum of History (stop: Laurier / Élisabeth-Bruyère); it uses OC Transpo fare media, including Presto, even when boarding in Gatineau.
Many Gatineau buses (marked "STO" - Société de transport de l'Outaouais) come into Ottawa, run along Wellington Street and pass by the Byward Market. They can be caught near Lyon, Parliament and Rideau O-Train stations. The colour schemes for the two transit systems are different, red and white for OC Transpo but blue and white for STO. OC Transpo and STO accept each other's transfers including O-Train tickets. STO accepts an OC Transpo transfer recorded on a Presto card; however, STO will not accept Presto to pay the fare on its own buses. STO accepts the OC Transpo day pass but not as a group pass.
Taxis are easy to find downtown; elsewhere, phone for a cab. All taxis should have a meter and the base charge is $2.45, and overall rates are quite high compared to most other North American cities. A ride from downtown to the airport will be costly, running between $25 and $35 for a trip that will take less than a half-hour outside of peak traffic periods. Cabs will not take credit cards for fares below $10. Most cab drivers know Ottawa well, but have clear instructions if you're going anywhere in the suburbs as many developments in the outskirts are relatively new. Ottawa cabs aren't supposed to pick up customers off the street on the Quebec side; the converse applies to Quebec cabs in Ottawa. You may phone a Quebec cab if you are in Ottawa and vice versa.
- BlueLine Taxi, ☏ +1 613-238-1111.
- Capital Taxi, ☏ +1 613-744-3333.
- Executive Cabs, ☏ +1 613-799-3353.
- Rides Are Us, ☏ +1 613-858-9060.
By ride hailing
Parking at most attractions is convenient, though on-street parking in downtown areas is at a premium (more expensive than most other cities in North America). If you are driving to downtown on the weekend, parking is free in the garage at the World Exchange Plaza. There are entrances to the garage on Metcalfe Street and on Queen Street. A map is useful if you are going to be driving around downtown as many of the streets are one-way. Drivers in Ottawa are rated as some of the worst in Canada, often failing to signal for lane changes or making illegal turns into far lanes rather than the closest lane.
Most major car rental companies have several offices in Ottawa with all of them represented downtown and at the airport.
Driving while talking on your cell phone is illegal in Ontario unless you use a hands-free system.
Ottawa is a great city to explore on foot, though in winter you need good clothes and warm boots to consider it. With pedestrian-friendly streets and the density of attractions, a car is expensive and unnecessary for the most part. An excellent place to start any tour of Ottawa is the Capital Information Kiosk, at 90 Wellington Street, directly across from the Parliament buildings. They have maps and brochures for most tourist attractions in Ottawa, many of which are within walking distance.
Popular pedestrian areas, especially during spring and summer months, are the various streets in the Byward Market. Sparks Street, running through downtown parallel to the Parliament Buildings, is a popular pedestrian area during the day and night, particularly in the spring and summer months.
Guided walking tours are available with Ottawa Walking Tours, which include some history and other tidbits of trivia not commonly known. Especially popular is the Haunted Walk of Ottawa that provides a variety of walking tours focusing on the city's darker and more offbeat past.
Ottawa is a city with a truly continental climate. In winter, exposed skin can freeze in minutes or less, so layer up on the clothing and protect yourself by wearing a hat (toque or hunters cap), gloves and boots. Despite being slightly closer to the North Pole than the equator, summer temperature and humidity can be oppressively high, so bring water if you're doing any amount of walking or cycling. If you are on the public pathways near the canal or the river, there are drinking fountains to refill your bottles. Also, don't forget the mosquito repellent.
Bicycling is one of the best ways to see Ottawa up close. You can cover a lot of ground, stop anywhere to sight-see, and enjoy the ambiance of the city. The downtown is very well-served by protected cycling infrastructure, and paths run along the canal and the rivers, including into Gatineau on the Quebec side. In the summer, the downtown bike corridor on Laurier Ave counts 70,000 bike rides a month. The bike routes along the canal see around 350,000 bike rides a year. Again, you may want to start immediately opposite Parliament Hill to pick up a map of the area (in the World Exchange Plaza's NCC booth in the main hallway) or find a bicycle rental. Cycling to the attractions around downtown Ottawa is a great way to get around, but don't ignore the Gatineau side of the river. The city has several attractions along the river including the Museum of History and if you want to really stretch your legs, Gatineau Park has many great cycling paths; the Champlain Look Out has a wonderful view over the Ottawa Valley.
There are usually a few options for renting bicycles downtown, including:
- 1 Rentabike, 2 Rideau St (across from the hotel Château Laurier, below the Plaza Bridge and next to the Rideau Canal), ☏ +1-613-241-4140, [email protected]. M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa Su 10AM-6PM. Well-equipped bike rental service. From this central location, pathways along the Rideau Canal are suitable for cycling south or north.
- 2 Bike Dump, 407 Catherine St (Catherine at Percy Street. 3 blocks west of Ottawa Central Station bus terminal), ☏ +1-613-231-2317.
- 3 RightBike/Cycle Salvation, 473 Bronson Avenue (Bronson south of Gladstone Ave), ☏ +1-613-722-4440, [email protected].
The city is criss-crossed by over 170 km of multi-use bike paths, shared with pedestrians and in-line skaters. Dogs on leash are allowed along many of the paths, but only if the owner is on foot. Many paths are unlit at night, so careful that you don't ride into a leash between the dog and its owner. The maximum speed on the pathways is 20 km/h (13 mph).
The National Capital Commission closes 20 km of roadways to cars summer weekends from Victoria Day (late May) to Labour Day (early September) allowing for cycling, in-line skating and walking on these roadways.
Maps of the Capital Pathway are available, including the Official Cycling Map for Ottawa-Gatineau and the simplified Ottawa Multi Use Pathway Pocket Map created by a local cycling blogger.
For more route suggestions, check out these local cycling blogs:
OC Transpo has bicycle racks on the front of many buses (seasonally). You can load your bike on the rack and then ride the bus for the normal passenger fare. The O-Train will take bikes as well, in the forwardmost car.
The City of Ottawa has bike repair stations in public spaces along paths and across from City Hall, at libraries and community centres. The stations consist of a pump and the most important tools, connected to a base with steel cables.
Long time advocacy group Bike Ottawa (since 1984) also maintains an extensive website with a set of interactive bicycle route maps that rate all bicycle routes through Ottawa and Gatineau on a 1-4 scale, with 1 being child-friendly and 4 being very stressful. They also make available information on infrastructure progress. Contact them also with questions about routes, concerns and popular destinations. Although it is a volunteer-run organisation, they are usually fairly fast in responding. #ottbike is the commonly used hashtag on social media.
The primary attraction for most visitors is 1 Parliament Hill. Parliament Hill is in the middle of downtown Ottawa, overlooking the Ottawa River. Not only is the building a fine example of the Gothic revival style, it makes an excellent starting point to visit all other points of interest in the area.
- The Changing of the Guard takes place daily on the lawns of Parliament at 9AM from late June to late August. The Governor General's Foot Guards can also be seen at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and at Rideau Hall.
Tours of the building are available daily with multiple tours (in English and French) available at staggered times throughout the day. If you have a group of greater than 10 people, you must make a reservation in advance by reserving online or by calling the reservations office at +1 613-996-0896. The admission is free, but you need tickets (one for the House of Commons at West Block, one for the Senate at the Senate of Canada Building) which you get at the office. The office opens at 9am, but because of the interest in the summer, you should stand in line at least at 8:30am or even earlier. It can take an hour or more until you reach the desk and get your tickets. Masks are required for either tour.
- The Centre Block closed for renovation in early 2019, and is expected to remain closed for a decade.
- Tour guides take you through the House of Commons Chamber or the Senate Chamber and explain the history, roles and architecture of the respective buildings. Each tours lasts about 45 mins and free same-day tickets can be picked up at the Visitor Welcome Centre on the Hill by the West Block.
