Ottawa - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Ottawa


The capital of Canada is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River, opposite the French-speaking city of Gatineau across the water in the neighbouring province of Quebec. It's location on the border puts it in the unique position of being truly multicultural and bilingual, with a harmonious blend of French and English culture.

Ottawa had humble beginnings as a small lumber town until Queen Victoria designated it the capital of Canada in 1857. Since then it has grown into a modern, cosmopolitan city, though it is often overlooked in comparison to its larger, more glamourous neighbours, Toronto and Montreal. Its main landmark is the 302ft (92m) high Peace Tower. The tower surmounts the imposing Parliament Buildings, which stand in Gothic splendour at the junction of the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau rivers.

The city has a network of waterways and canals that link it to Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay. The historic Rideau Canal is used for boating in summer, and for ice sculpting and skating in winter, by locals and visitors alike. The parliament buildings and other architectural sites have an old-world European charm, and Ottawa has numerous top class museums and galleries, and the National Arts Center, which houses an opera company, theatres, studios and restaurants.

Information & Facts


Ottawa has a vast range of temperatures between summer and winter, and is subject to unpredictable weather conditions. Winters are generally snowy and icy; statistically Ottawa is the second coldest capital city in the world after Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. Temperatures in winter can drop as low as -25°C (-13°F) at night, but averages are misleading because days can be much warmer. Ice storms can occur. Summer weather in Ottawa is warm and humid, with temperatures exceeding 30°C (86°F) fairly often, sometimes as early as April and as late as October. Summers are usually short, though, and spring and autumn are unpredictable, with early or late snowfalls possible or even unseasonal heat waves.

Getting Around

For sightseeing purposes most visitors to Ottawa enjoy exploring the compact downtown area on foot or bicycle. However the OC Transpo company provides a top class integrated public transport system. Exact change is needed when boarding buses and streetcars, and sometimes at subway stations, but day passes and discount tokens can also be bought. A single adult day pass is $6. Taxis are freely available, but fairly expensive. Rates should be displayed in the taxi cab and the meter rate should be set at one at the start of a journey.

The official languages are English and French (predominantly in Quebec).

The currency used is the Canadian Dollar (CAD), which is divided into 100 cents. One-dollar coins are also known as loonies (due to the picture of a loon, a type of bird, on the coin), and two-dollar coins as toonies. Banks and bureaux de change will change money and travellers cheques, as will some hotels, but the rate will not be as good. Major credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are plentiful. US Dollars are largely accepted, though due to fraud, larger notes might not be and change is usually given in Canadian dollars.

Canada covers six time zones, from GMT 8 in the west to GMT -3.5 in the east.

One of dozens of museums in Canada's capital region, the Museum of Civilisation is one of the most fascinating with its artefacts on display including interesting things such as the world's oldest known boat, several mummies, and the story of the 'bog people' of north-western Europe. The museum celebrates the diversity of humankind and showcases the achievements of cultures, past and present, using not only exhibits but live performances, giant screens and animations. The complex incorporates the Canadian Children's Museum, Canadian Postal Museum, an IMAX Theatre and a restaurant.

Gatineau Park is a giant wedge of land measuring 140 square miles (363 sq km) to the northwest of Canada's Capital Region. It is a recreational haven for locals and visitors alike, and contains many features of interest. The Luskville Falls are inspiring; the Lusk Cave made of marble can be explored with a hard hat; the King Mountain Trail has 10 observation points and takes an hour to complete; the Mackenzie King Estate, a 231-hectare landscaped space in the heart of the park, was the summer residence of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada's 10th prime minister.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa is a place for decision-making, but also a place for people. Visitors can tour the buildings, watch Parliament in action, and enjoy ceremonial spectacles like the Changing of the Guard ceremony. There are three buildings making up Canada's parliament complex. The centre block with its distinctive Peace Tower houses the chambers of the House of Commons and the Senate. Visitors can watch either chamber in action, take a tour of the building, and climb the Peace Tower for a view of the capital city region. The historic east block contains the restored offices of Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A Macdonald, and other early statesmen. Tours are offered of these historic rooms and visitors can also interact with historical characters from the period. The west block houses the offices of members of parliament and are not open to the public.

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