In the east of the Canadian province of Ontario lies the federal capital Ottawa as one of the charming multicultural metropolises of the country. A minority of the nearly 1 million inhabitants here still speak French and live the typical French lifestyle. Ottawa is the city with the highest number of academics in Canada and also lives mainly from the federal authorities and government institutions. The metropolis is located on the southern bank of the Ottawa River. Between the Rideau Canal and the Rideau River lies the historic center of the city. This charming neighborhood is called Lower Town. Across the river on the waterfront is Downtown Ottawa with its financial center and commercial establishments.
Tip 1: Parliament Hill
Originally, Parliament Hill, which rises above the city, was the site of a military barracks. After Queen Victoria designated Ottawa as the capital of the Province of Canada, the transformation into the government district, Parliament Hill, as the entire ensemble is called, began. Today, Ottawa’s government district extends well beyond Parliament Hill, with buildings of government organizations now located in the city and its twin city of Gatineau. The Senate and the House of Commons meet on Parliament Hill.
The 8.8 hectare Parliament Hill, which today is visited by three million guests, is characterized by the three main buildings Centre Block with the 92 meter high Peace Tower, the East Block and the West Block.
Parliament Hill is also characterized by gardens containing numerous statues representing figures in Canadian history, monuments and a pavilion. All other areas are in a natural state. Statues include John Macdonald, Queen Victoria, Alexander Mackenzie, and Queen Elizabeth II. Among the monuments on Parliament Hill are the Centennial Flame and the Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial, which commemorates police officers who died in the line of duty.
Tip 2: Byward Market
ByWard Market is one of the oldest and largest public markets in Canada. The market was founded by none other than Lieutenant Colonel John By, the builder of the Rideau Canal. The large four-block area is home to grocery stores, boutiques, restaurants, pubs, cafes, galleries and museums, hair and beauty salons, and many more service providers.
The most important market element is the local farmers’ market with its many stalls selling fruits, vegetables, Canadian cheese, maple syrup, chocolate and more. One of Ottawa’s most popular tourist attractions is the premier destination for shopping, dining, arts and entertainment. Enjoy “Beaver Tails,” the delicious, sweet lard pastry shaped like a beaver’s tail, and experience the nightlife in stylish pubs. The ByWard Market, a must-see during your visit to Ottawa.
Tip 3: Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal, opened in 1832, is the oldest continuously used waterway on the North American continent. Contrary to the name of the canal, only 19 kilometers of the waterway are man-made; the rest uses developed sections of the Rideau and Cataraqui Rivers and lakes. To make the waterway navigable, a total of 47 locks had to be installed at 24 locations. In 2007, the Rideau Canal, which connects the federal capital of Ottawa with the city of Kingston, located on Lake Ontario, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the must-see sights in Ottawa.
Originally, the Rideau Canal was developed as a military waterway for supplies and communications between Montreal and Kingston. After five years of construction, however, it quickly became clear that it would never have to serve this purpose, as there were no further disputes between Canada and the United States.
But from an economic point of view, it served its purpose for a few years as a transport route for smaller cargo ships. Today, the Rideau Canal has become a tourist attraction. Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1925, the waterway invites visitors to explore it by bike or on foot, or to discover it on a scenic cruise. A great vacation option is to experience the scenery from the Rideau Canal by houseboat. Even locking the boat is an adventure that takes you back to times long past, because most of the locks are still operated by hand. So there is the lock including a chat with the lockkeeper.
The Rideau Canal is also an attraction in winter. Then 6.5 kilometers of the canal become the Rideau Skateway and that in the middle of downtown Ottawa, the world’s largest facility for ice skating.
Tip 4: National Gallery of Canada
It is one of the leading art museums in Canada and North America, the National Gallery of Canada. The National Gallery’s collection includes extensive works of Canadian and Indigenous art by Tom Thomson, Emily Carr and members of the Group of Seven, among others, as well as works by European and North American artists. For example, some of Andy Warhol’s most significant works can be found in the rooms of the National Gallery of Canada. The National Gallery of Canada houses a total of more than 75,000 works of art as well as extensive library and archive holdings.
Founded in 1880 by John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, the 9th Duke of Argyll, the gallery has moved several times during its existence, most recently in 1988, to new rooms in the striking glass and granite structure designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. One of the sights in Ottawa that the art lover should not miss.
Tip 5: Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
This building should not be missing from the sights of Ottawa. Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica (French Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa and the oldest church in the capital of Canada. The church, which replaced a small wooden church on the site, is located in close proximity to the National Gallery of Canada. The cathedral basilica’s distinctive and striking feature is its twin-towered facade. The spires are clad in metal, as is common in much of eastern Canada. Between the towers, a gilded statue of the Madonna stands on the roof edge of the central building.
The cathedral was built starting in 1841, and was finally completed in 1866 with the cladding of the two spires. In 1879, the Cathedral of Notre Dame was elevated to the status of Basilica minor by Pope Leo XIII because of its history and decoration. The beautiful house of worship was extensively renovated and restored in 1990. Services are held at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica in English and French.