- If there are no more tickets available, or you have to wait for your time, a fine self-guided walking tour around the grounds of Parliament Hill will keep you busy. Free booklets are available at the visitors' centre.
- One of the nicer, unexpected views, looking from the bottom up, can be accessed at the back of the Parliament Buildings—that vantage point also provides a river view of the Canadian Museum of History, across the river in downtown Gatineau (the former city of Hull).
- Behind the Parliament Buildings at sunset is a sight to remember. You can walk by the Rideau Canal locks (at the east corner) and visit the Bytown Museum at the level of the canal.
- The locks separate Parliament Hill from the Chateau Laurier, a former railway hotel (see below).
- Mosaika Parliament Hill Sound & Light Show. Developed by the National Capital Commission, the Sound & Light Show is a 30-minute film about Canada projected on the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings. Bleacher seating is available and no reservations or tickets are required. There is one show nightly until September at 9:30PM.
There are many national museums and galleries in Ottawa and neighbouring Gatineau. All museums in Ottawa have free admission on Canada Day, July 1, although they are generally very crowded then.
- 2 Bank of Canada Currency Museum, 30 Bank St, ☏ +1 613-782-8914, [email protected]. Th-M 10AM-5PM. A collection of historic and current currencies from Canada and around the world, history of Bank of Canada and the application of interest rate in the society and economy. Free.
- 3 Bytown Museum, 1 Canal Ln (at the Rideau Canal locks between Parliament Hill and Chateau Laurier), ☏ +1 613-234-4570. Victoria Day weekend-Thanksgiving Day: F-W 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-9PM. Rest of year: Tu-Su 11AM-4PM. A small museum at the foot of Parliament Hill with a focus on Ottawa's early history. Temporary closed due to COVID-19. $5 adults, $4 seniors/students/youth, $2 children 5-12.
- 4 Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, 861 Prince of Wales Dr, ☏ +1 613-991-3044, toll-free: +1-866-442-4416. Exhibitions: 9AM-5PM daily late Feb-late Nov. Animal barns: 9AM-5PM daily all year. A working animal farm in the city. You can visit animal barns, see various demonstrations and exhibitions, and ride on a horse-drawn wagon. The museum also has a playground and picnic area. It is very popular with young children and a welcome change of pace for kids who have seen enough history after visiting some of the other sights. $7 adults, $6 students/seniors, $4 children 3-14, $16 families (2 adults and 3 children), free for children under 3. Seniors free on Tuesday. Admission to animal barns is by donation during time of year when the exhibitions are closed.
- 5 Canada Aviation and Space Museum, 11 Aviation Parkway (at Ottawa/Rockcliffe Airport), ☏ +1 613-993-2010, +1 613-990-7530 (TTY), toll-free: +1-800-463-2038, fax: +1 613-993-3655. 10AM to 5PM, daily, closed Tuesdays. Former RCAF base with civilian and military aircraft ranging from pre-World War I to modern, including 1920s-1940s bush planes, war planes from both World Wars and the Cold War, surviving components of the 1950s' Avro Arrow interceptor and Space Shuttle Endeavor's Canadarm, a Canadian-built robotic arm. Guided tours, boutique. $15, student/seniors $13, Youth (ages 3-17) $10.
- 6 Canadian Museum of Nature, 240 McLeod St. K2P2R1, ☏ +1 613-566-4700, toll-free: +1-800-263-4433. W F-Su 10AM-4PM; Th 10AM-7PM. Open on some holiday Mondays. Galleries of fossils, mammals, birds and geology among others. Free admission Thursdays after 4PM and all day Canada Day (July 1st). $17 adult (general admission), $15 senior/student, $13 child (3-12).
- 7 Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Place, ☏ +1 819-776-7000, toll-free: +1-800-555-5621. Sept–June: M–W F–Su 9:30AM–5PM, Th 9:30AM–8PM. June–Sept: M–W F–Su 9:30AM–6PM, Th 9:30AM–8PM. The museum presents Canada's involvement in armed conflict beginning with battles between the French and British, through to the World Wars, Korea, and the country's current involvement in NATO and UN operations. $12 for adults. A joint War Museum and Museum of History ticket $18 (good for one entry into each museum in a three-day period). Free on Th after 6PM, and on November 11.
- 8 Carleton University Art Gallery, St. Patrick's Building, 1125 Colonel By Drive, ☏ +1 613-520-5611. Reopening Sep 25, 2022. Art exhibitions and educational events to explore and activate the ideas that shape contemporary society. free.
- 9 Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, 2940 Ch. Old Montréal Rd (about 25 km east of downtown Ottawa, bus 221 to stop: Old Montréal / Ad. 2907). A museum village featuring buildings from the early 20th century including a railway station.
- 10 Diefenbunker - Canada's Cold War Museum, 3911 Carp Rd, Carp (from Ottawa, take Hwy 417 west to exit 144, then go north on Carp Rd, watch for the sign on the left side of the road), toll-free: +1-800-409-1965. Self-guided tours 11AM-4PM daily. Built to protect the government from nuclear attack, this once-secret bunker is now a museum and National Historic Site of Canada. "Diefenbunker" is a play on "Diefenbaker", the Canadian prime minister in the 1950s who authorized the construction of the facility. In addition to preserving and promoting Canada's Cold War history, the museum offers a variety of visitor programs and services. You can learn, play or shop as you discover the bunker's secrets and relive the experience of the Cold War. Guided tours by reservation only. If you do not have access to a vehicle and are willing to do a 50 minute bus ride plus pay a $30 taxi, you can # take the OcTranpo #95 or #97; # Transfer to the #93 at Lincoln Fields; # Get off at the Legget / Ad. 515 stop; # Walk 3 minutes to Brookstreet Hotel; # Take a taxi to the Diefenbunker. $14 adults, $13 seniors, $10 students , $8 youth 6-18, $40 families (2 adults plus 3 youth), free for children 5 and under.
- 11 Laurier House National Historic Site, 335 Laurier Ave., ☏ +1 613-992-8142, toll-free: +1-888-773-8888, [email protected]. May 1-Jun 30: Th-M 10AM-5PM. 1878 house that is the former residence of two Canadian prime ministers: Sir Wilfrid Laurier (for whom the house is named) and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Adult $3.90, senior (65+) $3.40, youth (17 and under) free.
- 12 National Gallery, 380 Sussex Dr, ☏ +1 613-990-1985. Photography, traditional and modern art from Canadian and international artists. Housed inside a glass building with a giant spider structure on the outside. Free admission Th after 5PM.
- 13 Science and Technology Museum. Tu-Su 9AM-5PM. Several displays are popular with children, including massive locomotives inside the building and electricity demonstrations. Re-opened on November 17, 2017, after years of renovations because of a mould problem, this museum is even more family-friendly than it was before its forced closure. Adult $17, youth (3-17) $11, senior (60+) or student $13.
- 14 Ottawa 67's, TD Place Arena, 1015 Bank St, ☏ +1 613-232-6767. Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
- 15 Atlético Ottawa, TD Place Stadium, 1015 Bank St. Replacing the city's former Ottawa Fury FC is this club owned by Spanish soccer giants Atlético Madrid. Unlike Fury FC, which played at the second level of US soccer (the USL Championship), Atlético Ottawa will play in the domestic Canadian Premier League.
- 16 Ottawa Harlequins, Twin Elm Rugby Park. Rugby Canada Super League
- 17 Ottawa RedBlacks, TD Place Stadium, 1015 Bank St, ☏ +1 613-232-6767, [email protected]. Canadian Football League (CFL)
- 18 Ottawa Senators, Canadian Tire Centre, 1000 Palladium Dr, Kanata, ☏ +1 613-599-0250. National Hockey League (NHL)
Ottawa has dozens of neighbourhood parks and other parcels of green space in the urban core.
- 19 Confederation Park, Elgin St (at Albert St, west of the Rideau Canal). Downtown park, designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, featuring a fountain, totem pole, statues.
