About Ottawa

About Ottawa

Ottawa is a large, multicultural city with the warmth and welcome of a smaller town. Here, you can delve into history, art, Canadian culture and politics. You can explore the diversity of Ottawa’s neighbourhoods and hunt for local and exotic treasures. And you can wander through the green and pastoral parks and visit the rural areas of the city. Come to Ottawa and experience Canada’s capital city.

Ottawa is Canada’s capital and the country’s fourth largest city with a population of approximately 900,000. Ottawa is located in the Ottawa Valley in eastern Ontario. It lies on the banks of the Ottawa River, which divides the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in the area. The mouths of the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal are both located here and have played a major part in the history of Ottawa.

Ottawa’s natural environment is a very large part of its identity. The Rideau Canal is the world’s largest skating rink and is used by Ottawa residents and visitors alike. The city has 850 parks that contribute to Ottawa’s green character, and just across the Ottawa River is Gatineau Park, a 360 square-kilometre nature reserve boasting abundant wildlife, over fifty tree species and hundreds of kilometers of trails.

Ottawa honours a long tradition of Canadian culture and history in the many world-class institutions in the city: the National Arts Centre, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the National Gallery of Canada, to name just a few. Ottawa is well known as a festival city, boasting over 45 major festivals taking place each year.

Diversity characterises so much of Ottawa. While English and French are the predominant languages, you will hear many others spoken on the streets. About 25 percent of the city’s residents are born in other countries, and more than 20 percent of residents are visible minorities. You can enjoy this multicultural diversity in the shops, restaurants and neighbourhoods throughout the city.


Ottawa temperatures can range from 33°C (91°F) in summer to -40°C (-40°F) in winter, with average summer temperatures around 26°C (80°F) and average winter temperatures around -10°C (14°F).

Museums and Festivals

There are 30 museums in the Ottawa area – the highest concentration of museums of any region in Canada. This includes the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which is the most visited museum in Canada.
Ottawa has no shortage of important festivals: Ottawa holds the world’s largest chamber music festival in late summer and the world’s largest tulip festival in the spring. It is also the site for the world’s second largest blues music festival — the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest — that takes place in July. The Bluesfest is second only to the Chicago blues festival.

Outdoor Attractions

Ottawa’s Rideau Canal is the world’s largest, naturally frozen ice rink and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is the oldest, continuously operated canal system in North America.
Ottawa has one of the longest networks of scenic recreational paths in any North American city (150 km or 93 mi). On Sunday mornings in summer, some of the parkways are closed to vehicle traffic, giving cyclists, joggers, in-line skaters and walkers 25 km (15 mi) of parkway to enjoy. In total, there are over 300 km of bike trail and over 200km of cross-country ski trail in the region.

Ottawa was originally home the Algonquin First Nations tribe.
Bytown became Ottawa on January 1, 1855 when Bytown was formally incorporated as a city and adopted the new name.
In 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa to be the capital of the Province of Canada, which led to the city’s further development.
Since the 1960s, Ottawa has grown into a world-class capital with numerous museums, art galleries, and cultural festivals.


Canada’s currency is based on the decimal system, with 100 cents to the dollar. You can exchange your currency for Canadian dollars at authorized currency exchange counters in Ottawa and at the airport. You can also exchange currency at banks, credit unions and trust companies throughout Ottawa.


Banking hours vary, with most banks open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., some are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Some banks are open on Saturday. Banks are closed on federal public holidays. Automated banking machines and debit (e.g. Interac, Cirrus, and Plus) services are widely available.

Credit/Debit Cards

A majority of stores, restaurants and accommodations in the Ottawa area accept major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. Debit (bank) cards are readily used (Interac, Plus and Cirrus networks). Credit and debit card charges will appear on the purchaser’s statement, converted to the home currency.

Sales Tax

The Ontario Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is applied at a single rate of 13% to a base of goods and services.
Accommodations in Ottawa also charge a Hotel Levy of 3% on room rates to assist in marketing of Ottawa as a business and leisure destination.

Hospital/Medical Services

Visitors to Canada are strongly urged to obtain health insurance before leaving their home country. Canadian hospital and medical services are excellent, but a hospital stay can be costly without adequate insurance coverage. Visitors taking prescribed medications are advised to take a copy of the prescription should it need to be renewed during the trip.