Welcome to Canada’s Capital!! Happy 150 years Canada!
I was recently in Ottawa for two days – from Sunday evening to Tuesday evening. I stayed at the Ottawa Marriott Hotel on Kent Street. It’s in such a great location! Literally minutes away from the Parliament and main attractions – plus the views from our room was spectacular! Not to mention that they have a full glass area called The Summit on the 28th floor which has panoramic views of the city.
My itinerary is below. Everything is within walking distance of each other – or you can rent a bike and cycle around the city!
Day 1 –
- Start the day off by visiting the Parliament Buildings
- Right across the street on 90 Wellington St, is the main tourist office. Start here as the free tour tickets around the Parliament Buildings are given out on a first come first served basis starting at 9AM on the morning of the tours – you cannot pre-book so make sure to get here early as tickets do run out quick! Also from this office, you can pick up brochures for other attractions and talk to the staff who can help you plan your trip.
- There was a Canada 150 sign on the grass when I visited so I took some photos there.
- At the start of the main walkway, is the Centennial Flame & Fountain, dedicated in 1967 to honour Canada’s 100th anniversary of confederation.
- From here, if you have tour tickets – you can enter the Parliament buildings. You will be greeted by security/RCMP staff who will line you up for security clearance then when you’re inside you will follow signs to your tour (I believe there are 3 different tours available). I did the Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber tour – it is a self-guided tour where you go up the tower, see the bells and get up close with the famous clock!
- Walk to the Plaza Bridge and cross the Rideau Canal
- As you’re walking from the Parliament, you will see the National War Memorial at Confederation Square on your right – this is a Historical landmark and you will see two soldiers who stand guard. It was kind of odd actually – it was 34+ Celsius and they were wearing their full uniform – long sleeves, long pants and white gloves, they also can’t move and face directly into the sun – they must’ve been sweating, plus not to mention the weird tan they’re going to get only on their face.
- Standing on the bridge, you will see the start of the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO Heritage site and the Lockstation on the left side.
- The Canal is so cool – you can run/walk/cycle along the walkway or boat/paddle through the canal
- In Winter – the canal is completely frozen and it becomes the world’s largest skate rink
- The building that looks like a castle across the bridge is the Fairmont Chateau Laurier – a 4 star hotel.
- Continue walking straight to Byward Market
- I suggest turning left onto Sussex Drive. You will see the shopping mall in front of you at the intersection. Now you’ve entered the Byward Market area – this is a really interesting spot, full of shops, farmers markets selling Canadian Maple Syrup, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a variety of restaurants.
- Turn again on George St – now the mall is on your right. On your left you will walk past a Totem Pole.
- Spend some time exploring the market area – it’s an interesting spot!
- I stopped at Beaver Tails (corner of George and William St) – don’t worry I didn’t eat an actual beaver tail – they’re delicious flat pastries with various toppings. I had half chocolate hazelnut and half Nanaimo bar (which was limited edition for the Canada 150 celebrations).
- Make your way back towards the Ottawa River to either Murray St or St Patrick St and you’ll come to the Major’s Hill Park on your left and the National Gallery of Canada on the right
- The Park has great views of the Parliament and if you’re here around noon – you can hear the Carillon Bells ringing from the Parliament Peace Tower. This is 53 bells that are manually played via keyboard pedal-board – first is O Canada (our national anthem), then two or three other pieces – see the schedule here.
- Next make your way across the Ottawa River via the Alexandra Bridge
- This is a vehicle and pedestrian bridge that will take you across the river to the province of Quebec.
- There are panoramic views from the bridge but it can often be quite busy with cyclists, runners and walking pedestrians.
- When you reach the other side, you’re now in Gatineau, Quebec
- On the left is the Canadian Museum of History and on the right is the Jacques-Cartier Park
- Turn right and enter the Jacques-Cartier Park for MosaiCanada150
- MosaiCanada is 33 mosaiculture displays focusing on the history of Canada and the First Nations. It is totally free and so beautiful ! I believe this is only on display for Canada 150 celebrations but I did sign a petition to keep it going for another year so fingers crossed!
- Walk back along the Trans-Canada Trail/Voyageurs Pathway towards the Canadian Museum of History
- You can visit the museum and then take a water taxi back across the river. The taxi pick up is in front of the museum and costs $6 one way, $10 return trip. The views were beautiful and the breeze was lovely especially since it was 34+ Celsius !
- Via the Water taxi, you’ll get dropped off at the Ottawa Lockstation on the Rideau Canal
- If you’re lucky, you’ll see a boat making it’s way through the locks. If not, it’s a great place to take a break, walk across the locks or visit the Bytown Museum.
- At this stage, the touring is done for today – I headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner.
Day 2 –
- Start the day off at the Royal Canadian Mint
- Take a tour – it costs $6 and is 45 minutes but is totally worth it!
- Learn how coins are made by joining an interactive guided tour with one of the friendly tour guides (English or French)
- See the famous Vancouver 2010 athlete medals
- Learn about the record-breaking Million Dollar Coin – the largest coin ever produced
- Hold a solid gold bar that’s worth over $750,000 – it was heavy!
- The Mint in Ottawa is where collectors coins, investment coins and medals/medallions are made. In fact, Canada makes coins for other countries – there was a board full of other currencies who can’t afford their own Mint. You can also buy collectors coins and other tourist items from the gift shop.
- Take a tour – it costs $6 and is 45 minutes but is totally worth it!
- Next make your way back down Sussex Drive. You’ll pass the National Gallery of Canada on your right and the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica on the left.
- The National Gallery has a large spider sculpture near the front door – a busy spot for tourists taking photos underneath.
- The rest of my day was spent at a Day Spa
- It was honestly too hot to be outside all day – my arms and face actually turned about 3 shade darker in just 1 day!
I hope my itinerary gave you some ideas for things to do in Ottawa for two days. Everyone I met was so friendly and the city was very clean with beautiful landscaping and flowers everywhere.
It was a great trip and I’m happy to have made it this year, while celebrating 150 years for Canada.
Proud to be Canadian!