Planning a solo trip to Ottawa, Canada? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The capital of Canada and its 4th largest city, Ottawa has a population of around 1,000,000.
- Founded in 1826 (then known as “Bytown”), it was officially incorporated as Ottawa in 1855.
- Initially an Irish and French settlement, it is now a very diverse city – over 16% of residents are foreign born.
- The political center of Canada, Ottawa boasts a very high standard of living.
- Nicknames: Bytown, O-Town, Capital City, The N.C. and O-Dot.
- Currency: Canadian Dollar (CAD)
- Spoken languages: predominately English. Many residents also speak French.
- Best time to visit: from May to October. Spring and summer months are mild, while winters can get very cold.
- Arriving via airport: public transport by #97 bus is $3.75 one way (cash to driver, or bought from ticket machine on Level 1). Taxis are available at a cost of approximately $30 to the downtown area.
WHERE TO STAY
- Anywhere in the downtown area makes for a convenient stay.
- The areas surrounding Coventry Road, Albert Street, Daly Avenue, and Bank Street have some of the highest rated hotels in Ottawa.
- The area around St. Paul University (Ottawa East) can be a great place to find cheaper accommodation – while still close to all the action.
- Ottawa’s public transit system (OC Transpo) operates city buses, street cars, and Light Rail Transit. Fares are $3.75 per ride (lower if using a PRESTO card, which is valid both in Ottawa and Toronto).
- Instead of bothering with taxis (often unreliable), get a quote from Uber first (use their app).
- Ottawa has a water shuttle taxi service (website) which operates from May to October, boarding from the Casino du Lac Leamy, Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Ottawa Locks (behind Parliament Hill).
- Drinking age is 19. last call is 2:00 AM.
- The hottest area for nightlife in Ottawa is the ByWard Market. A popular farmer’s market and shopping district by day, the area gets going at night.
- Elgin Street has plenty of pubs and restaurants.
- Dive bars: Dominion Tavern, Chateau Lafayette, Chez Lucien, and The Prescott (sports bar).
- Top pub picks for travelers: D’Arcy McGee’s, The Manx Pub, The Manx Pub, and The Brig Pub.
- Cocktails: Charlotte, Rabbit Hole, Andaz Ottawa (Hotel) rooftop bar, and Prohibition Public House (speakeasy).
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Visit the Canadian War Museum for an overview of Canada’s military history.
- The Parliament Buildings are open to the public for tours, free of charge, seven days a week. Visitors can take a guided tour of the buildings, attend a debate, and check out the Peace Tower or Memorial Chamber.
- It’s never bad time to check out the Rideau Canal. Take a ride down the canal in a water taxi or boat, skate along the frozen river in the winter, or fish along its banks in the summer. The world’s largest skating rink, this is one of the oldest attractions in Ottawa.
- The Canada Aviation and Space Museum houses one of the top collections of aircraft in the world, with over 115 airplanes and full-size replicas.
- Ottawa has over 150km of greenbelt trails, including: the Trans Canada Trail, Rideau Trail and Capital Pathway Network.
- The Aviation Pathway is a paved 5 km long path that goes through both wooded and open terrain, passing by the Canada Aviation Museum.
- The Carleton Place Trailway is a 7 km walking/biking trail that will take you past gorgeous scenery and 19th century houses.
- If festivals are your thing, consider planning your trip around around Winterlude or The Canadian Tulip Festival in May.
- As Ottawa is located by the province of Quebec, most residents are bilingual – many speak both English and French.
- Great restaurants to try in Ottawa: Coconut Lagoon (Modern Indian0, Thali (Indian), Alirang Korean (on Nelson), Table SODAM (Korean), Izakaya Shingen, Angry Dragonz (Thai Fusion), La Bonita Restaurant (Mexican), Carben Food + Drink ($$$), North & Navy ($$$ – Northern Italian).
- Where to find good cheap eats: just about anywhere. Check out the restaurants on Carling Avenue, Merivale Road, and Baseline Rd. Top budget picks: Habesha Restaurant (Ethiopian), Co Cham (Vietnamese),
- Dangerous Areas: Ottawa is very safe. If you want to stay on the safe side, avoid the following areas (especially at night): Vanier, Centretown (from Chinatown to Wellington Street), Debra Street, and Ritchie Street.
Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days