Ottawa is the capital of Canada. The city is situated along the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, opposite Gatineau, Quebec. The metropolitan population of Ottawa is 1.1 million and is the fourth largest city in Canada.
Unique as a North American capital, the city is bilingual. English is the first language of a majority of the population, but French is the first language of a significant number. Staff in most downtown stores and restaurants speak both well and, in general, bilingualism is common.
The city is probably best known as the nation's capital but has become one of the fastest growing cities in North America owing to low crime, low unemployment, and the high-tech business sector.
Ottawa started as a humble lumber town, then called Bytown, named after Colonel John By. Colonel By oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, much of which was done by hand, between 1826 and 1832. Lumber mills were built along the Ottawa River in the mid-nineteenth century and those brought employment and wealth to the growing population. The centre of action then, as now, was the ByWard Market. While it's still the centre of the city's nightlife, it has changed appreciably from the rough and tumble early days of brothels and taverns.
In 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada. The choice was controversial, partly because it sidestepped the rivalry between compete cities, and partly because the new capital was at the time a logging and trading outpost.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the telephone was demonstrated to the Canadian public for the first time and the city was electrified. The first electric streetcar service was started in 1891. A menu from 1892 states that, "the first instance in the entire world of an entire meal being cooked by Electricity" was in Ottawa.
Today, the major economic sectors are the public service, travel and tourism and the high-tech industry. Ottawa has proudly remained a green city and is situated at the confluence of three rivers (Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau) as well as the Rideau canal. Many residents make regular use of Ottawa's parks and green spaces, bikeways and cross country ski trails. Many national attractions are located in Ottawa: Parliament Hill; the National Library and Archives; the National Gallery; as well as the Museums of Civilization, Contemporary Photography, Nature, War and Science & Technology.
Capital Information Kiosk, at 111 Albert Street at Metcalfe (in the World Exchange Plaza), ☎ +1 613 239-5000 (toll free: +1 800-465-1867), .
The Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (IATA: YOW) is Ottawa's main airport with regular arrivals and departures from most major Canadian and American cities. Services outside North America, are limited to London Heathrow and Frankfurt, plus seasonal service to other European cities. Air France and KLM provide shuttle bus service between Ottawa and Montreal that facilitate connections with their flights operated from Trudeau International Airport.
Macdonald-Cartier is easily reached by public transit or taxi and most of the major car rental agencies have a presence at the airport terminal in the parking garage. A taxi to downtown hotels should cost approximately $30 CAD, while a taxi to nearby hotels should not cost more than $10. YOW Airporter  operates a mini-bus shuttle to most downtown Ottawa hotels for $14 one-way and $24 return.
To reach downtown via public transit, take the #97 bus (the only bus at the airport which departs from pillar 14 outside the Level 1 Arrivals area) to the Mackenzie King transitway stop (14 stops away) at the Rideau Centre shopping mall. If you take this route before 6:00AM, you will likely follow the more meandering early morning route but will still get to Mackenzie King. To get to the train station, you still take the #97 bus but get out at Hurdman station (10 stops away) and transfer to the #95 eastbound bus to the next stop which is the train station. The bus fare is $3.40 ($3 with pre-purchased tickets available at the Ground Transportation Desk located on Level 1 at the central door of the Arrivals area) which gives you 1.5 hours of unlimited bus travel or $7.95 for an all-day pass. Exact change is required, Remember to ask the bus driver for a transfer even if you do not intend on transferring to another bus--OC Transpo security personnel occasionally board and ask passengers for proof of payment.
The Voyageur/Greyhound terminal in Ottawa has regular service to cities across North America. The bus terminal is downtown on the corner of Catherine Street and Kent Street, between Bronson Avenue and Bank Street. Though the bus terminal is downtown, a 15-20 minute walk will get you to most hotels and downtown attractions. Alternatively, a 5-10 minute local bus ride will do the same. (Bus #4, with its stop around the corner from the terminal on Kent Street, is the bus that you will want to take.)
A taxi to most downtown hotels from the bus terminal should cost between $8 and $15, and buses are $3.30 one-way ($2.60 with pre-purchased tickets) or $7.50 (purchased only on the bus) for an all-day pass.
Passenger train service is run by VIA Rail in Canada and the main train station in Ottawa, Ottawa Station (IATA: XDS) , is less than ten minutes from downtown by car, taxi or bus. There are six trains daily leaving for Montreal and intermediate points, with five trains daily to Toronto and points in between. Service is reduced on Saturday, Sundays and holidays.
Ottawa has two train stations, the Ottawa Station near downtown, and a secondary station, Fallowfield Station, in the western suburb of Barrhaven, convenient for Nepean and Kanata points. All trains to Toronto stop at Fallowfield; two of the six weekday trains to Montreal originate or terminate at Fallowfield.
Ottawa Station is on a high frequency bus route (#94 or #95) and takes only 5 minutes to get you downtown, heading west. Fallowfield station is also on the #94 and #95 bus route but at the far south-west end.
It is possible to get downtown from the main train station on foot, although it requires a bit of navigation. This path should not be taken alone after dark and may be flooded after periods of intense rain or snow melting. Have a street map with you so you can locate yourself once you have reached Strathcona Park. The station to Strathcona Park takes about half an hour (2.5km). Another half hour from the Park to downtown. A map is available online .
Sailing up the Rideau Canal
The city is also accessible via the Rideau Canal, now recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site , and which runs from the St. Lawrence River at Kingston to the Ottawa River at Ottawa where it empties via a series of locks. It is possible to dock at Dow's Lake Pavilion and at points along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River near downtown.
