Ottawa-Hull National Capital Region, Canada
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada's capital, often referred to as one of the most beautiful capitals in the world is attractively located on the south bank of the Ottawa River at its confluence with the Rideau River. The gently rolling Gatineau Hills of Quebec are visible to the north. Ottawa is part of Canada's Capital Region which is an area comprising two provinces (Ontario and Quebec) and two major cities (Ottawa and Hull).
More than five million visitors from around the world come to Ottawa each year. Ottawa is a destination that offers something for everyone. More than 29 museums, art galleries and historical places are waiting for you to discover. Over 60 festivals, including the internationally recognized Winterlude and Canadian Tulip Festival are held each year. A variety of outdoor activities are close by. Enjoy 150 km of trails for biking and hiking adventures or in wintertime the Rideau Canal, the world's longest skating rink (7.8 km).
Ottawa offers a blend of English and French culture with almost half of the residents being bilingual. Other ethnic groups such as Germans, Lebanese, Italians, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese and Asian add to the mix of this truly cosmopolitan city. The European touch of Ottawa, with outdoor cafes, stone heritage buildings, and Gothic architecture is omnipresent.
Hull, Quebec, located across the river is as much the other half of Ottawa as it is a separate city. It is not only home of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, but a famous destination featuring the Gatineau Park, the Casino de Hull and many events for culture and arts. It is a mecca for outdoor, activities, with its many recreational trails, parks and green spaces of outstanding quality, which are accessible in summer as well as winter.
Ottawa and the National Capital Region in Figures
Ottawa is the fourth largest metropolitan area in Canada with a population of 1.081 million (2000).
The Metropolitan area Ottawa-Hull has an total area of 5,686.45 sq km.
In wintertime the Rideau Canal in the heart of Ottawa becomes with 7.8 km the world's longest skating rink.
In 1945, the Netherlands gave 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canada to thank Ottawa for providing refuge to the Dutch royal family during WW II.
The Corel Centre offers 18,500 seats for sport and entertainment events, such as NHL hockey, concerts, figure skating and more.
More than 50 galleries and theatres offer the best of Canadian and international art, theatre, music, and dance performances.
The capital region is home to 70 large shopping centers.
The capital region lies at 79 metres above sea level
Ottawa's Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is located 20 minutes south of the city. The airport is serviced by many airlines on a daily basis, arriving from all major Canadian and may American cities.
Rail and bus terminals are conveniently located only minutes from downtown to connect to other cities in Canada and the U.S..
Traveling within the capital region
The best way to discover downtown is on foot. The downtown core is very compact and most of the attractions are accessible this way.
However, the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission (OC Transpo) operates about 730 busses for regular transit service. There is also a service to/from the airport and to/from the train station with busses every 15 minutes most of the day.
For more information visit http://www.octranspo.com/ or call (613) 741-4390 for route information.
More romantic ones will prefer a boat cruise along the Rideau Canal, Rideau River or Ottawa River.
Parks and protected areas
Gatineau Park is a superb nature reserve of 36,000 hectare just 15 minutes north of Ottawa. The Park is endowed with hundreds of kilometres of trails, forests containing more than sixty species of trees, abundant wildlife and numerous crystal-clear lakes typical of the hills of the Canadian Shield. Visitors can participate in outdoor activities or simply take advantage of the tranquility of a protected natural environment.
Gatineau Park in winter is considered one of the greatest skiing networks in North America. Almost 200 kilometres of trails make Gatineau Park a paradise for cross-country skiing.
Gatineau Park is also home of the charming Mackenzie King Estate, the summer home of Canada's 10th and longest serving Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. You can discover a restored cottage, a collection of historical ruins, lovely gardens and a tea room, which is situated on the ground floor of Moorside Cottage.
For more information call (613) 239-5100 or toll-free 1-800-461-8020
National Capital Greenbelt
The Nation Capital Greenbelt was designed in 1949 by French city planner Jacques Gréber. Today the Greenbelt surrounds major parts of the cities Ottawa, Gloucester and Nepean and offers an excellent getaway, minutes from Parliament Hill. Many hiking and ski trails, farms, wetlands and golf facilities are waiting for you to discover.
The Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal, a system of natural lakes and rivers with a total length of more than 200 kilometres leads from Ottawa to Kingston and draws residents and visitors alike. It is excellent for all recreational activities such as boating, canoeing and hiking. You can discover parks, small towns, lakes and many panoramic places. You have to pass as many as 47 locks, if you decide to travel from one end to the other.
The Canal, originally build 150 years ago for military purpose never saw any military service. The construction itself was heavy labour involving as many as 4.000 men. The canal climbs 84 metres from Ottawa over the Shield to drop 49 metres to Lake Ontario.
For more information call (613) 239-5000
The Rideau Trail is a hiking trail system with a total length of 400 kilometres and many conservation areas, fields, and historic sites in between. The trail leads from Ottawa to Kingston and is ideal for daytrips or overnight stays. Between Kingston and Smiths Falls you can find numerous camping spots. The rest of the way you will rely on commercial accommodation.
Things to do
The city boasts a vast variety of museums, galleries, heritage buildings and monuments. No doubt, the National Capital Region offers something for everybody. However, the most difficult problem for visitors is to choose what to do first. Many of these attractions line Confederation Boulevard, which links Quebec and Ontario. Here are some ideas:
The Canadian Museum of Nature
The Canadian Museum of Nature showcases natural history at its best. No matter if you are interested in dinosaurs, once found in Alberta, or in mammals and birds of Canadian wildlife or in gems and minerals - you will find it here. Six large exhibit halls including an authentically reconstructed gold mine complete with shaky elevator make this museum worthwhile to visit. A separate kids area makes it ideal for a family excursion.
For more information call (613) 566-4700 or toll-free 1-800-263-4433
The Écomusée is a center for learning about environmental issues. You will learn about the birth of the solar system and the formation of Planet Earth. You will leave with a better understanding how our ecosystem works. Also in display are 4.000 of the world's most beautiful insects.
For more information call (819) 595-7790
The National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery is a truly must-see. It is Canada's premier art gallery and offers the world's largest collection of Canadian art, as well as North American and European works. The gallery is located on Sussex Drive, only 15 minutes walk from Parliament Hill. This unique gallery not only gives a history of Canadian arts but also outlines the development of the country itself.
While here you can also view the beautifully restored Rideau St. Chapel of 1888, which was saved from destruction a few blocks away. The building of glass and pink granite is also home of the Inuit Gallery.
For more information call (613) 990-1985 or toll-free 1-800-319-2787
Royal Canadian Mint
No longer producing Canada's coin currency, the Royal Canadian Mint now mints commemorative coins for customers from all over the world. If you call ahead you can arrange a tour to see the process of producing high quality coins. However, it is open in summer only.
For more information call (613) 991-5853
Discover the history of money over a period of 2,500 years at the Currency Museum located in the Bank of Canada building in 245 Sparks St.
For more information call (613) 782-8914
The Bytown Museum (former name of Ottawa) showcases local history. The museum is located in Ottawa's oldes stone building at the foot of Rideau locks. You can also view an exhibit about the building of the Rideau Canal.
For more information call (613) 234-4570
The Canadian Museum of Civilization
The Canadian Museum of Civilization gives an inside of Canada's development from the Vikings to the present day. The museum is located on the Ottawa River and offers a spectacular view of Ottawa's skyline. Inside you will also find the Children's Museum and the Postal Museum. The museum is the best visited one in Canada, with almost 1.4 million people visiting last year.
For more information call (819) 776-7000
The National Aviation Museum
A world-class collection of more than 100 national and international aircrafts. You can discover peace and wartime planes, including the Silver Dart of 1909 and renowned Spitfire. The museum is located at Rockcliffe Airport, north-east of the downtown area.
For more information call (613) 993-2010 or toll-free 1-800-463-2038
Parliament Hill is not only the heart of Ottawa, but also the heart of the Canadian Federal Government. The buildings off Wellington St., near the canal have been built between 1859 and 1927 and offer one of the best views of the region. This is especially true, when you enjoy the panoramic view from the observation deck of the Peace Tower. You can tour the House of Commons and the Senate in session, and the Library of Parliament in the Centre Block. Free tours are offered, if you place a reservation in advance.
