Ottawa, the capital of Canada attracts all visitors with splendid architecture, a beautiful river, world-class museums, a World Heritage Site, and the bustling ByWard shopping and market district – all within walking distance.
A short history
Ottawa, founded in 1826, has gone through gradual expansions up to this date. The centre is situated in the province of Ontario but the province of Quebec is right across the river. At that time the British had a military project to secure a river passage at a safe distance from the presumed hostile United States. This resulted in the Rideau Canal, completed in 1832. Parts of it follows the Ottawa River. Land speculators moved in and the city expanded during the next decades. For strategic, cultural and political reasons Ottawa became the new capital of Canada in 1857. It has kept its status ever since, and now has close to a million inhabitants.
Like any capital throughout the world, Ottawa has its fair share of monumental government buildings, universities, large office edifices and national museums. This is the place where foreign heads of state are welcomed. When I was here, visiting presidents of the United States and Mexico led to a thorough closure of most streets and important buildings in the city centre.
Its location and history makes Ottawa part English-speaking and part French. The art of balancing these languages and cultures seems to be eminently handled by the authorities.
What to see
The Rideau Canal with its locks runs below Parliament Hill and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My fortune was to walk up and down the locks in bright sunshine. While doing so, I was able to watch how they are still in operation almost two hundred years after construction. The Parliament Hill is a definite highlight, seen from a distance and up close. In addition, I managed to get inside on a tour and also watch the changing of guards on the lawn outside.
During my visit I picked two museums, both of which I highly recommend. One was the Museum of Nature which was very popular with families, the other was the National Gallery. As the nation’s capital there are numerous monuments spread out in the city centre. Some are included in the picture gallery at the bottom of this page.
The ByWard Market is where a lot of action is going on day and night. Bars, restaurants and the sale of fresh produce make this an essential part of a visit to Ottawa.
All these sights are better explained in other resources, so let me just finish with a map. You may expand it into a new tab or window, or zoom in and click the markers right here. My suggestion is to zoom in on Ottawa to discover my findings, most of which I actually made it to.
Learn more about what to see at the Ottawa tourist authority (including a great video I couldn’t have made better myself) and in guidebooks like Lonely Planet.
This article is part of a series based on a four-night visit to three major cities in eastern Canada.
(2) Quebec City
(3) Ottawa (THIS)
WHC List #0300 – Historic District of Old Québec
Finally, here are some miniature pictures to click and browse in larger versions.