Confederation Building
photo by Vince Alongi

Ottawa is the capital of Canada. The city is situated along the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, opposite Gatineau, Quebec. The metropolitan population of Ottawa is 1.4 million and is currently the fourth largest urban centre in Canada, and the second largest in Ontario after Toronto.

Unique as a North American capital, the city is bilingual. English is the first language of a majority of the population, but French is the first language of a significant number. Staff in most stores and restaurants speak both well and, in general, bilingualism is common.

Ottawa is home to many of the world's cultures as thousands of immigrants from around the world now call Ottawa home. The city is probably best known as the nation's capital but has become one of the fastest growing cities in North America owing to the booming high-tech business sector.


Ottawa started as a humble lumber town, then called Bytown, named after Colonel John By. Colonel By oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, much of which was done by hand, between 1826 and 1832. Lumber mills were built along the Ottawa River in the mid-nineteenth century and those brought employment and wealth to the growing population. The center of action then, as now, was the Byward Market. While it's still the centre of the city's nightlife, it has changed appreciably from the rough and tumble early days of brothels and taverns.

In 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada. The choice was controversial, partly because it sidestepped the rivalry between Toronto and Montreal (then, as now, Canada's largest cities), and partly because the new capital was still a tiny outpost in the middle of nothing much — an American newspaper famously commented that it was impregnable, as any invaders would get lost in the woods looking for it.

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the telephone was demonstrated to the Canadian public for the first time and the city was electrified. The first electric streetcar service was started in 1891. A menu from 1892 states that, "the first instance in the entire world of an entire meal being cooked by Electricity" was in Ottawa.

Today, the major economic sectors are the public service, travel and tourism and the high-tech industry. Nortel Networks, a company that built a significant part of the backbone of the world's internet, maintains large research and development facilities in the region on Moodie Dr at Carling Avenue. Ottawa has proudly remained a green city and is situated at the confluence of three rivers (Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau) as well as the Rideau canal. Many residents make regular use of Ottawa's parks and green spaces, bikeways and cross country ski trails. Many national attractions are located in Ottawa: Parliament Hill; the National Library and Archives; the National Gallery; as well as the Museums of Civilization, Contemporary Photography, Nature, War and Science & Technology.

Getting there

By plane

The newly renovated and expanded MacDonald-Cartier International (IATA : YOW) is Ottawa's main airport with regular arrivals and departures from most major Canadian and many American cities. Services outside North America, however, are limited to a daily flight to London Heathrow and a daily flight to Frankfurt with Air Canada. Air France, KLM, and Swiss International Airlines provide shuttle bus service between Ottawa and Montreal that facilitate connections with their flights operated from Trudeau International Airport. This trip takes about two hours. Via Rail also operates a shuttle bus from the Dorval train station to nearby Trudeau International Airport. This free shuttle service allows one to travel from Ottawa to Dorval (a suburb of Montreal) by rail, and then transfer directly to the airport on a dedicated on-demand bus.

MacDonald-Cartier is easily reached by public transit or taxi and most of the major car rental agencies have a presence at the airport terminal in the parking garage. A taxi to downtown hotels should cost between $20. and $30., while a taxi to nearby hotels should not cost more than $10.. YOW Airporter operates a mini-bus shuttle to most downtown hotels for $14 one-way and $24 return.

To reach downtown via public transit, take the #97 bus (the only bus at the airport) and get out at the MacKenzie King transitway stop (14 stops away) at the Rideau Centre shopping mall. If you take this route before 6:00AM, you will likely follow the more meandering early morning route but will still get to MacKenzie King. To get to the train station, you still take the #97 bus but get out at Hurdman station (10 stops away) and transfer to the #95 eastbound bus to the next stop which is the train station. The bus fare is $3 ($2 with pre-purchased tickets) which gives you 1.5 hours of unlimited bus travel or $7.25 ($6 pre-purchased) for an all-day pass. Exact change is required, Remember to ask the bus driver for a transfer even if you do not intend on transferring to another bus--OC Transpo security personnel may get on the bus at any given stop and ask passengers for proof of payment. You will be required to show your transfer or else you will be fined. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it sucks.

By bus

There is a Voyageur/Greyhound terminal in Ottawa with regular service to Montreal (departure on the hour from 6 a.m. to midnight), Toronto and all other cities in North America. The bus terminal is downtown on the corner of Catherine Street and Kent Street, between Bronson Avenue and Bank Street. Though the bus terminal is downtown, a 15-20 minute walk will get you to most hotels and downtown attractions. Alternatively, a 5-10 minute local bus ride will do the same. (Bus #4, with its stop around the corner from the terminal on Kent Street, is the bus that you will want to take.)

A taxi to most downtown hotels should cost between $8 and $15, and buses are $3 one-way ($2.30 with pre-purchased tickets) or $7 (purchased only on the bus) for an all-day pass.

By train

Passenger train service is run by VIA Rail in Canada and the main train station in Ottawa, Ottawa Station (IATA : XDS) , is less than ten minutes from downtown by car, taxi or bus. There are six trains daily leaving for Montreal and intermediate points, with five trains daily to Toronto and points in between. Service is reduced on Saturday, Sundays and holidays.

Ottawa has two train stations, the Ottawa Station near downtown, and a secondary station, Fallowfield Station , in the western suburb of Barrhaven, convenient for Nepean and Kanata points. All trains to Toronto stop at Fallowfield; two of the six weekday trains to Montreal originate or terminate at Fallowfield.

