I recently got back from a week-long vacation in Canada which started off with its capital city – Ottawa. This was my first time in Canada and also happened to be my first time using AirBnb to rent a place. For those who aren’t familiar with Airbnb, it is a rental service through which you can get an apartment or condo with the option of getting it all to yourself or staying with the hosts while they are still there. The city of Ottawa itself is relatively small and we knew almost no matter where we found an apartment, we would be within walking distance to the main attractions we wanted to see. My fiancé and I chose a place in an area called ByWard Market and were very pleased with our choice.
So here is my guide to Ottawa in one day:
Coffee and Breakfast – There were many choices for coffee shops in Ottawa. Tim Hortons is literally on every corner everywhere in Canada and streets by ByWard Market had several coffee shops to choose from as well. If you want to grab a good cup of coffee and a great breakfast burrito, I would recommend Morning Owl. This is a chain coffee shop and has several locations. The one we went to was on 139 Bank Street and was very close to Parliament Hill. If you are not into chains, I would recommend Le Boulanger Francais (The French Baker) which is located on 119 Murray Street and has a vast selection of pastries and will make you a great cup of coffee.
Parliament Hill – If you only do one thing in Ottawa, I would recommend this to be it. Parliament Hill is located in downtown Ottawa and is home to the Parliament building, the beautiful East Block building and the West Block. The Parliament building itself is very impressive and looks very much like it belongs in the heart of a European city. Touring the Parliament building is free and highly recommended. You can get tickets across the street at 90 Wellington, but I would recommend going early. We went in for tickets around 10 am and the earliest tour available was at 3pm. The tour was about 30 minutes long and very informative. With the tour tickets we were also able to go to the top of the Peace Tower and see a stunning view of the city from 4 different directions. We also got to sit in a House of Commons meeting (one on legalization of marijuana nonetheless), which was very interesting as well. Half the meeting was in French, which ended up not being a problem for us as there are what looks like old fashioned telephones on every seat in which you can hear English translation.
East Block of Parliament Hill
One of the views from the top of Peace Tower
Major’s Hill Park – This park is located downtown and has a great view of Parliament Hill and the canals. The park itself is very beautiful with lots of green space and flowers. If you are coming from either ByWard market or the Art Museum, you can walk through this park on your way to Parliament Hill.
National Gallery of Canada and the Giant Spider – When I first started researching Ottawa, I stumbled upon a picture of a giant spider that really intrigued me. This spider is a statue that stands outside the National Gallery and is definitely one of the coolest statues I’ve ever seen. It is truly gigantic and makes for great pictures to post and show off your travels. The spider’s official name is Maman (translating to “mother” in French) and it is made of a mixture of bronze, stainless steel, and marble. The spider also has eggs on the statue which probably has a lot to do with its name. This was definitely one of my favorite things we saw in Ottawa. We unfortunately did not have enough time to go inside the gallery itself, but if we had one more day to spend in the city, we definitely would have made the trip. There are a lot of cool exhibits and a lot to see. The Notre Dame cathedral is actually across the street from the gallery as well, so if you are looking to see both of those during your Ottawa trip, group those into the same part of the day.
ByWard Market – This is the area where we stayed and are very happy with our decision. ByWard market is packed with restaurants, food vendors, little shops and other interesting things. York Street is where the main part of the market is located. There is also a large bakery which sells “Obama cookies” that were made for Obama’s Ottawa visit several years ago and have since gained popularity. This area is about 15 minutes walking distance from downtown and has a distinct atmosphere that is a blend of European and North American. I would definitely recommend looking for a place in this part of town if you are going to Ottawa.
Rideau Canal and Ottawa River – The canals are accessible from many places throughout the city. If you walk down to them from Major’s Hill Park, you can cross mini bridges that are built throughout the canal to get to the other side and have a good view of where the canal meets the Ottawa River. You can also walk down the steps from the park and walk right up to the river from there. There are many benches to sit and look out at the water and is overall just a cute resting stop on your journey through Ottawa. There are also boat tours available that are sold right by the locks of Rideau.
Downtown – There are multiple streets branching off from Parliament Hill that are all considered downtown and have many different restaurants and shops that you can visit. Bank and Elgin Street had the most going on around them. Elgin Street also leads you to a little park with a fountain and benches that is really cute and a great rest stop as well. Downtown is easily walkable and you can take in the mixture of the old gothic style architecture with the new age buildings.
There were a lot of things we didn’t get to do while we were in Ottawa that we would have otherwise done if we had one more day. Here is a list of things we didn’t get to do but were either recommended to us or we found while researching the city.
- Supreme Court
- Canadian War Museum
- Nature Museum
- The Mint
- Notre Dame
I hope this was helpful to those looking to visit Ottawa. If you have any questions at all or any recommendations, don’t hesitate to comment below!