Canada’s bilingual capital brings with it a blended culture: French and English speakers mixed with attitudes and outlooks reflecting both the language’s homes, making the city an exhilarating and enticing stop off on a North American tour.
Start at the heart of the city and the heart of Canadian democracy, exploring the imposing architecture and inner workings of Parliament Hill. Both self guided and stirring tour-guided trips are offered (go for the centre block tour, which gives you a peek at everything from the House of Commons to the Parliament Library). In the summer, sit out on the vast lawns and watch the daily Changing of the Guard or the nightly light show projected onto the building’s side.
Summer or winter, Ottawa is a real outdoor city. In the heart of the winter, strap on some skates and hit the Rideau Canal, or head to the impressive selection of local ski runs, before sampling a ‘Beaver’s Tail’ (fortunately not a literal description) at the slope side. In the summer, the endless lengths of cycle trails are the perfect way to explore the city, or (for the more enthusiastic of cyclists) head out of the city and find a place to sample the local maple candy.
If you prefer to stay in the warm (and if you visit at winter, you usually will), there are an impressive variety of museums to explore, including a detailed look at the original migration of Europeans to Canada in the impressive Civilization Museum (architecture lovers will love this building, too). The Museum of Nature, the National Gallery, and the War Museum both make for notable asides, too, while those with a love of lively sports could do much worse than take in the carnage that is an Ottawa Senators ice hockey game.
Ottawa is one of those capital cities that doesn’t quite overwhelm the other destinations offered in the country. It does, however, give a great chance to learn about Canadian roots and explore a modern city with blended influences and a lively, outgoing take on life.