- 20 Nepean Point, Alexandra Bridge (behind the National Gallery). Daily 8AM-11PM. A quiet place to watch the sun set, or to take photos of Parliament Hill, the National Gallery, the Museum of History, and the Royal Canadian Mint from angles that don't usually end up in the tourist brochures. Nepean Point is also home to a statue of Samuel de Champlain, and the Astrolabe Theatre (one of the better places to watch the fireworks from on July 1). However, the point is not accessible if you're in a wheelchair. note: closed for renovation until 2024
- 21 Strathcona Park, 25 Range Rd. Strathcona Park is at the eastern end of the Sandy Hill neighbourhood, and is the centrepiece of "Embassy Row". Be sure to see the Lord Strathcona Fountain at the park's north end, and Stephen Brathwaite's play structure (which looks like a ruined building in miniature) in the middle of the park.
- 22 Commissioners Park (at Preston Street & Queen Elizabeth Drive near Carling O-Train station). Located adjacent to Dows Lake, where you can rent boats, it features the Festival of Tulips in May. In summer, there are a number of flower beds with flowers arranged by colour in attractive patterns.
- 23 Hartwell's Lockstation (west side of Carleton University, 400 m from Carleton O-Train station). Pictoresque lock station within a park along the Rideau Canal. One could walk across the locks and continue north to Dows Lake near Carling O-Train station, or northwest to the Canada Agriculture Museum.
- 24 Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Dr, ☏ +1 613-991-4422, toll-free: +1-866-842-4422. Residence tour (without reservations): Apr 30-Jun 26: Sa Su 10AM-4PM, Jun 27-Sep 5: 10AM-4PM daily (unguided open-house tours available Jul-Aug afternoons), Sep 6-Oct 30: Sa Su noon-4PM. Advance reservations required for tours at any time from Nov-Apr, and weekdays May-Jun and Sep-6-Oct 30.. The official residence of His Majesty King Charles III and his representative the Governor General of Canada. The grounds and the residence are open to the public for tours. Reservations are recommended during the low season (September 1 - April 30). Free.
- 25 Royal Canadian Mint, 320 Sussex Drive (a five-minute walk north of the National Gallery), ☏ +1 613-993-8990, toll-free: +1-800-276-7714. 9AM-6PM (Tours are temporarily closed due to COVID-19). Canada's commemorative and collectable coinage is minted here (circulation coinage is minted in Winnipeg), as were the medals for the 2010 Olympics. Tours are available, and there is no charge if you only want to visit the boutique. Price varies depending on day of the week and age of person, group discount rates available.
- 26 Supreme Court of Canada. Canada's highest court and the best example in Ottawa of Art Deco architecture. Its marble Grand Entrance Hall is particularly impressive. The visit includes a tour in the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada hearing room. The visits last about 30 minutes and are provided by law students hired at the Court. The Court is a 5-minute walk from Parliament. Tours are offered in French on the half hour and in English on the hour. No reservations are needed between May 1 and August 30. Visitor reservations are required between September 1 to April 30. Free.
- 27 24 Sussex, 24 Sussex Drive. The official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada. While you cannot enter the building, you can look through the fence from the outside.
There are walking tours to introduce you to the capital area.
- Ottawa Walking Tours offers historical guided walks of Ottawa's downtown core with special stops at areas of historical significance. Tours acquaint guests with the history of the city and allow visitors to learn more about Ottawa’s history, architecture and colourful political characters. Tours are offered year-round and reservations are required. For more information, call ☏ +1 613-799-1774.
- The Haunted Walk of Ottawa offers tours focusing on Ottawa's infamous haunts and darker history. Hear tales of hauntings at some of Ottawa's most well known locations, including the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Bytown Museum and the Ottawa Jail Hostel. Cloaked guides lead guests through the city streets by lantern light-the perfect atmosphere for a good ghost story. Tours run year-round, rain or shine. Reservations are strongly recommended. For more information, call ☏ +1 613-232-0344.
Cinema, Music and Theater
Ottawa has many movie theatres to choose from, but there are also a few that specialize in "foreign" films (i.e., not American), early releases, old returning films and specialty films. The Mayfair Theatre is at 1074 Bank St. near Sunnyside. In addition, the Canadian Film Institute screens films at several venues for the specialist film crowd.
Ottawa has lots of live entertainment, including music and theater from small shows to large productions.
- 1 The National Arts Centre, 1 Elgin St, ☏ +1 613-947-7000, toll-free: +1-866-850-ARTS (2787). Also provides a major venue for dance and orchestral performance.
- 2 The Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC), 1233 Wellington St W (corner of Holland), ☏ +1 613-236-5196, [email protected].
- 3 Ottawa Little Theatre, 400 King Edward Ave (one block south of Rideau), ☏ +1 613-233-8948, [email protected].
- 4 GigSpace, 953 Gladstone Ave (Little Italy), ☏ +1 613-729-0693, [email protected]. A more intimate jazz and blues venue, away from Downtown's beaten path.
Winter officially begins in late December, but daylight is already noiceably shorter by then, and holiday light displays and snow arrive in late November. Cold winters don't keep most locals inside - in fact, many people wish for an early freeze and lots of snow so that conditions are perfect for some annual traditions and winter hobbies.
- 5 Rideau Skateway. 24 hours daily (when frozen). When the tempertures are at their coldest, go skating on the largest outdoor skating rink in the world, the Rideau Canal. Skates, sleighs and ice "tricycles" can be rented, and refreshments purchased from vendors right on the ice. This is also a great place to enjoy a "BeaverTail" (see the listing under "Eat"). Rest areas with heated changerooms, washrooms, firepits, picnic tables, snacks and warm drinks are on the ice at various points. At the end of the boating season, the canal is drained, stairs, chalets, and temporary structures lifed in, and the water level raised just enough to provide .3 m (0.98 ft) of ice thickness. The ice surface is at the bottom of the canal, so it can only be accessed where stairs or ramps have been installed. Professinonal crews plow snow, fill cracks, and maintain the ice surface around the clock as soon as the ice is thick enough. The "skateway" can stretch for 7.8 km (4.8 mi) from the locks next to Parliament Hill to Carleton University, though some sections may be closed if ice conditions are too poor. It's possible to walk along the skateway if you want to visit a fire pit or snack bar. The ice surface is open 24 hours every day, but the vendors and amenities close in the evening. The 2023 season was cancelled due to high temperatures.
- 6 Mooney's Bay Ski Centre, 2960 Riverside Drive, ☏ +1 613-247-4883. The city's trail system serves as an excellent cross-country ski trail system. The city-run ski centre at Mooney's Bay Park is a good starting point if you want classic cross country or skate skiing lessons or need to rent equipment. Trails along the Ottawa River (the Kichi Sibi Winter Trail or Britannia Winter Trail, Rideau River (the Rideau Winter Trail) are other public and scenic routes that are groomed and maintained by volunteers.
- Winterlude. For about two weeks each February, Winterlude (French: Bal de Neige) is the national capital's annual winter festival featuring ice carving and snow sculptures. The festival is spread throughout both Ottawa and Gatineau. Sparks Street is home to the ice-carving competition and public art installations. The Byward Market hosts food experiences, winter activities, and additional locations for interactive art. Other locations throughout the city offer special events throughout the festival, focusing on family activities,
Indigenous culture, and the LGBT community. Some museums offer special programming during the festival. The snow playground, with tubing, ziplining, slides and obstacles courses is in Gatineau.
- Maple Syrup. In early spring (typically peaking in March), when the daytime temperatures are above freezing and night temperatures are below freezing, consider visiting a sugarbush (or sugar shack) for fresh maple syrup, tours of orchards, and demonstrations of the maple syrup boiling process. Taffy on snow is a sugary treat made with freshly boiled maple syrup on fresh snow. There are many to choose from on farms in the countryside. Maple products are also sold at vendors in the Byward Market, and some bars will serve seasonal maple-infused craft beers from local breweries. Ontario's sugar shacks focus less on the culinary aspects of maple syrup than the Cabanes à Sucre found in Quebec, where you could expect a feast of hearty dishes alongside the season's syrup harvest.
