Ottawa is the capital of Canada and, even though it is much smaller than Quebec and Montreal, a really nice place to visit. The people here speak both English and French, which makes this the largest bilingual city in Canada. The capital of Canada is also an important cultural and economic hub, with the largest number of cultural, research, and post-secondary institutions. No doubt, you are coming to one of the most beautiful and charming cities in Canada, and it will surely put a spell on you. One day in Ottawa will be something to remember!
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What’s the Best Time to Visit Ottawa?
Ottawa ranks among the coldest capitals of the world, with temperatures dropping down to -15°C in January. During the winter months, however, the prices are lower. But if you love winter sports and snow, then that -15 ° C might begin to feel bearable.
The best time to visit Ottawa would be from March to May when the city starts to bloom and temperatures begin to rise, up to 2°C. In spring, you can also visit the Tulip Festival that takes place in Ottawa, but prices rise during these months.
Summers are usually warm and humid, with temperatures reaching 27°C, while the fall is characterized by unpredictable weather. However, summer is the most crowded season, so the prices are high.
A Few Facts About Ottawa
Queen Victoria chose Ottawa in 1857 to become the capital of Canada. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Ottawa was −38.9 °C in 1933.
Ottawa is ranked as the most educated city of Canada – it has the most Ph.D.’s, scientists, engineers per capita than any other city in Canada.
Ottawa has more than 200 outdoor skating rinks.
Top things to do in Ottawa, Canada
While one day may not be enough to fully explore all the beauties Ottawa has to offer you, it can be enough to catch a glimpse of its charm. Here are our suggestions on what top sights and attractions you should not miss when you find yourself in this wonderful city.
Start with breakfast at The Sconewitch
The Sconewitch offers a wide variety of scones, both sweet, such as with orange cranberry or lemon poppyseed, and savory, such as with cheddar, feta, or herbs and onion. You need plenty of energy to get through the day, and breakfast at the Sconewitch will give you just that!
Visit Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill is near the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa. It is home to Canada’s federal government where representatives make important decisions for the country.
Make sure you don’t miss visiting the Library of Parliament with its popular circular structure. It takes only 9 minutes on foot to reach Parliament Hill from the Sconewitch.
Photograph the Locks of the Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal is unofficially known as the Rideau Waterway and connects Ottawa to Lake Ontario. It is the oldest operating canal system in North America.
During winter, the Rideau Canal freezes and becomes the world’s largest skating rink. It takes you only 1 minute on foot to reach the Rideau Canal from Parliament Hill, so it’s a slight detour that’s really worth it. If you have time, consider a relaxed cruise from Dow’s lake to the Ottawa River. It is a perfect way to discover the Rideau Canal.
Head to The National War Memorial
The Rideau Canal is right near the National War Memorial, and it will take you only 3 minutes to reach it. This monument is dedicated to the Canadians who died in all wars and symbolizes the sacrifices they have made for the country. The National War Memorial is open all day and it’s free.
Have Lunch at Elgin Restaurant
You can’t visit Ottawa without tasting the traditional cuisine and flavors of Canada. Elgin Restaurant, formerly known as Le Cafe, is the restaurant within the National Arts Centre. Here you can explore the seasonal meals that are traditional for Canada and engage in a culinary experience that will indulge your senses. It takes only 3 minutes to reach it from the National War Memorial.
Explore the National Arts Centre
It is the home of the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Ottawa Symphony Orchestra. A lot of concerts, as well as ballet or theatre performances, take place here every year, so depending on your visit time, you can get to see one of the amazing shows.
Take a Walk in the Confederation Park
The Confederation Park is right near the National Arts Centre, at a 3-minute’s distance from there. Here you can see a lot of memorials and statues dedicated to aboriginal war veterans and also the Canadian Animals in War Memorial.
Visit the National Gallery of Canada
Your next stop should definitely be the National Gallery of Canada. This one is for art lovers because here you can find pieces by artists from all over the world, including aboriginal artists, too! More than 75,000 works of art are kept safe by this institution that was founded in 1880, at the entrance, you will see the popular and majestic spider sculpture that guards the doors. The Maman Statue is a great photo-op!
