Canada’s capital is the historical and cultural hub of Ontario. With its striking architecture, fascinating museums and historical sites it is an attractive city for you to visit.
If you want to enjoy a city break to Ottawa, then there are lots of flights to Canada from the UK that you can book direct or via another vibrant hub like Toronto.
There are so many sights to see in the capital that it can be difficult pick attractions to visit, especially if you are spending just a couple of days here. So with this in mind we have created an itinerary to help you spend a fabulous 48 hours in Ottawa.
Our suggested itinerary
Morning – Take a leisurely stroll around Parliament Hill
Afternoon – Visit one of Ottawa’s famous museums
Evening – Enjoy some recreational outdoor activities at Camp Fortune
Morning – Buy a souvenir at Byward Market
Afternoon – Skate in the winter or go boating in the summer on the Rideau Canal
Evening – Toast your city break with a glass of wine
Morning: Take a leisurely stroll around Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill is the jewel in the crown of downtown Ottawa and it is the political heart of the city. The parliament buildings sit at the top of the hill and dramatically overlook the Ottawa River.
While the politicians debate within the building you can go on a free guided tour (which are available every day) to see the impressive Gothic architecture. You’ll also be able to walk up to the top of the Peace Tower for incredible views of the city.
Parliament Hill is also a hub for some of Canada’s biggest events and celebrations and these take place throughout the year.
Josh Bender, who runs the Travel with Bender blog, says, “If you’re visiting Ottawa during the summer (July to September), the best thing I can recommend is the Sound & Light Show on Parliament Hill. The show changes every year, so even if you’ve seen it before, it’s worth seeing again. I suggest arriving at least 15 minutes early and bring a picnic blanket or lawn chair to sit on.”
The Sound & Light Show is a 30-minute multimedia show that is set against the backdrop of the Parliament buildings. The show takes you through Canada’s history and important milestones.
The start times for the show vary by month due to the different sunset times, but in July the show starts at 10pm, August at 9.30pm and September at 9pm.
There are also lots of festivals in the winter on Parliament Hill and one of the most eagerly anticipated events is the Christmas Lights Across Canada.
Talking about the event, Ottawa Tourism says, “From December 7, 2017 to January 7, 2018, a winter lightscapes multimedia show is projected onto Parliament Hill’s Centre Block. Inspired by Canada’s nature, climate and culture, this 13-minute fairy tale runs nightly in a loop, from 5:30 pm to 11 pm.”
Afternoon: Visit one of Ottawa’s famous museums
Ottawa is famed for its cultural attractions and this is defined by its array of award-winning national museums. From Canadian history to world-class art, the museums in the capital offer fascinating insights into the country’s national treasures.
All of these museums and galleries are within minutes of Parliament Hill. These are some of our favourites:
– National Gallery of Canada – This art gallery is home to the best collection of artwork in Canada. As well as local Canadian and indigenous art, you can see contemporary art and European, American and Asian art.
– Canadian War Museum – The national museum of military history highlights the human experience of war. Its famous collections include rare vehicles, artillery, uniforms, medals, personal memoirs and more than 13,000 works in the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art.
– Canadian Museum of Nature – Here you can learn about all the stunning vistas and wildlife you can see during your holiday to Canada. One of the standout exhibitions is the original collection of dinosaur fossils.
– Diefenbunker – This fascinating museum is set in a 100,000-square-foot underground bunker. While the bunker was once built to protect 535 Canadian government officials and military officers during a nuclear war, it now offers award-winning tours that discuss how the world came close to a nuclear disaster.
After walking up Parliament Hill and visiting one of the museums, you’ll be ready for a bite to eat! Sansotei Ramen is the perfect place to head to if you are looking for some of Canada’s famed multiculturalism.
Located just 10 minutes from Parliament Hill on Bank Street, the popular restaurant serves delicious, savoury broths with their signature ramen noodles. Their most popular dish is their spicy Tan Tan ramen which has sesame flavours, ground pork, chilli and an egg and is only available in limited quantities each day! Perfect all year round but especially to keep you warm during the winter months.
If you are looking for a Canadian alternative you can try poutine at Smoke’s Poutinerie. This popular eatery serves traditional poutine – chips topped with cheese and gravy – as well as pork, chicken and steak poutine.
Evening: Enjoy some recreational outdoor activities at Camp Fortune
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Instead of stopping at dinner, you can take the family to Camp Fortune and enjoy some exhilarating outdoor activities. During winter you can go skiing and snowboarding and can hit the slopes until 10pm.
Camp Fortune is the nearest destination for skiing and snowboarding to the city and is just a few minutes from downtown Ottawa. There are 12 lit runs for night-time skiing and snowboarding.
In the summer you can go mountain biking or visit its aerial experience from May until October, which features treetop walkways and ziplines.
Morning: Buy a souvenir at Byward Market
Byward Market is one of the biggest and oldest public markets in Canada. In its hallowed halls you’ll find speciality food shops, boutiques, gift shops, galleries, restaurants, pubs and lots more.
The area itself will give you that small neighbourhood feel thanks to the unique shops and restaurants that surround the iconic outdoor market. The market itself sells fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables as well as gifts and artwork from local artisans.
The market and surrounding area is the premier destination for shopping, arts and dining in Ottawa and is often visited by 50,000 people every weekend during the busier summer months.
Afternoon: Skate in the winter or go boating in the summer on the Rideau Canal
— RideauCanalSkateway (@NCC_Skateway) November 8, 2017
Every winter the Rideau Canal turns into the world’s largest skating rink as it winds its way through the heart of Ottawa, over a total length of 7.8 kilometres, stretching from downtown to Dows Lake.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a popular attraction for ice skaters and typically the skating season runs from January until late February. As part of the Winterlude Festival in February there will also be lots of events taking place on the skate-way.
During the summer, one of the best activities you can do on the Rideau Canal is to explore on a boat cruise.
Rideau Canal Cruises will let you discover the wonderful canal and will take you from Dows Lake to the Ottawa River. Your trip will give you a unique view of the city’s historical landmarks such as Dunton Tower, City Hall and the St. Patrick Statue.
Evening: Toast your city break with a glass of wine
Soif Bar à vin is regarded as one of the best wine bars in the city and it is the perfect way to reminisce about your visit to Ottawa. Ontario is famed as a major producer of Canadian wine, with wine-growing regions like the Niagara Peninsula and the Lake Erie North Shore in the province. A trip to the capital wouldn’t be complete without sampling the spoils of this fertile region!
The wine bar’s list is ever-changing and serves a selection of authentic wines that are made by passionate people. But wine isn’t the same without food and luckily Soif boasts an award-winning menu of small and sharing plates, from fresh seafood to bison tartare.
Véronique Rivest, the sommelier-owner, is one of the most respected sommeliers in Canada and abroad. She says, “SOIF is all about sharing the great pleasures of wine – discovering new wines, opening up your horizons, and doing it in a very approachable, friendly, down-to-earth way.”