Ottawa Station is on a high frequency bus route (#95) and takes only 5 minutes to get you downtown, heading west. Fallowfield station is also on the #95 bus route but at the far south-west end.

It is possible to get downtown from the main train station on foot, although it requires a bit of navigation. This path should not be taken alone after dark and may be flooded after periods of intense rain or snow melting. Have a street map with you so you can locate yourself once you have reached Strathcona Park. The station to Strathcona Park takes about half an hour (2.5km). Another half hour from the Park to downtown. A map is available online .

  1. On exiting the station, walk along west (left) arm of the exit.

  2. Before reaching Tremblay road, take the bike path to your left going west.

  3. The path will take you along the bus lanes and will pass over a street called "Vanier Parkway"

  4. You will merge with a path coming up from the parkway; continue walking west, away from the parkway.

  5. Shortly after that, you will come to a fork; go right (north) and continue until you see a pedestrian bridge on your left.

  6. Take the pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River.

  7. Immediately after the pedestrian bridge, turn right towards the north.

  8. Take the paved bike path, go under the bridge and keep following the Rideau River northward for about 1 km.

  9. Once you reach the end of of the path, you are in Strathcona Park.

  10. Use a street map or an on-line map service to find your way from Strathcona Park to your downtown destination; at the north end of the park is Laurier Avenue, a major east-west street; parallel to it and several blocks north is Rideau Street.

By boat

The city is also accessible via the Rideau Canal, now recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site , and which runs from the St. Lawrence River at Kingston to the Ottawa River at Ottawa where it empties via a series of locks. It is possible to dock at Dow's Lake Pavilion and at points along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River near downtown.

By car

By car, Ottawa is about a 4.5 hour trip from Toronto via the 401 and 416 highways, or via highway 7. Montreal is 2 hours away via highway 417. The American border at Ogdensburg, NY is only 45 minutes away to the south, and the border at I-81 is a little further west at an additional 1 hour drive.

Traveling around

Public transit

The city's public transit is run by OC Transpo and includes the bus service as well as the O-Train light rail system. The network includes the Transitway, a bus rapid transit system running through and out of downtown, with frequent service (on the order of 1-2 minutes at rush hour).

The standard bus fare is $3 or 2 tickets. Tickets cost $1.15 each and are available from local stores in sheets of six (but some stores will sell smaller numbers at a time). Children 6-11 require only one ticket. Upon boarding, make sure that you are given a transfer, which allows you to ride any number of buses or trains until its expiry (in roughly 1.5 hours). A day pass can be purchased on any bus for $7 and is good for both buses and the train. On Sundays, families (up to 2 adults and 4 children, age 11 and under) can share a day pass.

The O-Train operates on a "Proof of payment" (POP) system. Valid proof of payment is a bus transfer (see above), or an O-Train ticket purchased from the automated vending machines for $2.50. Note that the vending machine does not accept bus tickets, nor are bus tickets acceptable proof of payment. Children 11 and under can ride the O-train for free. Articulated buses (the long ones) use this same POP system as well, where rear boarding is available to those holding passes or transfers.

Although the downtown is very walkable, if you are within the downtown area (Lebreton station to campus station), you can take any bus going East-West. If you are going to the Byward Market from the transitway (95, 96, 97, 85, 86, 87), get off at Rideau Centre and walk through the mall to the other end. To go North-South, take the 4 (to Catherine Street, edge of Centretown), the 7 (edge of Old Ottawa South) or the 1 (all the way down Bank Street to Ottawa South).

The Ottawa transitway (dedicated roads on which only buses are allowed) offers speedy travel to various regions, then transfer over to local buses, if walking is not an option.

Although not designed as a tourist route, it so happens that the #3 route will take you to some special parts of Ottawa, such as the Experimental Farm, Dow's Lake, the War Museum & Lebreton flats, Wellington/Rideau street, Byward Market, and within a block of Rideau Hall.

By taxi

Taxis are easy to find downtown. Elsewhere, phone for a cab or go to a cab stop (Greyhound, airport, and other places). All taxis should have a meter and the base charge is $2.45. A ride from downtown to the airport will be costly, running between $25 and C$35. Cabs will no take credit cards for fares below $10. Most cab drivers know Ottawa well, but have clear instructions if you're going anywhere in the suburbs as many developments in the outskirts are relatively new. Ottawa cabs aren't supposed to pick up customers off the street on the Quebec side; the converse applies to Quebec cabs in Ottawa. You may phone a Quebec cab if you are in Ottawa and vice versa.

By car

Parking at most attractions is convenient, though on-street parking in downtown areas is sometimes at a premium. If you are driving to downtown on the weekend, parking is free in the garage at the World Exchange Plaza. There are entrances to the garage on both Metcalfe Street and Queen Street. A map is useful if you are going to be driving around downtown as many of the streets are one-way and more than one visitor has complained about navigating the downtown core.

Most major car rental companies have several offices in Ottawa with all of them represented downtown and at the airport.

It should be noted that locals in Ottawa are increasingly angry with the traffic problems caused by parking in the downtown area. They won't vandalise your car, but they will yell at you. The Ottawa town councel has, more than once, put forth motions to progressively discourage all parking in the area, and possibly ban all non-public traffic.

On foot

Ottawa is a great city to explore on foot. With pedestrian-friendly streets and the density of attractions, a car is expensive and unnecessary for the most part. An excellent place to start any tour of Ottawa is the Capital Infocentre, located directly opposite Parliament Hill on Wellington Street. They have maps and brochures for most tourist attractions in Ottawa, many of which are within walking distance.

