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  • Overview

    The country's capital sits on the south bank of the Ottawa River, opposite the French-speaking city of Gatineau in neighbouring Quebec province. It's location on the border puts it in the unique position of being truly multicultural and bilingual, with a harmonious blend of French and English culture.

    Ottawa was a humble lumber town until Queen Victoria designated it the capital of Canada in 1857. Since then it has grown into a modern and cosmopolitan city, often overlooked in favour of its larger, more glamorous neighbours, Toronto and Montreal.

    Its main landmark is the 302ft (92m) high Peace Tower, rising above the imposing Parliament Buildings, which stand in Gothic splendour at the junction of the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau rivers.

    The city has a network of waterways and canals that link it to Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay. Locals and visitors use the historic Rideau Canal for boating in summer, and for ice sculpting and skating in winter. The parliament buildings and other sites have an old-world European charm, offering numerous top-class museums and galleries, while the National Arts Centre houses an opera company, theatres, studios and restaurants.

    Parliament Hill

    Parliament Hill is a grandiose complex where visitors can embark on tours, observe parliament in action and experience ceremonial spectacles such as the Changing of the Guard. Its centre block houses the Senate and Commons chambers, with its distinctive Peace Tower a perfect vantage point for vistas of the capital. The historic east block contains restored offices of Canada's first prime minister and other early statesmen, while the west block houses the offices of parliament members and is closed to the public.

    Address: Wellington Street
    Parliament Hill Parliament Hill Servez-vous
    Canadian Museum of History

    The Canadian Museum of History was created to enhance the country's understanding of its own past, with tremendously fascinating exhibitions focusing on Canadian history, world history and civilisation. Visitors arriving with kids may want to check out the Canadian Children's Museum too. It offers a child-friendly experience by including games, toys, costumes and hands-on props. The museum also has a 500-seat theatre, and a 295-seat cinema equipped with a giant 3D screen. All told, the combination of attractions should keep the entire family happy for hours on end.

    Address: 100 Laurier Street, Gatineau
    Canadian Museum of Civilization Canadian Museum of Civilization Michel Rathwell
    Gatineau Park

    Located just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park is the capital's conservation and outdoor-recreation haven. Travellers can expect a fun itinerary of activities, regardless of the season. Swimming, hiking, biking, camping, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are all on offer within an area renowned for its hilly woodlands and clear lakes. Visitors typically enjoy exploring the beautiful Luskville Falls, the diversity of forests along the King Mountain Trail, and the marble and geological phenomenon of Lusk Cave.

    Gatineau Park Gatineau Park Lezumbalaberenjena

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Ottawa's humid semi-continental climate boasts a vast range of temperatures between summer and winter. Essentially, the city has unpredictable weather conditions. Winters are generally snowy and icy. Average low temperatures in winter (December to February) can drop to 5°F (-15°C) at night. However, averages are misleading because days can be much warmer or colder. Ice storms can occur. Summer (June to August) in Ottawa is warm and humid, with temperatures exceeding 80°F (27°C) fairly often, sometimes as early as April and as late as October. Summers are usually short, though, while spring and autumn are unpredictable, with potentially early or late snowfalls, or unseasonal heat waves.

    Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated eight miles (13km) south of Ottawa.
    Time: GMT -5 (GMT -4 from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November).
    Getting to the city: Hotel-shuttle and limousine services to downtown Ottawa are available. Bus Route 97 departs from outside the Arrivals area. Taxis are also an option.
    Car Rental: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise and Hertz are all represented at the airport.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the terminal.
    Facilities: There are a number of bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as retail outlets, duty-free shopping, ATMs and currency-exchange services located throughout the airport. Internet access is also available.
    Parking Short-term and long-term parking are available.
    Website: www.yow.ca/en

    For sightseeing purposes, most visitors enjoy exploring Ottawa's compact downtown area on foot or by bicycle, but the OC Transpo company also provides a top-class integrated public transport system. Travellers can purchase tickets when boarding buses and streetcars, while day passes and discount tokens are available. Taxis are available but are fairly expensive. Rates should be displayed in the taxi cab and the meter rate should be set at one at the start of a journey. There are also ride-sharing apps such as Uber on offer.

    Ottawa is a green city, packed with parks and open spaces. As the capital of Canada, it sports numerous national attractions and top museums. A holiday in Ottawa is inevitably a busy whirl of sightseeing, but the city also has a jam-packed events calendar, so it is wise to check what's on when planning to visit. Fun festivals take place throughout the year, from ice-carving in winter to exploring tulip gardens in the spring.

    While everyone will enjoy its charms, the city is particularly well suited to more active holidaymakers who'd enjoy cycling along the city's miles of trails, or ice-skating down the Rideau Canal in winter. Extreme outdoor activities such as bungee jumping and white-water rafting are also on offer just outside Ottawa.

    Top attractions include the National Gallery of Canada, and Parliament Hill, the seat of Canada's federal government and site of frequent pomp and ceremony. Visitors should also stop at the Canadian War Museum, the UNESCO-listed Rideau Canal and the ByWard Market, a historic farmers' market by day and popular entertainment venue by night. If visitors want to go on a tour of Ottawa, a novel way would be to do so on the open-topped tourist buses.

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    Companies flying to Ottawa