Things To Do In Ottawa
Ottawa, the capital city of Canada is not the largest city, but it is always full of life and interesting parts. The city is the perfect starting point if you need to learn about Canada’s colorful history, culture, and age-old traditions. Be amazed with its historic museums, monuments, commemorative sites, and Gothic inspired architectural structures that compliment its fascinating river and canal walkways.
The Parliament Hill and Buildings offer stunning views of the Gatineau and its encompassing museums. Visit the Peace Tower situated at the center block and watch the changing of the guard that occurs daily at 10 am. It holds a lot of insight on the history of Canada and Parliament, you will also see the Senate, the House of Commons, and the library is a marvel. This tour is a must for all lovers of Ottawa's history.
When To Go:
The best time to visit the capital city is in the middle of March and May, when temperatures start to climb and the city begins to blossom. It is also the same time when a portion of the capital's most loved unique occasions - including the famous Tulip Festival - occur. Because of its naturally warm climate, summer is the most well known time for a visit; however it’s also the most costly.
For those who want to avail of big discounts on their travel expenses, consider a tour or spending a holiday during the winter season. Despite the fact that the temperatures regularly drop and turn out freezing, you can keep your blood pumping by honing your figure skating or train for some traditional hockey sport on the Rideau Canal.
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Here are the top things to do when in the city of Ottawa.
Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum is an organized and interesting museum where every room presents an important historical fact about the wars that occurred in this country. The war museum traces the history of all wars in which Canada played a role, since the first battles between indigenous peoples through wars between England and France on Canadian soil, then the latest global and international wars of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
It is a museum of great impact, even emotional, especially for Canadians who so wanted to remember all their countrymen who died in the great wars, but also an opportunity for all visitors to remember or become aware for the younger generation of what happened during those times of turmoil.
It is also in this museum where you become aware of all the military operations carried out by the Canadian army in the course of history. In three hours you can go around and see old photographs, videos, war tanks, guns, war artifacts, and visit every exhibit room where each period of war is presented. The admission is free; the information is concise, clear, and presented in an interactive way for the younger ones.
Parliament Hill and Buildings
If you're in Ottawa, then you should definitely visit the Parliament Hill and Buildings. Admission is free and around this magnificent edifice you can walk and have a nice view of the Ottawa River and the Basilica. The facilities are very beautiful and the interior doors look stunning as well as the decorative columns inside. The center of Ottawa's Parliament Hill looks as if it's some kind of an old European city.
The building looks stunning and is surrounded by a large number of articles that are relevant to the Canadian people and events. The hill leaves a dramatic impression as it hangs over a flowing river, making it seem that the building is a bit like a medieval castle with a moat. In summer, do not fail to watch the changing of the guard ceremony. The entrance to the building with a guided tour is free and the educational tours are conducted in English and French.
The Rideau Canal starts near Fairmont Chateau Laurier where you can see a charming channel (hand-dug in the rock for portions). The banks are great and allow you to see the amazing properties owned by famous entertainment and political celebrities. Go take a long walk to be able to enjoy it, you can even rollerblade or bike too. See the locks and passage of a boat if you are lucky. These successive locks are located below the foot of the Parliament Hill.
You can combine the tour with a visit to the banks of the mighty Ottawa River and get back on the forecourt of the old Parliament building by climbing a wooden staircase located behind the rich vegetation. In winter, this canal holds the distinction of being the longest (18 kilometers of frozen ice) skating rink in Canada. The locks are still operated mechanically by the lock keepers. But it takes quite a while before a boat is completely high funneled, so spend plenty of time to wait and see an interesting spectacle that is observed by many onlookers.
Notre Dame Basilica
The Notre Dame Basilica is located opposite the National Gallery and is actually not to be overlooked. It is a large, imposing building with two towers gleaming in the sunlight. You can also take a guided tour through the interior of the church that is a bit dark inside, but very impressive and famous for its twin spires. It is similar in some respects to the Notre Dame of Montreal, Quebec, and Ontario, but this church carries its own style of beauty and charm. The ceiling has nice blue details, the interior is gorgeous, and also its fantastic architecture.
From the outside it looks flashy with its characteristic roof of silver color. It is a great work of Gothic architecture that is perfectly maintained and well preserved. In front of it there is a monument dedicated to the Reconciliation. In the same street there are several foreign embassies whose buildings are beautiful. It is striking from afar by its silver peaks and domes, and contrasting with the more sober interior of the nearby Waterfront Fine Arts Museum. It is also really worth to stay engrossed for quite a while when visiting these two landmarks when in Ottawa.
