Founded in the early 1800s, Ottawa has been Canada's Federal Capital for just under 150 years, chosen for both its location and its anglophone, francophone, Protestant, and Catholic make-up, fitting for a country with a number of different immigrant communities. Hemmed in by waterways and surrounded by woodland, the city is Canada's administrative centre and, thanks not least to a wonderful renovation project by the French urbanist Jacques Gréber, there's a lot to see.


Key to both Ottawa of today and of years gone by is the Rideau Canal which cuts the city in two. A good place for a stroll in the winter and a picnic in the summer, the canal is popular with locals and is a good place to start when arriving in Ottawa.

To the west of the Canal lies the area known as High Town with its rich Victorian style. Perched high up on Parliament hill is Canada's neo-gothic Parliament, a fine architectural monument in itself and with a fascinating tour on offer which takes in the House of Commons, the Senate, the Parliament's library and The Peace Tower. Also worth seeing are the changing of the guard and the summer sound and light show telling the story of Canada. Beyond Parliament Hill lie Canada's art deco Supreme Court and its National Library, both of which are impressive and worth a visit.

In the Low Town head first to the turn of century Laurier Castle, a grand, elegant hotel built in 1908 on the banks of the Canal. Next door, the Museum of Contemporary Photograph houses a staggering 158,000 images and never fails in putting on interesting expositions. Not to be outdone, the excellent National Art Gallery has a total of 45,000 works of art with at least 1,200 on show at any time. The majority of rooms showcase the evolution of Canadian art to the modern day, including Alfred Pellan and Kenojuak Ashevak, whilst the rest present a number of well-known European and American artists, such as Monet and Degas. Other sites to be explored and admired include the Catholic Cathedral Basilica of Notre Dame, which dates back to the 1840s, and the beautiful building which houses the Canadian War Museum, both close by.

Outside the centre of town, the residence housing the Queen of England's Representative in Canada, Rideau Hall, has lovely gardens which are open to the public.

Otherwise, pack into the Scotia Place Stadium to watch the Ottawa Senators, the City's main ice hockey team, or take to the ice yourself with the Rideau Canal becoming an 8km long ice-rink in the winter months.


In the Upper Town, Sparks Street is the main commercial area. A pedestrian only zone, with trees, benches and great window shopping, exploring the area is more than pleasant. This is the place for Amerindian and Inuit craftwork and for furs and leather goods. In the Lower Town the main spot is the Byward Market, both open air and covered and selling all sorts, from flowers and fruit to craftwork. Nearby, the Rideau Centre groups together more than 200 shops.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Ottawa has food for all tastes and even the tightest of budgets. Choose between French, Italian, Thai or Chinese cuisine, not to mention the American steakhouses and Canadian diners. Be warned however that kitchens tend to close early.

Ottawa hasn't got Canada's best nightlife, with hearty pubs rather than seething nightclubs. The action tends to be around Eglin Street and Byward Market and the atmosphere is generally warm and easygoing. A better bet is to take in one of the plays or concerts advertised about town or put on in the National Centre for Arts, on the bank of the Rideau Canal.

Tourist Information

Tel: +44 (0)870 380


Ottawa's Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is a twenty minute drive from the centre of town, with a regular and comprehensive bus service. While the majority of flights are domestic, planes also leave to the US, Heathrow, Gatwick and Glasgow.

All car hire locations in Canada