- 7 Vanier Museopark Sugar Shack, 200- 300, avenue des Pères Blancs, Vanier, ☏ +1 613-842-9871, [email protected]. Sa Su 9AM-2PM, March and April only. The Vanier Museopark's "Sugar Shack" offers the sugarbush experience without needing to leave the city. Reservations can be made at the website.
- 8 The Tulip Festival. During the Second World War, the Government of Canada sheltered exiled members of the Dutch Royal Family in Ottawa, and even declared part of the Ottawa Hospital as "extraterritorial" so that Princess Margriet of the Netherlands would not be born a British citizen (making her ineligible for the throne of the Netherlands). After the end of the war and every year since, the Dutch royal family has sent thousands of tulip bulbs in gratitude. Each May, they blossom into a spring bonanza of flowering bulbs, and a concert series features well-known Canadian rock and other popular music groups. The festival activities focus on Commissioner's Park, but over a million tulips bloom in public gardens in parks throughout the city.
- Ottawa Jazz Festival. In late June.
- Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival. In summer, one of the largest in the world.
- Bluesfest. Also in summer: The largest blues festival in Canada. It also features rock, pop and world music, and attracts visitors from Atlantic Canada and New England.
- The Fringe Festival. Another summer offering with theatre performances.
- Ferrari Festival. In June, on Preston Street.
- Canada Day. Celebrate Canada's birthday in Ottawa on July 1. While the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings is being renovated, the official spot to gather on Canada Day is Major's Hill Park.
- Capital Pride. Ottawa's annual LGBT pride festival, taking place at Somerset Village (Bank & Somerset), the core of Ottawa's LGBT community.
- The Ottawa International Animation Festival. One of the largest animation festivals in the world, the OIAF is held in September.
- Yoga on the Hill. W noon. During the summer months, a free weekly yoga class is offered on Parliament Hill most Wednesdays beginning at noon. The class is very popular—sometimes attracting more than a thousand people—so it's recommended to arrive a bit early to claim a spot on the grass. Yoga mat recommended but optional; bring your own. free.
- Doors Open Ottawa, [email protected]. Doors Open Ottawa, the second-largest Doors Open architectural event in North America, takes place during the first weekend in June. Over 100 buildings (many of which are normally closed to the public, such as embassies, official residences, museum storage buildings, and city infrastructure facilities) open their doors to the public, offering free admission to part or all of the premises. Most participating buildings also allow photography. While the event takes place Saturday and Sunday from 10AM to 4PM, not all buildings are open both days. It is a hybrid event, with virtual and physical visits.
- Jane's Walk Ottawa. An annual festival of free neighbourhood walking tours organized by volunteers. Jane's Walk is a pedestrian-focused event that improves urban literacy by offering insights into local history, planning, design, and civic engagement through the simple act of walking and observing. They are a lot of fun and you will hear stories that you won't find in any guide book.
The two best known universities in the city are Carleton University and the bilingual University of Ottawa. Bilingual St. Paul's University is a Catholic university with ties to the University of Ottawa, offering various degrees in theology and social sciences. Dominican University College is a Dominican university where theology and philosophy can be studied at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, also in English or French. There is also Algonquin College and the francophone Cité Collégiale.
- 1 Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology, 1385 Woodroffe Avenue (take the transitway to Baseline Station, and walk across Woodroffe Ave. Route 88 is a popular way of getting here), ☏ +1 613-727-4723.
- 2 Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive (the OTrain "Trillium" line stops on-campus at Carleton Station, or take bus routes 10 or 7), ☏ +1 613-520-2600.
- 3 Dominican University College (Dominican College of Philosophy and Theology), 96 Empress Ave (just north of Chinatown), ☏ +1 613-233-5696. A Roman Catholic college of philosophy and theology, affiliated with Carleton University since 2012.
- 4 La Cité collégiale, 801 Aviation Parkway, ☏ +1 613-742-2483, toll-free: +1-800-267-2483. The largest French-language college in Ontario.
- 5 Saint Paul University, 223 Main Street (OC Transpo Route 5), ☏ +1 613-236-1393, toll-free: +1-800-637-6859. A bilingual Catholic Pontifical university, federated with the University of Ottawa.
- 6 University of Ottawa (uOttawa), Tabaret Hall, 75 Laurier Avene East (the O-Train has stops on campus at uOttawa Station), ☏ +1 613-562-5700, toll-free: +1-877-868-8292, fax: +1 613-562-5323.
The Federal Government is the region's largest employer with the high-tech sector firmly in second place. Unless you are a Canadian resident, you will need a work visa to work in Ottawa, and some Federal Government jobs require Canadian citizenship. Most Federal Government jobs require applicants to be bilingual in English and French.
- 4 ByWard Market (downtown, east of the Canal and Sussex Drive, north of Rideau). Among other things, this is a farmer's market; in summer, stalls selling fresh produce and flowers line the streets, and maple syrup bought at the farmer's market costs half the price of the same bottle sold at souvenir shops elsewhere in the Byward Market or anywhere else in the city. It is also a craft and tourist market with a range of shops and the city's busiest entertainment district with restaurants, pubs, bars and many street performers. Interesting to see it first during the day (when it's a shopping destination) and then in the evening (when it's a nightlife destination).
- 5 Sparks Street. A pleasant pedestrian street one block off Parliament Hill; a common tourist thoroughfare for seeing the sights. Along this street you'll find the majority of the tourist shops selling postcards, magnets, and maple syrup. The Astrolabe Gallery, located on this street, is a treasure trove of antique maps and vintage posters. There are several outdoor cafés and restaurants to choose from.
- 6 Westboro Village. A stretch along Richmond Road in the "near west" of Ottawa from Golden east to Tweedsmuir has become a popular tourism and shopping zone with several outdoor stores (clothing and equipment), restaurants and coffee shops. Notable shops include the Mountain Equipment Coop, lululemon, Starbucks, Bridgehead (fair trade coffee), Kitchenalia, a chocolatier and several others.
- 7 Bank Street Promenade. Great mix of stores ranging from chain restaurants to specialty shops. District extends from Wellington St to Gladstone Ave.
- 8 Wellington West. Wellington West is the commercial district of Hintonburg and Wellington Village, located in the west end between Little Italy and Westboro. It is home to independent businesses in Ottawa, such as boutiques, restaurants and food shops, and local art galleries, as well as the Parkdale Market. Notable shops include Hintonburger, Suzy Q Doughnuts, Elmdale Tavern and several others.
Larger shopping malls include the Rideau Centre (downtown), St. Laurent Shopping Centre (East Central), Place D'Orleans (East End), the Bayshore Shopping Centre and Carlingwood Mall (West End).
The last Saturday in May, Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood hosts the annual Great Glebe Garage Sale. Hundreds of residents set up tables in their garages or on their lawns and sell used goods ranging from household knick-knacks to electronics to clothing. Businesses in the area also hold sidewalk sales, and vendors sell artwork, baking, and refreshments. Driving and parking during the sale itself is unnecessary and nearly impossible. Arrive on foot or park and walk into the neighbourhood. For parking, and for the best deals (especially on larger items like furniture), arrive early. The event is bustling by 8AM but continues well into the afternoon. Vendors are encouraged to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Ottawa Food Bank.
Ethnic foods from around the world are available at a wide variety of restaurants and street vendors throughout the city. The Byward Market area has a wide selection of different cuisines; the Chinatown area is along Somerset West (#2 bus from downtown) between Bronson Ave. and Preston St; Little Italy runs along the length of Preston Street, from Carling Avenue to Albert Street (#2 to Somerset & Preston or #3 along Preston).
