Ottawa: Canada’s Capital City

otawa, the capital city of canada

Canada is a picturesque country with a multitude of large, cosmopolitan cities. That is probably the reason why travelers wondering which of them is the capital of Canada usually have cities such as Toronto, Montreal, or Quebec come to mind first. Neither of those is the capital of Canada, though.

What Is the Capital City of Canada?

The Canadian capital is Ottawa, which is located in the province of Ontario. Ottawa is not only where Canada’s administration lies, it is also the heart of its financial and industrial activity.

Ottawa is Canada’s fourth most populated city. With a population of 960,754 inhabitants, Ottawa covers an area of approximately 1,072 square miles or 2776,467 square kilometers.

The beautiful city of Ottawa is also where Canada’s 2 cultures come together perfectly. The rest of the nation is either predominantly French-speaking, or mostly comprised of English speakers.

Foreign nationals who wish to visit Ottawa for tourism, business or transit purposes will either need a travel visa or an electronic travel authorization for Canada depending on their nationality.

Passport holders from 60 nations are exempt from applying for a traditional visa, which requires a trip to a Canadian Mission. Nevertheless, citizens from exempt countries are eligible to apply online for the eTA Canada, an electronic travel authorization to enter Canada.

Where Is Ottawa?

The city of Ottawa is situated in the southeastern province of Ontario. Ottawa is approximately 400 kilometers east of Toronto, and about 200 kilometers west of Montreal.

The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River, opposite Gatineau, which belongs to the province of Quebec. Three rivers meet in Ottawa: the Ottawa, the Rideau, and the Gatineau rivers.

The National Capital Region of Canada is considered a single metropolitan area and includes the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau along with several other nearby municipalities.

Why Is Ottawa The Capital Of Canada?

Ottawa’s location as the capital of Canada is quite strategic. Thanks in part to its geographic situation, Ottawa was one of Canada’s least affected areas when Canada and the United States were rivals, back at the beginning of the 1800s.

A newspaper from that time attributed its protection to being surrounded by thick forests and humorously stated any invaders were likely to get lost in the woods while attempting to attack the city.

How Did Ottawa Become the Capital City of Canada?

Foreign nationals sometimes get confused regarding which of Canada’s cities is the capital. That is likely due to the fact that this country has designated a notorious number of cities to serve as its capital throughout history.

This is not the first time that Ottawa serves as the capital city of Canada. In fact, Ottawa was first officially appointed as the capital of the Province of Canada by Queen Victoria herself in 1857. Ten years later, Ottawa was announced as the capital of the Dominion of Canada in the British North America Act of 1867.

Prior to that, the capital had shifted from Kingston in 1841, to Montreal in 1844, then to Toronto in 1849 and to Quebec in 1855. Toronto was the capital of Canada for 2 periods; the first between 1849 and 1851, and the second between 1855 and 1859. Quebec served twice as the capital of Canada as well; from 1851 to 1855 during the first round, and 1859 to 1865 the second time around.

What Is the Weather Like in Ottawa?

Since temperatures can fluctuate greatly in Ottawa, tourists wishing to visit this city are advised to take the climate into consideration while planning and packing for their trip.

Passport holders from eligible countries can travel to Canada on very short notice since the Canada eTA is valid for up to 5 years and often approved in as little as 24 hours.

Travelers visiting Ottawa get to enjoy its humid continental climate. Ottawa has four distinct seasons throughout the year with average temperatures ranging between 26.6°C or 80 °F in July all the way down to −14.4 °C or 6.1 °F in January.

What Is the Best Season to Visit Ottawa?

The best season to visit Ottawa depends largely on travelers’ personal preferences and interests. Ottawa offers different activities and festivals depending on the season:

Summer in Ottawa

Summers in Ottawa are known to be warm as well as humid with an average of 11 days out of the season exceeding 30 °C or 86 °F. Average relative humidity ranges between 54% and 84% throughout the day.

