Hostelworld Guide for Ottawa

By Rebecca Keenan

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Found between Montréal and Toronto, Canada's capital city is often overlooked by visitors to the region. However, if you're travelling from Québec to Ontario, Ottawa should definitely feature on your itinerary. Not only is it home to Parliament Hill, the seat of the Canadian government, this city also boasts a wide range of attractions from historic sites to museums, art galleries and plenty more. Situated on the Ottawa River, Ottawa also has much to offer in the way of natural beauty which can easily be experienced on foot or by hopping on a bike. Add great shopping, interesting neighbourhoods, tempting cuisine and lively nightlife to that and you've got more than enough to make Ottawa an incredibly attractive destination.



In this Guide...      

Useful Information
After Dark
Places to Eat
Top Attractions
Budget Tips
Where to Shop

 The Essentials


Getting There

By plane: Ottawa International Airport is located just 16 kilometres from the city centre. Flights from various destinations in Canada, the US and Europe arrive here. To get from the airport to the city, hop in a taxi or catch the 97 bus.

By train: Services operated by VIA Rail Canada arrive in Ottawa from lots of different Canadian destinations including Toronto. Ottawa Train Station is located on Tremblay Road just a short trip from the city centre.

By bus: Ottawa Bus Central Station on Catherine Street is the city's main bus terminal. Greyhound Canada operates lots of services to and from this station, connecting Ottawa with other Canadian cities like Montréal and Toronto.

Getting Around

On foot: While you will be able to get to most of Ottawa's main attractions on foot, you will probably end up using public transport at some stage during your stay especially if you want to head out to some of the more popular neighbourhoods or across the river to Gatineau.

By bus: OC Transpo operates numerous bus services throughout Ottawa. A different company runs the bus network in neighbouring Gatineau but it's easy to transfer between the two.

By bike: Thanks to the many kilometres of bike paths found throughout the city, cycling is a great way to get around Ottawa.

 Ottawa facts

Location: Ottawa, which is the capital city of Canada, is located in the province of Ontario right on the border with Québec. Ottawa forms Canada's Capital Region together with Gatineau in Québec.
Population: In excess of 812,000 people call Ottawa home.
Area: The urban area of the city covers almost 200 square kilometres, which is just a small portion of the Ottawa area's total size.
Founded: Originally founded as 'Bytown' in 1826, the city of Ottawa was officially incorporated in 1855.

Ottawa has a humid continental climate and experiences four distinct seasons. Summer is usually quite warm and humid. Average highs of 20.5ºC are what you can expect in July, Ottawa's hottest month. The weather in spring and autumn can be quite changeable while winters get very cold and see plenty of snow. January and February are the coldest months with average lows of around -11ºC. June tends to be the wettest month as it gets approximately 89mm of rainfall.

 Good to know...

Languages: English and French
Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
Electricity: 110 Volts AC/60 Hz, 2-pin plug (flat) or 3-pin plug (2 flat & 1 round)
Area code: +1 (Canada), 613 (Ottawa)
Emergency codes: Ambulance/Fire/Police 911
Time zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5)
Central Post Office: Byward Market Postal Outlet, 298 Dalhousie Street
Main Tourist Office: Capital Infocentre, 90 Wellington


USA: +1 613 6885335
Australia: +1 613 2360841
New Zealand: +1 613 2385991
UK: +1 613 2371530
Spain: +1 613 7472252
France: +1 613 7891795
Germany: +1 613 232110
Italy: +1 613 2322401
Ireland: +1 613 2336281

Hostelworld Guide for Ottawa

 Cheap Eats

 After Dark

La Botega, 64 George Street, ByWard Market Inside this Italian food store you'll find a counter making some of the most delicious sandwiches in Ottawa. Fillings include all the usual suspects including pastrami, cheese and salad. Open Mon-wed 9am-6pm, Thurs-Fri 9am-8pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm.

The Works, 580 Bank Street, The Glebe Big burgers are what you'll find in abundance at this popular eatery. Drawing in crowds with its huge selection of toppings, sides and large portions, this is a comfy spot to enjoy a substantial meal. Sodas served in jugs are a pretty nice touch, and you can also try ice-cream floats. Open daily 11am-10pm.

Ahora, 307 Dalhousie, ByWard Market Head up to the counter of this basement level restaurant to order, choosing from a wide variety of dishes from enchiladas to nachos. One of the coolest things here is the 'salsa bar', where you can fill paper containers with as much salsa as you can stomach. Open daily noon-10pm.

Chez Lucien, 137 Murray Street, ByWard Market A local favourite, Chez Lucien is a laid-back bar that also happens to serve amazing food at very affordable prices. The menu features a good variety of dishes including steak, pasta, soups, sandwiches, burgers, nachos, chicken wings and more. Open daily 11am-2am, food served 11am-midnight.

 No animals were harmed...

BeaverTails Something of an Ottawa institution, BeaverTails are made from fried dough stretched to look like a beaver's tail. Traditionally served covered in sugar and cinnamon, you can get plenty of other toppings too including chocolate sauce, bananas and lots more. Sold at a chain of pastry stands across Ottawa and beyond, the original location is in the ByWard Market.