- 1 BeaverTails, 69 George Street, ☏ +1 613-241-1230, [email protected]. Su-W 10AM-8PM, Th 10AM-11PM, F Sa 10AM-midnight. Try the tasty BeaverTail, a fried-dough pastry associated with Ottawa, although a number of places claim to have created it. It's available in sweet and savoury versions, topped with cinnamon, sugar, icing sugar, etc. In the winter, many places will offer it on the canal. During the summer, the only places downtown to offer it are in the Byward Market on George St., and a small counter in a corner of the Canadian Museum of History. There are a variety of toppings and the taste of the beaver tail stands out more with the classic sugar & cinnamon. However, the locals' favourite is the Killaloe Sunrise, a topping of cinnamon sugar and lemon juice.
Try a poutine from Smoke's Poutinerie, or a shawarma from one of the many around the city. Local favourites include Shawarma Palace and 3 Brothers.
Coffee shops are found throughout the city, and include dozens of two specialty chains Second Cup and Starbucks, in addition to the mainstream Tim Horton's (seemingly planted at every intersection). Bridgehead is a fair trade coffee house and can be found at a half dozen or so locations. Try their small double shot lattes, which are significantly better than their competitors'. There are several coffee houses in Little Italy, on Preston Street. One of the most popular, Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana (200 Preston Street, +1 613-594-5303), also houses an award-winning pastry shop. Bar Robo on Somerset St under the Chinatown arch offers locally-roasted coffee during the day, along with fresh croissants and donuts.
Ottawa has a lot of shawarma (kebab and fixings in pita bread) restaurants and most of them will serve up a great shawarma for around $5. Their busy times are typically weekdays at lunch-hour, and on weekends after the bars close. The Byward Market and Elgin St. have several restaurants to choose from. Shawarma Palace, on Rideau St and in several suburban locations, are another popular choice.
The usual range of diners, bagel shops and fast food restaurants can be found in shopping areas throughout the city. You will also find "chip wagons" or "chip trucks" parked in various locations around the city at lunch time. Most of them serve hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage-in-a-bun, pogos (corn dogs - deep fried, breaded hot dogs on a stick), chips (French fries) and poutine (French fries covered with cheddar cheese curd and gravy - very popular in Quebec and eastern Ontario). You can find the occasional truck that sells Caribbean roti, fish and chips, Canadian "Chinese" food, or other foods. One popular bagel shop is Kettleman's Bagel Co., which has three locations in Ottawa, the original being at 912 Bank St (near Lansdowne Park), and serves Montreal-style bagels.
At lunch time, Di Rienzo and La Bottega Nicastro will sell you a good $5 sandwich; opinion is split among locals as to which is better, but they're both very good. If you're in town for a few days, try them both.
- 2 Ahora Mexican Cuisine, 307 Dalhousie Street (between York and Clarence), ☏ +1 613-562-2081. 11:30AM to 10PM. A good little Mexican canteen. It serves up mains, zippy margaritas, and drinks imported from Mexico.
- 3 Bobby's Table, 255 Montreal Road, ☏ +1 613-740-9333. M-F 6AM-3PM, Sa Su 7AM-3PM. Smoked meat sandwiches on rye bread and old-fashioned baked cheesecake are Bobby's specialties. The smoked meat is Montreal-style done well, and the cheesecake is worth going out of your way for (unless you have a coconut allergy). You can get a generous lunch for $20 and be served in either French or English.
- 4 La Bottega Nicastro, 64 George Street (ByWard Market), ☏ +1 613-789-7575. M-W 9AM-6PM, Th F 9AM-8PM, Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 10AM-5PM,. A fantastic little Italian specialty market, Nicastro's is a contender for the city's best $5 sandwiches, featuring amazing bread (esp. the focaccia) usually baked on the premises. The sit-down lunch kitchen is also well worth a visit.
- 5 Di Rienzo, 111 Beech Street (at Champagne St.), ☏ +1 613-729-4037, fax: +1 613-321-8689. M-F 7:30AM-9PM, Sa Su 8AM-7PM. This little deli tucked away in Little Italy, a secret known to many locals, is famous for the best and freshest deli sandwiches in the city for $5 (taxes included). During the week the lineup can stretch outside the packed little store, but they are arguably the fastest sandwich makers anywhere so don't worry about a long wait. There is also another newer location run by the family at Meadowlands Drive and Fisher Avenue.
- 6 Elgin Street Diner, 374 Elgin Street (just north of Gladstone), ☏ +1 613-237-9700. Always open. A popular 24-hour diner. One of its specialties is the ESD (Elgin Street Diner) Poutine (though true Quebecers should probably abstain). Generally, poutine is French fries, served with cheese curds and gravy on top; they have several versions including the addition of caramelized onions and bacon, Montreal smoked meat, Philly steak, a four cheese blend or Chili. The substitution of mashed potatoes fried with onions and seasoning (called their home fries), or onion rings instead of regular French fries is also an option. Expect the adventure to set you back $6–8 depending on toppings. The diner's hamburgers/cheeseburgers are significantly better than typical fast food fare, and breakfast is served 24/7 365 days a year with no exception.
- 7 Rangoon, 114 Gloucester Street (near O'Connor), ☏ +1 613-680-8821, [email protected]. M-Th 11AM-9PM; F 11AM-10PM; Sa 4-10PM. A one-of-a-kind family-run Burmese restaurant with cheap lunch specials where you can get an appetizer, main course and a drink for about $10! Try the fish noodle soup (mohingha), chicken curry or eggplant curry. A real hidden gem.
- 8 Shanghai Restaurant, 651 Somerset Street West (a few doors east of Bronson), ☏ +1 613-233-4001. W-F 4:30-10PM, Sa 4:30PM-2AM, Sunday 4:30-10PM. A local favourite since 1971, when it was the only Chinese place in the area that is now Chinatown; it is still run by the same family. It boasts drag-queen karaoke on Saturday nights, frequent vernissages for Ottawa's up-and-coming artists, and some of the best Asian cuisine in town.
- Warehouse in the heart of Byward Market is popular among students. Great meals including a burger, fries and tap water, are served for just $5. Only drinks are a bit on the expensive side with around $6. Busy every day of the week, especially after 8PM when it is mostly a bar.
- For the best non-traditional Canadian eats, head down Somerset St West near Bronson to the heart of Chinatown. Here you have a choice of places for Vietnamese, Thai, Cantonese, etc. Vietamese soup-houses, Pho Bo Ga and Pho Bo Ga La, are well-rated. The Yangtze Restaurant and Chu Shing Restaurant (across the street from it) are large box Chinese restaurants popular with Ottawa's Chinese clientele. The Jadeland Restaurant is a small popular Chinese restaurant set in a converted house and has been well reviewed for its tasty dishes and low prices. Another good source for ethnic foods is the stretch on Rideau between King Edward and the bridge to Vanier. You can find Middle Eastern, African and Asian food here.
- 9 Pho Bo Ga 2, 843 Somerset Street West (near Rochester), ☏ +1 613-234-7089. 10AM-2AM.
- 10 Pho Bo Ga L.A., 784 Somerset Street West (between Lebreton and Booth), ☏ +1 613-230-2931. 10AM-10:30PM.
- 11 Yangtze, 700 Somerset Street West (just west of the Imperial Arch that spans Somerset), ☏ +1 613-236-0555, fax: +1 613-236-6825.
- 12 Oriental Chu Shing Restaurant, 691 Somerset Street West (just west of the Imperial Arch that spans Somerset), ☏ +1 613-233-8818.
- 13 Jadeland, 625 Somerset Street West (near Percy Street, east of the core Chinatown), ☏ +1 613-233-0204. Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F Sa 11AM-midnight.
- For Indian, there is Rose's Cafe (in the Byward Market and one on Gladstone), but also try Curries (Gloucester and O'Connor, between Bank and Elgin near the business district). For a somewhat higher-end buffet experience, yet authentic, try Host India on Montreal Rd. For Indian food from Kerala state, try Coconut Lagoon on St. Laurent Blvd. (in the same price range as Host India), ranked #1 on Food Network's "10 Popular Indian Restaurants in Canada".
