Discovering Ottawa

Last year when our parents turned 60, my sister and I were thinking about what we should give them as a present. As my mother dropped several times how she would love it to visit Canada one day to visit our cousin living there, we decided to gift them the plane tickets to Canada and invite ourselves along for the trip. In about one and a half week we made a trip around the cities in central-eastern Canada, visiting Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and Toronto.

Ottawa is the bilingual Canadian federal capital, it is located along the Ottawa River in Ontario while the bank opposite is Gatineau and located in Quebec. Both sides of the river together make up the capital region and institutes and government agencies can be found on both sides of the river.

We arrived by Via Rail train from Quebec at the out of town “modern” Ottawa train station, we then took a taxi to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Gatineau-Ottawa. As we arrived at around 14:00 we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon/evening in the Canadian Museum of History which has a late opening every Thursday until 20:00.

The museum is located in a stunning building, with a magnificent view over the parliamentary buildings at the other side of the river. The museum itself is divided into several floors, each depicting a part of Canadian history.

The bottom level is completely dedicated to the history of the First Nations, something we as Europeans do not know a lot about and as such it was very interesting to learn about.

The top level talks about the history of the European settlers and how modern day Canada came to be, it is presented in a very interesting and immersive way.

The second morning we got up early and went out to the parliamentary buildings. Unfortunately they started a big restoration project, which means the main building was closed off. At this time all government functions have been displaced to other buildings until the restoration of the parliamentary buildings is finished.

We first went to visit the Senate, which is located inside of the former city centre terminus station of Ottawa, across the road from the Fairmont hotel and alongside the Rideau Canal.

After the railways abandoned the station in the 1960’s it was converted into the Government conference centre before this location was transformed into the temporary Senate location.

On our way to the second part of our tour, we stopped briefly at the locks of the Rideau Canal and took a look at this scenic location.

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The House of Commons is located in one of the three buildings on the site of the Parliamentary buildings, the so called West Block.

This building was renovated prior to the other two and the interior courtyard space was covered by a glass roof to form the new House of Commons. The pillars supporting the roof are designed to look like trees and the entire room is very airy and modern.

After finishing the tour of the Senate and the House of Commons, we continued our tour towards the Bank of Canada Museum. It is located in the basement of the Bank of Canada building and houses a fun and interactive exhibition about Canadian currency and currencies across the world and how the economy functions. Thanks to the interactive bracelets we had a lot of fun trying out the different interactive functions.

We finished up the day at the Canadian War Museum, it is a beautifully designed modern building situated at the Vimy Place (To commemorate the battle there). The museum exhibition is built to supplement the Canadian History Museum and visiting both gives you the complete picture of Canadian history.

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The exhibition of course focuses mostly on the Military side of things and the battles abroad where Canadian people were also involved.

On the lower level there is a big ‘hangar’ where a lot of big military equipment is stored like trucks, tanks and even airplanes. For the technically interested people, this is a highlight. Unfortunately the place was bigger and more interesting than I first anticipated so we did not really have the time to enjoy it thoroughly.

I was very surprised by Ottawa and it was a much nicer city with more to see than I first expected, in the end we really felt that we had too little time as there were a number of things we didn’t get to see or experience the way we wanted.

Personally I would go back, preferably when the parliamentary buildings have finished their restoration so I can visit them too, to see everything that I missed in a future visit of Canada.

Have you been in Ottawa? And where you surprised by it as well? Let us know in the Comments below!

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