Ottawa is a very popular tourist destination in the spring and in summer and people come from all other the country to see what the national capital looks like.
I have been living in Ottawa since 2002 so I know the city pretty well. Coming to visit this summer? Here are ten quick tips!
You will go to the Byward Market because it’s right in the centre and this is where all tourists end up. There is nothing wrong with it—it’s conveniently located by Parliament Hill, the Rideau Centre, the major bus stops (Rideau Street and McKenzie King Bridge) and it’s very walkable. However, keep in mind that it is a tourist trap. I wouldn’t recommend eating here since the food is expensive and not so great. Do avoid Le Moulin de provence (the worst “French” bakery in my opinion) and the Fish Market Restaurant (the reviews are pretty awful).
Take a tour of the Parliament (in French or in English!). It’s not boring, it’s free, it’s cool and you can take the elevator up the Peace Tower for a great panoramic view of Ottawa. Oh, and did I say it was completely free?
Do check out Ottawa’s neighbourhoods such as the Glebe, Westboro, Little Italy (mostly good for restaurants, not much there), Chinatown (great food, convenience stores and bakeries/coffee shops), Hintonburg, Bank Street, the business district, etc.
If you can, ride a bike. Ottawa has many bike paths (along the Canal, by the river, etc.) and it’s fairly flat. This is a great way to explore the city.
Free parking every weekend at the World Exchange Plaza, conveniently located about two blocks from Parliament Hill (two entrances: Metcalfe & Albert / Queen & Metcalfe). Don’t thank me.
There is a really cool shop for non-tacky unique Canadian souvenirs on Sparks Street: The Snow Goose. They specialize in Inuit and Aboriginal art and have something for every budget. This is where I buy gifts for my family when I go visit.
If it rains, head to the Rideau Centre (for shopping), to the Parliament or to one of the many museums. My favourite one is the Canadian Museum of History, across the river, in Gatineau. You can spend hours there and it’s kid-friendly (they have the Children’s Museum). Most museums are free every Thursday after 5 p.m.
All the 9X buses are very fast and efficient, as they take the Transitway. You can find info on buses on OCTranspo’s website.
Ottawa’s local coffee chain is Bridgehead. When you are sick of Tim Hortons, give it a try!