Popular pedestrian areas, especially during spring and summer months, are the various streets in the Byward Market. Sparks Street, running through downtown parallel to the Parliament Buildings, is a popular pedestrian area during the day and night, particularly in the spring and summer months.

Guided walking tours are available with Ottawa Walking Tours and others such as Around About Ottawa . There is so much to see and do in the Nation's Capital that a tour guide will maximize a visitor's time and experience in this beautiful city. All tours include some history as well as other tidbits of trivia not commonly known. Especially popular is the Haunted Walk of Ottawa that provides a variety of walking tours focusing on the city's darker and more offbeat past.

Remember, during the summer months, the temperature and humidity can be oppresively high so definitely bring water if you're doing any amount of walking. If you are near the public pathways near the canal or the river, there are drinking fountains to refill your bottles.

By bicycle

There are usually a few options for renting bicycles downtown , and of course you can always bring your own. Ottawa is very accessible to cyclists. Again, you may want to start immediately opposite Parliament Hill to pick up a map of the area or find a bicycle rental. Cycling to the attractions around downtown Ottawa is a great way to get around, but don't ignore the Gatineau side of the river. They have several attractions along the river including the Museum of Civilization and if you want to really stretch your legs, Gatineau Park has many great cycling paths.

The city is criss-crossed by over 170km of bicycle paths, some of which are shared with motorists, and some are shared with pedestrians. The city provides Interactive Pathways and Other Maps .

OC Transpo has bicycle racks on the front of many buses. You can load your bike on the rack and then ride the bus for the normal passenger fare. The O-Train will take bikes as well.


There are many national museums and galleries in Ottawa and neighbouring Gatineau. All museums in Ottawa have free admission on Canada Day, July 1, although they are generally very crowded then.

  • Parliament Hill — the primary attraction for most visitors is Parliament Hill. Parliament Hill is in the middle of downtown Ottawa, overlooking the Ottawa River. Not only is the building a fine example of the Gothic revival style, it makes an excellent starting point to visit all other points of interest in the area. Tours of the building are available daily with multiple tours (in both official languages) available at staggered times throughout the day. If you have a group of greater than 10 people, you must make a reservation in advance by calling the reservations office.(613-996-0896) The centre block tour is the most popular as it includes inside views of the House of Commons, the Senate, and the newly renovated Library of Parliament. Same day tickets are free and available on a first come first served basis from 9:00 AM. Pick up your ticket as early as possible to have the best chance of securing a start time that works for you. Tours last from 20 to 60 minutes depending on building activity. Starting July 2nd until Labour Day (early September), tours of the East Block are also available: tour guides take you through the restored offices of some of the Fathers of Confederation (Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir George-Etienne Cartier, governor-general Lord Dufferin and the original Privy Council Office) explaining the beginnings of the Dominion of Canada while historical characters let you in on the daily lives of Canada's past politicians. Tours last about an hour and free same-day tickets can be picked up at the Info-tent on the Hill by West Block. If there are no more tickets available or you have to wait for your time, a fine self-guided walking tour around the grounds of Parliament Hill will keep you busy. Free booklets are available at the visitors' centre. One of the nicer, unexpected views, looking from the bottom up, can be accessed at the back of the Parliament Buildings -- that vantage point also provides a river view of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, across the river in Gatineau (formerly known as Hull). But the walk down from the west corner of the Centre Block allows visitors to visit the Hill cats, housed there. Behind the Parliament Buildings at sunset is a sight to remember. You can walk by the Rideau Canal locks (at the east corner) and visit the Bytowne Museum at river level. The locks divide Parliament Hill from the Chateau Laurier, a former railway hotel. The Chateau Laurier hotel once housed the offices of CBC radio in Ottawa as well as the studio of well-known photographer Yousuf Karsh (who recently passed away). Several framed Karsh photographs are hung in the hotel lounge. His (and his wife's) home suite is now available for guests and displays a small sampling of framed prints on the walls.

  • Parliament Hill Sound & Light Show — developed by the National Capital Commission, the Sound & Light Show is a 30 minute film about Canada projected on the centre block of the Parliament Buildings. Bleacher seating is available and no reservations or tickets required. There are two showings nightly during the summer months.

  • Canadian War Museum — Moved to a new building west of downtown in 2005 but still within walking distance of the downtown attractions, the museum presents Canada's involvement in armed conflict beginning with battles between the French and British, through to the World Wars, Korea, and the country's current involvement in NATO and UN operations. Admission is $10/adult. A joint War Museum and Museum of Civilization ticket can be purchased for $15. Admission is free on Thursdays after 6PM.

  • Museum of Civilization — This museum presents the story of Canada's population beginning with Aboriginal migration across the Bering Strait through European settlement by the Vikings around 1000 CE, and the British and French in the 1500s. The museum is full of a variety of items ranging from full size Salish totem poles to the recreation of a small prairie town complete with grain elevator. The museum also includes an exhibit on Canada Post and a separate museum for children. Admission is $10/adult. A joint War Museum and Museum of Civilization ticket can be purchased for $15. Admission is free on Thursdays after 6PM.

  • Science and Technology Museum — The museum has several displays that are popular with children, including massive locomotives inside the building and electricity demonstrations.

  • Museum of Nature Currently under renovation (as it has been for 20 years), but still accessible to the public.

  • National Gallery 380 Sussex Drive, tel (613) 990 1985. Admission is free on Thursdays after 5PM.

