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Your guide to the best of Ottawa

Hoping to catch all of Ottawa’s highlights in a few days but not sure where to start? We've put together a guide filled with insider tips to help you discover the multitude of inspirations in the nation's capital and surroundings. From outdoor activities to great restaurants and must-see museums, there’s something for everyone!

How to get there

Ottawa is approximately a two-hour drive from Montreal, and four and a half hours from Quebec City and Toronto. You can get there by train, bus and plane from these three cities as well. Ottawa's Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is convenient to fly into from across Canada.

Do we really need to rent a car there?

Not if you’re staying in the city or only venturing a few minutes from downtown Ottawa or Gatineau. But you may want to explore parks, the countryside, or stroll between villages, in which instances a car is your best option. That said, the city can be visited on foot from either of our two hotels, or by shared electric scooter (from April to November, weather permitting). Various companies offer guided visits and bus tours, including a "Hop-On, Hop-Off" option from Gray Line. The OC Transpo network operates city buses and the Ottawa Light Rail (O-Train) on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, while the Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) serves its Quebec side. During the summer, a quiet and eco-friendly water taxi provides access to the main attractions on both sides. And of course, there are always regular taxis!

What should I pack?

It depends on the time of year. Check the weather forecast in advance of your trip, but you can anticipate needing layers and rain gear for autumn, a warm coat for winter, and light, comfortable clothing for summer. One thing is for certain: you’ll want to bring along comfortable footwear for exploring the city!

Day 1


• First stop: The Scone Witch, on your way to Parliament. Their scones are so delicious, you won’t be able to resist picking up a few extra to go! They also have vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options on offer.

• Second stop: Parliament. You can visit two buildings: the Senate of Canada, located in Ottawa’s former railway station, and the House of Commons. Reservations are easy to make online.

• Third stop: Major's Hill Park. While the park's construction and rehabilitation projects are currently underway, you can still stop by to enjoy the stunning views of Parliament and the Ottawa Locks on the Rideau Canal.


• Fourth stop: the ByWard Market. Established in 1826 by Lieutenant-Colonel John By, it’s hands down one of the liveliest areas of the city, day or night. Between its boutiques, cafes and bars, you’re sure to find something to suit your fancy. This is the place to grab a bite, pick up treasures crafted by local artisans, and explore the flavours of the world. Two suggestions: fish n’ chips at The Aulde Dubliner & Pour House Irish pub, or a salad from Lollo To Go, which you can savour outdoors in the warmer months.


• Fifth stop: the Rideau Canal, another John By project, in the heart of Ottawa's charming downtown. Constructed in a context of military threat, today the entire canal serves as a fabulous playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, its north end connects Kingston to Ottawa by a series of lakes, rivers and marshes. Boaters can paddle in the canal in summer, and in winter it transforms into the longest skating rink in the world! You can rent skates and enjoy a BeaverTail® between pirouettes. Cyclists will enjoy exploring the Rideau Canal National Historic Site on two wheels. The area is just as magical for walking and running! A good portion of the Ottawa Marathon takes place along the canal.


• Sixth stop: a craft brewery. The challenge: choosing one! Around fifty are well established in the national capital and surrounding areas. One good option: Spark beer in Chinatown. You can take part in a tasting, or simply sip a glass on the patio in summer.

Day 2


• First stop: Biscotti & Cie in Chelsea, on the Outaouais side. The charming city of Chelsea is about twenty minutes from the hotel by taxi. Once there, it’s easy to get around on foot.

• Second stop: Gatineau Park. Nicknamed the green lung of the Outaouais, the park covers more than 361 square kilometres and features more than 300 km of trails. Explore the Mackenzie King Estate and Meech Lake, among other sites. The visitor centre is less than a five-minute walk from downtown Chelsea. In summer, the NCC offers a free shuttle service from Ottawa-Gatineau to popular destinations in the parkway sector, running every 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays.

Insider tip: Pink Lake, which is meromictic—meaning its surface and deep waters never mix—is particularly intriguing. When the sun shines, algae gives it a turquoise hue!


• Third stop: Nordik spa-nature for the thermal experience and the Aufguss, a German ritual practiced in a sauna and designed to maximize the benefits of thermotherapy. Grab a bite at the restaurant while you’re there.

Insider tip: the Källa saltwater pool (additional charge) makes bathers feel weightless.

Insider tip for foodies: If you feel like grabbing a bite in downtown Chelsea before heading to the spa, save room for dessert: The artisanal ice cream at La Cigale is to die for! Expect to wait in line in the summer months. We recommend taking a taxi back to the hotel at the end of the day.


• Fifth stop: Norca restaurant and bar at Le Germain Hotel Ottawa, whose name is a blend of "North" and "Canadian". The team pays homage to the local soil and seasons, creating an immersive environment that delights both travellers and locals alike. It’s the perfect spot to cap off a day of exploring!

Insider tip: One of the best vantage points for watching the sunset is near the falls at the top of the Eardley Escarpment in Gatineau Park, 270 metres above the Ottawa Valley. This is the dividing line between the Canadian Shield and the St. Lawrence Lowlands.

Day 3


• First stop: ByWard Cafe at the ByWard Market.

• Second stop: The National Gallery of Canada. Inaugurated in 1988, the glass and granite building designed by Moshe Safdie is a superb setting for the collections it houses. It’s as spectacular outside as it is in! Before entering, take a moment to admire Louise Bourgeois' impressive gigantic spider, a cast iron sculpture named Maman that was acquired by the museum in 2003.

Insider tip: The site offers an exceptional view of Parliament and Parliament Hill.


• Third stop: The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau. Before visiting the various rooms, dine at the museum restaurant, Bistro Boréal, or at Bistro Coqlicorne, less than a ten-minute walk away in Old Hull.

Insider tip: Enjoy the breathtaking views of Ottawa from the Canadian Museum of History.


• Fourth stop: Eco-Odyssey Park in Wakefield, an impressive water labyrinth that can be explored by paddle board, pedal boat or canoe. As of this year, you can also skate there in winter. The perfect family adventure!


• Fifth stop: Soif, sommelière Véronique Rivest’s restaurant in Gatineau.

A couple of ideas for longer stays:

• For connoisseurs of art and history: there are other museums that are certainly worth a visit in the area, including the Canadian Museum of Nature. Visit the Ottawa Tourism website to learn about the city's seven national museums.

Mont Morissette Regional Park for contemplative types. Its hiking trails offer unique views of the Gatineau Valley, and there’s also a 360-degree exploration tower. A spectacular autumn destination!

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Germain HôtelsJune 28th, 2022
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