By car, Ottawa is about a 4.5 hour trip from Toronto via the 401 and 416 highways, or via highway 7. Montreal is 2 hours away via highway 417. The American border at Ogdensburg, NY is only 45 minutes to the south, and the border at I-81 is further west at an additional 15 minutes' drive.
The city's public transit is run by OC Transpo and includes the bus and light rail service. The network includes the Transitway, a bus rapid transit system running through and out of downtown, with frequent service (on the order of 1 to 2 minutes, depending on your stop and final destination, at rush hour).
The bus fare for regular routes is $3.40 or two tickets. Tickets cost $1.50 each and are available from local stores in sheets of six (but some stores will sell smaller numbers at a time). Children 6 to 11 years of age require only one ticket. Upon boarding, make sure that you are given a transfer, which allows you to ride any number of buses or trains until its expiry (in roughly 1.5 hours). The transfer is also your proof of payment in case fare enforcers board the bus to check that passengers have paid. A day pass can be purchased on any bus for $7.95 and is good for both buses and the train. On Sundays, families (up to two adults and four children, age 11 and under) can share a day pass.
The O-Train operates on a "Proof of Payment" (POP) system. Valid proof of payment is a bus transfer (see above), or an O-Train ticket purchased from the automated vending machines for $2.85. Note that the vending machine does not accept bus tickets, nor are bus tickets acceptable proof of payment. Children 11 and under can ride the O-Train for free. Articulated buses (the long ones) use this same POP system as well, where rear boarding is available to pass holders.
Although the downtown is very walkable, if you are within the downtown area (Lebreton station to Campus station), you can take any bus going east-west. If you are going to the ByWard Market from the Transitway (#95, #96, #97, #85, #86, #87), get off at Rideau Centre and walk through the mall to the other end. To go North-South, take the #4 (to Catherine Street, edge of Centretown), the #7 (edge of Old Ottawa South) or the #1 (all the way down Bank Street to Ottawa South).
The Ottawa Transitway (dedicated roads on which only buses are allowed) offers speedy travel to outlying areas, where you can then transfer over to local buses, if walking is not an option.
Taxis are easy to find downtown; elsewhere, phone for a cab. All taxis should have a meter and the base charge is $3.45. A ride from downtown to the airport will be costly, running between $35 and C$45. Cabs will not take credit cards for fares below $10, and there is a nominal surcharge for all credit/debit cards. Most cab drivers know Ottawa well and have GPS navigation, but have clear instructions if you're going anywhere in the suburbs.
Parking at most attractions is convenient, though on-street parking in downtown areas is sometimes at a premium. A map is useful if you are going to be driving around downtown as many of the streets are one-way. One-way streets generally alternate in direction, so if you miss a turn, you will likely need to drive 2 more blocks to turn again.
Most major car rental companies have several offices in Ottawa with all of them represented downtown and at the airport.
Ottawa is a great city to explore on foot. With pedestrian-friendly streets and the density of attractions, a car is expensive and unnecessary for the most part. An excellent place to start any tour of Ottawa is the Capital Information Kiosk, located at 111 Albert Street in the World Exchange Plaza. They have maps and brochures for most tourist attractions in Ottawa, many of which are within walking distance.
Popular pedestrian areas, especially during spring and summer months, are the various streets in the ByWard Market. Sparks Street, running through downtown parallel to the Parliament Buildings, is a popular pedestrian area during the day and night, particularly in the spring and summer months.
Remember, Ottawa is a city with a truly continental climate. In winter, exposed skin can freeze in minutes or less, so warm clothing is required. Summer temperature and humidity can be oppressively high, so bring water if you're doing any amount of walking or cycling. If you are on the public pathways near the canal or the river, there are drinking fountains to refill your bottles.
Ottawa is very accessible to cyclists. The city's downtown is serviced by a bike sharing system called Capital Bixi. There are also a few options for renting bicycles downtown , and of course you can always bring your own. Cycling to the attractions around downtown Ottawa is a great way to get around, but don't ignore the Gatineau side of the river. They have several attractions along the river including the Museum of Civilization and if you want to really stretch your legs, Gatineau Park has many great cycling paths.
The city is criss-crossed by over 170km of bicycle paths, some of which are shared with motorists, and some are shared with pedestrians. The city provides Interactive Pathways and Other Maps . In addition, the city closes 50 km of roadways to cars every Sunday during the summer from Victoria Day to Labour Day allowing for cycling, in-line skating and walking on these roadways. The participating roads in Ottawa are: Sir John A MacDonald Parkway (along the Ottawa River), Colonel By Drive (along the Rideau Canal), and Rockcliffe Parkway. The other participating roadways are in Gatineau Park: Gatineau Parkway, Champlain Parkway, and Fortune Lake Parkway.
OC Transpo has bicycle racks on the front of many buses. You can load your bike on the rack and then ride the bus for the normal passenger fare. The O-Train will take bikes as well.
There are many national museums and galleries in Ottawa and neighbouring Gatineau. All museums in Ottawa have free admission on Canada Day, July 1, although they are generally very crowded then.
Parliament Hill, Canada's house of democracy
The primary attraction for most visitors is Parliament Hill. Parliament Hill is in the middle of downtown Ottawa, overlooking the Ottawa River. Not only is the building a fine example of the Gothic revival style, it makes an excellent starting point to visit all other points of interest in the area. Tours of the building are available daily with multiple tours (in both official languages) available at staggered times throughout the day. If you have a group of greater than 10 people, you must make a reservation in advance by calling the reservations office at +1 (613) 996-0896. The Centre Block tour is the most popular as it includes inside views of the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Library of Parliament. Same-day tickets are free and available on a first-come-first-served basis from 9:00 AM. Pick up your ticket as early as possible to have the best chance of securing a start time that works for you. Tours last from 20 to 60 minutes depending on building activity. The Changing of the Guard takes place daily on the lawns of Parliament at 9:00am. The Governor General's guards can also be seen at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider and at Rideau Hall.
