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Your guide to Ottawa
All About Ottawa
Sitting on the banks of the scenic Ottawa River in southern Ontario, Canada’s capital city boasts beautiful parks and waterways, a mix of traditional and modern architecture, and world-class museums. At Ottawa’s heart is the magnificent Parliament Hill, featuring Gothic Revival buildings that are home to Canada’s government, and the iconic 300-foot Peace Tower, which you can climb for spectacular views of the city. The expansive lawns on the hill play host to many national celebrations and shows throughout the year.
Winding through the center of Ottawa is the 125-mile Rideau Canal — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — connecting the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario. The waterway is popular for boating in the warmer months, and you can cycle or stroll the paths along its banks. A five-mile stretch freezes over in winter and becomes the world’s largest naturally frozen ice-skating rink. Ottawa is also home to the National Gallery of Canada, where you’ll find the country’s biggest collection of Indigenous art. Other highlights include the Canadian Children’s Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Ottawa
The most pleasant time to stay in a vacation rental in Ottawa is between March and May, when the city bursts into color and the days are mostly mild. The Canadian Tulip Festival in May sees millions of flowers blooming all over the city. June through August is the hottest period in Ottawa. And in late June, one of Ottawa’s largest music festivals attracts local and international jazz musicians for 10 days of concerts on outdoor stages around town.
Temperatures drop in autumn, and rain is likely, but the changing colors in the leafy city parks are spectacular. In winter, Ottawa is cold and snowy, with temperatures often dropping well below zero. Still, you can bring warm layers and enjoy the popular Winterlude in February, one of the biggest winter festivals in the world, with live music, ice skating shows, an artisan market, and an international ice carving contest.
Top things to do in Ottawa
Explore the city’s biggest market, which is full of life day and night. It features Canada’s oldest farmers’ market with stalls selling fresh produce, cheeses, and bread. You’ll find arts and crafts stalls, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants here too. You can also taste a favorite local treat, a deep-fried pastry covered in sweet toppings like sugar and cinnamon. Live music and street performers often appear at the market.
The imposing Parliament Hill rises above the city, topped by the Gothic Revival buildings of Canada’s government. You can take a guided visit inside, but there’s much to enjoy outside as well. Every morning in summer, you can see the changing of the guards ceremony, and then in the evening, return to see the striking Sound and Light multimedia show projected on the buildings.
National Gallery of Canada
The art starts even before you even go inside, thanks to the spectacular prism-like glass towers of this ultra-modern building. Once inside, you can browse around one of the largest art museums in North America, with galleries displaying Indigenous and Canadian art, photography, sound sculptures, as well as many temporary exhibitions throughout the year. You can enter for free every Thursday night from 5 until 8.