  • Supreme Court of Canada — Canada's highest court and the best example in Ottawa of Art Deco architecture. Its marble Grand Entrance Hall is particularly impressive. Admission is free, booking is required during low season (Sept. 1st - April 30th).

  • Royal Canadian Mint

  • Canada Aviation Museum

  • Bank of Canada Currency Museum — Free admission.

  • Canada Agriculture Museum — A working animal farm in the city. You can visit animal barns, see various demonstrations and exhibitions, and ride on a horse-drawn wagon. The museum also has a playground and picnic area. It is very popular with young children and a welcome change of pace for kids who have seen enough history after visiting some of the other sights.

  • Ottawa Bytown Museum is a small museum at the foot of Parliament Hill with a focus on Ottawa's early history.

  • Rideau Hall is the official residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her representive, the Governor General of Canada. The grounds and the residence are open to the public for tours. Admission is free, Reservations are recommanded during low season (Sept. 1st - April 30th).

For the sports fan, Ottawa has professional sports teams:

  • Ottawa Senators -- National Hockey League (NHL)

  • Ottawa 67's -- Ontario Hockey League (OHL)

  • Ottawa Fury -- USL Premier Development League

  • Ottawa Harlequins -- Rugby Canada Super League

Things to do

Explore the Nation's Capital as it was meant to be seen-up close and on foot.The Haunted Walk of Ottawa offers a variety of tours focusing on Ottawa's infamous haunts and darker history. Hear tales of hauntings at some of Ottawa's most well known locations, including the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Bytown Museum and the Ottawa Jail Hostel. Cloaked guides lead guests through the city streets by lantern light-the perfect atmosphere for a good ghost story. Tours run year-round, rain or shine. Reservations are strongly recommended-for more information, call (613)232-0344 .

If you enjoy the outdoors, especially if you are a cyclist, you should definitely visit Gatineau Park just across the river from Ottawa. Bicycles can be rented during the summer months at the northeast corner of the Chateau Laurier. Ottawa and the surrounding area boasts over 170km of public paved trails on which you can run, bike, walk or rollerblade. These trails extend throughout Ottawa, to the Quebec side of the Ottawa River and lead all the way to Gatineau Park and beyond. In addition, many of these trails pass by some of Canada's most famous political and civic landmarks, making running or biking an excellent way to see the city.

In winter, go skating on the largest outdoor skating rink in the world, the Rideau canal . Skates can be rented, and refreshments purchased, from vendors right on the ice. This is also a great place to enjoy a "beaver tail" which is a local specialty - a bit like funnel cake, often enjoyed with lemon and sugar. It is very similar to, fried dough. The city's trail system serves as an excellent cross-country ski trail system, as do the trails in Gatineau Park.

In early spring (typically March), when the daytime temperatures are above freezing and night temperatures are below freezing, consider visiting a sugarbush for fresh maple syrup. There are many to choose from in the region if you have a car to drive out of the city.

Film theatres and cinemas

Ottawa has many movie theatres to choose from, but there are also a few that specialize in "foreign" films, early releases, old returning films and specialty films. The Bytowne Cinema is on Rideau Street near King Edward and has a detailed online schedule . The Mayfair Theatre is found at 1074 Bank St. near Sunnyside . In addition, the Canadian Film Institute screens films at the National Library and Archives building on Wellington and is a favourite of the specialist film crowd .

Jazz and Blues lovers can find what they are looking for in these Ottawa music calendars: and . Venues include Zoe's at the Chateau Laurier, Vineyards and Chez Lucien in the Market, and the Royal Oak (in Kanata). Find Blues at the Rainbow in the Market, and at Tucson's in Ottawa South on Bank St. at Hunt Club.

Ottawa is host to over 60 festivals and events per year, including:

  • Ottawa Jazz Festival in summer.

  • Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival in summer, one of the largest in the world

  • Bluesfest , also in summer: The largest blues festival in Canada, and featuring as well rock, pop and world music. Many visitors come to Ottawa from Atlantic Canada and New England specifically for Bluesfest.

  • The Fringe Festival , another summer offering.

  • Winterlude , winter fun featuring ice carving and snow sculptures

  • The Tulip Festival , a spring bonanza of flowering bulbs, given annually by the Dutch government, as well as a concert series featuring well-known Canadian rock and other popular music groups.

  • Ferrari Festival in June, on Preston Street.

  • Canada Day , celebrate Canada's birthday in Ottawa on July 1st.

  • Ottawa has lots of live theatre entertainment. That includes at the National Arts Centre (English and French ), the Great Canadian Theatre Company , the Ottawa Little Theatre , and Tara Players (Irish theatre) .

  • The National Arts Centre also provides a major venue for Dance and Orchestral performance .


Ethnic foods from around the world are available at a wide variety of restaurants and street vendors throughout the city. The Byward Market area has a wide selection of different cuisines; the Chinatown area is along Somerset Ave. between Bronson Ave. and Preston St; Little Italy runs along the length of Preston Street, from Carling Avenue to Albert Street.

Also try the tasty beaver tail, a doughy, deep-fried pastry associated with Ottawa, although a number of places claim to have created it. It's available in sweet and savory versions, topped with cinnamon, sugar, icing sugar, etc. In the winter, many places will offer it on the canal. During the summer, the only place downtown to offer it is in the Byward Market on George St. There is a variety of toppings and the taste of the beaver tail arguably stands out more with the classic sugar & cinnamon. However, the locals' favourite is the Killaloe sunrise, a topping of cinnamon sugar and lemon juice.