Mosaika Parliament Hill Sound & Light Show, . Newly developed for 2010 by the National Capital Commission, the Sound & Light Show is a 30 minute film about Canada projected on the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings. Bleacher seating is available and no reservations or tickets are required. There is one show nightly until September at 21:30.
Museum of Civilization, across the river in Gatineau
Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa, ON K1A 0M8, . Sun, Sat 9:30am-5pm Mon-Wed, Fri 9am-5pm Thu 9am-8pm. Moved to a new building west of downtown in 2005 but still within walking distance of the downtown attractions, the museum presents Canada's involvement in armed conflict beginning with battles between the French and British, through to the World Wars, Korea, and the country's current involvement in NATO and UN operations.Admission is $12 for adults. A joint War Museum and Museum of Civilization ticket can be purchased for $18. Admission is free on Th after 6PM.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization, 100 Laurier Street Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M8, ☎ Local:819-776-7000 Toll free:1-800-555-5621, . Mon, Tue, Wed & Fri: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thur: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sat & Sun: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.. The Canadian Museum of History is Canada's national museum of human history and the most popular and most-visited museum in Canada.It is located in the Hull sector of Gatineau, Quebec, directly across the Ottawa River from Canada's Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Ontario. The Museum's primary purpose is to collect, study, preserve, and present material objects that illuminate the human history of Canada and the cultural diversity of its people. For the visiting public, the Museum of History (formerly: Museum of Civilization) is most renowned for its permanent galleries, which explore Canada's 20,000 years of human history, and for its architecture and stunning riverside setting. The Museum also presents an ever-changing program of special exhibitions that expand on Canadian themes and explore other cultures and civilizations, past and present. The Museum of History is also a major research institution. Its professional staff includes leading experts in Canadian history, archaeology, ethnology, folk culture, and more.With roots stretching back to 1856, the Museum is one of North America's oldest cultural institutions. It is also home to the Canadian Children's Museum,the Canadian Postal Museum,and an IMAX Theatre with 3D capacity. Admission is $10 for adult. A joint War Museum and Museum of Civilization ticket can be purchased for $15. Admission is free on Th after 4PM.
Jacques Plante's Goalie Mask on display in the Science and Technology Museum
Science and Technology Museum, . The museum has several displays that are popular with children, including massive locomotives inside the building and electricity demonstrations.
Canadian Museum of Nature, . Galleries of fossils, mammals, birds and geology among others.
National Gallery of Canada
National Gallery, 380 Sussex Dr, ☎ +1 613 990-1985, . Free admission Th after 5PM.
Supreme Court of Canada, . Canada's highest court and the best example in Ottawa of Art Deco architecture. Its marble Grand Entrance Hall is particularly impressive. Visitor reservations are required during low season (September 1 to April 30).Free.
Canada Agriculture Museum, 861 Prince of Wales Dr, ☎ +1 613 991-3044 (toll free: +1 866 442-4416), . Exhibitions: 9AM-5PM daily late Feb-late Nov. Animal barns: 9AM-5PM daily all year. A working animal farm in the city. You can visit animal barns, see various demonstrations and exhibitions, and ride on a horse-drawn wagon. The museum also has a playground and picnic area. It is very popular with young children and a welcome change of pace for kids who have seen enough history after visiting some of the other sights.$7 adults, $6 students/seniors, $4 children 3-14, $16 families (2 adults and 3 children), free for children under 3. Seniors free on Tu. Admission to animal barns is by donation during time of year when the exhibitions are closed.
Bytown Museum, 1 Canal Ln (at the Rideau Canal locks between Parliament Hill and Chateau Laurier), ☎ +1 613 234-4570, . Victoria Day weekend-Thanksgiving Day: F-W 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-9PM. Rest of year: Tu-Su 11AM-4PM. A small museum at the foot of Parliament Hill with a focus on Ottawa's early history.$6 adults, $4 seniors/students/youth, $3 children 5-12, $15 families (2 adults plus three children under 18), free for children 4 and under. Free admission Th 5PM-9PM from Victoria Day-Thanksgiving Day.
Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Dr, ☎ +1 613 991-4422 (toll free: +1 866 842-4422), . Residence tour (without reservations): Apr 30-Jun 26: Sa-Su 10AM-4PM, Jun 27-Sep 5: 10AM-4PM daily (unguided open-house tours available Jul-Aug), Sep 6-Oct 30: Sa-Su noon-4PM. Advance reservations required for tours at any time from Nov-Apr, and weekdays May-Jun and Sep-6-Oct 30. Grounds tour: 8AM-1 hour before sunset daily. The official residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her representative the Governor General of Canada. The grounds and the residence are open to the public for tours. Reservations are recommended during low season (September 1 - April 30).Free.
Diefenbunker - Canada's Cold War Museum, 3911 Carp Rd, Carp (from Ottawa, take Hwy 417 west to exit 144, then go north on Carp Rd), ☎ +1 800 409-1965, . Self-guided tours 11AM-4PM daily (opens at 10:30AM during summer. Open on W until 9PM during spring and fall. Times for guided tours vary by season). Built to protect the government from nuclear attack, this once-secret bunker is now a museum and National Historic Site of Canada. In addition to preserving and promoting Canada's Cold War history, the museum offers a variety of visitor programs and services. You can learn, play or shop as you discover the bunker's secrets and relive the experience of the Cold War. Guided tours by reservation only.$14 adults, $13 seniors, $10 students , $8 youth 6-18, $40 families (2 adults plus 3 youth), free for children 5 and under.
