General city Information, Ottawa
As always when visiting a new city the first stop is The Tourist Information center. It is called Capital Infocentre and is located on Wellington street (and Metcalfe) which is the street opposite Parliament hill.
It has good a good model of Ottawa where you can press a button and the place you are looking for will light up.
The staff is very friendly and helpful.
The opening hours during the summer time are:
Weekdays: 8:30 - 20:00
Weekends: 9:00 - 17:00
In August 2012 when I visited Ottawa again the Information center had moved and is now located in a small corner of a shopping center. I need to know more about why this was decided, as this is disturbing in such a large city as Ottawa.
When visiting Ottawa for the first time I thought all the shops were in the down-town area where the big buildings are. Only to find out that that area is mainly official government buildings and that most of the shopping is to be found on Bank street. And in malls and shopping complexes around town. Yes, and the market area. Bank street of course got its name from the banks which were located in this area.
Bank street is a really long street and starts from Wellington (the street by Parliament Hill) and is lined with shops all the way down to Gladstone Avenue in Centretown. By Queensway bridge the posh area Glebe starts (still Bank street though). There are so many small cute stores and cafés there and this street is so worth a visit.
The Glebe looks like a little village with the main street with all its diverse shops and restaurants, ever so lovely. There are more and more restaurants and cafés here. I visit here every year and I noticed that it is less shopping and more eating.
Where ever I travel I always look for Chinatown in every city - being a vegan I prefer buying health-food in Chinatown rather than in over-prized health-food stores. I don´t know about the quality of the food though.
Chinatown in Ottawa is one long street - Somerset street. It has got Chinese restaurants, supermarkets, gift stores, hairdressers and I saw one fortune-teller as well. It is not a big area, small really, but I went there often to buy my food. Here is where one can find the cheapest tofu and seaweed - if one is into that kind of food ;)
In 2011 I went for Dim Sum with a VT-friend and 3 of his friends. It was quite interesting really as I had never been for Dim Sum before, and the restaurant in Chinatown was packed, and there was a line of people waiting to get in.
In 2010 a very beautiful gateway was erected in Chinatown, see my first photo.
Chinatown is of course the home to many Asian people, but they are also scattered around Ottawa. And a new very big Chinese supermarket just opened up quite far from Chinatown. When I visited it on a Sunday it was so busy, that I felt like I was in China.
I have added a tip on my favourite store there in my shopping category.
The Peacekeeping monument, Reconciliation, is a monument depicting 3 soldiers, two men and one woman. It commemorates Canada's role in peacekeeping. Over 110.000 peacekeepers have served in conflicted zones since 1948, so this monument honours a lot of people, both the living and the dead.
Reconciliation was made by Jack Harman in 1992.
I like this monument so much, the peace-message is so forceful. That they stand at such a high point is a symbol of the resolution of conflict.
At the base of the monument there is a quotation by Lester B. Pearson:
"We need action not only to end the fighting but to make the peace...
My own government would be glad to recommend Canadian participation
in such a United Nations force
a truly international peace and police force."
Lester B. Pearson
November 2, 1956
A really powerful monument.
There is a big spider in front of The National gallery in Ottawa - not for the arachnophobic like me. It carries a sack of marble eggs. I ventured under it and took a photo of its 26 marble eggs (see one of my photos).
The most popular photo taken with the spider is standing in front of it at a certain distance so it seems like it is chasing you. Everybody has their photo taken with the spider :)
The spider, which is 30 ft. heigh, which is 9 meters, is called Maman, French for Mommy, by the late artist Louise Bourgeois (who died at a very old age on 31st of May, 2010, while I was still in Ottawa). She got the nickname Spiderwoman after she made this spider. Louise´s mother is the inspiration for the sculpture, in a good way.
The spider was placed in front of the National Gallery of Canada in 2005. Not everyone is happy though with having this big spider in their city. Not aracnophobics for sure.
A VT-members showed me this first school in New Edinburgh, called Fraser Schoolhouse. New Edinburgh was a seperate town from Ottawa, but then joined the capital.
The schoolhouse was built in 1837 by the founder of New Edinburgh, Thomas McKay, and for 7 years it served as the first, thus oldest, school in New Edinburgh. It was also the home of James Fraser, who lived in the house and tought children there are well.
This house is now a Designated Heritage Property since 1982 and a rare example of these old stone houses which were built in this area in the 19th century.
