One Day in Ottawa: Our Best Travel Tips

Only have a day to explore Ottawa, Ontario? Relax, we’ve got the can’t miss highlights of Canada’s capital city


Visiting Canada’s Capital City

Located in Ontario, close to Quebec’s border, Ottawa is home to more than just important federal government buildings. A stroll along the Rideau Canal, some of North America’s finest museums, and an amazing array of restaurants can be found in the heart of this walkable, cosmopolitan city. As you pass by Ottawa’s abundance of heritage buildings that date back to the early 19th century, you’ll be sure to hear some of the city’s one million locals speaking in both of Canada’s national languages, English, and French. If you only have one day in Ottawa, don’t fret. Grab a world-famous BeaverTails pastry and check out the best things to do in Canada’s capital city.

Best accommodation

The health-conscious traveller will appreciate the focus on fitness at the Westin Ottawa. Forget your workout outfit? No prob. The hotel has partnered with New Balance to offer gear to guests. If you’re into running, book a WestinWORKOUT Room and you’ll have the use of a personal treadmill in your suite. If you’d rather get outside, the hotel offers a running concierge service for seasonal guided tours.

Best must-see 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal is a showstopper. Best known as the world’s largest skating rink, it’s also alive with activity in spring, summer and fall. Flanked by paved paths, it’s a runner’s and biker’s paradise, not to mention a busy waterway for boating and sightseeing.

Best history

Can you visit Ottawa without taking in one of its museums? Not if you’re a patriot. Lucky for you, there’s something for every appetite, from the Canadian Museum of Nature to the National Gallery of Canada to the Canadian War Museum. To keep things local, check out the Bytown Museum  for a history lesson on the capital’s earliest days.

Best blooms

Come for the tulips, but stick around for a host of music, food and cultural festivals that run for the entire calendar year, including the famous Winterlude every February.

Best spa

Keeping with the patriotic theme, plan ahead for a maple-based treatment at Holtz Spa. The city’s largest urban spa, Holtz Spa offers a decadent Maple Luscious Massage – it’s dessert for your body sans calories. Not only does it smell divine – pure, not overpowering – but there are many nourishing elements to maple, not the least of which is its hydrating powers. You’ll be sniffing your skin all day long. Yum.

Best retail

The revamped downtown Rideau Centre is dazzling, especially with its shiny new Nordstrom anchor. But if you really want to get a sense of the city, take a cab over to Wellington West  for a taste of independence. Be sure to check out the jewellery at Flock Boutique, the doughnuts at SuzyQ and the craft beer at Beyond the Pale. Time your visit over the dinner hour and have a vegan meal at Café My House.

Best dining options

As its name would suggest, when you eat at Play Food & Wine, there are lots of opportunities for fun. Sit at the bar and nosh on homemade chips while you peruse the locally infused small-plates menu, with each item offering a wine pairing – even the desserts. The menu changes frequently, but try the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Smoked-Bacon Baked Beans and Cola Jelly if you get a chance.