Museum of Civilization - Atrium
For the sports fan, Ottawa has professional sports teams:
Ottawa Senators -- National Hockey League (NHL)
Ottawa Harlequins -- Rugby Canada Super League
Explore the Nation's Capital as it was meant to be seen-up close and on foot. There are a number of great walking tours to introduce you to the capital area. Some of them are more specific, for example The Haunted Walk of Ottawa  which offers tours focusing on Ottawa's infamous haunts and darker history. Hear tales of hauntings at some of Ottawa's most well known locations, including the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Bytown Museum and the Ottawa Jail Hostel. Cloaked guides lead guests through the city streets by lantern light-the perfect atmosphere for a good ghost story. Tours run year-round, rain or shine. Reservations are strongly recommended.
If you enjoy the outdoors, especially if you are a cyclist, you should definitely visit Gatineau Park just across the river from Ottawa. Bicycles can be rented during the summer months at the northeast corner of the Chateau Laurier. Ottawa and the surrounding area boasts over 170km of public paved trails on which you can run, bike, walk or rollerblade. If you are looking for a place to start, head to the nearest waterway: paved trails line both sides of the Ottawa River, the Rideau Canal, and the Rideau River. The Trans Canada Trail  enters Ottawa through the outskirt communities of Carleton Place and Stittsville, then joins up with the Ottawa River at Brittania Bay (near Carling Avenue at Bayshore Drive). It follows the river 13 kilometers east to Parliament Hill, then crosses over to the Quebec side, extending into and beyond Gatineau Park.
In winter, go skating on the largest outdoor skating rink in the world, the Rideau canal . Skates can be rented, and refreshments purchased, from vendors right on the ice. This is also a great place to enjoy a "beaver tail"  which is a local specialty - a bit like funnel cake, often enjoyed with lemon and sugar. It is very similar to, fried dough. The city's trail system serves as an excellent cross-country ski trail system, as do the nearly 200km of groomed ski trails in Gatineau Park. Downhill skiing is available across the river in three near-by sites: Camp Fortune (180 m vertical), Edelweiss (200 m vertical) and Mont Cascades (165 m vertical).
In early spring (typically March), consider visiting a sugarbush for fresh maple syrup. There are many to choose from in the region if you have a car to drive out of the city.
Day trips to Québec
Being located right on the provincial border, daytrips to neighbouring Québec can be made easily.
Gatineau - Right accross the Ottawa river. World-class Canadian Museum of History is worth a visit. The nightlife in the Old Hull neighbourhood has a handful of loud clubs and a decent offering of artistic cafés with good local live music.
Wakefield - Picturesque artist town on the side of the Gatineau river. Rich with cultural offerings and beautiful natural surroundings (especially in autumn).
Aventure Laflèche (819) 457-4033  A superb destination for those interested in outdoor activies in the Gatineau Hills year round. A community-owned non-profit company that offers beautiful nature trails, tours of the historical Laflèche caves, and the province's largest aerial park for the adventurous (includes several ziplines). Calling ahead for reservations is highly recommended.
Eco-Odyssée (819) 459-2551  Another great option for nature lovers close to Wakefield. A water maze that's great for learning about the local marsh environments.
Great Canadian Bungee is for the adventurous-inclined.
Film theatres and cinemas
Ottawa has many movie theatres to choose from, but there are also a few that specialize in "foreign" films, early releases, old returning films and specialty films. The Bytowne Cinema is on Rideau Street near King Edward and has a detailed online schedule . The Mayfair Theatre is found at 1074 Bank St. near Sunnyside . In addition, the Canadian Film Institute screens films at the National Library and Archives building on Wellington and is a favourite of the specialist film crowd .
Jazz and Blues lovers can find what they are looking for in these Ottawa music calendars:  and . Venues include Zoe's at the Chateau Laurier, Vineyards and Chez Lucien in the Market, and the Royal Oak (in Kanata). Find Blues at the Rainbow in the Market, and at Tucson's in Ottawa South on Bank St. at Hunt Club.
Ottawa is host to over 60 festivals and events per year, including:
Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival in summer, one of the largest in the world
Bluesfest, also in summer: The largest blues festival in Canada, and featuring as well rock, pop and world music. Many visitors come to Ottawa from Atlantic Canada and New England specifically for Bluesfest.
Canada Day, celebrate Canada's birthday in Ottawa on July 1st.
Ottawa has lots of live theatre entertainment. That includes at the National Arts Centre (English  and French ), the Great Canadian Theatre Company , the Ottawa Little Theatre , and Tara Players (Irish theatre) .
The National Arts Centre also provides a major venue for Dance and Orchestral performance .
The two best known universities in the city are Carleton University and the major bilingual and research-intensive University of Ottawa. Bilingual St. Paul's University is a Catholic university with ties to the University of Ottawa, offering various degrees in theology and social sciences. Dominican University College is a Dominican university where theology and philosophy can be studied at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, also in English or French. There is also Algonquin College and the francophone Cité Collégiale.
The Federal Government is the region's largest employer with the high-tech sector firmly in second place. Unless you are a Canadian resident, you will need a work visa to work in Ottawa, and some Federal Government jobs require Canadian citizenship.
