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Know Before You Go
- Visit the Rideau Canal. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the largest skating rink in the world.
- Plan your trip to Ottawa over May if you want to see over a million tulips in bloom. The best place to go is Commissioners Park. It has over 250,000 tulips and 60 different varieties along one kilometre of flower beds.
- Don't leave without a stop at Ottawa's historic Byward Market. There are over 260 stands that are filled with unique shops and some the city's best food.
- If you want to see a spookier side of the city, ditch the usual walking tours and sign up for the Haunted Walk of Ottawa. The 90-minute walk goes past some of the city's most haunted buildings, and you'll learn more about the city's darker past.
- Ottawa has some of Canada's best museums and galleries. Buy the Museum Passport for CAD 35, and you'll get free entry into three museums of your choice. Choose from the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museums of Nature and more.
- If you can, visit Ottawa during one of its many festivals. The biggest party is on Canada Day, but there are smaller events that are just as good, like the famous Winterlude and the Ottawa Jazz Festival.
Getting Around Ottawa
The best way to explore Ottawa is on foot. The city's main attractions, restaurants and nightlife are all within walking distance in the downtown area of the city. But if you get tired of walking or want to get somewhere faster, the city has an extensive public transport system.
- The Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission operates 200 bus routes throughout the city. A one-way ride will cost around CAD 3 to CAD 6 depending on your final destination. There's also a day pass that gives you unlimited rides for only CAD 8.50.
- Taxis are available throughout the city but are a more expensive way to get around. Rates start at CAD 3 with each additional kilometre costing CAD 2. Ride sharing service Uber is also available and is a cheaper option.
- Unless you can drive in ice or snow, it's advised to skip renting a car in Ottawa during its winter months. But if you are travelling in summer, parking is easy to find, and the traffic isn't gridlocked. But keep in mind that petrol will be expensive, and the one-way streets can be difficult to navigate for first-time visitors.
When is The Best Time to Visit Ottawa?
The best time to visit Ottawa is during spring. From March to May the temperatures start to rise, and the city's famous tulips start to bloom. While tourists do flock to the Ottawa during this time for special events like the Tulip Festival, it won't break the bank. Room rates are reasonable, and the city is still free from the summer crowds.
June to August is Ottawa's peak season. The summer weather is perfect for sightseeing and strolling around town. But with high numbers of tourists during this period, expect higher prices and long queues outside of attractions. Book a few months ahead to avoid the spike and consider staying at places in the suburbs for lower rates.
If you want to escape Ottawa's summer heat, visit the city during its autumn months. From September to November the temperatures are comfortable, and hotel rates start to go down. However, there are plenty of festivals during this time, so it's not the quietest time of year to visit.
If you are a bargain hunter, head to Ottawa during its low season. From December to February you'll find the best deals on accommodation - if you can handle the cold temperatures. Pack enough warm layers and get ready to experience the winter weather like a local by attending one of the many wintertime activities.
Airports in Ottawa
Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport
Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier is 10 km from the city centre. It's Canada's sixth-busiest airport and is one of eight Canadian airports that have United States border preclearance facilities. The airport is also a gateway to the Arctic and is a focus city for Air Canada.
Getting To and From Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport
The cheapest way to get from the airport to downtown Ottawa is with the public bus. Catch number 97 from pillar 14 outside the arrivals area. Tickets are CAD 3.30 and journey time is about 30 minutes depending on traffic.
If you want to take a taxi, you'll find a fleet waiting outside the arrivals terminal. The average cost for a ride into the city is CAD 29, and it takes 20 minutes to get into downtown Ottawa. Ridesharing services like Uber are also available at the airport. Once you have requested your ride, meet your driver at pillars 12 and 13 outside Level 1.
For travellers that want to rent a car, several agencies are operating at the airport. You'll find them in the parkade across the street from the arrivals terminal. Keep in mind that you will need to book your car at least 48 hours in advance.