5 Things to Love About Ottawa

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I've only been in Canada's capital city of Ottawa for 2 days, it's true – but in those 2 days I've seen quite a bit and gotten a feel for the city. Despite it being cold enough to make all my extremeties go numb after 5 minutes, there are plenty of things I'm already loving about Ottawa.

I would recommend taking a last minute vacation here like I did if it's possible for you. This city is full of so many things to do — and so many things to love.

5 things to love about Ottawa

1. Ottawa is walkable

I'm staying at the Courtyard by Marriott downtown, right in the heart of the Byward Market neighborhood. Staying downtown means that I'm within walking distance of most of the city's major sites, from its museums, to the Rideau Canal, to Parliament Hill. This is the kind of city I love — one where I can just pick a direction and walk, and always find something interesting.

Parliament Hill

2. Ottawa is bilingual

I've never really spent much time in a city that appears to be truly bilingual. Almost everyone speaks both English and French, which I guess I knew but was still surprised by. And, really, is there anything cuter than a little kid speaking French? (The answer is no.)

3. Ottawa is full of great restaurants

Before coming here, I definitely did not consider Ottawa a foodie's paradise. But you know what? It kind of is. There are restaurants and cafes everywhere, and many of them participate in the “Savour Ottawa” program. This initiative works to bring together local farmers and producers with local chefs and consumers, which I think is fantastic. There are also great pubs and bakeries here — and of course the famous Beavertail stands!

Obama Cookies

4. Ottawa has so many bookstores

This may seem like an odd addition to this list, but as I've been walking around downtown a lot (and especially in the Byward Market area), I've been noticing a huge number of bookstores here. This is a big contrast to where I'm from, where we're lucky to have one Barnes and Noble per city. Canadians must be much more interested in reading than we Ohioans are!

5. Ottawa is not overwhelming

I realize Ottawa has nowhere near the population of some other world capitals, but I've been struck by how much Ottawa DOESN'T feel like a huge, overwhelming city. The traffic isn't scary, people have generally been very friendly, the streets are clean, and it's very easy to find your way around. I'm a country girl at heart, and so don't generally love big cities. But Ottawa is doing a pretty good job of making me love it so far.

Rideau Canal

I can't wait to see what else this city has in store for me!

READ NEXT: 5 MORE Things to Love About Ottawa

Have you been to Ottawa? If so, what do you like (or dislike) about the city?


*Disclaimer: My stay is being graciously taken care of by Ottawa Tourism. As always, though, all opinions are my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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55 Comments on “5 Things to Love About Ottawa

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  1. I’ve never been to Ottawa (aside from an airport layover) but it’s definitely a city that I’d love to visit. Walkable, good food, books – I’m pretty much sold.

      You should definitely visit if you ever have the chance, Alouise! There actually seem to be a good number of Canadian tourists here right now, which is nice to see!

    We had no idea you’d be visiting Ottawa!! Can’t believe how different the city looks in the winter – we had such a great time there in the summer (which was actually much hotter than we thought) – hope you’re not too cold to enjoy the city 🙂 Have you tried a beaver tail yet?

      Ottawa was kind of a last-minute decision, but I’m loving it! I can imagine it would be even more awesome in the summer, though!

      And no, I’m saving the BeaverTail for Saturday! But it is absolutely on my list.

    I love Ottawa! It is clean and friendly! And great art and musuems if you are into that

      I’m not as into art as I’d like to be, but I’m definitely checking out a couple museums here!

      I agree that this city comes off as very clean and friendly!

    Ottawa is a great city to visit in any season – glad to hear you’re enjoying our capital!!

      Definitely am enjoying it, despite it being cold. I’m an Ohio girl, so the temps aren’t bothering me too much. Plus, there’s plenty to see and do here to keep my mind off the cold!

    Check out the Hintonburg and Westboro areas for the 1st Thursday of the month art walk. You can visit 6 art galleries (many offering snacks and wine) for free from 5 to 9pm! And there are great restaurants, bars, cafes in the area for afterward. It’s a far walk from the Market/downtown area though, best grab a bus.

    There’s also the Urban Craft market this Saturday as well.

    I love Canada and would love to visit Ottawa some day!!!
    Why are all cities to the north just so much cuter then what we have down south:-)?

    Glad you are having a great time!!

      Well if you ever get the chance to go to Ottawa, I’d say do it!

    I’ve never been to Ottawa but now I am very intrigued! Did you say bookstores?? I love wandering bookstores and we, unfortunately, only have Barnes and Noble too.

      Yes, TONS of bookstores! Used books, new books, specialty books… all sorts of book stores everywhere here, especially in the Byward Market neighborhood! And lots of cafes, too, which are the perfect spot to cuddle up with a coffee and read on cold days like this!

    Glad to read that you are enjoying my neck of the woods. For a great croissant or chocolatine, head to Le Boulanger Français on Murray Street (the restaurant Murray Street accross the street is great for lunch or brunch – a bit more expensive at night). For the best sandwich ever, head to Edgar on rue Bégin in Hull, accross the river. The best coffee can be found at the different Bridgehead locations in the city. Enjoy !

      Thanks so much for the great recommendations! There certainly are enough places to find great food here!

    I’m so glad you like my capital city. I’ll admit that I only visited when I needed to get my UK visa, but I really loved the downtown area and the proximity of the green spaces. I think it represents Canada really well (except for its notable resident Stephen Harper, but that’s a whole other story), with its laidback attitude and diversity.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

      I haven’t really seen anything outside of downtown… but I’m really liking what I’ve seen thus far! It’s a much cooler city than I was originally lead to believe!

    Love the photos Amanda 🙂 Have fun in Ottawa!

      Thanks, Laurence! There’s plenty more where these came from, too! 😉

    That last photo is super cool. I don’t know about the cold, though – I think I’d visit Ottawa in the summer! 😛

      Haha, yeah, Ottawa would be great in the warmer months! (Not that it’s not great now… but you certainly have to bundle up to go outside this time of year!)

    Hi Amanda,

    It’s nice to hear that you are enjoying yourself in Ottawa. I have not had the pleasure of visiting this city, yet. So, I am just appreciating the ride here!
    I have to agree with you on how wonderful it is to visit a city that is “walkable” and easy mass transit. I like the feeling of being able to take my time and see things on eye level. Like I did in San Francisco, which (minus the hills), is still very walkable.

    Bundle up and enjoy!

      A city that’s walkable is usually sure to win me over. While Ottawa does seem to have a good bus system and affordable taxi services, I much prefer to walk everywhere if I’m able to. You get such a better feel for a city when you’re seeing it on foot!

    I love Ottawa and I love that you’re showcasing Canada’s capital city here! I haven’t been there in a while but when I visited a friend in university about 10 years ago, I recall there being some great bars, I think in the ByWard market area. Enjoy the rest of your stay!

      I feel like perhaps unlike Washington DC, Ottawa might not get the travel blog love it deserves as a world capital! So I’m happy to have the chance to give it some attention. 🙂

      And yes, there definitely are tons of pubs and bars all over the place here. Unfortunately, they aren’t as much fun when you’re traveling solo and don’t drink! Lol.

    I’m hoping to add this city to my travels late this year. Glad you love it, and thanks for the info.

      Awesome! Stay tuned for plenty more Ottawa coverage! There plenty more where this came from.

    you MUST go to the museum of civilization…it is one of my all time favorite musuems. very interactive. leaning made painless. and it’s a beautiful complex too right on the river.

      Have no fear, it’s on the agenda for this weekend!! Ottawa certainly doesn’t seem to ba lacking in cool museums!

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