The ByWard Market area of downtown Ottawa, located east of the Rideau Canal and the Chateau Laurier, is the area's most popular shopping district. In summer, stalls selling fresh produce and flowers line the streets, but even in the middle of winter there are some hardy vendors braving the cold — and maple syrup bought here costs half the price of souvenir shops elsewhere in the city. In the evening, the market shuts down and the area's restaurants, pubs and bars take over as the primary attraction, alongside many street performers.
Sparks Street is a pleasant pedestrian street one block off Parliament Hill and a common tourist throughfare for seeing the sights. Along this street you'll find the majority of the tourist shops selling postcards, magnets, and maple syrup. The Astrolabe Gallery, located on this street, is a treasure trove of antique maps as well as vintage posters. There are several outdoor cafes and restaurants to choose from also.
Westboro Village In recent years a stretch along Richmond Road in the "near west" of Ottawa from Golden Avenue east to Tweedsmuir Avenue has become a popular tourism and shopping zone, and includes several outdoor stores (clothing and equipment), restaurants and coffee shops. Notable shops include the Mountain Equipment Coop , Bushtukah , Trailhead , Ten Thousand Villages, Starbucks, Bridgehead (fair trade coffee), Kitchenalia, a chocolatier and several others. (Richmond Road becomes the western part of Wellington St. from Island Park Drive and a second strip of shops and restaurants runs along Wellington from Island Park Drive to Holland.)
Bank Street Promenade, . Great mix of stores ranging from chain restaurants to specialty shops. District extends from Wellington St to Gladstone Ave.
Larger shopping malls include the Rideau Centre  (downtown), St. Laurent Shopping Centre  (East Central), Place D'Orleans  (East End), the Bayshore Shopping Centre  and Carlingwood Mall  (West End).
The last Saturday in May, Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood hosts the annual Great Glebe Garage Sale. Hundreds of residents set-up tables in their garages or on their lawns and sell used goods ranging from household knick-knacks to electronics to clothing. Businesses in the area also hold sidewalk sales, and vendors sell artwork, baking, and refreshments. Driving and parking during the sale itself is unnecessary and nearly impossible. Arrive on foot or park and walk into the neighbourhood. For parking, and for the best deals (especially on larger items like furniture), arrive early. The event is bustling by 8 AM but continues well into the afternoon. Vendors are encouraged to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Ottawa Food Bank.
Travelers from abroad should always follow local tipping customs when it comes to eating at restaurants and drinking at a bar. It is customary for dinners to tip waiting staff 10-15% of the total bill. At bars/pubs/nightclubs bartenders expect $1 for each drink served, even if it is a simple can of beer. More generous tips will result in noticeably better service.
Canadian and ethnic foods from around the world are available at a wide variety of restaurants and street vendors throughout the city. The ByWard Market area has a wide selection of different cuisines; the Chinatown area is along Somerset Ave. between Bronson Ave. and Preston St; Little Italy runs along the length of Preston Street, from Carling Avenue to Albert Street.
Ottawa's claim to culinary fame: a classic beavertail with sugar and cinnamon
Also try the tasty BeaverTail, a doughy, deep-fried pastry associated with Ottawa, although a number of places claim to have created it. It's available in sweet and savory versions, topped with cinnamon, sugar, icing sugar, etc. In the winter, many places will offer it on the canal. During the summer, the only place downtown to offer it is in the Byward Market on George St. There are a variety of toppings and the taste of the beaver tail arguably stands out more with the classic sugar & cinnamon. However, the locals' favourite is the Killaloe Sunrise, a topping of cinnamon sugar and lemon juice.
Coffee Shops are found throughout the city, and include dozens of two specialty chains Second Cup and Starbucks, in addition to the mainstream Tim Horton's (seemingly planted at every intersection). Bridgehead, is a fair trade coffee house and can be found at over a dozen locations. Try their small double shot lattes, which are significantly better than their competitors'. There are several coffee houses in Little Italy, on Preston Street. One of the most popular, Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana (200 Preston Street, 613-594-5303), also houses an award-winning pastry shop . Raw Sugar in Chinatown is a great little coffee shop with a kitschy decor and tasty homemade snacks. At night it turns into a hipster music venue.
For the best non-Canadian eats, head down Somerset Street West near Bronson to the heart of Chinatown. Here you have a choice of places for Vietnamese, Thai, Cantonese, etc. Among the Vietnamese soup-houses, Pho Bo Ga and Pho Bo Ga La, are well-rated. The Yangtze Restaurant and Chu Shing Restaurant (across the street from it) are large box Chinese restaurants popular with Ottawa's Chinese clientele. The Jadeland Restaurant is a small popular Chinese restaurant set in a converted house and has been well reviewed for its tasty dishes and low prices. Another good source for ethnic foods is the stretch on Rideau between King Edward and the bridge to Vanier. You can find Middle Eastern, African and Asian food there.
Ottawa has more shawarma (kebab and fixings in pita bread) restaurants than any other place on Earth and most of them will serve up a hearty sandwich wrap for around $6. Their busy times are typically weekdays at lunch-hour, and on weekends after the bars close. Look for the restaurants featuring real steak, instead of the processed meat-loaf - the latter is often indicative of inferior quality ingredients overall. The usual range of diners, bagel shops and fast food restaurants can be found in shopping areas throughout the city.
You will also find food trucks known locally as "chip wagons" or "chip trucks" parked in various locations around the city at lunch time. They serve mainly hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, pogos (deep fried, breaded hot dogs on a stick), chips (french fries) and poutine (french fries covered with cheddar cheese curd and gravy - very popular in Quebec and eastern Ontario).
