North America

Ottawa – A Capital of a city

A view of Ottawa, Canada's historic captial

Ottawa, the capital of Canada, has to be one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the country, often lauded as a picturesque city with beautiful waterways, historic architecture, and an abundance of parklands and open spaces.

Ottawa is the fourth largest municipality in Canada and is the second largest city in the province of Ontario. It is located in the Ottawa Valley on the banks of the Ottawa River, a major waterway that forms the boundary between Ontario and Quebec.

On December 31, 1857, Queen Victoria was asked to choose a common capital for the then province of Canada (modern Quebec and Ontario) and chose Ottawa. There are old folk tales about how she made the choice: that she did so by sticking her hatpin on a map roughly halfway between Toronto and Montreal, or that she liked watercolours she had seen of the area.

In fact, the Queen’s advisers had her pick Ottawa for many reasons: first, it was the only settlement of any significant size located on the border of Canada East and Canada West (Quebec/Ontario border today), making it a compromise between the two colonies and their French and English populations; second, the War of 1812 had shown how vulnerable major Canadian cities were to American attack, since they were all located very close to the border while Ottawa was (then) surrounded by a dense forest far from the border; third, the government owned a large parcel of land on a spectacular spot overlooking the Ottawa River.

Today, as capital cities go, Ottawa is arguably one of the most visitor-friendly capitals in the world. Small enough that everything worth seeing is within a brisk walk or an inexpensive cab ride, the city is also large enough to have something to offer nearly every taste whether it be cultural, culinary, athletic or historic. The nation’s capital is a desirable place to live and work, with green spaces, outdoor activities and an easygoing lifestyle.

Getting around the city via public transport is convenient and easily accessible. The OC Transpo, Ottawa’s transit system, is made up of a network of buses and the O-Train. The O-Train runs along an 8 kilometre track from the South to the North end of Ottawa.

A great way to see the city is to hop on a bicycle and cover some of the 170 kilometres of paths that the National Capital Commission has created. Ottawa is fortunate to have one of North America’s largest networks of cycling paths. The paths travel through many parks and gardens and can lead you to many of the city’s museums and attractions.

If cycling is not your thing, there are many sightseeing tours of Ottawa available. On many of the tours you can buy a hop-on-hop off pass, so that you can use the pass the entire day.

What not to miss …


The National Gallery of Canada is the country’s finest art museum and the permanent home of the world’s most comprehensive collection of Canadian art, including Inuit and First Nations art. Its European collection – ranging from the Renaissance and Baroque to the Impressionist and Modern periods – and its modern American collection are considered among the best in the country. The National Gallery of Canada is located in one of the most spectacular sites in Ottawa

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