Enter the Notre-Dame Cathedral
The Notre-Dame Cathedral is literally across the street from the National Gallery, which means it’s the perfect way to continue your one day in Ottawa. This beautiful church was built in 1846, and it represents a fascinating combination of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Classical styles.
The interior is quite beautiful, with a majestic pipe organ on the first floor. In 1990, this place was declared a National Historic Site of Canada, which clearly shows the importance of this edifice.
Learn More About the History of Canada at the Canadian Museum of History
The Canadian Museum of History is located on the other side of the Ottawa River. It will take you between 20 and 30 minutes to reach it on foot, so this could be quite a nice walk where you get to know the city more intimately.
If you want to learn more about the history of Canada, the Canadian Museum of History explores 20.000 years of Canada’s history. It is one of North America’s oldest cultural institutions, so you will surely find out a lot of interesting things if you pay them a visit. You can buy a ticket in advance, just to avoid waiting in line.
Spend the Evening at Byward Market
It takes you about 25 minutes to reach Byward Market on foot from the museum, but it is worth the walk. There are also regular trams you can take, such as 33, 35, 37, 38, and 371.
Here you can taste some of the Canadian’s specialties, such as the chocolate infused with maple syrup or Canadian cheese.
The market is known for its nightlife too, and you can drink a beer and spend the night at one of the taverns or bars open here. Oh, and Andaz Ottawa Byward Market Hotel is very close too, so you can easily head to your room when you feel you’ve had enough.
Where to Stay in Ottawa?
Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Ottawa Downtown
235 King Edward Avenue, K1N 7L8 Ottawa
Holiday Inn Express & Suites is located in downtown Ottawa so it’s pretty close to all the major attractions in the capital of Canada. This 3-star hotel offers rooms with a nice view or terrace, an indoor pool, and also a restaurant where you can satisfy your appetite.
Andaz Ottawa Byward Market
325 Dalhousie Street, K1N 7G1 Ottawa
Andaz Ottawa Byward Market has a wonderful rooftop lounge, plus a great restaurant and bar. However, this is probably the best hotel for people with pets in Ottawa too because it offers dog beds and doggie treats if you need them!
Fairmont Chateau Laurier
1 Rideau Street, K1N 8S7 Ottawa
Just looking at the amazing architecture of this historical building will convince you to stay here. This 5-star Fairmont Chateau Laurier is located near the Parliament Buildings and Rideau Canal, and every room has an amazing view.
Ottawa Jail Hostel
75 Nicholas Street, K1N 7B9 Ottawa
One of the most interesting experiences would be booking accommodation at Ottawa Jail Hostel. Before being transformed into an accommodation place, it was a jail. Every room is uniquely decorated and it also has a common place where you can dine, lounge, and meet new people.
Best Day Trips from Ottawa, Canada
Even though it may seem that these two cities are far away, it only takes you 2 hours by train to cover the distance. Montreal is also the home of the famous Cirque du Soleil and the Canadian Hockey Team. This city offers a nice traveling experience, so it is worth the visit.
Bonnechere Caves are about one and a half-hour drive from Ottawa. They are open only during summer and you can book a tour that takes place every 20 or 30 minutes. The ticket for adults is only 19$, and you explore in one hour one of the most amazing Mother’s Nature gems.
If you are more into a relaxing day trip from Ottawa, this small town is the right choice. You can explore the cobbled streets and choose locally produced souvenirs or products. It takes less than an hour to reach it by car and it’s totally worth it.
Extra Tips for Visiting Ottawa
Pay using local currency – here shops and restaurants do not accept the US dollar. Keep in mind that only large banks exchange currency.
Tobacco and alcohol – you will not find tobacco or alcohol products in hypermarkets or small shops, but only in specialized stores.
Employ courier service – if you love shopping and already have a lot of bags you need to carry, employing a courier service will take them to the hotel so that you can continue your visiting experience.
If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Ottawa Itinerary, feel free to share it in the comments below!