Ahora, 307 Dalhousie (Byward Market). A good little Mexican canteen. It serves up mains, zippy margaritas, and drinks imported from Mexico.
La Bottega Nicastro, 64 George Street (Byward Market). A fantastic little Italian specialty market, La Bottega also features the best $5 sandwiches the city knows, featuring amazing bread (esp. the focaccia) usually baked on the premises. The sit-down lunch kitchen is also well worth a visit.
The Buzz, 374 Bank Street (downtown). A favourite for those looking for a meal in a little bar with great ambience and attractive people. Great mixed drinks.
DiRienzo's Deli, 111 Beech Street (just west of Preston Street). This little deli tucked away in Little Italy, a secret known to many locals, is famous for the best and freshest deli sandwiches in the city for $5 (taxes included). During the week the lineup can stretch outside the packed little store, but they are arguably the fastest sandwich makers anywhere so don't worry about a long wait. There is also another newer location run by the family at Meadowlands Drive and Fisher Avenue.
East India Company, 210 Somerset St W. An excellent Indian buffet, featuring freshly-baked naan bread, daily feature dishes and an assortment of traditional desserts. Some dishes can be quite spicy compared to the more "touristy" buffets, so please check with your server. Cozy yet lavish decor.
Elgin Street Diner, 374 Elgin Street (downtown). A mediocre 24-hour diner, partially redeemed by serving breakfast 24/7 365 days a year with no exception, making this a popular spot to sober up after a night of drinking.
The Horn of Africa, 364 Rideau Street (east of the Byward Market). Serves reasonably priced and tasty Ethiopian food. A platter for two sampling various vegetable and meat dishes will run you around $20. They are also licensed to serve liquor.
Mello's in the Byward Market is a good greasy spoon with retro decor and lots of local colour. Good for breakfast after a night of drinking.
Moni Mahal, Laurier Street (business district, near Parliament Hill). Large buffet with tons of vegetarian and vegan options.
Pho Tu Do, 781 Somerset St W. A vietnamese "noodle house" featuring delicious Phò soup and a variety of grilled dishes. There are many such restaurants in Chinatown and a few peppered throughout the city. A huge bowl of noodle soup costs around $8. If you've never eaten Phò, be aware that "well done" beef is a very fatty cut, versus the rare beef which is lean.
Rangoon, 114 Gloucester (Centretown, near O'Connor). Family-run Burmese restaurant, with lunch specials for around $10.
Rose's Cafe, (in the Market and one on Gladstone). Indian.
Shanghai, 651 Somerset (Chinatown). Family-owned and run since the beginning, it boasts drag-queen karaoke on Saturday nights, frequent vernissages for Ottawa's up-and-coming artists, and some of the best Asian fusion cuisine in town.
Zak's, 14 Byward Market Square (Byward Market). A 24-hour diner in the ByWard Market. Comparable to the Elgin Street Diner, it is mostly a spot for mediocre after-hours "hangover cure" food. A bit expensive for what it is.
Major restaurant areas can be found on Elgin Street, on Bank Street in Centretown, on Bank Street in the Glebe, in Westboro and in the Byward Market, with entrees ranging from $15-$30. Similar restaurants can be found in major suburban shopping areas too.
The Black Tomato, 11 George St (corner of Sussex). Inspired cuisine featuring locally grown organic meat and produce, with a very large selection of Ottawa-valley craft beer and artisan sodas. Modern and intimate decor and a nice courtyard patio.
The Empire Grill, Clarence St, . Has a great patio in the summer and delicious food year-round. Expect to pay about $25+ for an entree.
Vineyards, in the ByWard Market, . An excellent restaurant with the widest selection of world beers and wines in Ottawa.
Pub Italia, 434 1/2 Preston Street (near Dow's Lake and the Experimental Farm), . An Irish/Italian pub with hundreds of bottled beers listed in its "Beer Bible". Noted for its intimate faux Medieval/Gothic décor. Come for the beers, but the food is average at best.
The Highlander Pub, The Highlander Pub in the Byward Market is a solid restaurant with good pub fare, and traditional Scottish food, such as haggis. It is a good place also after a long day of sightseeing and you need a drink, with any spirit, wine or beer you can think of. It has a warm, friendly environment, with plenty of patio room. An average tab for a full meal for 2 should be about $40 CND.
Santé Restaurant, 45 Rideau St, . Santé at the corner of Rideau and Sussex, across from the Rideau Centre, is a cosmopolitan yet casual. It’s a delicate line to walk, but Santé Restaurant does it with panache - offering exotic Asian Fusion and Thai cuisine in a comfortably elegant setting.
The Works 362 Richmond Road in Westboro, 580 Bank Street in the Glebe, 363 St. Laurent Boulevard in Manor Park, and various suburban locations, . Hard to argue that these are not the best burgers around. The selection is top notch and toppings are bountiful. Also served are delicious onion rings, milk shakes and cold beer, all in a funky industrial decor. Expect to pay $12 for a burger with sides, and not to regret it.
da Sergio 338 Preston Street, is an owner operated authentic Italian Bistro with attention to detail in its appetizers, pasta, sauces and secondi. Calamari are fresh and melt-in-your-mouth, and the Carpaccio served simply with capers, olive oil and parmesan curls. They have a large patio with shade making it a good spot for a sunny summer afternoon or evening.
Tennessy Willems 1082 Wellington Street West, is perhaps Ottawa's most critically acclaimed pizzeria. The pizzas are baked at a really high temperature in a wood-burning oven, and feature gourmet toppings such as wild boar, soppressata salami, housemade chorizo sausage, and more. Reservations are highly recommended as this place fills up fast. There is an outdoor patio in the summer months.
