By boat, by car or by bus, Ottawa awaits discovery. However, the best way to explore the capital city is by foot; many of its attractions are within easy walking distance.
Start at Parliament Hill. You shouldn’t have trouble finding the most recognizable sight in Canada! The impressive Gothic Revival buildings house the Senate and House of Commons. Tours of the government buildings and grounds are available year-round; at the very least, climb up the Peace Tower for a stunning panoramic view of Ottawa.
Walk west down Wellington Street. Immediately on your left is the Bank of Canada, where corridors of vaults store our nations gold. The banks Currency Museum, just behind on Sparks Street, provides a fascinating view into currencies that Canadians used in the past.
On the right are three must-sees in quick succession: the Supreme Court of Canada, the National Library of Canada and the National Archives of Canada. The Supreme Court, as its name suggests, is the highest court for all legal issues. The National Library has two copies of everything, including sheet music and sound recordings, published in Canada–one to be preserved, and one to be lent. And if you can’t find what you are looking for there, the National Archives preserves unpublished documents like diaries, letters, photos, maps and computer discs.
Turn right and cross over the Portage Bridge to French-speaking Hull. Along the way, you walk over Victoria Island, where aboriginal peoples of Canada used to set up camp in summertime. Hull, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario make up the Capital Region, and more than 40 per cent of residents speak both French and English.
As you walk east on Laurier Street, pause and admire the Ottawa River. Paths bordering each side of the river offer outdoor enthusiasts the chance to walk, jog, blade or cycle amid beautiful scenery.
That bizarre-looking building up ahead on your right is the Museum of Civilization, home to archaeology, ethnology, history and folk culture collections as well as the Canadian Postal Museum and an IMAX cinema.
Before heading back to Ottawa, you might want to take a half-day steam train excursion from Hull along the Gatineau River up to Wakefield. The 1907 locomotive affords picturesque views of the glorious Gatineau Park.
You can now go back to Ontario over the Alexandra Bridge, taking notice of the old tracks where trains used to pass over. Back in Ottawa you’ll find yourself on St. Patrick Street. Look left–that impressive building is the National Gallery of Canada. From the Group of Seven to relatively unknown Canadian contemporary artists, this gallery has it all. Its a peaceful place to take a break and admire world-class exhibits.
Kitty-corner to the gallery is the Peacekeeping Monument. Designed to commemorate the Canadians who have served and continue to serve with the United Nations, this is the only monument in the world that celebrates peacekeepers.
Turn left down Sussex Drive. Although there hasn’t been a war in Canada since 1812, you can still see a tank right next to a gallery. Its the Canadian War Museum, where you can check out the historical war displays–from New France (now Quebec) to modern missions abroad.
Beside the War Museum is the Royal Canadian Mint, where you can nip in to see loonies and twoonies being made.
Keep strolling down Sussex Drive. On the right is the Lester B. Pearson building, home to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. There are more than 100 diplomatic missions in Ottawa, so keep your eyes open for red diplomatic license plates and the various flags flown at embassies and diplomatic residences.
The Queens representative in Canada, the Governor General, lives in Rideau Hall at 1 Sussex Drive. It is meant to be a symbolic home for all Canadians; feel free to picnic on the grounds or enjoy a guided tour of the residence. Right across the street, the Governor General has a famous neighbour–the Prime Minister lives at 24 Sussex Drive. Sorry, no tours!