Welcome to the capital of Canada! Sure, it’s the hub of the Canadian government, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid a stopover in Ottawa. I promise you, there are still some very cool and interesting things to do in the city!
I’ve spent a lot of time in Ottawa this year, and each time I go I have a list of places to see, and restaurants to experience. And each time I leave the city my list seems to be bigger rather than smaller, thanks in part to the locals who continually give me suggestions whenever I’m in town. It’s a great problem to have, and while I would LOVE to share my whole list with you, I can’t. There are simply too many choices. That being said, I can share some of my favourite spots…
Where to Stay
Ottawa is a tricky city in terms of hotels. Unlike most major cities there are very few boutique hotels, and an over abundance of B&Bs. So, how do you know where to stay? Here are some of my accommodation recommendations for Ottawa:
Swiss Hotel • $$ • A family owned and operated boutique hotel with a European flare. The rooms feature Swiss dot linen, brightly tiled bathrooms, cozy beds, FREE wi-fi, and an iPad! European buffet breakfast is only $15 per person and absolutely delicious. • website • facebook • twitter •
ARC The Hotel • $$$ • A boutique hotel located downtown close to Parliament Hill, ARC is one of the more well known boutique hotels in Ottawa. Rooms are contemporary and earthy, and feature Egyptian linens. A fab cosmopolitan hotel. • website • facebook • twitter •
Albert Inn (Bed & Breakfast) • $$ • Built by Thomas Seaton Scott in 1875, Albert Inn is a boutique bed and breakfast with all the charm of a historical home. The rooms are clean and classic. A true B&B experience • website •
HI Ottawa Jail • $ • Once the most notorious jails in Canada, HI Ottawa Jail is both creepy and cool. After all, not many can say they paid to stay in a jail cell, complete with heavy iron doors! • website • facebook • twitter •
Barefoot Hostel • $ • Owned and operated by the Swiss Hotel, Barefoot Hostel is more of a boutique hostel. Beds come with Swiss dot duvets, wi-fi is FREE, and there is a cozy communal space as well. • website • facebook • twitter •
Where to Eat & Drink
Hooch Bourbon House • $$ • Located on Rideau Street, Hooch Bourbon House is one of the HOTTEST new restaurants in Ottawa. The bourbon collection is impressive, and the food is a mixture of molecular gastronomy and comfort food. I highly suggest the Chicken & Waffles. • website • facebook • twitter •
Dunn’s Famous • $ • Meyer Dunn opened his first deli and began smoking meat in Montréal in the 1920’s. In the 1980s Dunn’s moved to Ottawa (Dalhousie & George location is central), where they have 3 locations. Open 24hrs. Try the smoked meat eggs benny, or smoked meat sandwiches. Mon to Fri breakfast is only $5 from 6am to 11am. • website •
Santé • $$$ • An Asian fusion restaurant on the corner of Rideau and Sussex, Santé is located on the second floor and offers views of the city. The menu is inspirational, creative and full of flavour. • website • facebook • twitter •
Brothers Beer Bistro • $$ • A beer-lover and foodie paradise, Brothers Beer Bistro incorporates beer into all of the dishes (you can request it without, but why would you?!). They also feature some delicious beer cocktails. • website • facebook • twitter •
The Black Tomato • $$ • Housed in a stone heritage building (circa late 1800s), The Black Tomato is on the corner of Sussex and George Street, and the food is a party is your mouth. Try the Baked Onion Ale Soup, or the Pulled Red Deer & Pork on a Kaiser. Yumgasm! • website •
What to See & Do
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.
Bus – Ottawa has a fairly extensive bus system which makes it easy to get around the city. If you’re coming into town by VIA Rail take bus #95 to downtown Ottawa. If you’re coming in by air, take bus #97. Fare is $3.40 for adults.
Taxi – A taxi from VIA Rail will cost roughly $15 to downtown depending on traffic. When you’re downtown it’s best to walk around or take the bus as there is a lot of traffic and construction which makes driving very difficult. A taxi from the airport to downtown will cost around $30.
Looking for more foodie suggestions? Check out my 24 Hours in Ottawa post!