With limited vacation time, an abundance of natural beauty, and some of the world’s most unique cities, right on our doorstep, it’s no surprise that, according to Expedia, 77% of Canadian vacationers decided to holiday in the homeland. With no borders to cross and only travel insurance to worry about, travelling to a new province could be the easy, breezy vacation you’ve been looking for.
If you’re hoping for a short stay jam-packed with things to do then look no further. We’ve put together a ten-part series guiding you on how to make the most of your weekend break in some of Canada’s coolest metropolises.
This week we look at the capital city of Canada: Ottawa.
Sat at the meeting point of three major rivers, the capital city of Canada is a historical haven perfect for learning about Canadian life at a relaxed pace. Thanks to building height restrictions, which make way for some breathtaking views, and pedestrian-friendly areas, the city is comfortable to navigate.
At its heart is the Rideau Canal, one of Ottawa’s most famous landmarks, which offers plenty of activity in summer and winter. On those warm, sunny days, hop in a boat and explore the city from the water, and in winter, strap on your ice skates and show off your skills on the ice.
ByWard Market has been the place to be in Ottawa since 1826, offering everything from shopping and arts to dining and entertainment. Attracting around 50,000 visitors per weekend during the summer months, it’s a hot spot for visitors and locals alike. Pay it back to the locals by browsing some of the Ottawa sourced goods in the farmer’s market, or one of the local artisan stalls, or stop by one of 600 slightly larger businesses on offer.
By night the market becomes filled with party-goers hopping between the array of stylish bars in the area.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re visiting in summer or winter, the market stays full of life year round.
It doesn’t make sense to head to the capital city without paying a visit to Parliament Hill. Whether you’re into politics or not, the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament boast some impressive Gothic revival architecture, plus the view from atop the hill is one not to be missed.
If politics are your forte, then sneak-a-peek at the inside on one of the free walking tours of the parliament. The walks last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, but won’t eat into too much of your day, leaving plenty of time to explore the rest of the city.
Ottawa is famous for its huge mix of museums, and there really is something for everyone.
For the art lovers, there is the National Gallery, one of the countries premier art galleries made unique by the giant bronze spider, Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture titled Maman, that greets visitors at its entrance.
Or, if you’re with the kids, how about heading to the Canadian Museum of History, which is home to 5 million artefacts and teaches all about Canada’s past and present civilization. The museum offers a bunch of interactive exhibits which make learning fun. The museum also houses the largest collection of totem poles in the world.
For the animal lovers, Ottawa is also home to the Canadian Museum of Nature, which covers history and science right from the ocean floor all the way to the clouds above our heads. Expect to learn all about everything from mammals, birds, insects, reptiles to minerals plants, rocks and dinosaur fossils, as well as coming face to face with the museum’s famous blue whale skeleton.
Dripping in history, of course, Ottawa has some famous buildings that stand as some of the cities greatest sightseeing opportunities. For example, the Château Laurie, just one of Fairmont's iconic portfolio of hotels, is one of Ottawa's most recognisable buildings described as “Ottawa’s castle”. On the outside, French Gothic architecture dating back to 1912, and inside a lavish interior fit for royalty. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel as a guest, stop by for something high tier or simply to explore the historic building.
Another impressive architectural feat is the Notre-Dame Basilica, built back in 1832 and names a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990.
Once not particularly famed for its food, in recent years Ottawa has become a hub of delicious eats thanks to the opening of an array of new restaurants. And that’s not all that’s on offer-entrepreneurs across the city are popping up to debut their own unique bars and cafes, too.
If you want something elegant, yet exotic, Fairouz is the perfect dinner time treat. Listed as number 46 on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants the restaurant serves Lebanese food inspired by local dishes in Turkey, Iran, Lebanon and Syria. Sat inside a heritage mansion in Centretown, it puts a modern twist on unique dishes from the region.
If you want something fun, how about a unicorn ice cream? I bet you didn’t expect that! In the west end of the city sits Little Jo Berry’s, a vegan bakery that offers sweet and salty treats-with the vegan, unicorn ice cream being the most famous of them all. Grab your phone and snap the perfect picture before tucking in.
Coffee and games lovers can rejoice, and enjoy two of their favourite things in one fell swoop thanks to the pixel Caffeine 1UP. This coffee shop with a digital twist is located right in the downtown core and lets customers play one of the 400 video game favourites they have while enjoying a freshly brewed cup of the good stuff.
If you’d prefer a sip of the stronger stuff, Copper Spirits & Sights at the top of the Andaz Ottawa hotel in ByWard Market is a must-see bar. The stunning rooftop bar offers amazing views of Ottawa during all seasons, as well as a full menu of tasty cocktails.
Of course, amidst all of the fun, you want to make sure you stay safe on your trip to the capital with a great travel insurance package.