As capital cities go, there are plenty of things to do in Ottawa as it is arguably the most visitor-friendly capital in the world. Small enough that everything worth seeing is within a brisk walk or an inexpensive cab ride, the city is also large enough to have something to offer nearly every taste whether it be cultural, culinary, athletic or historic.
As Ottawa has grown, so has its cultural diversity. There are many theater companies including the Great Canadian Theatre Company and Ottawa Little Theatre, which operate in the city. Ottawa is also home to the National Gallery of Canada and the National Arts Centre, not to mention the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada Science and Technology Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization which is located across the Ottawa River in Hull.
While Ottawa's downtown core is home to many of the city's major attractions including Parliament Hill
and the National Gallery of Canada, it is a vibrant community unto itself with a large residential element and several shopping centres including the pedestrian Sparks Street Mall and the Rideau Shopping Centre.
One can also find many fine restaurants in the downtown core including Hy's Steak House, Suisha Gardens and Mamma Teresa Ristorante. The core itself runs from Wellington Street in the north to the Queensway in the south, and the Rideau Canal in the east to Bronson Avenue in the west.
For a taste of Ottawa's nightlife, be sure to visit some of the nightclubs and restaurants along Elgin Street including Griffin's, Big Daddy's Crab Shack and Oyster Bar and The Bulldog Pub.
South of the Queensway running along both sides of Bank Street, is the Glebe. As a trendy arts and specialty shop district, the Glebe, attracts many suburban transplants looking for a little downtown living.
Sandy Hill and the Byward Market
Across from the downtown core on the eastern bank of the Rideau Canal is the University of Ottawa, which borders the stately Sandy Hill district where a majority of the city's embassies are located. Across Rideau Street to the north of Sandy Hill is the Byward Market where every sense can be satisfied.
The "Market" is a tourist Mecca attracting both vacationers and locals to its many special shops and restaurants during the day, while in the evenings the streets are filled with late night revelers touring the area's many bars and nightclubs including On Tap the Heart and Crown and the Rainbow Bistro blues club.
Situated to the west of the downtown area is Somerset Heights, which was previously known as Chinatown before the age of political correctness and an influx of Vietnamese immigrants in the late 1970s. If it's Asian food you're interested in, then the Heights is the place to come. Along Somerset Street one can find some of the finest Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in the city including the Mekong Restaurant, the Yangtze and the Cam Kong.
About a 10-minute walk west down Rue Somerset from the Heights is Preston Street, the cultural center of Ottawa's Italian community. Every year during the last weekend in June the street overflows with people returning to their roots to celebrate Italian Week.
Running north and south along the eastern edge of the downtown core is the Rideau Canal where one can either walk, jog, inline skate or just sit on a bench and people-watch.
Further east from Sandy Hill is Vanier. This small neighborhood is the last bastion of the francophone community in Ottawa and they maintain their heritage with immense pride.
To the north of Vanier is Rockcliffe Park where one can find some of the most expensive real estate in Canada including the multi-million dollar home of Corel founder Michael Cowpland. Rockcliffe is also the home of 24 Sussex Drive and Rideau Hall, the homes of the Prime Minister and the Governor General respectively.
Across the river from Parliament Hill is Ottawa's twin city of Hull. Located in the French-speaking province of Quebec, Hull has grown up struggling to find an identity under the shadow of the nation's capital. Besides having many fine French restaurants, Hull is also the gateway to Gatineau Park, a wonderfully bucolic getaway run by the National Capital Commission. The Park itself has many fine bike paths, picturesque lakes and points of interest including the Mackenzie King Estate and Meech Lake.
Further to the west of the downtown core are the suburban neighborhoods of Bells Corners, Barrhaven and Kanata. While Barrhaven and Bells Corners are mostly bedroom communities with a smattering of restaurants and hotels, Kanata is the high tech center of Ottawa and home to many high tech giants such as Nortel, Mitel, Alcatel, Mosaid and Entrust.