A Trip to Ottawa - 2 - 3 Day Itinerary
It is fun sometimes to take local tours and visit attractions around your city. We normally take for granted the attractions that our city has to offer when you actually live there, or close by (or I do anyway!) But, what is the difference between you visiting another country and visiting all of their attractions vs. you living in a city and never actually visiting the attractions so close by?? So, when I had the opportunity to go visit Ottawa, I turned into Ms. Tourist for the couple days I was there visiting.
Being a Canadian, Ottawa is the perfect place to learn so much about the countries past, as well as the systems that work today in the backgrounds that impact our daily lives. Here, I will be outlining my preferred 2.5 day tour of Ottawa for any folks wanting to visit Ottawa in the future. I'm sure you will learn a lot :)
Gorgeous View of Ottawa River As the Sun Sets
Day 1 Walking Tour
Portage Bridge - Great views of Ottawa River and Parliament
Museum of History
Another Great view of Ottawa River and Parliament
As I am staying downtown Ottawa, which is the perfect spot to get everywhere on foot, I start the day off by walking towards the Museum of History, located in Hull, Quebec. Yes - I crossed over to Hull from Ottawa on foot in about 15 minutes :) The journey begins by walking over the Portage Bridge where you get a fantastic view of the Ottawa River. You can even get a glimpse of Parliament from the bridge. It's a nice leisure walk along the bridge towards the museum, and along the way there are also lots of plaques that give you some history on the area and the bridge itself.
A Great View from Portage Bridge
Arriving at the Museum of History at about 10:30am, I purchase a combo ticket for museum entrance +IMAX (~$24 including tax). I start off the visit by watching my 3D IMAX film about Pandas. It's a movie by National Geographic explaining the work being done in China to save the Pandas as they are becoming extinct :( It was really interesting to learn general facts about pandas (e.g females can only become pregnant two days of the entire year??) and how they are trying to save them in China. If you love anything cute and fury, as well as a nice lighthearted story, you will enjoy Pandas!
Museum of History
Pandas - IMAX Film
After the movie, I began my tour of the museum starting on Level 1 (which comprises the permanent exhibits of the museum). On this floor, you are able to see some very impressive totem poles and the history behind them. Also, there is extensive artifacts and information on the First People of Canada. Finally, you can also view various stamps in Canada from year to year since their inception in 1851! I spent about 1.5 hours on this floor though you can peruse certain areas quicker if you are just interested in seeing the historic artifacts and not reading all the signs.
Totem Poles in the Great Hall
Onto the second floor! This is where the non-permanent exhibit 'Empress of Ireland' is available to be seen. If you are in the area prior to April 9, 2015, I would recommend visiting this exhibit (it's free of charge as part of museum admission). I found it really fascinating as I had never heard about this accident in Canada's past as the Titanic probably was much more public via media and Hollywood. However, the story of this ship is that it collided with another boat and sunk within 15 minutes. Unfortunately, over 1000 people died. The exhibit tells the story step by step on first boarding the boat to after the accident and includes many artifacts found from the wreck. I spent probably about 45 minutes in this exhibit. After this, I had a quick peak at the Children's museum as I wanted to see what the museum had to offer them. I found this area also really interesting and well put together for kids. It takes you around the world to experience the different cultures accommodations etc. from different countries including Japan, India, and Egypt.
Empress of Ireland
Outside the Museum of History
After spending a good 4 hours in the museum (including IMAX film), it was time to head on out. Continuing my loop, I headed towards the Alexandra Bridge to cross over back to Ottawa. Again, great views of the canal and Parliament from this side.
Crossing the Alexandra Bridge
Have you visited the Museum of History Before? If so, how did you enjoy your visit?
Day 2 Walking Tour
Government of Canada
Various stores, local stalls, restaurants
Check out how coins are made
Today, I wanted to take a tour of Parliament. I couldn't recall the last time I had been there but seeing as how important this is for Canada, I thought this would be good to check out. Starting off as you walk towards the building, you can take a shot of the eternal flame. In order to get a tour of parliament, you must get a ticket in advance (all free!). Check this link out for more information on when tours are available.