- 14 Rose's Café Also, 349 Dalhousie Street (ByWard Market), ☏ +1 613-241-8535.
- 15 India Curry House, 114 Gloucester Street (Gloucester and O'Connor, between Bank and Elgin near the business district), ☏ +1 613-598-6970.
- 16 Host India, 622 Montreal Road (two blocks west of the Montfort Hospital), ☏ +1 613-746-4678.
- 17 Coconut Lagoon, 853 St. Laurent Boulevard (just north of McArthur), ☏ +1 613-742-4444, [email protected]. Coconut Lagoon serves Kerala cuisine, subtly different from other South Indian styles (although people kept asking for Butter Chicken so it's on the menu as well). The restaurant's executive chef and owner Joe Thottungal took the silver medal at the Canadian Culinary Championships in 2017, and the gold medal at the Gold Medal Plates Culinary Competition 2016. There are vegan-friendly dishes on the menu. The restaurant is re-opening in August 2022.
- 18 Zak's Diner, 14 Byward Market Square, ☏ +1 613-241-2401, [email protected]. Always open. The best milk-shakes are found at Zak's, a 24-hour diner in the Byward Market. They're really good, made with ice-cream, and for the $6.99 they cost you get a large glass full plus the shaker with what didn't fit in the glass. Other dishes are quite good, with a "more calories for your money" attitude (as illustrated by the massive amount of milkshake served), which is nicely honest about fast food; however it may seem a bit expensive as the burgers start at $14.49 and if you add on the paid extras you can easily get in excess of $19. Late on week-end nights (2-3AM), it's packed as people go for their after-bar poutine. There are two additional locations on Elgin Street and in Kanata.
Major restaurant areas can be found on Elgin Street, on Bank Street in Centretown, on Bank Street in the Glebe, in Westboro and in the Byward Market, with entrees ranging from $12–25. Similar restaurants can be found in major suburban shopping areas too.
- 19 The Empire Grill, 47 Clarence Street, ☏ +1 613-241-1343. Has a great patio in the summer and delicious food year-round. Expect to pay more than $25 for an entree. $30 main courses.
- 20 Johnny Farina's, 216 Elgin Street, ☏ +1 613-565-5155. Italian food
- The Works. Hard to argue that these are not the best burgers around. The selection is top notch and toppings are bountiful. Also served are delicious onion rings, milk shakes and cold beer, all in a funky industrial decor. Choose your burger from the traditional beef, elk, vegetarian, or other options. Expect to pay $20 or more for a burger with sides, and not to regret it. They're becoming an Ontario-wide chain, but Ottawa is where the Works started, and where they have their largest market penetration (seven locations as of January 2017). There are three locations where tourists in Ottawa might stumble across them; these are the ones listed below.
- 21 The Works - The Glebe, 580 Bank Street (just south of Highway 417), ☏ +1 613-235-0406. Su-W 11AM-10PM, Th-Sa 11AM-11PM.
- 22 The Works - Manor Park, 363 St Laurent Boulevard (corner of Hemlock), ☏ +1 613-748-0406. 11AM-10PM.
- 23 The Works - Westboro Village, 326 Richmond Road (corner of Churchill), ☏ +1 613-564-0406. Su-W 11AM-10PM, Th-Sa 11AM-11PM.
- 24 Malone's Lakeside Bar & Grill, 1001 Queen Elizabeth Dr (at the Dows Lake Pavilion), ☏ +1 613-232-1001. Seating overlooking beautiful Dows Lake; lunch specials offered. Moderately priced.
- 25 Taqueria La Bonita, 1128 Cadboro Rd (just off Ogilvie, near the Gloucester Centre), ☏ +1 613-695-7373. Su-W 11AM-9PM, Th-Sa 11AM-10PM. If you're looking for Mexican cuisine (not Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex) in Ottawa, they're worth the drive out of downtown. La Bonita is a small restaurant - while you don't need to make reservations, they're recommended during busy hours. $20-40 plus alcohol.
Ottawa has excellent options for fine dining if you feel like spending a bit extra. Budget $150 for a three-course dinner for two, including wine and gratuity.
- 26 Beckta, 226 Nepean Street (downtown Ottawa). Excellent modern restaurant with a variety of tastes centred on locally available foods. Also features an extensive wine list.
- 27 E18hteen, 18 York Street (in the Byward Market), ☏ +1 613-244-1188. An upscale, modern restaurant and bar located in a renovated 19th century heritage building. It is the place to see and be seen.
- 28 Merlot, 100 Kent Street (At the Marriott Hotel). Merlot has received glowing reviews for its cuisine and is Ottawa's only revolving restaurant.
- 29 Signatures, 453 Laurier Ave. East, ☏ +1 613-236-2499. Tu-Sa 5:30–10PM. At Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute is a French restaurant with a five-diamond rating from CAA/AAA that is considered among the very best in the city.
- 30 The Wellington Gastropub, 1325 Wellington Street West (Westboro), ☏ +1 613-729-1315. Weekdays 11:30AM-2PM and 5:30-9:30PM, F 11:30AM-2PM and 5:30-10PM, Sa 5:30-10PM. A small second-floor walk-up in Westboro, the Wellington Gastropub changes its menu daily and has over a dozen craft and microbrewery beers on tap. Three-course table d'hôte $35 at lunch or $53 at supper, plus alcohol and gratituty.
- 31 Gitanes, 361 Elgin Street (Centretown). French-inspired restaurant that uses local ingredients. Great wines and creative cocktails. Gitanes also has sister restaurant across the street, Gitanes Burger, with amazing burgers.
Vegetarian and vegan
- 32 CafeMyHouse, 1729 Bank St. At offers vegan friendly cuisine and is located within 10 minutes of the airport and of the train station. The restaurant specializes in brunch and lunch options, and average around $15 a meal.
- 33 Govinda's Restaurant, 212 Somerset St. E (just E of King Edward, off the University of Ottawa campus), ☏ +1 613-565-6544. M-F 5–8PM, Su yoga festival 5–8PM. offers a simple vegan buffet. The best cheap eats in town. Operated by ISCKON (Hare Krishna movement). $5-7 per person.
- 34 The Green Door, 198 Main St, ☏ +1 613-234-9597, fax: +1 613-234-6771, [email protected]. Tu–Su 11:30AM–8:30PM. At offers a vegetarian and vegan buffet and is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa. It offers private and communal tables.
- 35 Pure Kitchen Ottawa, 357 Richmond Road, ☏ +1 613-680-5500. Hip restaurant serving vegetarian and vegan food. Wraps, burgers, rice bowls, salads. Bar offers juice, beer, wine. Reservations only for parties of 6 or more. Second location in Centretown at 340 Elgin Street.
- 36 So Good Restaurant, 717 Somerset Street West (2 blocks West of Bronson), ☏ +1 613-223-0138. Has a separate vegetarian menu (dishes are also vegan unless stated) and there are many choices. Try anything "Wu Se" (peanut sauce). $10.
The most popular bar areas are in the Byward Market, along Wellington Street in Westboro, along both Elgin Street and Bank Street between Somerset and Gladstone in the Centretown area, and further south on Bank. There are pubs and bars scattered throughout the city as well.
You can also take a small trip over the Ottawa river to Gatineau. Bars in both Ottawa and Gatineau close at 2AM (even though the rest of Quebec has a last call of 3AM). Quebec has a lower minimum age to purchase alcohol (18, vs. 19 in Ontario) and sells beer in corner stores. Ottawa police often set up checkpoints near the bridges to catch drunk drivers returning from Quebec after closing time.
Smoking (both traditional and e-cigarettes, also called "vaping") of tobacco or cannabis is not permitted in restaurants and bars, or on patios.
