Ottawa has more to offer than Parliament Hill, government offices, and embassies. There are museums, lush green spaces, hiking trails, rivers, lakes, and a farm – all in the city! It’s home to intriguing murals, sculptures, and monuments; retro theatres and arcades, walking tours, food trucks, and delicious restaurants. Ottawa is a city where one needs to branch out and delve into neighbourhoods beyond downtown and the ByWard Market.
Ottawa is an exciting city, and the content on this page will continue to grow, so be sure to bookmark this page for future travel planning. ?
a little ottawa history
Ottawa sits on the traditional lands of the Algonquin peoples, who resided on these lands for thousands of years before the arrival of European explorers in the 15th century. Ottawa/Gatineau is located at the confluence of three rivers: Gatineau River (given this name after fur trader Nicolas Gatineau drowned in 1683), Ottawa River, and Rideau River, an important location with the Algonquins for hunting, fishing, and trading. Ottawa is said to be named after the Ottawa river, which is thought to be known as adawe, an Algonquin word meaning ‘to trade’.
The city started during the building of the Rideau Canal in the early 1800s, thanks in part to the timber trade on the Ottawa river. It’s said that the name Bytown came about in reference to Lt-Col John By, a British Royal Engineer, and the man responsible for the building of the Rideau Canal, and then the ByWard Market market. The settlement took the name “Ottawa” in 1855, and in 1857 Queen Victoria made the decision to make Ottawa the capital of Canada.
In 1885, Ottawa was the first city in Canada to have electric streetlights downtown, and by the 1890s the city had an impressive electric streetcar system. On 1 June 1912, the Grand Trunk Railway opened Château Laurier Hotel, as well as Union Station, which was located across the street. Today, the hotel remains, but the Union Station building is now the Senate of Canada building. The train station is now in the Alta Vista area of East Ottawa.
getting around ottawa
Getting around Ottawa is not difficult, but may take a little planning, depending on where you stay and the things you want to do. Here are some tips and tricks.
ottawa articles: travel + food
the best neighbourhoods in ottawa
The best neighbourhoods in Ottawa are filled with music, art, theatre, delicious food, museums, and luscious green spaces. They are the heart and soul of Ottawa.
101 things to do in ottawa
There are a lot of exciting things to do in Ottawa, and most of them have nothing to do with the government (ha!). Here are 101 things to get you started!
a fat girl’s guide to eating in ottawa
I didn’t like Ottawa for a long time, but it is now one of my favourite cities in Canada – especially for food. Here are some of the foods I love eating in Ottawa!… keep reading
epicurean delights at jacobsons in ottawa
Jacobsons in Ottawa is a delightfully bougie food shop in the Vanier neighbourhood where you can channel your inner Ina Garten. It’s dangerously delicious… keep reading
a boutique stay at the metcalfe hotel in ottawa
The Metcalfe Hotel is Ottawa’s newest boutique hotel, and one of my favourite places to stay in Canada’s capital city. Have you booked a room here?… keep reading
ottawa travel planning resources
I travel to Ottawa from Quebec City several times a year. It’s only a 5-hour drive, making it a perfect short getaway destination. When I’m planning trips to Ottawa, I spend hours scouring Instagram, Google maps, tourism websites, and travel blogs. Anything that will provide some insight and inspiration. I have an Ottawa checklist/research note on my phone that is constantly growing.
Here are some of the resources I use when I’m planning trips to Ottawa. Some of the sites below are fellow travel writers who reside in the city, and have that coveted local knowledge. I have also linked to some interesting books and guides on Ottawa.
Ottawa Tourism: This is the website for the tourism board, and it’s quite good. There is tons of information on this website, and I have bookmarked a few pages for quick reference.
OC Transpo: Ottawa has a pretty good transit system. If you lie to plan ahead. as much as possible (some people do, and that is okay), then this website may be helpful.
Parks Canada: There are several historic sites and parks operated by Parks Canada throughout the country, including a few in and around Ottawa. Visit the website for information on fees, hours of operation, locations, histories, etc.
Ottawa Road Trips: This website by Laura is all about day trips, weekend getaways, and road trips from Ottawa. There is so much information to dig through on this website, and she has also written an Ottawa Road Trips book. Her book, Secret Ottawa: The Unique Guidebook to Ottawa’s Hidden Sites, Sounds, and Tastes, can be found on Amazon.
Little Miss Ottawa: This travel blog by Julia has a ton of articles on things to do, and where to eat in Ottawa, and the surrounding areas.
Turnipseed Travel: Vanessa is a travel writer based in the Ottawa area. She has quite a few articles on things to do in Ottawa (as well as articles on her world travels).
National Geographic: National Historic Sites of Canada: This little guidebook is one of my favourites. It’s filled with gorgeous photos, histories, and fascinating details on Canada’s National Historic Sites.
DK Eyewitness Canada: I love the D Eyewitness guidebooks as they are filled with interesting histories, and detailed diagrams and maps. It’s great for kids and adults who want to dig a little deeper.
The Great Central Canada Bucket List: I love this book series by travel writer, Robin Esrock. The book is filled with activities and experiences that are often thought of as the best of the best. It’s well-researched, and Robin has done every single thing in this book!
**This article, and website, contain affiliate links. When you make a purchase we receive a small commission, with no extra charge to you. Affiliate links and ad sales are an important part of keeping this website running. Reviews of products and businesses are based on my personal experiences. I will not recommend something that I would not use/buy/do myself.**