Ottawa has excellent options for fine dining if you feel like spending a bit extra. Budget C$150 for a three course dinner for two, including wine and gratuity.
Beckta, located downtown (226 Nepean St.), is a modern restaurant with a variety of tastes centred around locally available foods. Also features an extensive wine list.
Signatures, at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute (453 Laurier Ave. East), 613-236-2499, Tues-Sat: 5:30 p.m.–10, is a French restaurant with a five-diamond rating from CAA/AAA that is considered among the very best in the city.
E18hteen, located in the Byward Market at 18 York St., is an upscale, modern restaurant and bar located in a renovated 19th century heritage building.
Merlot, at the Marriott Hotel (100 Kent St.), is Ottawa's only revolving restaurant.
Perspectives Restaurant, at the Brookstreet Hotel (525 Legget Drive), offers fine dining featuring a fusion of Oriental flavours with top-quality regional ingredients.
Issac's 64 Hundred, in West End (6400 Hazeldean Road), is a fine dining restaurant with a mediterranean flair.
Domus, in the ByWard Market at 85 Murray St. Featuring Chef John Taylor
Vegetarian and Vegan
CafeMyHouse at 1729 Bank St. offers vegan friendly cuisine and is located within 10 minutes of both the airport and the train station. The restaurant specializes in brunch and lunch options, and average around $15 a meal.
The Green Door at 198 Main St offers a vegetarian and vegan buffet and is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa. It offers private and communal tables. Meals are priced by weight, and average around $12 for a full plate.
The Table, 1230 Wellington St in the Westboro neighbourhood, also offers a vegetarian buffet with many vegan options. Meals are priced by weight.
ZenKitchen, 634 Somerset St. W, is opened in mid-June 2009. Named Ottawa's Best New Restaurant in 2009, it is completely vegan, with full table service, a wine program and summer patio. They also offer vegetarian cooking lessons and special events like wine tastings. Reservations can be made online at www.zenkitchen.ca.
Govinda's Restaurant on Somerset East (just off the University of Ottawa) offers a simple vegan buffet for $5-$7. The best cheap eats in town. Operated by ISCKON (Hare Krishna movement). Only open weekdays from 17:00 to 20:00
So Good Restaurant on Somerset (1.5 blocks West of Bronson) has a separate vegetarian menu (dishes are also vegan unless stated) and there are many choices . Try anything "Wu Se" (peanut sauce). Dinners are about $10 (entree and rice).
Perfection-Satisfaction-Promise, 167 Laurier Ave E. (Near University of Ottawa, Sandy Hill), ☎ 613-234-7299, . M-Tu 8AM-8PM, W 8AM-5PM, Th-F 8AM-8PM, Sa 4PM-9PM. Fully vegetarian with a great vegan selection. "Unquestionably some of the best vegetarian food in the city" - Ottawa Xpress, 2007.6.50 - 12.00.
The most popular bar areas are in the ByWard Market, along Wellington Avenue in Westboro and along both Elgin Street and Bank Street between Somerset and Gladstone in the Centretown area. There are pubs and bars scattered throughout the city as well.
Note that smoking is not permitted in Ontario or Quebec restaurants and bars.
Bars and nightclubs
The Standard, 360 Elgin St. A restaurant during the day, pumping club/lounge at night. The Standard is popular Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with a different style of music each night. Friday is excellent old-school and modern hip-hop/R&B while Saturday is a little of everything. Excellent beer tap selection and daily drink specials.
Club 292, 292 Elgin St.
E18hteen, 18 York St.
Barrymore's, Bank St. An old converted movie theatre, their 80's night is the place to be in Ottawa on Sundays. They also have a 90's night on Thursdays and live concerts on most other nights.
The Dominion Tavern, York St. Simple beers and some pool: picture your friend's basement apartment, even serving 40's of beer. But don't let the decor fool you: the "Dom" has some surprisingly good beers on tap, too.
The Chateau Lafayette, 42 York St (Byward Market, across the street from Dominion). This casual dive bar is popular with all types of crowds, making for some unique experiences. Lucky Ron, a local country singer and cult favourite, plays every Saturday afternoon, without fail (seriously: he has been doing this for like 20 years).
Zaphod's Beeblebrox, York St (next to Dominion). Alternative rock/new age punk, hip-hop nights on Thursday. Recently short-listed in CBC Radio 3's "Searchlight: The Best Live Venue in Canada" competition. And yes, they do offer a drink they call a "Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster"!
Foundation York St. in the alley behind E18hteen. Restaurant during the week that is open for lunch and dinner. Excellent food and one of the only restaurants in Ottawa to serve fondue. On Friday and Saturday nights it transforms into an upperclass nightclub. Dress to impress, no logos or running shoes, and be prepared to spend a few bucks on drinks.
Options Bar located off the main lobby of the Brookstreet Hotel, 525 Legget Drive. A relaxing and sophisticated lounge, sometimes good for celebrity sightings.
Mercury Lounge, an awesome bar that changes its themes nightly ranging from African beats to hip-hop to house (depending on the night). Spread out over 3 (relatively small) floors, this bar offers different DJs and atmospheres throughout. Hump Night is one of the best gay nights in the city and occurs on Wednesday (4$ cover).
Edge, A popular gay bar, especially with younger people, is located at Sparks St and Bank St. Best on Saturday nights. Through the summer months the Edge has a rooftop patio that is chic, but be prepared to climb up 7 stories!
The Lookout, is located in the Byward Market at 41 York St. They have a very popular "bois night" on Thursday that attracts lots of people. Friday and Saturday are mostly lesbian nights.