Combining the Irish tradition for casual hearty meals, with Quebec’s cinq à sept (“five to seven” - a social gathering in the two hours after leaving work), Ottawa’s many pubs are lively throughout the day, all week long. Several pubs have grown into local chains, while maintaining a character endeared to each neighbourhood.
- Clocktower Brewhouse. A microbrewery with five locations throughout the city. Excellent beer at a good price with a very tasty and well priced menu.
- 1 Clocktower Byward Market, 89 Clarence Street (between Dalhousie and Parent), ☏ +1 613-241-8783, [email protected]. M-F 11:30AM-midnight; Sa 10:30AM-midnight; Su 10:30AM-11:45PM.
- 2 Clocktower Elgin, 200 Elgin Street (near Lisgar, across from City Hall), ☏ +1 613-724-4561, [email protected]. M-F 11AM-midnight, Sa Su 10AM-midnight.
- 3 Clocktower Glebe, 575 Bank Street (the north end of The Glebe, just south of Highway 417), ☏ +1 613-233-7849, [email protected]. M-F 11:30AM-midnight; Sa 10:30AM-midnight; Su 10:30AM-11:45PM. The original Clocktower Brewhouse, this is the location with the clock tower and the brew house.
- 4 Clocktower New Edinburgh, 422 MacKay Street (corner of Beechwood), ☏ +1 613-742-3169, [email protected]. M-F 11:30AM-midnight; Sa 10:30AM-midnight; Su 10:30AM-11:45PM.
- 5 Clocktower Westboro, 418 Richmond Road (corner of Berkley), ☏ +1 613-680-5983, [email protected]. M-F 11:30AM-midnight; Sa 10:30AM-midnight; Su 10:30AM-11:45PM.
- 6 Pub Italia, 434 1/2 Preston Street (near Dow's Lake and the Experimental Farm), ☏ +1 613-232-2326. M 4PM-1AM; Th-Sa 11AM–1AM; Su noon-midnight. An Irish/Italian pub with hundreds of bottled beers listed in its "Beer Bible", especially Belgian. Decent pizza and pastas, but other places in Little Italy have better; you're going here for the beer, not the food. Intimate faux Medieval/Gothic décor; a bit strange, but the patio is very nice.
- The Royal Oak. Several cozy locations, serving traditional pub food from lunch into the late evening.
- 7 Royal Oak Bank at Gloucester, 188 Bank St, ☏ +1 613-232-1057. M-F 11:30AM-2AM; Sa Su 11AM-2AM.
- 8 Royal Oak Wellington at Hinton, 1217 Wellington St W, ☏ +1 613-728-6661. M-F 11:30AM-2AM; Sa Su 11AM-2AM.
During the day, the Byward Market’s produce stands and small shops are busiest, but in the evening, it’s the city’s entertainment district. In the warmer months, the boulevards and streets surrounding the market building, and courtyards framed by historic stone buildings come alive with large patios.
- 9 Chez Lucien, 137 Murray St (corner Dalhousie), ☏ +1 613-241-3533. 11AM-2AM, daily except holidays. Pleasant bistro and bar, serving pub fare including excellent burgers and fries. A good selection of microbrew beers.
- 10 Heart & Crown (Irish Village, Peter Devine's), 67 Clarence Street (Byward Market), ☏ +1 613-562-0674. 11AM-2AM daily. Ottawa's largest pub complex, forming a maze of busy bars and restaurants. Including the eponymous Irish Village (loud, lots of live music) and The Heart and Crown. The fish and chips has a generous serving of fish.
- 11 Dominion Tavern, 33 York Street (Byward Market), ☏ +1 613-241-7706. 11AM-2AM daily. Simple beers and some pool: picture your friend's basement apartment, even serving 40s of beer (a 40-ounce glass).
- 12 The Lookout Bar, 41 York Street (ByWard Market), ☏ +1 613-789-1624. Su M 2-10PM, Tu-Sa 2PM-2AM. They have a very popular "bois night" on Thursday that attracts lots of people. Drag shows on Friday and Saturday nights.
- 13 The Rainbow Bistro, 76 Murray St (Byward Market), ☏ +1 613-859-5123, [email protected]. Th-F 7PM-1AM, Sa 7PM-2:30AM, Su 3-8:30PM. Multi-story bar with live music throughout the week. Dedicated regulars mingle with local and well-known names in the jazz and blues scene.
Bank Street is the city’s commercial spine, connecting many of the neighbourhoods in downtown Ottawa to Wellington Street and Parliament Hill. In it’s downtown blocks, it’s a lively pedestrian friendly Main Street. The intersection of Bank and Somerset is the center of Ottawa’s LGBT community. South of the Queensway, Bank passes through the family friendly, trendy "The Glebe" neighbourhood.
- 14 Prohibition Public House, 337 Somerset St W, ☏ +1 613-565-2704, [email protected]. M-Th 5-11:30PM, F 5PM-2AM, Sa 11AM-2AM, Su 11AM-11:30PM. Craft beers, cocktails, and creative sangria with a seasonal locally sourced menu for snacks and meals.
- 15 Quinn's Ale House, 1070 Bank Street (Beside the Mayfair Theatre), ☏ +1 613-523-2200. M-Th 4PM-2AM, F-Su 3PM-2AM. A small but cozy sports bar and pub located next to the Mayfair Theatre. Expect good pub fare, a nice ambiance and good selection of beers.
- 16 Flora Hall Brewing, 37 Flora St, ☏ +1 613-695-2339. M-Th 4-11PM, F 4PM-midnightk Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-11PM. Brewery and restaurant, with an extensive kitchen menu and full bar
- 17 Irene's, 885 Bank St, ☏ +1 613-230-4474. M-F noon-2AM, Sa Su 11AM-2PM. Pub with weekend brunch, and a busy calendar of music and events throughout the week.
Elgin Street runs parallel to Bank Street, connecting neighbourhoods further east in the downtown to the National Arts Centre and Chateau Laurier.
- 18 D'Arcy McGee's, 44 Sparks Street (at Elgin), ☏ +1 613-230-4433. Su-W 11:30AM-10PM, Th 11:30AM-11PM, F Sa 11:30-midnight. Lively Irish pub. Beautiful architecture with impressive food selection.
- 19 The Lieutenant's Pump, 361 Elgin Street (corner of Waverly), ☏ +1 613-238-2949. M-Tu 4PM-1AM, W-Sa 11-2AM, Su 11-1AM. British pub with a good variety of food selections and inexpensive draught beer.
- 20 The Manx, 370 Elgin Street, ☏ +1 613-231-2070. Great microbrews, wide Scotch selection, bohemian/hipster feel.
- 21 The Standard Luxury Tavern, 360 Elgin St (three blocks north of the Canadian Museum of Nature), ☏ +1 613-232-6274, fax: +1 613-232-9265, [email protected]. M-F 4PM-2AM, Sa Su 10AM-2AM. A restaurant during the day, pumping club/lounge at night. The Standard is popular Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with a different style of music each night. Friday is excellent old-school and modern hip-hop/R&B while Saturday is a little of everything. Excellent beer tap selection and daily drink specials.
- 1 Barefoot Hostel, 455 Cumberland St (a block south of Rideau St.), ☏ +1 613-237-0336, [email protected]. Check-in: before 10PM. A clean, modern hostel located downtown, offering only private rooms. Included for use is a mini-kitchen (no stove), back patio with lounge chairs, common room with a TV, computer (with internet), free WiFi, plush bed linens, lockers and three shared bathrooms. The check-in desk is at The Swiss Hotel, around the corner at 89 Daly Ave. From $109.
- 2 Ottawa Backpackers Inn, 203 York Street, ☏ +1 613-241-3402, toll-free: +1-888-394-0334, [email protected]. Part of Backpackers Hostels Canada, includes kitchen, free wireless internet and free coffee/tea. In a converted house into hostel, in the market block. The staff and the atmosphere are very friendly. Allergy warning: they have a cat. Dorm bed from $34.
