Canada’s capital Ottawa is an appealing city year-round. Sure, it gets a bit chilly over winter but who cares when you’ve got world-class museums, authentic eats and the world’s largest ice-rink?
The time of year you visit Ottawa will determine what kind of itinerary you choose but whatever the weather, there’s plenty to keep you busy in this picturesque and culture-rich capital.
Historic Parliament Hill overlooks the Ottawa River and is the seat of Canada's national government. Each day in summer you can see the changing of the guard ceremony in the morning and a sound and light show in the evening – both free of charge. There’s a pleasant sculpture garden in the grounds. From Parliament Hill, it’s just steps to the Rideau Canal - Ontario's first UNESCO World Heritage Site – which flows up through eight locks from the Ottawa River to wind its way through the city. In winter, the canal freezes over and you can skate on it! Home to the Governor General, Rideau Hall is another impressive historic building with attractive gardens. You can explore the capital by road and by canal on a hop on, hop off tour or opt for a short introduction with free time for your own exploration.
If you visit just one of Ottawa’s fantastic museums make it the National Gallery of Canada. The museum’s glass and pink granite structure, created by famed architect Moshe Safdie, is an attraction in itself, while inside you’ll find the country's largest collection of Canadian art. Other museums of interest include the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and the Canadian War Museum to name but a few! Make sure you leave time to check out Byward Market and sample some of the city’s authentic and culturally diverse cuisine.
Just a few minutes from Parliament Hill and across the Ottawa River in Gatineau stretch the rolling hills of Gatineau Park. A popular spot for hiking, picnicking and biking, and, in winter, cross-country and downhill skiing, this natural wilderness is full of nature trails that wind around its forests, lakes and lookouts. Free to enter and explore, the park looks particularly spectacular in autumn when the leaves create a landscape of warm, fall colors.