Ottawa harmoniously mixes the old with the new, the British with the French and remains the political centre after being named capital of Canada in 1855. Its secret charms lie in its Gothic buildings and verdant parks, and when winter’s festivals and frozen lakes give way to summer’s heat, tulips line downtown streets, before the canal-framing maples are painted in glorious reds and oranges.
History and culture
Monolithic Gothic Parliaments pepper downtown Ottawa – watch the Changing of the Guard just outside before exploring their fresco-lined vaulted ceilings and heading to the National Gallery of Canada across the canal. It features a fascinating collection of European and Canadian paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and photos, with spectacular displays of art including paintings by the Group of Seven leader Tom Thompson. Head to the buzzing ByWard Market, a hub of farmer’s market stalls, local produce and speciality shops, selling maple chocolate, cheese, street art and crafts alongside cosy pubs and vibrant gay bars. Colourful festivals are hosted throughout the year, such as Winterlude, while summer’s heat affords opportunities for water sports on the Rideau Canal, boat trips and summer festivals on the banks of the Ottawa River downtown.
The great outdoors
Explore the city along the Ottawa River and Rideau Canal with charming bike rides, and when weather permits, the banks of the canal make for a wonderful way to while away the hours. Head to the stunning scenes of Gatineau Park, where gentle rock-lined streams snake along hundreds of kilometres of picturesque forest trails. Just 15 minutes from Ottawa, it's ideal for hiking and mountain biking, and snowshoeing or skiing when winter's blanket envelops the landscape.