View of Parliament
Centennial Flame outside Parliament
Before my tour started, I had some time to head up the Peace Tower. This is where the clock/bells sit and you can get a nice view of Ottawa from above.
View from the Top of the Peace Tower
Once the tour started, we got some general history on the building itself, as well as the House of Commons and the Senate. We were also able to check out the library, which is the only part in the entire building that is still from its original architecture (as the rest of the building caught on fire and was rebuilt). The library is incredible as it is made of all wood and is the type of room that any person that loves books would love in their house.
Library Inside Parliament
The House of Commons was in session this day so I was lucky enough to also sit in on the session. You can sit for as long as you please to listen in and can hear the opposition party, government and speaker speak in the session. Interesting to see how it all works! After my visit, it was about noon so I made my way to Byward Market. Byward Market features various stalls, local product, shops and restaurants to peruse. As it was lunch time, I had to stop for a savoury beavertail - garlic butter and cheese. Yum! You can't visit the area without trying a delicious beavertail. I also purchased a bottle of local maple syrup while I was in the market.
Savory Beavertail - Yum!
Walking down Byward, I stumbled across Guisse Church. I went inside to take a look and it was absolutely gorgeous! I kept walking down and came along the National Gallery (free on Thursdays from 5 pm to closing!) as well as a Mint Museum.
Inside the church on Guisse Street - Are we in Europe??
Outside the National Gallery of Canada
I decided to pay the Mint Museum a visit as I wanted to learn about how coins are made. This factory is more responsible for commemorative coins and investment coins while the factory in Winnipeg makes most coins in circulation. This factory, however, also made all of the medals for two different Olympic games held in Canada, with the Vancouver Olympic game medals taking over a year to complete! It was actually quite interesting to go through the tour, to be able to see how the gold and silver are first pressed, then coins cookie-cuttered out from the metal and then the cleaning and stamping of the image process. For $6, it was worth it to see the process and learn about this object that we use almost daily! At the end of the tour, you can check out the boutique to purchase some commemorative coins and also hold a 28 pound bar of gold, worth a bit over $500,000... Very heavy!!! To end the day, I popped by Rideau Center shopping Mall just to see what they had to offer.
Very Heavy Bar of Gold - 28 pounds!
Up close and personal with the bar of gold
Day 3 Walk
This day I was heading back home around noon, so I had just enough time to check out one more interesting site - Supreme Court of Canada. It looks huge from the outside! Once I stepped inside, I found out a session was in progress. What great timing again! To find out the schedule so that you can time your visit based on what is happening, visit this schedule.
Outside the Supreme Court of Canada
I caught the session about 30 min in, so I didn't quite understand what was going on but it was one judge/lawyer defending her view against 9 judges. How intimidating! The judge/lawyer would speak her points and then the 9 judges asked questions as they saw fit. I would have loved to watch more (as I stayed for about 45 min) but it was time for me to depart!
Inside a room at the Supreme Court of Canada
All in all, I would say that I saw quite a bit during my stay in Ottawa and learned a lot. It was interesting to see all these government buildings and learn about the history of Canada. If you are in Ottawa for this timeframe, my suggested itinerary is perfect for you to capture the best of Ottawa!
- From downtown Ottawa, cross the Portage Bridge for great views of the Ottawa River
- Check out the museum of history in Hull and catch an IMAX ($24)
- Cross the Alexandra Bridge to get back to Ottawa and get some more views of the river and Parliament
- Enjoy a free tour of Parliament, including a visit up the Peace Tower and watch a session in progress at House of Commons if you're lucky - FREE
- Check out Byward Market and enjoy a beavertail and some local products
- Pop in the church on Guisse to see its beautiful architecture inside - FREE
- Take a tour of the Mint Museum to see how coins are made ($6)
- If you like to shop, check out Rideau Center for lots of shops to peruse
- If visiting on a Thursday, check out the National Art Gallery for free after 5pm
- Visit the Supreme Court of Canada. If interested in watching a session in progress, swap this activity with another day based on the court schedule - FREE
Total cost of attractions = $31 for 2.5 days in Ottawa! Not too shabby :)
Other FREE activities to keep in mind if interested: