About a 4 1/2 hour drive from Toronto, I decided to make a stop in Ottawa on my way to Montreal. It was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting to see a boring, planned capital city but instead found it to be a nice place with a lively atmosphere.
After parking the car, I walked towards Parliament Hill. On the way, I stopped at the National War Memorial, which includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was able to watch a small Changing of the Guard ceremony.
My main goal for the day was to take a tour of Parliament. I came on a particularly busy day, so I had to wait 2 1/2 hours before my scheduled tour was to begin. While waiting for the tour, I had enough time to explore the rest of Ottawa. I started by wandering back down the hill to the Rideau Canal and examining the locks.
I finished at the canal and walked to Nepean Point. From the Samuel de Champlain statue, I was able to see the entire area – Parliament Hill, Lower Town, the Alexandra Bridge, and across the river to Gatineau in Québec.
Next, I walked to Lower Town past the National Gallery of Canada and down the street to the Royal Canadian Mint. If I had more time, I would have visited both of these places. The National Gallery is open daily with an adult admission of CAD$12 while the mint gives daily 45 minute tours for CAD$6 on weekdays and CAD$4.50 on weekends. Admission fees are current as of September 2016.
Across the street from the National Gallery is the Cathédrale Notre Dame, a beautiful Catholic church built between 1841 and 1865. It was built on the site of the original wooden church, St. Jacques, built in 1832. The current church is the oldest and largest in Ottawa.
Across the street from the church is a monument called Reconciliation: The Peacekeeping Monument. It was erected in 1992 to commemorate the role of Canadians in worldwide peacekeeping missions and to honor all Canadian soldiers.
It was getting close to tour time at Parliament, so I started to make my way back to Parliament Hill. I walked past the gigantic US Embassy, which opened in 1999, and the castle-like Connaught Building, which serves as the Canada Revenue Agency. It was built in 1915 as a Customs Examining Warehouse of Canada Customs (now Canada Border Services Agency). After I reached Parliament Hill, I had a quick coffee and then went on a tour of Centre Block and then a tour of the Peace Tower.
With the tours out of the way, I headed back across the canal to have dinner in the lively ByWard Market area. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. The restaurant I chose (MAMBO Nuevo Latino) is now permanently closed (which is a good thing – terrible service and mediocre food).
Overall, I had a great day in Ottawa and I enjoyed it very much. I would love to come back to visit the museums, spend some time across the river in Gatineau and visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and hopefully catch a hockey game.