National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada was designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie in 1988 and completely made of all glass, concrete, and granite. At the front of the gallery is an artwork of a huge spider. Inside you can see marvelous paintings and masterpieces by El Greco, Rubens, Gauguin, Andy Warhol, as well as the works of local Canadian contemporary art. It is very airy, not overwhelming, and easy to understand.
The Gustave Dore exhibition is stunning and offers an exhibition of Canadian works in chronological order and contemporary Inuit art. The interior patios are spacious and very relaxing. The National Gallery looks superb because of its modern architecture, abundant natural light, and the quality of the exhibitions found there. Some are permanent and others are passages of more or less long periods according to their importance. The artistic ensembles found there are always high quality, impressive, and leaving lasting memories. One can easily spend a full day with the cafeteria serving full meals. The view of Parliament Hill is unique.
The main purpose of the Peace Tower is to allow visitors to take in the city and its surroundings, in full. The famous monuments of the city, the river and its bridge, and the city of Gatineau in front are clearly identified from this vantage point. It's really informative and enjoyable. Once up, you can also admire the old clockwork.
Access to the Peace Tower is part of the tour of Parliament. Free, so do not miss it, especially when you have the chance to do it with one of the young and fascinating. Go early in the morning. You'll avoid the crowds and you can choose the time of your visit. The elevator only takes 5 people at a time. Pay attention to the bells of the tower when passing beside them.
National War Memorial
The National War Memorial is an imposing structure that tells a little of Canada's history. It is very close to the headquarters of the Canadian government. The monument erected in honor and memory of the fallen Canadian soldiers killed in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. The monument is an arc protected by bronze statues. Also located here is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in honor of all those who were unsung heroes of this grim conflict. The place is now also considered a memorial in memory of all the other wars suffered by Canada and a symbol of the country’s constant desire to achieve peace. It is centrally located, after a visit to the Houses of Parliament you can also check out the National War Memorial.
The Diefenbunker is a once isolated underground museum of great discoveries located 30 minutes away from Ottawa. It is entertaining, informative, and so different from other museums which you will surely find very interesting. The concept is simple; You are given a map and discover floors and dozens of rooms that contained this anti nuclear shelter where there are rooms designated for mortuary, conference room, radio station, bathroom, deposit box, engine room and so on.
It is a nice surprise that will keep you busy for an hour, but will still cost you almost $ 20. Visits are best done with a guide and they will tell you numerous information and anecdotes about the bunker built to protect the heads of state. The tour lasts one hour, so the guide tends to pick up the pace, do not linger in front of the rooms at the risk of losing your group. This tour is really a journey through the days of the Cold War with its technical innovations and strategic location. It is a must see when you go to Ottawa.
Canadian Museum of Nature
Allow a few hours to spend in the Canadian Museum of Nature for it is very large and truly interesting. The building is neat and well maintained. The exhibits are varied, exciting, informative and interactive. Do not miss the special exhibition on frogs, it is really impressive and easy to observe living specimens. There is a complete reproduction of animals (stuffed, not just skeletons) and one of the highlights of this museum was the gallery of the stuffed dinosaurs that look almost lifelike. This Ottawa flagship for decades has been completely redone in recent years. It has 4 floors of exhibits, each devoted to a different topic and there is something for everyone.
Kids especially enjoyed the geology section where through a series of simulated experiments, they learn a lot about different types of rocks and how differences in heat and pressure result in different types of crystals. There are 3d movies and a magnificent collection of minerals, plus, a reconstruction of a wall of sediment from different eras where they found some fossils. It has a collection of skeletons of dinosaurs of all kinds with panels of informative explanations that help everyone to understand the multitude of different species, their evolution, and how scientists can see from fossilized skin and feces, draw conclusions about food, and understand the migration habits and appearance of different species. Do not miss the 19-meter long skeleton of a young blue whale.
Canada Aviation and Space Museum
The Canada Aviation and Space Museum presents aviation history of this city at its best. The featured exhibits are all in excellent condition. The 50-60 year old planes look like they just rolled off the assembly line. Everything here is neatly arranged and the exposure is laid out in chronological order - from the first aircraft to the modern supersonic fighters. There are lots of interactive exhibits in detail explaining the structural features of aircraft and various aspects of aviation.
The staging is perfect because it captures the ultrafast historical evolution of this wonderful machine that is the airplane. Without leaving the museum you can pay a small flight of helicopter on board an old bi-plane. It is very informative even for those who are not much into planes and flights. The museum has a nice souvenir shop and fine dining restaurant with interesting choices.
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