Coffee Shops are found throughout the city, and include dozens of two specialty chains Second Cup and Starbucks, in addition to the mainstream Tim Horton's (seemingly planted at every intersection). Bridgehead , is a fair trade coffee house and can be found at a half dozen or so locations. Try their small double shot lattes, which are significantly better than their competitors'. There are several coffee houses in Little Italy, on Preston Street. One of the most popular, Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana (200 Preston St, tel (613) 594 5303), also houses an award-winning pastry shop .


Ottawa probably has more schwarma (kebab and fixings in pita bread) restaurants than any other place on Earth and most of them will serve up a great shawarma for around $5. Their busy times are typically weekdays at lunch-hour, and on weekends after the bars close. The Market and Elgin St. both have several restaurants to choose from - the best in Ottawa being Maroush Lebanese food - known locally as "the Shawarma nazi", which has a place on Elgin street and one on Rideau street just outside the Byward market. The usual range of diners, bagel shops and fast food restaurants can be found in shopping areas throughout the city.

You will also find "chip wagons" or "chip trucks" parked in various locations around the city at lunch time. They serve hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, pogos (deep fried, breaded hot dogs on a stick), chips (french fries) and poutine (french fries covered with cheddar cheese curd and gravy - very popular in Quebec and eastern Ontario).

  • Budapest Delicatessen, Byward Market. An institution in Ottawa for as long as most people can remember, Budapest Deli is in the mold of the classic pan-European grocery: white tile walls, 15 kinds of mustard, homemade pickles and sausages in abundance, friendly Polish lady behind the counter. It is most famous for the great sandwich counter, which features classic European cold meat sandwiches (salami, pastrami, smoked turkey, cooked ham) on a fresh roll or kaiser bun, with all the fixings you expect: saurkraut, hot and regular mustad, onion, olive and hot peppers. All sandwiches come in a very generous standard size for 2.99-3.99or if you're feeling up to it, you can pay an extra dollar or so and get yours "mega" sized. This option will often result in not eating for the rest of the day. Hungarians are more than welcome! :)

  • DiRienzo's Deli, Beech Street (just west of Preston Street). This little deli tucked away in Little Italy, a secret known to many locals, is famous for the best and freshest deli sandwiches in the city for $4 (taxes included). During the week the lineup can stretch outside the packed little store, but they are arguably the fastest sandwich makers anywhere so don't worry about a long wait. There is also another newer location run by the family at Meadowlands Drive and Fisher Avenue.

  • Elgin Street Diner (374 Elgin Street, downtown) is a popular 24-hour diner. One of its specialties is the ESD (Elgin Street Diner) Poutine. Generally, poutine (the unofficial national dish of Quebec) is French fries, served with cheese curds and gravy on top; they have several versions including the addition of caramelized onions and bacon, Montreal smoked meat, Philly steak, a four cheese blend or Chili. The substitution of mashed potatoes fried with onions and seasoning (called their home fries), or onion rings instead of regular French fries is also an option. Expect the adventure to set you back $6-8 depending on toppings. The diner's hamburgers/cheeseburgers are significantly better than typical fast food fare, and breakfast is served 24/7 365 days a year with no exception.

  • For the best non-Canadian eats, head down Somerset street (West) near Bronson to the heart of Chinatown. Here you have a choice of places for Vietnamese, Thai, Cantonese, etc. Vietamese soup-houses, Pho Bo Ga and Pho Bo Ga La, are well-rated. The Yangtze Restaurant and Chu Shing Restaurant (across the street from it) are large box Chinese restaurants popular with Ottawa's Chinese clientele. The Jadeland Restaurant is a small popular Chinese restaurant set in a converted house and has been well reviewed for its tasty dishes and low prices.

  • For a great Thai fusion, check out Hot Peppers on Somerset (just off Kent). Be sure to try the coconut rice.

  • For Indian, there is Rose's Cafe (in the Market and one on Gladstone), but also try Curries (Gloucester and O'Connor, between Bank and Elgin near the business district). Or Moni Mahal on Laurier Street (business district, near Parliament Hill) for a large buffet with tons of vegetarian and vegan options (well labeled).

  • The best milk-shakes are found at Zack's, a 24-hour diner in the Byward Market. They're really good, made with ice-cream, and for the $5.50 they cost you get a large glass full plus the shaker with what didn't fit in the glass. Other dishes are quite good, with a "more calories for your money" attitude (as illustrated by the massive amount of milkshake served), which is nicely honest about fast food; however it may seem a bit expensive as some of the burgers are in excess of $12. Late on week-end nights (2 - 3AM) it's packed as people go for their after-bar poutine.


Major restaurant areas can be found on Elgin Street, on Bank Street in Centretown, on Bank Street in the Glebe, in Westboro and in the Byward Market, with entrees ranging from $12-$25. Similar restaurants can be found in major suburban shopping areas too.

  • The Empire Grill, Clarence St, . Has a great patio in the summer and delicious food year-round. Expect to pay about $25+ for an entree.

  • Johnny Farina's, Elgin St, .

  • Vineyards, in the Byward Market, . An excellent restaurant with the widest selection of world beers and wines in Ottawa.

  • Pub Italia, 434 1/2 Preston Street (near Dow's Lake and the Experimental Farm), . An Irish/Italian pub with hundreds of bottled beers listed in its "Beer Bible". Noted for its intimate faux Medieval/Gothic décor.

