I am so happy that my hometown is our nation’s capital, Ottawa. It’s a beautiful city with lots of green space, a beautiful canal and lots to see and do. Canada is celebrating its 150th year of Confederation and there are all kind of special activities and festivities focused on this celebration. I’t an exciting year to visit and discover Ottawa. I wanted to share my list of top 7 favorite things to discover, and hope that if you are new to the city, you will consider a few of my suggestions.
1 – The Parliament Buildings. The buildings were officially opened in 1866 and are home to the federal government of our country. The original structure burned in 1916 and its replacement was designed in the Modern Gothic Revival style. Visits are free of charge, but tour tickets are required. They are available year-round on a first come first serve basis from the the tourist office at 90 Wellington Street (across from Parliament Hill).
2 – The Rideau Canal. The Rideau Canal was originally built to connect the city of Kingston to Ottawa, and has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Historic Site of Canada and a Canadian Heritage River. The Canal is 202 kilometers long, and in winter, the downtown section is known as the world’s longest man made skating rink. It has been operating as a canal since it first opened in 1832. The locks are operated today much as they were back in 1832. You can take a boat tour, bike or walk and discover this very unique waterway.
3 – The National Gallery of Canada. Opened in 1988, the gallery, located on Sussex drive, a short distance away from the Parliament Buildings is one of Canada’s premier art galleries. In 2005, a sculpture of a giant spider, “Maman” created by Louise Bourgeois, was installed in the plaza in front of the Gallery. From May to September, the Gallery is opened daily, and from October to April it is closed on Mondays. Admission to the National Collection is free every Thursday from 5 to 8 pm.
4 – The Byward Market. The historic Byward Market was established by Lt-Col. John By in 1826, and is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. During the warmer months, the market is a bustle of local fruit, vegetables and flower vendors offering their products. Stalls full of handcrafted and unique products offer a variety of Canadian and imported items. This is a great location with a large selection of restaurants and bars to suit almost every taste.
5 – The Royal Canadian Mint. The Mint, located on Sussex Drive, is within walking distance to many popular Ottawa attractions including the National Gallery of Canada and the Byward Market. It was founded in 1908 and produces hand-crafted collector and commemorative coins, gold bullion coins, medals and medallions. This is where the master tooling is done to create the dies that strike coin designs for both circulation and commemorative issues. Learn how coins are made, see the Vancouver 2010 Olympic medals, and hold a solid gold bar worth more than $750,000.
6 – Notre Dame Basilica. Located across the street from the National Gallery of Canada, it is the oldest and largest church in Ottawa. It was designated a heritage property in 1978. The steeples are covered with tin, typical for French-Canadian churches. Although its exterior is modest, its interior is quite ornate. Services are held in both English and French languages.
7 – Rideau Hall. Rideau Hall, opened in 1867, is the residence of the Canadian monarch and his or her representative, the Governor General of Canada. Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1977, the main building has 175 rooms. Tours are available year round.
Ottawa offers so much to visitors and residents alike. Have you traveled to Ottawa? If so, what was your favorite location?