- 3 Auberge King Edward Bed and Breakfast, 525 King Edward Avenue (Downtown Rideau). Well-preserved Victorian architecture packed with character. Free parking and WiFi. $160.
- 4 Australis Guest House, 89 Goulburn Avenue (East of Downtown Rideau), ☏ +1 613-235-8461. Check-in: 1PM/flexible, check-out: 11AM. Run by an Australian expat, this 2-room B&B gets praise for fresh-cooked breakfast. Free Wifi. Limited parking available, ask. $119-149.
- 5 ByWard Blue Inn, 157 Clarence St (Byward Market), toll-free: +1-800-620-8810. A B&B hotel in the picturesque Byward Market with refrigerators, microwaves, private balconies. B&B from $155, parking $8-15/day.
- 6 Cartier Place Suite Hotel, 180 Cooper St (East of Elgin St), ☏ +1 613-236-5000, toll-free: +1-800-236-8399, [email protected]. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Pet friendly downtown suite-style accommodations. Rooms provide small kitchens and seating areas. Hotel offers fitness center with pool and sauna. From $150.
- 7 Courtyard by Marriott Ottawa East, 200 Coventry Rd (off Hwy 417, near the train station), ☏ +1 613-741-9862. Complimentary internet access and parking. 395 guest rooms, each with wet bar. Indoor pool, whirlpool, 24-hour exercise room, and business center. Bistro and meeting facilities on-site. From $150.
- 8 Novotel Hotel, 33 Nicholas Street (Downtown Rideau), ☏ +1 613-230-3033, toll-free: +1-855-677-3033, fax: +1 613-760-4765, [email protected]. Modern hotel with an emphasis on energy conservation. Modern restaurant and banquet facilities. This location has free internet kiosks in the main lobby open to the public. B&B double from $182.
- 9 Sheraton Ottawa Hotel, 150 Albert St (Downtown). Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Comfortable rooms in a partially-renovated hotel tower. On-site restaurant, fitness, and concierge services. From $219.
- 10 Swiss Hotel, 89 Daly Avenue (Downtown Rideau), ☏ +1 613-237-0335, toll-free: +1-888-663-0000. Check-in: 3-11PM, check-out: 11AM. A charming, cozy, 22-room hotel located in the heart of Ottawa. The Inn was built in 1872 from limestone in a 19th-century Vernacular Classical Revival. Swiss Hotel offers traditional Swiss hospitality with modern comfort. Free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, rooms are equipped with iPads. Optional healthy buffet breakfast is offered daily with Bircher-Muesli and fresh ground Swiss espresso. Double bed from $178.
- 11 University of Ottawa, 90 University Private. From May to August, university housing is offered as hotel-like guest rooms in one of its newer housing complexes. Rideau double room $130; 90U suite with bath $120; dorm with shared bath, $40.
- 12 Delta Ottawa City Centre, 101 Lyon St N (Downtown), ☏ +1 613-237-3600. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Sleek 1967 modernist tower on the quieter west side of downtown. Includes wireless Internet. Fitness center has a large pool and sauna. Underground parking available on-site at an additional cost of $26/day. Double from $279.
- 13 Andaz Ottawa, 325 Dalhousie St (Byward Market), ☏ +1 613-321-1234. Check-in: noon, check-out: 10AM. Owned by Hyatt. Spacious, pet friendly rooms, with a 24-hour fitness center. Double room from $289.
- 14 Arc, 140 Slater St (Downtown), ☏ +1 613-238-2888, toll-free: +1-800-699-2516, [email protected]. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. A trendy boutique hotel with prices to match its style. Double from $200.
- 15 Chateau Laurier (Fairmont Chateau Laurier), 1 Rideau St (just east of Parliament Hill), ☏ +1 613-241-1414, toll-free: +1-866-540-4410, [email protected]. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: noon. The city's grand old hotel: its oldest and most famous luxury hotel as well as one of its landmarks. Rooms facing west overlook the Rideau Canal locks and have stellar views of the Parliament buildings. This hotel once housed the offices of CBC Radio in Ottawa and the studio of well-known portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh. Several framed Karsh photographs are hung in the hotel lounge. His (and his wife's) home suite is now available for guests and displays a small sampling of framed prints on the walls. Extra daily charges for parking or Wi-Fi. If you're not staying overnight, you can also experience the hotel's grandeur in one of the bars or restaurants. Traditional afternoon tea is served daily. Double from $360.
- 16 Lord Elgin, 100 Elgin St, ☏ +1 613-235-3333, toll-free: +1-800-267-4298, [email protected]. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Centrally located on Elgin Street across from the National Arts Centre, a stone's throw from Parliament Hill, and one of Ottawa's two classic hotels (the other being the Chateau Laurier). While it has "splurge" rates, most rooms are reasonably priced. Good value, and a Starbucks off the lobby. Double from $279.
- 17 The Ottawa Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent St (Downtown), ☏ +1 613-238-1122, toll-free: +1-800-853-8463. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. The tallest hotel (and briefly the tallest building) in Ottawa, one block from the Parliament Buildings. Features a revolving restaurant, Kids’ Zone, an indoor pool, sauna and fitness center. Double from $229.
- 18 The Westin Ottawa, 11 Colonel By Dr (near Parliament Hill), toll-free: +1-866-716-8101, [email protected]. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. This hotel is also connected to the Rideau Centre and the Ottawa Convention Centre by a walkway. It is steps from Parliament Hill and the Byward market and each of the 496 rooms features the ten-layer Heavenly Bed. From $159.
- 19 reStays, 101 Queen St, ☏ +1 613-688 6200, [email protected]. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: noon. Boutique hotel. Has a great view of Parliament Hill. Rooms include full kitchen. Studio-style suite from $279.
The area codes for Ottawa are 613 and the overlay code 343. Hull (819, overlaid with 873) has the full Ottawa local calling area. Ten-digit dialling (area code+local number) is required for all local calls.
Most coffee shops, hotels, and public library branches have free wi-fi Internet access, although the speeds may be slower than you're accustomed to. There are internet cafes throughout the city.
Ottawa is a very safe place to live and visit, so if you use common sense it is at least as safe as any other city. There are many tourists in the city, especially in summer months, and there are very few incidents of robbery or assault.
There have been incidents on buses and at transit stations of violence and swarmings/robberies, even during daytime hours. OC Transpo has hired new constables and placed plainclothes security and cameras on select buses and trains to counter the problem. Use common sense, especially when riding at night, every transit station has multiple emergency call boxes. After dark, take extra care in areas near downtown such as Lowertown East, and also Hintonburg, Vanier, Bayshore, Ledbury, Heatherington, Caldwell and South Keys. These neighbourhoods are known to have gang presence and drug problems. (Ledbury, Heatherington, and South Keys have nothing in the way of tourist draws, anyway.) The section of Rideau Street between Sussex Drive and King Edward Avenue is infamous for homeless people and panhandlers (they'll thank you and wish you a good day, even when you don't give), though this rarely causes problems for anyone. Ottawa is generally very safe, but like any other city it has bad apples.
Ottawa is the fourth coldest capital city by annual average temperature, but it has the second coldest January, only topped by Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Add to that nearly 3 m (10') of snow per average winter and throw in an ice storm from time to time, winter can be a challenge but locals do a great job of handling it particularly with recreation. Summers are (normally) short, warm and at times hot and humid. Humidity in the summer can make the heat feel unbearable, while humidity in the winter, coupled with wind chills, can make the cold feel very brutal. Dress for the weather and don't forget to cover your head and ears with a warm hat. Ottawa is not a very fashion-minded city, but in winter, everyone throws in the towel.
- See also: Cold weather
The emergency telephone number for police, fire, and ambulance is 9-1-1.
All pay phones at O-Train stations have buttons that you can use to make a free call to the Distress Centre of Ottawa, or you can call 613-238-3311 if you're anywhere in Ottawa. They'll help with any mental health concerns. Service is provided in English and French.
Embassies and High Commissions