Since the mid-1990's there has been an explosion in Irish-/British-style pubs across the city. In the core you will find:
Patty Boland's, Clarence St. Feels like an old tavern, but big. Friday and Saturday nights Patty's has live music so expect to pay cover, and mandatory coat check in the winter. During the musician breaks there is a dance floor with Top 40 music.
Black Thorn, Clarence St. Upscale, good food, huge patio with good views.
Irish Village, Clarence St. Ottawa's largest pub complex, including the eponymous Irish Village (loud, lots of live music) and The Heart and Crown.
Lieutenant's Pump, Elgin St. British style pub with a good variety of food selections and inexpensive draught.
The Manx, Elgin St. Great microbrews, wide scotch selection, bohemian/hipster feel.
Pub Italia, Preston St. A large selection of beers from the world, especially Belgian. Excellent pizza and pastas. Interior design is a bit strange but the patio is very nice.
D'arcy McGee's Sparks Street & Elgin St. Beautiful architecture with impressive food selection
Clocktower, Bank and Pretoria. A microbrewery with 4 locations throughout the city. Decent food and unique weekly specials. The brewery is in the Bank st pub and in full view of the patrons.
Centretown pub (CPs) A gay pub located near the corner of Bank and Somerset.
Chez Lucien, 137 Murray St. (corner Dalhousie): one of the few pleasant, non-faux-Irish pubs downtown (a favourite along with the Manx). Serves good pub fare (including excellent fries), can get busy especially after work. A good selection of microbrew beers.
Quinn's, 1070 Bank St., is a small but cozy sports bar and pub located next to the Mayfair theatre. Expect good pub fare, a nice ambiance and good selection of beers.
Royal Oak, (12 locations) is a local chain of pubs all over the city. Decent pub fare, a selection of English draught beer and live entertainment including bands, trivia nights and karaoke.
Ottawa has a wide variety of hotels that can suit every budget. Tourism Ottawa website  has an extensive list of hotels and an online Ottawa guide. Hotels in Ottawa are located across the city and centred mostly in the downtown core.
Ottawa Jail Hostel, 75 Nicholas Street (across the street from the Rideau Centre), ☎ 613-235-2595 (toll free: 1-866-299-1478, fax: 613-235-9202), . A member of Hostelling International, this hostel is in the old Ottawa Jail; the bedrooms are actually old jail cells and the hostel has been voted one of the top 10 haunted places in the world. . It's close to the Byward Market and downtown. Tours available.$24.15/dorm for HI members, $28.35 for non.
Ottawa Backpackers Inn, 203 York Street, ☎ 613-241-3402 (toll free: 1-888-394-0334, firstname.lastname@example.org), . Part of Backpackers Hostels Canada, includes kitchen, free wireless internet and free coffee/tea. In a converted house into hostel, in the market block. The staff and the atmosphere are very friendly. Allergy warning: they have a cat$25/night for regular dorm beds, more for semi-private and private rooms.
Barefoot Hostel, 455 Cumberland St, 613-237-0335, . A clean, modern hostel located downtown. Included for use is a mini-kitchen, back patio with lounge chairs, common room with a huge HDTV, computer (with internet), free WiFi, plush bed linens, lockers and three shared bathrooms. Rates start at $29/night/per person and you can book online. Make sure to check their website or Twitter page for current promotions.
The area codes for Ottawa are 613 and 343. Ten-digit dialing (area code+local number) is required for all local calls. The neighbouring city of Gatineau uses area code 819.
For emergencies call 9-1-1.
Ottawa is a very safe place to live and visit. There are many tourists in the city, especially in summer months, and there are very few incidents of robbery or assault. The metropolitan area is patrolled by four police forces. Violent crime and murder rates are amongst the lowest of major Canadian cities.
Property crimes, including car theft, can occur. As a precaution do not leave valuables in your car.
After dark, take extra care in areas outside of downtown such as Lowertown, Hintonburg, Vanier, Bayshore, Ledbury, Heatherington, Caldwell and South Keys. These neighbourhoods are known to have gang presence, and drug problems.
It's not uncommon to come across homeless persons throughout the downtown, especially around the Rideau Street area. However, panhandlers are often quite polite and not aggressive.
To the south-east of Ottawa is a large flat rural area consisting mostly of small commuter towns, agricultural villages, and the occasional woodland. This lowland is sprawled over eight counties and stretches all the way to Montreal and the United States border, hundreds of kilometres away. In this agricultural hinterland lies:
Merrickville, 45 min by car south of Ottawa, claims to be Canada's prettiest village.
Perth, 1 hour south, a very scenic town with mills, and heritage buildings.
Carp, a tiny village 10 km north of Ottawa, houses the surreal Cold War "Central Emergency Government Headquarters" (Diefenbunker), now a museum.
To the west of Ottawa lies more rugged terrain. The Madawaska Highlands, which start about 90km to the northwest, is a sparsely inhabited wilderness area composed of miles upon miles of lakes and forests. In this area lies:
To the north of Ottawa lies Renfrew County, the heart of what is know colloquially as the Ottawa Valley. Though Ottawa lies geologically in the Ottawa Valley, as a colloquial term it is used to refer to the cultural region to the north of Ottawa.
Beyond the Ottawa region lie other Canadian/US cities, such as:
Montreal, the largest city in Quebec, is 200km east. The largest French-speaking city outside of France.
Syracuse, the largest city in upstate New York is 300km south.
Toronto, Canada's largest city, is about 500km to the southwest.
Kingston, about 200km to the southwest. An old city composed of limestone buildings.