In summer time, the Changing of Guard ceremony on the lawns takes place daily at 10 am and is a very colorful event, which draws the attention of many tourists.
On Canada Day (July 1) Parliament Hill and Confederation Boulevard is visited by tens of thousands for national holiday celebrations.
For more information call (613) 996-0896
The Rideau Hall was built in 1838 and is the official residence and workplace of Canada's Governor General. Located only minutes from downtown Ottawa Rideau Hall offers 32 hectares of beautifully landscaped grounds in a park-like setting. In wintertime the Rideau Hall is open for guided tours. Please place your reservation in advance. The Hall itself is open to the public year round.
By Ward Market
This historic farmers market dates back to the year 1826 and is Canada's oldest continuously-operating market of this kind. It has been restored in 1998 and lets you travel back in time, when farmers and loggers carried out their trade back in the 1800's. It preserved its old-world charm, but has also become a busy center for shopping, restaurants and entertainment.
For more information call (613) 562-3325
Ride in a old-fashioned steam-powered train in the picturesque village of Wakefield along the Gatineau River. Different guided tours are available. The excursion starts only five minutes from Parliaments Hill.
For more information call (819) 778-7246 or toll-free 1-800-871-7246
Fireworks at the Casino
An international fireworks competition, along with music performances from all over the world, is held in August. The Grands feux du Casino starts end of July and ends mid August.
For more information call (819) 771-3389 or toll-free 1-888-429-3389
Skiing at Mont Ste Marie
Mont Ste Marie occupies two mountains and contains 20 runs with two high speed quads and 1 t-bar for the beginner hill. Mont Ste. Marie, located in the beautiful Gatineau Hills, is just a short one hour drive up highway 105 from Ottawa.
Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival
The city of Gatineau, located across the river from Ottawa is the largest and most populated city in the Outaouais region. More than 105.000 people call Gatineau their home.
In 1988 the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival started for the first time and has now become the most important balloon fest in Canada. Unique in the world, the Gatineau festival allows balloons flying over Canada's capital.
More than 150 balloon pilots from eight countries will participate and more than 225,000 visitors are expected to attend the event. For more information call toll-free 1-800-668-8383 or visit the website at http://www.ville.gatineau.qc.ca/festival/english
The dining scene of the National Capital Region is as colorful as the ethnic diversity of the people who live here. There are many excellent restaurants to suit about any taste. No matter whether you prefer African, Canadian, French, German, Greek, Mexican, Spanish, Thai or vegetarian cuisine - you will find it. Many restaurants are located in the downtown core. During summer months many restaurants in the Byward Market area offer outdoor tables. West of the center you will find a small Chinatown with numerous restaurants. Preston St, also known as Little Italy is the place to go for Italian cuisine. Hull, easily reached across the river is smaller but is noted for good restaurants and late nightlife.
An Indian word ,Outaouak, the name of the Algonquin tribe that traded furs in the area is the origin of the name Ottawa.
In 1613 Samuel de Champlain became the first European to make his way to the area, which is now known as Ottawa.
In 1826 British troops founded a settlement called Bytown (nowadays Ottawa). The main purpose of this settlement was the construction of the Rideau Canal.
In 1832 the Rideau Canal was completed. The 202 km long canal links the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario and was build for military purposes.
In 1855 Bytown became Ottawa.
In 1857 Queen Victoria made Ottawa the capital of the British provinces of Upper (today Ontario) and Lower Canada (today Quebec).
In 1867 Ottawa became the capital of the Dominion of Canada and remains the seat of government.
The Great Fire of 1900 started in Hull, turned into an inferno at the lumber mills and crossed the river into Ottawa.
In 1916, the Capital was again struck by fire - this time on Parliament Hill. Centre Block burned to the ground; all that was left standing was the Library of Parliament.
In 1958, the National Capital Act officially defined the National Capital Region. An area of 4,600 sq km, bridging Quebec and Ontario and including 27 municipalities, two of which are the cities of Ottawa and Hull, from now on are called the National Capital Region.
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