Ottawa visitors are sure to enjoy its wide range of fun water activities when traveling there in the summer. Water adventures in Ottawa include rafting, family-friendly theater cruises, and boat rides down its scenic rivers.

Winter in Ottawa

Ottawa winters are known for their snow and ice with an average of 16 days out of the season dipping below −20 °C or −4 °F.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Ottawa is home to the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world. Every winter, between January and late February or, at most, until early March, the man-made Rideau Canal freezes throughout and becomes a scenic ice rink that welcomes winter sports lovers from all over the world. Locals enjoy skating down the canal as a convenient and fun way to travel between downtown Ottawa and nearby neighborhoods.

Spring and Autumn in Ottawa

Spring and fall in Ottawa have varying weather that goes from extreme temperatures to unpredictable climate swings. Temperatures as hot as 30 °C or 86 °F have been registered as early as April or as late as October, so travelers are advised to pack their travel wardrobe accordingly.

Travelers visiting Ottawa in May are sure to be dazzled by Ottawa’s colorful Canadian Tulip Festival that also includes live music and fireworks over the water during its celebration.

Worthwhile Tourist Attractions in Ottawa

There are plenty of beautiful places worth seeing in Ottawa. Once tourists have checked out the requirements for the Canadian eTA and applied, the next step towards enjoying Ottawa is making a list of the attractions and festivals they’d like to visit during their stay to make the most of their time there.

Cultural Sites in Ottawa

  • The ByWard Market
  • Parliament Hill
  • The Golden Triangle (both in Centretown – Downtown)
  • The Senate of Canada building
  • The Aberdeen Pavilion in Lansdowne Park
  • The Notre Dame Basilica
  • The Royal Canadian Mint

Museums in Ottawa

  • The Canadian Museum of Nature
  • The Canadian War Museum
  • The Canadian Museum of History
  • The National Gallery of Canada
  • The Canadian Aviation and Space Museum
  • Bytown Museum (Ottawa was initially called Bytown, before it was renamed)

Ottawa’s Natural Wonders

  • Pink Lake and King Mountain trails in Gatineau Park
  • The Rideau Falls and the Rideau Canal
  • Dows Lake Pavilion

Ottawa’s Festivals

Ottawa hosts a variety of seasonal activities every year. These events have, in time, become some of the largest festivals of their kind in the world. Some of the most notable ones are the following:

  • Winterlude, 3-20 February
  • The Canadian Tulip Festival, 12-22 May
  • Ottawa Fringe Festival, 8-18 June
  • Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, 22-25 June
  • Canada Day 2017, 1 July
  • Canada Dance Festival, 2-16 July
  • Ottawa Bluesfest, 6-16 July
  • City Folk Festival, 16-17 September
  • The Ottawa International Animation Festival, 20-24 September

Ottawa for Sports Lovers

The city of Ottawa is home to 4 professional sport teams:

  • The Ottawa Senators play ice hockey
  • The Ottawa Redblacks play Canadian football
  • The Ottawa Fury FC play soccer
  • The Ottawa Champions play professional baseball

How Do Tourists Get around Ottawa?

Once visitors arrive on location, they are often pleasantly surprised with all the easy transport options Ottawa has to offer.

Public transport is an efficient way to get around Ottawa, whether by bus or light rail, as well as by riverboat, should that be your preference. In fact, some companies even offer rides on buses that convert into boats to carry on part of their tour through one of Ottawa’s scenic rivers.

There are 2 bus systems operating in Ottawa, depending on what side of the Ottawa River you’d like to go to, the first operating on the Ontario side, and the second on the Quebec side:

  • OC Transpo
  • La Société de Transport de l’Outaouais (STO)

If you’d rather go around walking, inline skating, jogging, or cycling, Ottawa offers safe, paved pathways, away from motorized traffic, as well as multiple pathways through its beautiful parks.

Whether Ottawa has long been on your bucket list or you just realized it can be your next vacation destination, make sure to apply online for an eTA Canada while planning your next trip and save yourself waiting times and long lines.

Apply for eTA