Visiting the capital city of Ottawa is like visiting a bit of old Canada. Centered by the gothic architecture of Parliament Hill, Ottawa is a very clean and safe city, and a great walking and biking destination.
A 2.5 hour bike ride along the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), returning along the Rideau River trail and over the Alexandria bridge into Gatineau, Quebec, was a highlight of our trip. Use Rent-A-Bike, located right on the canal, for courteous, very professional service with quality bicycles.
For a bit of Canadian history, be sure to see the sound and light show presented nightly at Centre Block on Parliament Hill during the Summer. Also in the Summer, drop by one morning at 10:00 am to see the Changing of the Guard, complete with a band and bagpipers. Be sure to arrive early as it is a popular event.
Each August above the Ottawa River (and behind the Parliament buildings), Casino du Lac-Leamy sponsors a fireworks display that is not to be missed if you time your trip just right. By a stroke of luck, we happened upon the last evening – the Grand Finale – of the five-day event. The firework show was spectacular and one of the best we have ever experienced!
Be sure to check out the Locks, next door to the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. It is well worth a few minutes to watch this engineering marvel in operation.
Visit the Byward Market while in town and experience the smells and hustle and bustle of one of Canada’s oldest and largest open air markets. For a different, interesting view, check out this area at night. There are numerous beer halls and restaurants in the vicinity.
In downtown, Elgin Street is a busy hotspot for shopping, restaurants, dance clubs, and more.
One of Canada’s premier art galleries, the National Gallery is worth a visit. Poised on a hill overlooking the river, the modern museum is somewhat stark and well lit with an open feel. For impressionist aficionados, the gallery includes a small collection of impressionist paintings, including one of Van Gogh’s Iris paintings.
We chose the Sheraton on Albert Street for accommodations. The hotel was comfortable and in a prime location for visiting Parliament Hill.
With lots of single-syllable restaurants to enjoy, here are a few we checked out:
Town – Young clientele, limited Italian-inspired menu with creative liberties taken by the chef. Interesting/unusual wine list of lesser known selections from Italian regions like Calabria. Ricotta stuffed meatballs are a must. 41/2*
Play – Sister restaurant to Beckta, the best restaurant in the city. Play is more casual. Limited, small plates menu. Attentive service with a happy staff. Great location near Byward Market. Try the charcuterie and cheese plates. 4*
Luxe – Nice brunch, again close to the Byward Market. We dined on the outdoor patio which was very comfortable. Service wasn’t particularly fast but it was an enjoyable setting. The shrimp chopped salad was quite good. 4*
The Piano Bar at the Fairmont – Regal with a lovely piano bar and an excellent concert pianist. Very attentive service in a grand setting. A great way to end the evening. 5*
… Mark & Dana …