Canada’s cosmopolitan capital is a fabulous place to visit at any time of year, but it’s especially delightful in the summer when tourists can indulge in its many outdoor attractions, soak up its street-life and, if they time their visit right, participate in one of Ottawa’s legendary festivals.
Bike tours are a great way to see Ottawa’s many attractions, such as Parliament Hill and the city’s parks. From easy, recreational pathways to expert trails and mountain biking, Canada’s capital is an ideal destination for cyclists of all levels. Some 497 miles of multi-use pathways take you to picturesque waterways, parks and attractions, as well as places to eat, drink, such as the NCC Bistros, strategically located along some of the pathways, urban parks and riverfront greenspaces.
Alternatively, there are hop-on/hop-off bus tours available through various operators including Lady Dive, with either a Amphibus or Double Decker Tour.
Many activities in Ottawa are centred on the Rideau Canal, where you can hire a bike and pedal along the tow-path – either on your own or as part of a guided tour – or paddle a canoe, take a SUP tour (standup paddleboard), or sail on an all-electric tour boat with Rideau Canal Cruises, which is a great way to see the city.
Adrenaline junkies won’t be able to resist the world’s first inter-provincial zipine, Interzip Rogers, which takes them from Gatineau in Québec to Ottawa in Ontario. Soaring 120 feet above the Ottawa River at around 40kmh, they’ll have spectacular views of the city skylines.
Alternatively, the new Peak to Peak Ziplines has three ziplines spanning the Camp Fortune Valley, offering spectacular views of Gatineau Park. Real daredevils can end their adventure with a 50-foot freefall jump!
Never knew you could go white-water rafting in a capital city? Well you can here! Ottawa City Rafting offers a three-hour ‘urban’ rafting trip on the Ottawa River and the starting point is just a 10-minute drive west of downtown, at Britannia Beach. Great for families with children aged from five.
Ottawa Jazz Festival kicks off the summer music festival season in June, closely followed by RBC Bluesfest Ottawa, which always draws big names in DJ/Dance, Rock, Country and Blues, performing on outdoor and indoor stages on the banks of the Ottawa River. Music and Beyond, hosted by the city’s churches and concert halls, is a blend of classical music, visual arts, drama, poetry, comedy, circus and dance, while Ottawa Chamberfest—the largest event of its kind in the world—brings classical music to these same intimate spaces.
Cultural big hits
Of Ottawa’s seven national museums showcasing the country’s rich heritage and culture, standout options include the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History. Visitors can buy a one-day or three-day Visit Ottawa Pass (visitottawapass.ca) to save money on the entry fees for many museums.
Where to stay
Ottawa has lots of choice for all budgets, with classic offerings including the Fairmont Château Laurier, host to many major stars, The Grand Hotel, and The Elgin Hotel. Other favourites include Le Germain Hotel Ottawa and, in downtown Ottawa, The Metcalfe Hotel.
New hotel openings this year will include the AC Marriott, a 208-room between the Byward Market and the Rideau Centre, and a 222-room Moxy Hotel in an historic former Beaux Artstyle warehouse in the ByWard Market neighbourhood, and both hotels are close to Parliament Hill.
Where to eat and drink
Canada’s capital region is full of award-winning restaurants serving up fresh produce from over a thousand local farms. In fact, no fewer than eight of the country’s 100 Best Restaurants are in Ottawa.
Visitors can take tours to eateries, breweries, wineries and distilleries across the city, sampling local staples such as poutine (a unique dish of French fries, cheese curds and gravy) and maple syrup, as well as multicultural dishes.
Talking of ByWard Market, foodies should head this way to discover more than 50 dining options to suit every budget. To get a real taste of what’s on offer, you can take a self-guided C’est Bon Ottawa food tour, which allows you to sample food at half a dozen outlets.
Elsewhere in the city, D’Arcy McGee’s Irish pub, home of the beer cocktail and a great seasonal menu, makes a great lunch spot. For contemporary Canadian cuisine, try 1 Elgin (formerly Le Café) inside the National Arts Centre, which also has great views of the Rideau Canal. Fans of afternoon tea should make a beeline for Zoe’s Lounge at the Fairmont.
To make the most of the warm summer weather, visitors should look out for the many restaurants with outdoor patios and rooftops, including those lining the pedestrianised Sparks Street.
How to get there
Ottawa will be even more accessible this summer thanks to Air France’s new non-stop service from Paris, which provides convenient connections with flights from the UK.
It’s also possible to fly to Ottawa from other cities in Canada on numerous airlines such as Air Canada, Air Transat, Flair Airlines, PAL Airlines, Porter Airlines and Westjet.
For more inspiration, check out the Ottawa Insider Blog