Zaphod Beeblebrox, 27 York Street, ByWard Market Named after a character from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, this alternative hangout is one of Ottawa's coolest bars. There's bingo on Sunday nights and regular live bands. Drinks run the gamut from Jägerbomb specials to cocktails like the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. Open daily 4pm-3am.

Babylon, 317 Bank Street, Centretown A popular spot on the Ottawa party scene, Babylon offers a huge variety of different theme nights. These include weekly Mod Club dance parties on Sunday nights, rock nights on the first Saturday of every month and regular live music. There's a great selection of drinks on offer too, including some very tempting cheap specials. Open daily 9pm/11pm-2am/2.30am; cover charge varies with event.

Highlander Pub, 115 Rideau Street, ByWard Market With 200 single malt scotches on offer at the bar along with plenty of other drinks, it's no surprise that this is a pretty popular place for a few drinks. All the staff, both guys and girls, wear kilts in keeping with the Highlander's Scottish theme. There's a big screen TV inside which shows all the major sporting events. Open daily 11am-1am/2am.

 Gay/Lesbian Ottawa

The Canadian capital is home to a growing LGBTQ scene. Some of Ottawa's top gay nightspots include the Lookout Bar (41 York Street), Centretown Pub (340 Somerset Street West) and Swizzles (246 Queen Street). If you're in the mood for a drag show, head to Mercury Lounge (56 Byward Market Square) for HUMP on Wednesday nights.

Barrymore's Music Hall, 323 Bank Street, Centretown Located inside an old theatre, this long-running club has played host to a huge variety of live music acts in its time. These days, each night has its own theme; Thursdays are student night, Saturdays are rock night and on Sundays it's an ode to the 80s. Open Thurs, Sat & Sun 9pm-2am; cover charge varies with event.

Aulde Dubliner, 62 William Street, ByWard Market With lots of tables both inside and out, this pub is part of Ottawa's popular 'Irish Village'. Not overly 'Oirish', it's a good spot with a welcoming vibe and a great selection of drinks including Guinness and Harp on tap. Open Mon-Fri 11am-2am, Sat-Sun 8am-2am.

 Don't Miss

 Ottawa for Free

Parliament Hill, Downtown On this hill overlooking the Ottawa River, you'll find the Parliament Buildings which are home to Canada's Senate, House of Commons and Library of Parliament. After you've taken a guided tour, head up to the observation deck in the Peace Tower for great views. Check website for tour times; admission free.

 An engineering marvel

Rideau Canal The Rideau Canal opened in 1832 and covers an impressive 202km stretch. There's lot to do along this UNESCO World Heritage site. In Ottawa you can watch the boats navigate their way through the locks and more. During winter, a section of the canal becomes the world's largest skating rink.

Canadian Museum of Nature, 240 McLeod Street, Centretown Having recently undergone extensive renovations, this natural history museum hosts five floors of exhibits covering everything from birds to bugs. The interactive displays make it both educational and entertaining. Open daily from May 1st-Labour Day, closed Mondays from Labour Day-April 30th; admission $10.

National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive, ByWard Market With a giant spider sculpture standing sentinel outside, there's no way you'll miss the National Gallery of Canada. The collection includes everything from contemporary Canadian art to European Renaissance art. Open Tues-Wed & Fri-Sun 10am-5pm, Thurs 10am-8pm, closed Mondays; admission $9.

Canadian Museum of Civilisation, 100 Laurier Street, Gatineau This is one of the city's most recognisable buildings. It's filled with large galleries including the Canada Hall with its life-size displays chronicling the history of the country. Open Mon-Wed & Fri 9am-5pm, Thurs 9am-8pm, Sat-Sun 9.30am-5pm; admission $12.

 Bridging the gap

Walk across the Alexandra Bridge Spanning the Ottawa River and connecting Ottawa with Gatineau, this bridge was originally built between 1989 and 1901 and has since undergone major restructuring. Walk across the bridge for great views of both sides of the river, the Canadian Museum of Civilisation and more. A one-way trip takes about 20 minutes.

Wander through Le Breton Flats Park Close to the Canadian War Museum you'll find this large open park area where you can stroll along the footpaths, chill out on the green lawns or have a seat on one of the many benches and watch the world go by. Plenty of events are held here throughout the year including Ottawa's popular annual Bluesfest.

Have a look inside Notre Dame Cathedral The twin spires on the exterior of this cathedral are extremely impressive but it's the interior that really shines. Inside, the Gothic architecture, elaborately decorated ceiling and stained glass windows are well worth a look. Open Mon 11.30am-6pm, Tues-Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 8am-8pm.

Stroll along Confederation Boulevard Winding its way along a 7.5km long stretch through the heart of Ottawa and across into Gatineau, Confederation Boulevard takes you past many of the area's top attractions including Parliament Hill and the National Gallery of Canada. You'll know you're on the right track when you see banners dedicated to Canada's cities, provinces and territories.

Check out Major's Hill Park Filled with colourful flowerbeds, interesting statues and freestanding artworks, Major's Hill Park was first established all the way back in 1874 and today is one of Ottawa's most popular parks. Located on a hill above the Rideau Canal, this park affords visitors with great views of the famous waterway.

Hostelworld Guide for Ottawa