  • The Highlander Pub, The Highlander Pub in the Byward Market is a solid restaurant with good pub fare, and traditional Scottish food, such as haggis. It is a good place also after a long day of sightseeing and you need a drink, with any spirit, wine or beer you can think of. It has a warm, friendly environment, with plenty of patio room. An average tab for a full meal for 2 should be about $40 CND.

  • Santé Restaurant, 45 Rideau St, Santé at the corner of Rideau and Sussex, across from the Rideau Center, is a cosmopolitan yet casual. It’s a delicate line to walk, but Santé Restaurant does it with panache - offering exotic Asian Fusion and Thai cuisine in a comfortably elegant setting.

  • The Works 362 Richmond in Westboro, 580 Bank in the Glebe, 363 St. Laurent Boulevard in Manor Park, Hard to argue that these are not the best Burgers around. The selection is top notch and toppings are bountiful. Also served are delicious, Onion Rings, Milk Shakes and Cold Beer. Expect to pay $12 for a burger with sides.

  • da Sergio 338 Preston Street, is an owner operated authentic Italian Bistro with attention to detail in its appetizers, pasta, sauces and secondi. Calamari are fresh and melt-in-your-mouth, and the Carpaccio served simply with capers, olive oil and parmesan curls. They have a large patio with shade making it a good spot for a sunny summer afternoon or evening.


Ottawa has excellent options for fine dining if you feel like spending a bit extra. Budget C$150 for a three course dinner for two, including wine and gratuity.

  • Domus , in the Byward Market at 85 Murray St., is an outstanding restaurant with an award winning chef serving regional Canadian cuisine. Reservations at 613-241-6007.

  • Signatures , at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute (453 Laurier Ave. East), (613) 236-2499, Tues-Sat: 5:30 p.m.–10, is a French restaurant with a five-diamond rating from CAA/AAA that is considered among the very best in the city.

  • E18hteen , located in the Byward Market at 18 York St., is an upscale, modern restaurant and bar located in a renovated 19th century heritage building. It is THE place to see and be seen.

  • Merlot , at the Marriott Hotel (100 Kent St.), has received glowing reviews for its cuisine and is Ottawa's only revolving restaurant.

  • Beckta , located downtown (226 Nepean St.), is an excellent modern restaurant with a variety of tastes centered around locally available foods. Also features an extensive wine list.

  • Perspectives Restaurant , at the Brookstreet (525 Legget Drive), offers the very best in fine dining featuring innovative culinary creations where exciting flavours of the Orient meet top-quality regional ingredients in an expression of contemporary Canadian cuisine.

  • Issac's 64 Hundred , in West End (6400 Hazeldean Road), is a fine dining restaurant with a mediterranean flair.

Vegetarian and Vegan

  • The Green Door at 198 Main St offers a vegetarian and vegan buffet and is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa. It offers private and communal tables. Meals are priced by weight, and average around $12 for a full plate.

  • The Table, 1230 Wellington St in the Westboro neighbourhood, also offers a vegetarian buffet with many vegan options. Meals are priced by weight.

  • ZenKitchen, 634 Somerset St. W, is opened in mid-June 2009. Completely vegan, with full table service, a wine program and summer patio, they also offer vegetarian cooking lessons and special events like wine tastings. Reservations can be made online at

  • Govinda's Restaurant on Somerset East (just off the University of Ottawa) offers a simple vegan buffet for $5-$7. The best cheap eats in town. Operated by ISCKON (Hare Krishna movement). Only open weekdays from 17:00 to 20:00

  • So Good Restaurant on Somerset (1.5 blocks West of Bronson) has a separate vegetarian menu (dishes are also vegan unless stated) and there are many choices . Try anything "Wu Se" (peanut sauce). Dinners are about $10 (entree and rice).


The most popular bar areas are in the Byward Market, along Wellington Avenue in Westboro and along both Elgin Street and Bank Street between Somerset and Gladstone in the Centretown area. There are pubs and bars scattered throughout the city as well.

You can also take a small trip over the Ottawa river to Gatineau. Bars on Ottawa side close at 2:00 AM while bars close at 3:00 AM on the Gatineau side.

Note that smoking is not permitted in Ontario or Quebec restaurants and bars.

Bars and nightclubs

  • Suite 34, 34 Clarence St. A multi-floored club that requires some fancier attire. Crowd is usually quite young and plays a mixture of popular house, hip-hop and club anthems. Rooftop patio draws a large crowd in the summer months.

  • Club 292, 292 Elgin St.

  • E18hteen, 18 York St.

  • Barrymore's, Bank St. An old converted movie theatre, their 80's night is the place to be in Ottawa on Sundays. They also have a 90's night on Thursdays and live concerts on most other nights.

  • The Dominion Tavern, York St. Simple beers and some pool: picture your friend's basement apartment, even serving 40's of beer.

  • Zaphod's Beeblebrox, York St (next to Dominion). Alternative rock/new age punk, hip-hop nights on Thursday. Recently short-listed in CBC Radio 3's "Searchlight: The Best Live Venue in Canada" competition.

  • Foundation York St. in the alley behind E18hteen. Restaurant during the week that is open for lunch and dinner. Excellent food and one of the only restaurants in Ottawa to serve fondue. On Friday and Saturday nights it transforms into an upperclass nightclub. Dress to impress, no logos or running shoes, and be prepared to spend a few bucks on drinks.

  • Options Bar located off the main lobby of the Brookstreet. Relax in the rich and elegant warmth of a sophisticated lounge, where casual intimacy provides a welcome refuge from the stress of the day.

  • Edge, Ottawa's most popular gay bar is located at Sparks St and Bank St. It is most popular on Saturday nights.