At the end of this street there is also a very beautiful stone house (see my last photo). There was a plaque on it as well, but we didn´t dare go so close up to that house as people live in it.
Terry Fox was a young person with an artificial leg, suffering cancer, and the determination to inspire others.
On April 12th, 1980 Terry began his dream run across Canada in support of cancer research by dipping his artificial leg into the Atlantic Waters of St John's, Newfoundland.Hi run did much to unite the country, however on 1st September near Thunder Bay, Ontario and 5,373 kilometres later Terry's footsteps ceased as cancer claimed his body.
If you need information about Ottawa, you can go to the Capital Infocentre conveniently located along Wellington Street just opposite the road to Parliament Hill. Besides this place, there are many information signages located along the major roads and attractions which offer very good and user friendly information.
In 2001, I made Ottawa my new home. At first, I thought it was boring and I hated it. And now... I still think it's kind of boring and I still kind of hate it. Me and Ottawa have a love/hate relationship.
The things you should do in Ottawa, if you have the time, are in this order:
Parliament Hill (free tours daily in the summer)
The National Gallery of Canada (just incredible, message me if you want half price entry)
The Canadian Museum of Civilization (very informative if you know nothing about Canadian history)
Canadian War Museum (very impressive, but you need a LOT of time to do it justice, go here if you already have a basic handle on Canadian history, so you can skip the CMC and just go straight to the war stuff, which is more detailed)
Things you should not do in Ottawa (unless you really want):
Science and Technology Museum
Museum of Nature
Supreme Court of Canada
Royal Canadian Mint
Bank of Canada Currency Museum
National Aviation Museum (lots of cool planes, if you like that sort of thing)
Canada Agriculture Museum (mostly just a bunch of farm animals in a barn)
Ottawa Bytown Museum (interesting, but only if you are into the history of the city of Ottawa itself)
Skating on the Canal! If you are brave enough to come to Ottawa in the winter, GO SKATING ON THE CANAL. You can't do this anywhere else, so get off your butt and skate the ENTIRE THING. If you have space in your luggage, bring your own skates, because the rental fees are ridiculous.
Get around either on the bus (don't forget to buy tickets at a Quickie store before you get on) or rent a bike. There are amazing bike paths in Ottawa. If you rent a bike, it's worth it to ride up and down the canal and river system.
Festivals in Ottawa I highly recommend:
Ottawa Jazz Festival (love it, get drunk on the lawn and chill out to smooth jazz)
Bluesfest (incredible, dance all day and then go do it all over again the next day...for at least a week and a half)
Fringe Festival (off-beat theatre fest, just great)
Canada Day (If you are in Canada on July 1, MAKE YOUR WAY TO OTTAWA, definitely the biggest party in the country on that day. If you don't think you'll ever come back to Canada again, do not miss it for the world)
Festivals in Ottawa that are kind of boring:
Winterlude (freezing your butt off outside to look at ice sculptures, not my cuppa tea, however there is a very good outdoor free concert series. Nothing gets the crowd hopping like a little blizzard)
Tulip Festival (REALLY boring, honestly...the tulips are beautiful, yeah, but....you've seen one, you've seen 'em all, know what I'm saying?)
Shopping in Ottawa is not that great. Most people just go to Montreal to get their cool stuff. But if you have to, make a stop in the Byward Market during the summer. You'll mostly find junky stuff among the fresh produce being sold by local farmers.
If you're the outdoorsy type and need some gear for a camping trip, head to the Mountain Equipment Co-op in Westboro (Richmond Rd.). There's a little cluster of outdoors stores that grew up around the backpacker's haven.
Again, I don't really have any great recommendations for eating out. Most stuff that you find in Ottawa is mediocre at best. Again, please don't go to the chain restaurants, there are lots of local restaurants that are way better.
The Supreme Court is an impressive building located next to the Parliament Hill. You can easily walk to this building from Parliament Hill and the car park area behind the Supreme Court offers breathtaking views of Ottawa and the Ottawa River.
Ottawa is very beautiful at night, especially the lightings on major attractions such as Parliament Hill, National War Memorial and Fairmont Cartier Laurier hotel. Photographs of the night scenes of Ottawa are at the travelogue section of this VT page.
When you see a red maple leaf on or near a monument just scan the QR code with your smart phone.
You’ll be able to listen to audio clips that tell you the story behind the monument.
You will notice that there are many statues at Ottawa, especially at Parliament Hill, outside the museums and in the parks. Here are photographs of some of the statues in the city.