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A boring weekend in Ottawa (not!)

Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Ottawa

An article written by Elizabeth Plante

This week, I became aware of a prejudice that I harbored about Ottawa for no reason. We all have prejudices, let it be said! On the people around us, on other countries, on religions or cultures different from ours, etc.

In the end, when we all get involved, we do nothing but spread platitudes to the four winds which, in the end, are more anecdotal than truthful. Leaving Montreal to go to Ottawa for the filming of Repères, I said to myself: "Two days of filming in Ottawa... what a pleasure..."

Apart from the fact that I was going to see the friendly parents of a friend of mine there, Ottawa did not strike me as a particularly exciting city. Now I wonder why I didn't take the opportunity earlier to make the round trip between Montreal and Ottawa. The drive takes only two hours to get there; we should frankly think twice before always booking our weekends in Quebec (hello hordes of tourists) and in the Eastern Townships (hello the infernal traffic of the Champlain Bridge and the 10).

I finally left my preconceptions at home and set off with an open mind to discover. For having finally seen it, I guarantee you will not be bored in our capital! A weekend will be enough to take long walks outside punctuated by stops in front of works of art, to ride a bike or run along the Rideau Canal and to visit interesting museums if the weather is not the game.

The visit of the Parliament

Le Parlement

Named Canada's capital since 1857, Ottawa is best known for Parliament Hill. It includes the Center Block (pictured), the Centennial Flame, and the East and West Blocks.

The Gothic Revival Center Block houses the Senate Chamber, the House of Commons, the Peace Tower and the Library of Parliament, among others. The guided tour of the Parliament is free and lasts between 45 minutes and 60 minutes. Pick up your tickets just opposite the parliament building at 111 Wellington Street (there's a banner, you can't miss it). Although they are free, tickets are limited in number to about thirty visitors per group. Enter the Parliament through the door to the right of the main entrance (you will need to go through security and leave your bulky backpacks or other large items there).

Tips and tricks #1: Several parking lots are free on Saturday and Sunday (like the World Exchange Plaza tower which is located very close to the Parliament).

Chambre du sénat
Senate Chamber

Memorial Chapel ottawa
Memorial Chapel

Hall de la Confédération
Confederation Hall

Peace Tower

Parliament guides are knowledgeable and dynamic. You can get tickets for a visit in French or in English and all employees speak both official languages without problem. Thanks to the anecdotes and understandable explanations of our guide, we review the main lines of our history and political system in a relaxed atmosphere. The Peace Tower with its panorama of the city is worth the wait to climb it. Personally, I was struck by the brilliant yellow ceiling of the tower.

The Library of Parliament

A real jewel for the eyes that this bookcase! The solemn atmosphere that reigns there will leave you speechless. The materials, colors and ornaments worked by craftsmen have been preserved for more than 100 years thanks, among other things, to its fireproof iron doors.

Bibliothèque du Parlement ottawa
Library of Parliament

Tips & Tricks #2: Take the Parliament Tour early on the weekend! You will thus have access to more rooms since parliamentarians only sit on weekdays.

Art everywhere!

Majestic par Michel de Broin
Majestic, by Michel de Broin

As you walk between Parliament Hill, the Notre-Dame Basilica, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Canadian Museum of History, the National Arts Center and the locks of the Rideau Canal, you will undoubtedly come across works of art. The City of Ottawa does indeed collect works that enhance the daily lives of tourists and Ottawans. Thus, public art can be found in libraries, community centers, parks, playgrounds, employment centers, public transit stations or at city hall. Commemorative monuments and statues bearing the effigy of the heroes of yesterday and today are legion in the Capital; take a moment to read the explanatory posters!

Maman (sculpture) et Basilique Notre-Dame
''Maman'', by de Louise Bourgeois

The Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal

The Sentier de la Capitale is 600 km of cycle and pedestrian paths that will allow you to enjoy nature. The great runners among you will want to cross the Ottawa River and cross the bridges that connect Ottawa to Hull (on the other side of the river). I also heard that the Ottawa Marathon was one of the most beautiful in the country! For a more leisurely pace, walk from Parliament Hill to Nepean Point for a great view of the Gothic Revival building and the Rideau Canal locks. In winter, put on your skates and set off on the largest outdoor skating rink in the world!

Vue du Parlement de la Pointe Nepean
Point Nepean View

Finally, Parc des Chutes-Rideau located a few hundred meters from Pointe Nepean is a pleasant place to rest with a picnic for a break.

Tips & Tricks #3: Head to Nepean Point in the afternoon (or evening if you have a tripod) for great photos of Parliament and its library.

Chutes du Canal Rideau

From approximately May 12 to 22, the Ottawa Tulip Festival takes place, book your hotel or Airbnb now to have a good time with family or friends in our beautiful Canadian capital.

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