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Ottawa Travel Guide

About Ottawa

Cosmopolitan, classy and as cultured as they come, Canada's capital is bags more fun than its somewhat staid reputation suggests. Think of Ottawa as the country in microcosm: a harmonious blend of urban and outdoorsy with a bilingual population, a coffee addiction and a healthy obsession with ice hockey.

At Ottawa's heart are the neo-gothic spires and turrets of Parliament Hill. Stretching skyward on the steep bluffs high above the River Ottawa, these Westminster-style government buildings exude a European elegance that is echoed in the barge-lined undulations of the Rideau Canal as it cuts through the city centre.

Ottawa began life as a small lumber town, but a radical 20th-century redesign transformed the city into the leafy, elegant capital it is today. Much of the action still takes place in the original ByWard Market district – the focal point for the city's French and Irish communities – which teems with closely-packed shops, restaurants and bars.

It might not be as lively or as garrulous as nearby Toronto, but Ottawa is the nation's intellectual nucleus with a raft of museums and galleries to prove it. The city's highbrow residents don't spend all their time browsing exhibitions and sipping flat whites in coffee shops though - not with so many outdoorsy activities to indulge in.

From winter skating on the frozen Rideau Canal, the world's largest naturally frozen ice skating rink, to summer cycling on extensive recreational paths, there are countless ways to give your adrenal glands a good workout. When you want to escape the city altogether, a world of adventure awaits in the superlatively scenic Ottawa Valley

A packed calendar of events helps make Ottawa a year-round destination. Winterlude, which takes place over three weekends of February, offers everything from learn-to-skate clinics to a children's snow playground and draws around 600,000 visitors. Music enthusiasts have no shortage of options either with Bluesfest, the Ottawa International Jazz Festival and Ottawa Chamberfest all rolling around annually.

Key facts

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Featured Hotels


Fairmont Château Laurier

Reminiscent of a French chateau exuding old world elegance and luxury, the historic Château Laurier is a favoured destination of dignitaries and celebrities. Ideally located next to the Parliament Buildings, the hotel has 426 newly renovated rooms filled with antiques, three restaurants, a business centre and a spectacular art deco swimming pool.

The Metcalfe Hotel

A serene oasis in the heart of the city, this brand new boutique hotel, formerly Hotel Indigo, features soaring skylights, cool colours, running water and scents that change with the season. Plush bedding, hardwood floors, spa-inspired showers, indoor pool, high-speed internet and an adjoining gourmet, fast and casual restaurant provide for every need.

Rideau Inn

This Edwardian home offers budget accommodation amid elegant surroundings. There are 10 classically furnished rooms, some of which have ensuite bathrooms; a smart dining area for breakfasts and a cute decked area for a drink in the summer. The inn is located in a leafy downtown residential neighbourhood known as the Golden Triangle close to lively Elgin Street, home to restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs.

Econo Lodge Downtown

The Econo Lodge Downtown offers air-conditioned rooms, some of which feature fridges, microwaves and whirlpool baths. Free continental breakfasts and internet access are offered. The lodge itself is close to Parliament Hill, the Royal Canadian Mint, the National Arts Centre and the National Gallery of Canada.


Nestled in Ottawa's Silicon Valley North, this boutique hotel overlooks the Marshes Golf Club, cross-country ski trails and jogging paths. Relax in spacious, sleekly elegant rooms, dine in two upscale contemporary restaurants or soak up the pampering at the Naturel Wellness Spa.

Auberge McGee's Inn

Located in downtown Ottawa, this historic B&B is within easy walking distance of the Rideau Canal, the ByWard Market and Parliament Hill. There are 12 rooms located over three floors in this Victorian mansion, with breakfast offered in a charming Parlour featuring 4m-high (12ft) ceilings.