Green city of life: OttawaSmriti Saxena
Beautiful landscape surrounded by winding rivers, Ottawa is recognized as one of the most attractive capitals in the world. Young, vibrant, friendly, safe, clean and located by the river; the city never fails to charm its visitors every time you come here. This city has a spirit of its own. I visited Ottawa first time in summer which is the peak tourist season and the best time of the year to visit. Located in Ontario at the Quebec border, Ottawa is home to more than a million people who speak largely English and French. It’s also referred as city of people who work for the government.
Getting here: It’s a well-connected city. It took me 1.5 hours to reach Ottawa on an Air Canada flight from Toronto. The Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is also located just 20 minutes from downtown Ottawa. It’s also easy to reach Ottawa by Road and Rail. It usually takes four-hours from north-east of Toronto and two hours west of Montreal.
Staying here: There are more than 130 hotels in Ottawa that you can choose from. You can also book Ottawa getaway packages and vacations promotions which have lucrative offers for tourists which include tickets to attractions, entertainment, festivals and activities. If you are luxury traveller you can choose to stay at Radisson Parliament Hill, Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Indigo, Westin and many more. I stayed at a luxury hotel and I realised: everything in Ottawa is at a walking distance, easily approachable and putting up in a luxury hotel could be quite expensive. Also, I felt that there’s a big difference in hospitality that is offered in Asia vis-à-vis North America. So B&B’ options or the budget hotels are also quite good and they serve the purpose equally.
Eating here: You name and you have it! Like every other part of Canada, Ottawa is also very multi-cultural not only with its people but also with its food. Since its Ontario’s designated culinary tourism destinations, Ottawa serves its visitors and residents with popular and diverse dishes. Right from fine dining restaurants to small boutique restaurants, from street side eateries to street food festivals, from world famous restaurants to Gourmet Food Trucks and Carts, the city has so much to offer.And if your taste is vegetarian, Ottawa has that too! I did try out a lot of places as a random walk-in customer and absolutely loved what I had almost everywhere. However, if you still insist then I must tell you my personal favourites were French, Italian and Greek delicacies.
Sight-seeing & activities: People describe sightseeing in Ottawa in five words: Parliament, tulips, canals, museums, pantsuits but trust me I found there are many more things than just these. Exploring Ottawa and especially downtown core is a walker’s delight. It’s a small yet so picturesque city and amazes at every step you take. Attractions are closely clumped together but you still need time to actually experience every bit of it. The list of major highlights starts here:
- The Parliament Hill is the centrepiece of Ottawa’s downtown landscape. The Parliament Buildings sit atop the Hill, the gorgeous Gothic-style structures overlooking the Ottawa River is simply amazing. Tourists also enjoy the changing of the guard ceremony in the morning and they witness the awe-inspiring Sound and Light show in the evening. Both these events are free of cost.
- The myriad of award-winning museums and galleries is located within minutes of Parliament Hill and of many downtown area hotels. Easily accessible and full of national treasures offer visitors to experience the best of Canada all in one place. There are approximately 17 museums and four galleries in Ottawa. The key ones include: National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of Nature and Canada Science and Technology Museum; amongst galleries I liked the Ottawa Art Gallery.
- ByWard is the most happening downtown market, just a short walk from Parliament Hill. It has numerous cafés and some of the city’s best pubs and restaurants. It also is a stop shop for farmers and craft merchants where they sell speciality items and food products, its home to Ottawa’s food festivals and is also a place for late night drink and live music.
- Situated at the confluence of three major rivers – Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau – and surrounded by forested hills, undulating farmland and sparkling lakes, Ottawa is a magnet for outdoorsy activities. You can bike it, hike it or paddle it. It provides an extensive network of scenic recreational biking paths, hiking trails and a significant number of golf courses close to downtown. The more adventurous can try whitewater rafting and kayaking on the Ottawa River.
Partying here: The city gets happening makeover by dusk. The ByWard Market district — home to local farmers, artisans and boutique shops during the day — transforms into the epicentre of the city’s nightlife. Several bars and lounges are located within “the Market”, and also there are hotspots to catch live entertainment. Beyond clubbing should you wish to do more, you can visit Casinos too but play responsibly.
- At restaurants, bar, salons/spas and taxis, it’s customary to tip the servicing staff. For good experience, a tip of 15% of the pre-tax bill is customary.
- Unlike Asian hospitality, the North American hotels work on a self-service model. So you are expected to drag our own luggage till the hotel lobby and even take it with you to your room.
Image credits: Canadian Tourism Commission