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Your guide to a relaxing vacation in Ottawa

Ottawa canal

Your guide to a relaxing vacation in Ottawa

Beautiful, cultured, and filled with power players, Ottawa is Canada's bustling capital city on Ontario's Ottawa River. When you visit, it's tempting to try to pack it all in because there's just so much to do and see. Don't. Instead, dive fully into a few of the city's top offerings clustered in one area so you don't waste time zipping here and there. You'll get a better sense of the real place -- and more importantly -- relax and have a terrific time doing it.


Here's your guide to an easygoing, interesting, and refined three days in Ottawa any time of year, all centered around seeing, doing, and eating in some of the city's best neighborhoods.

Parliament Hill


Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill is an Ottawa must-see

Power is alluring. So it's no wonder Canada's federal seat of government is Ottawa's most-visited attraction, and Parliament Hill stages national celebrations year-round -- most of which are free. In summer, there's the daily morning Changing of the GuardExternal Link Title, a large-scale formal ceremony with pipers and a brass band, and evening historical Sound and Light ShowExternal Link Title. You can also take a guided tour of ParliamentExternal Link Title.


Canadian Tulip Festival
The Canadian Tulip Festival

Get outside! Stroll, cycleExternal Link Title, boatExternal Link Title, or ice skate park-lined Rideau CanalExternal Link Title, a 126-mile-long UNESCO World Heritage Site and national treasure. Take in the autumn leaves, spring tulips, summer greenery, or wintry carnival ambiance.


Fairmont Chateau Laurier
Fairmont Chateau Laurier — the place to see and be seen

Expect cosmopolitan dining catering to Ottawa's VIP crowd. Savor a relaxed meal at critically acclaimed Play Food & WineExternal Link Title for seasonal small plates and creative cocktails, slurp oysters on banquettes surrounded by politicos at Parisian M?tropolitan Brasserie RestaurantExternal Link Title, or rub elbows with diplomats at the see-and-be-seen spot, Zo?'s Lounge External Link Titleat the Fairmont Ch?teau LaurierExternal Link Title, for afternoon tea, cocktails, and nibbles.

ByWard Market


ByWard Market berries
Graze while you shop at historic ByWard Market.

Go locavore and shop for artisan gems at the year-round ByWard MarketExternal Link Title, a historic outdoor public farmers' market just east of Parliament Hill. First, nosh on gourmet edibles on the go: charcuterie, fresh berries and apples, Scone Witch External Link Titlebaked goodsExternal Link Title, oven-warm bread, hot chocolate at Cacao 70External Link Title, perhaps a craft beer at Lowertown BreweryExternal Link Title. Then finish the day walking the heritage neighborhood of quaint 19th century brick architecture with 500 eateries, boutiques, bars, and lounges.


ByWard street sign
You can spend all day strolling ByWard and the surrounding neighborhood

Recharge at York Street SpaExternal Link Title with a massage, hand or foot treatment, facial, or Rosemary Mint Body Wrap. The spa has a full men's pampering program, too. Another option is Date Night Yoga at Upward Dog Yoga CentreExternal Link Title or a combo session -- BLISS: A fusion of yin, massage, assists, and aromatherapy. Just say, Ommmmm...


Stella Osteria Restaurant
Stella Osteria Restaurant is one of many top-notch eateries.

Re-fuel at hot spots Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen & BarExternal Link Title, serving handmade tacos-as-art from the open-concept kitchen, and networking hub Restaurant 18External Link Title, an elegant fine dining venue. Go to 18 for Happy Hour craft cocktails and microbrew oysters, and a carefully curated wine selection. The daring can sample the chef's blind tasting menu -- traditional French with modern Canadian accents.

The Glebe


The Glebe bridge
Ottawa’s Glebe neighborhood is friendly, green, and walkable. Credit: Gordon Bell / Flickr under Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND 2.0

The GlebeExternal Link Title? It's a laidback, trendy town-within-the city filled with up-and-comers around Bank Street, south of Highway 417 and close to downtown. Residents love the sense of community, leafy streets, cultural diversity, and charming Victorians. All is walkable. You'll want to grab a bite at Kettleman's Bagel Co.External Link Title, troll the shops and restaurants, and poke around weekend garage sales to meet locals.


Canadian War Museum
A display at the Canadian War Museum - credit: Robert Linsdell / Flickr under CC BY-ND 2.0


Duck confit
A rendition of duck confit - credit: Chris Chen / Flickr under Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND 2.0

For dinner, order any well-crafted dish at The Pomeroy HouseExternal Link Title, though critics rave about the duck confitExternal Link Title and luscious foie gras over applesExternal Link Title.


Like fine wine, Ottawa is meant to be savored. Take your time and get to know this elegant city at your own pace. Stroll the avenues, take in a sidewalk performance, and people-watch from a caf? patio. Who needs to feel frazzled on vacation? It really is true: less is more -- so sniff, sip and swirl, don't gulp. Enjoy!

Start planning your leisurely-paced vacation now at the Ottawa Tourism website.