Since the mid-1990's there has been an explosion in Irish-/British-style pubs across the city. In the core you will find:

  • Patty Boland's, Clarence St. Warm, country feel.

  • Black Thorn, Clarence St. Upscale, great food

  • Irish Village, Clarence St. Ottawa's largest pub complex, including the eponymous Irish Village (loud, lots of live music) and The Heart and Crown.

  • Lieutenant's Pump, Elgin St. British style pub with a good variety of food selections and inexpensive draught.

  • The Manx, Elgin St. Great microbrews, wide scotch selection, slightly bohemian feel.

  • Pub Italia, Preston St. A large selection of beers from the world, especially Belgian.

  • D'arcy McGee's Sparks Street & Elgin St. Beautiful architecture with impressive food selection

  • Minglewoods, The corner of Waller St and Rideau St, A great place to drink for cheap! Pitchers of domestic and premium beers are priced under $11 so if you're on a budget this is the place to go. It is close to the University of Ottawa so many students frequent Minglewoods between or after class. There is a good selection of pub fare, also for reasonable prices. On the weekend there is a packed dance floor on the second level.



  • Ottawa Jail Hostel, 75 Nicholas Street (across the street from the Rideau Centre), 235-2595, . A member of Hostelling International, this hostel is in the old Ottawa Jail; the bedrooms are actually old jail cells. It's close to the Byward Market and downtown. Tours available. $24.15/dorm for HI members, $28.35 for non.

  • Ottawa Backpackers Inn, 203 York Street, 1-888-394-0334, . Part of Backpackers Hostels Canada, includes kitchen, free wireless internet and free coffee/tea. In a converted house. The staff and the atmosphere are very friendly. $24/night for regular dorm beds, more for semi-private and private rooms.

  • Barefoot Hostel, 455 Cumberland St, 613-237-0335, . A modern hostel located downtown. Included for use is a mini-kitchen, back patio, a living area with a huge HDTV, a computer (with internet), free WiFi, plush bed linens, lockers and three shared bathrooms. Rates start at $35.50/night/per person and you can book online.


  • Albert at Bay Suite Hotel , 435 Albert Street (corner of Bay St.). The building is nicely located downtown within easy walking distance of the main attractions, shops and restaurants. The hotel itself is a converted apartment building where you'll find large one and two bedrooms suites. Rates range from $119/night to $229/night for the one and two bedroom suites respectively.

  • Albert House Inn, 478 Albert Street, . The house is old but kept well, the people are very nice and the breakfast is generous. The bedrooms are clean and cosy and you can borrow books and newspapers.

  • Best Western Victoria Park Suites, 377 O'Connor St. (near Elgin St.). The hotel is downtown near the Museum of Nature. $100 (and up).

  • ByWard Blue Inn, 157 Clarence Street, . Welcome to Ottawa’s only B & B hotel in the picturesque ByWard Market. This charming inn offers people traveling for business or pleasure fantastic room rates in a great location. $79-149

  • Comfort Inn Ottawa West (Ottawa) , 613-592-2200, 613-592-2200, 222 Hearst Way, This convenient Ottawa West location is only 5 min from Scotiabank Place and offers guests excellent value including free breakfast, free parking, and free internet. 20 min from Downtown, Highway #417, Exit 138 Eagleson Road

  • Novotel Hotel located across the street from the east side of the Rideau Centre on Nicholas Street. Modern hotel with an emphasis on energy conservation. Modern restaurant and banquet facilities. This location has free internet kiosks in the main lobby open to the public.

  • Shirley Samantha's Bed & Breakfast , 613-745-2105, 28 Carlotta Avenue, From Hwy. 417 take Exit 117 Vanier Parkway; north on Vanier Parkway to McArthur Avenue, left on McArthur to Marguerite Avenue, left on Marguerite. Then right on Carlotta Avenue., On a quiet residential street, within walking distance from downtown and half a block from the Rideau River cycling/walking path. Two queen-bedded rooms, one with ensuite, the other with private bath. Centrally air conditioned, complimentary parking, snacks and WiFi. Delicious breakfasts featuring home baking.

  • University of Ottawa located within a quick walk to Rideau Centre and downtown, the university runs a guest house with private rooms in one of its newer housing complexes. As of May 2005, the rate for a single was $90 with a discount for University of Ottawa students.

  • The Black Lab Inn Welcome to Ottawa's only truly dog friendly bed & breakfast. Located in the south end of Ottawa with plenty of places to take your dog to play and walk with the Rideau River just down the street. Delicious full breakfasts with all the amenities to cater to guests and their dogs.

  • Gasthaus Switzerland Inn, 89 Daly Ave, (Beautiful Historic 1872 Small Hotel Right Downtown), 613-237-0335, . A charming, cosy small hotel located in the heart of Ottawa, features 22 rooms including 2 honeymoon suites. The Inn was built in 1872 from limestone in a 19th Century Vernacular Classical Revival. Gasthaus offers traditional Swiss hospitality, with modern comfort. Free Wi-Fi and free internet computer desk in the common area for guests. Delicious buffet breakfast is included with Bircher-Muesli and fresh ground Swiss espresso. Discount available for government employees & university professors.


  • The Ottawa Marriott Hotel (near Parliament Hill) . 100 Kent Street. Phone: 1-613-238-1122. Toll-free: 1-800-853-8463. The Ottawa Marriott Hotel is in downtown Ottawa one block from the Parliament Buildings and steps away from museums and shopping. This Ottawa hotel includes a revolving restaurant, Kids’ Zone as well as an indoor pool, sauna and fitness centre. Rates from $154 /night.

