Twenty four hours in a city is never an ideal timeframe, but sometimes it just cannot be helped! The trick is to make the most of the time that you do have and leave the city with a strong desire to return and explore further.

As the capital of Canada, Ottawa is a fabulous stopover city -especially in summer. The trick is to come up with a loose plan before your arrival, and then be open to change it if you see something else that catches your eye.


Swiss Hotel Breakfast

A good breakfast is essential before heading out for a full day of exploring. And thankfully there are a few choices that go beyond McDonald’s fare!

  • Your Hotel or Hostel – many in the city offer a complimentary continental breakfast. Take advantage of it! Drink juice, eat fruit, and try to stash an apple or two in your bag for later. It’s free, take advantage of it!
  • Melo’s Restaurant – a greasy spoon located on Dalhousie Street, Melo’s has been in business for over 30 years and breakfast is by far the better choice. The staff are quirky, and the layout is awkward, but it’s a diner. That is how they are suppose to be!
  • Le Moulin de Provence – a French bakery/pastry shop located on York Street in the ByWard Market, Le Moulin de Provence is the best place to go for freshly baked pastries like croissants and florentines, as well as really good sugar cookies. The most famous ones being the Obama cookie, and the Royal cookie. And yes, a cookie for breakfast is totally fine!
  • Market stalls – if you’re visiting Ottawa during the spring or summer, consider buying fresh fruit for breakfast from one of the market stalls. It will be the tastiest fruit you’ve ever eaten. Seriously!

Things to Do

Rideau Canal • Ottawa, Ontario
  • Changing of the Guard – visit Parliament Hill in summer and witness the changing of the guard. This is a free activity that takes place every day at 10:00 a.m. from late June to late August.
  • Ottawa Locks – a series of eight locks that allows boats to move from the Ottawa river to the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa Locks are almost hidden between Parliament Hill and Chateau Laurier. Visiting the locks is free, and can be fun.
  • ByWard Market – a historical market in Ottawa, the ByWard Market is located close to Parliament Hill and is the place to go when visiting Ottawa. ByWard Market is home to several pubs, butchers, bakers, cheese shops, bistros, and an absolutely heavenly cupcake shop. Nom. Nom. Nom.
  • Rideau Canal – in spring, summer, and autumn opt for a boat cruise of the Rideau Canal (only $20 for adults), or in winter put on some ice skates and skate on the frozen canal for free. Either way, it’s a lovely way to spend a couple of free hours.
  • C’est Bon – take a 2.5 hour food tour through the ByWard Market with C’est Bon and meet local chefs, and food producers, eat some samples, and pick-up some local maple syrup to take home. The cost for the tour is $55 per adult.
  • Cundell Stables – during special holidays you’ll find John Cundell in the ByWard Market with a horse and carriage offer free 15 min rides through the market. of course if you want a longer and more private tour you can always book one through him directly. Private tours start at $90 for a 30 minute ride.
  • Museums – Ottawa is home to several museums, but the ones that are easier to visit during a 24-hour visit would be the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the National Gallery of Canada. If you have a car, then a drive out to the Diefenbaker Museum is also a fab idea.
  • Chinatown – visiting chinatown is always interesting. Man, I freaking love going to Chiantown and checking out the shops, eating some noodles or dim sum, and buying new and delicious teas.


The Cupcake Lounge

The Cupcake Lounge

  • Café 55 – located in the ByWard Market Café 55 offers a variety of sandwiches and salads. The prices range from $5.75 to $11 depending on what you order (Café 55 also has a breakfast menu).
  • ByWard Market – buy fresh fruit, cheese, and locally produced sausage then head over to a grass knoll somewhere and have a picnic! Oh, and don’t forget to buy an Obama cookie as well!
  • Beavertails – if you have not eaten a beavertail, you have not had a true Ottawa experience. Beavertails are whole wheat fried dough that is topped with things like cinnamon and sugar, or chocolate and reese pieces. They have several combos to choose from.
  • Poutine – there are several places selling poutine near the ByWard Market, and if you look hard enough you’ll even find a Jamaican place that sells Jerk Chicken Poutine. Yes, JERK CHICKEN POUTINE!!
  • Cupcakes – yes, you CAN eat cupcakes for lunch and no, nobody will judge you. Promise! The best ones in the city (that I know of) is The Cupcake Lounge in the ByWard Market. Oh, so f-ing good!!


  • Santé – located at 45 Rideau, Santé is a an Asian fusion restaurant with a heavy seafood menu. I recommend trying the oysters with ginger chutney. Definitely a different experience.
  • The Highlander Pub – there are many pubs in Ottawa, but The Highlander is my favourite. Try the fish n’ chips, and be sure to have some single malt whiskey from their extensive collection.
  • Hooch – probably one of the best places for cocktails and delicious molecular gastronomy. Nom!
  • Absinthe Café – Enjoy a gourmet meal, then enjoy some refreshing Absinthe cocktails or straight-up. A night to remember to be sure!
  • Wei’s Noodle House – sit down for some utterly delicious Vietnamese soup. OMG are you hungry yet? I am!!

Ottawa is a big city that is FULL of possibilities. Spending 24 hours in the city is short, but it can be done, and I am almost guarantee that you WILL want to come back for more.

*Looking for more information on Ottawa? Stay tuned! I’ll be moving to Canada’s capital city on September 15th where I will start researching and writing a mini guide to the city. And I’ll be blogging about it as well. 

About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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3 Responses

  1. Kate

    Get to the Market early (around 7) and the whole place smells like baking bread. YUM.

    Another good lunch/dinner (or hangover breakfast, lol) place is Zak’s in the Market. It’s a 50’s-style greasy spoon diner, and their food is disgustingly good. Plus the decor is really fun 🙂


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