Canada's capital city could hardly be lovelier. Perched upon Parliament Hill are Ottawa's gothic government buildings, set against the slow-moving Ottawa River. Miles of late-Victorian brick houses dot neighborhoods. Canadian art and history are on display at museums throughout the city, including the impressive Canadian Museum of Civilization. Ottawa makes it easy to enjoy its beauty through outdoor pursuits. The tidy, hand-dug Rideau Canal has bisected this city since 1832 and remains popular with cruisers, bicyclists and ice skaters.
Things to Do
Wander the grounds of Parliament Hill and spend the morning watching the Changing of the Guard before the ornate Gothic spires of government buildings. Colorful, carved ravens and fierce wooden bears adorn First Nations totem poles, greeting visitors to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Exhibits recount Canada's long history with prehistoric weapons, textiles and tools of 16th-century New France. The museum also celebrates the lives of its most prominent historical figures, such as explorer Samuel de Champlain and writer Gabrielle Roy.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Canadian and international performances take the spotlight at the National Arts Centre, entertaining visitors with ballet, theatre and orchestral works within view of the Rideau Canal and Parliament Hill. For live alternative music, fun cocktails and wine bars, head to the ByWard Market. Bar 56 is a martini lounge; Chateau Lafayette, established in 1849, is Ottawa's oldest tavern; and Must is a sophisticated wine and tapas bar.
Restaurants and Dining
You'll find whatever you're hungry for at the ByWard Market. One of Canada's oldest and largest markets since 1826, shoppers fill their baskets with locally raised meat and fresh sausage from the 260 stalls every day. Follow your nose to the mingled scents of Mediterranean roasted garlic, Thai curry and fresh Atlantic seafood permeating the market -- it's home to 88 restaurants and more than a dozen pubs. Pick up a beaver tail for dessert; it's a cinnamon and sugar-sprinkled fritter found only in Ottawa.
The tidy Rideau Canal slices through Ottawa and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. In warm weather, tour boats ply the canal's waters, while guides offer commentary on the city's history and attractions. A popular paved bicycle trail borders the canal and spreads outward from there, extending over 100 miles -- a boon for this city of bike-lovers. In winter, the frozen canal becomes the world's longest ice rink, providing both recreation and an alternate mode of transportation for Ottawans.