  • Arc, Slater Street (near Parliament Hill), . A trendy boutique hotel with prices to match its style.

  • Chateau Laurier, (near Parliament Hill), . The city's grand old hotel: its oldest and most famous luxury hotel as well as one of its landmarks. Rooms facing west overlook the Rideau Canal locks and have stellar views of the Parliament buildings.

  • The Westin Ottawa (near Parliament Hill), . The hotel is also connected to the Rideau Centre by a walkway. Rates start at $189 / night.

  • The Delta Ottawa Hotel . 361 Queen Street. Located downtown, a few blocks west of Parliament Hill, near the Supreme Court of Canada. The outside decor is not much to look at but the one and two bedroom rooms are spacious and have kitchenettes, comfortable for a longer stay. Rates for standard hotel rooms start at $159 / night.

  • Lord Elgin is centrally located on Elgin Street across from the National Arts Centre, a stone's throw from Parliament Hill, and is one of Ottawa's two classic hotels (the other being the Chateau Laurier). It has recently been upgraded. While it has "splurge" rates, most rooms are reasonably priced. Good value, and a Starbucks off the lobby.

  • The Brookstreet in Kanata is revolutionizing and redefining the hospitality experience by offering world-class facilities including: a full-service spa with 11 treatment rooms, a championship golf course, The Marshes, and European PGA-approved short course, a four-diamond restaurant, Perspectives and a state-of-the-art fitness studio with whirlpools, steam rooms and indoor and outdoor pools.


  • The Byward Market area of downtown Ottawa, located east of the Rideau Canal and the Chateau Laurier, is the area's most popular shopping district. In summer, stalls selling fresh produce and flowers line the streets, but even in the middle of winter there are some hardy vendors braving the cold — and maple syrup bought here costs half the price of souvenir shops elsewhere in the city. In the evening, the market shuts down and the area's restaurants, pubs and bars take over as the primary attraction.

  • Sparks Street is a pleasant pedestrian street one block off Parliament Hill and a common tourist throughfare for seeing the sights. Along this street you'll find the majority of the tourist shops selling postcards, magnets, and maple syrup. The Astrolabe Gallery, located on this street, is a treasure trove of antique maps as well as vintage posters. There are several outdoor cafes and restaurants to choose from also.

  • Westboro Village

  • In recent years a stretch along Richmond Road in the "near west" of Ottawa from Golden east to Tweedsmuir has become a popular tourism and shopping zone, and includes several outdoor stores (clothing and equipment), restaurants and coffee shops. Notable shops include the Mountain Equipment Coop , Ten Thousand Villages, Starbucks, Bridgehead (fair trade coffee), Kitchenalia, a chocolatier and several others. (Richmond Road becomes the western part of Wellington St. from Island Park Drive and a second strip of shops and restaurants runs along Wellington from Island Park Drive to Holland.)

  • Bank St Promenade

Larger shopping malls include the Rideau Centre (downtown), St. Laurent Shopping Centre (East Central), Place D'Orleans (East End), the Bayshore Shopping Centre and Carlingwood Mall (West End). To find sales at Ottawa stores use .

Around the end of May every year, Ottawa has the Great Glebe Garage Sale. Hundreds of homes in the Glebe district all have garage sales on the same day, many of the businesses in the area have sidewalk sales, and some vendors from outside the neighborhood come and set up displays on friends' lawns. The Glebe is a very mixed residential area with everyone from students to millionaires, so the range of stuff on offer is very wide. Parking is nearly impossible during the sale and driving around looking at stuff difficult because of the crowds. If you have a car, get there early, find parking, and explore on foot.


Ottawa is a very safe place to live and visit, so if you use common sense it is at least as safe as any other city. There are many tourists in the city, especially in summer months, and there are very few incidents of robbery or assault.

That said, buses and transit stations have had issues in recent years with violence and swarmings/robberies, even during daytime hours. OC Transpo has hired new constables and placed plainclothes security as well as cameras on select buses and trains to counter the problem. Use common sense, especially when riding at night, every transit station has multiple emergency call boxes. After dark, take extra care in areas near downtown such as Lowertown, and also Hintonburg, Vanier, Bayshore, Ledbury, Caldwell and South Keys. These neighbourhoods are known to have gang presence, and drug problems. Ottawa is generally very safe, but like any other city it has bad apples.

Ottawa is one of the world's coldest capitals. Summers are (normally) humid and hot. Dress for the weather!


The two best known universities in the city are Carleton University and the major bilingual and research-intensive University of Ottawa . Bilingual St. Paul's University is a Catholic university with ties to the University of Ottawa, offering various degrees in theology and social sciences. Dominican University College is a Dominican university where theology and philosophy can be studied at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, also in English or French. There is also Algonquin College and the francophone Cité Collégiale .


The Federal Government is the region's largest employer with the high-tech sector firmly in second place. Unless you are a Canadian resident, you will need a work visa to work in Ottawa, and some Federal Government jobs require Canadian citizenship.

Get out

  • Carp, a tiny village 10 km north of Ottawa, houses the surreal Cold War "Central Emergency Government Headquarters" (Diefenbunker), now a museum.

  • Gatineau, Ottawa's twin across the river, has the stunning Canadian Museum of Civilization and some mighty good restaurants too.

  • Merrickville, 45 min by car south of Ottawa, claims to be Canada's prettiest village.

  • Montreal, the largest city in Quebec, is 200 km to the east.

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