Getting to Know Ottawa

Ottawa was a city that slowly unravelled itself as I navigated the streets on foot. On my first evening here, I caught the Mosaika Sound and Light Show at Parliament Hill and absolutely loved it.

This epic show sees images and videos representing Canada’s people, culture, wildlife and natural beauty projected onto the Parliament Buildings. 

The stunning colours and remarkable special effects captivate crowds for half an hour every evening, starting at around 9pm.

One moment there would be images depicting mountains, whales and polar bears and then faces of Canadians, from west to east, would appear talking about what they loved the most about their home town or city.

It was a warm night, but people still cosied around the Centennial Flame – a monument created in the 1960s to commemorate Canada’s 100th anniversary as a confederation.

The flame is fuelled by natural gas and there is also a fountain and a ledge adorned with shields representing Canadian territories.

It was a gorgeous clear evening and I enjoyed watching the sunset from the side of the historic, and apparently haunted, Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel.

The sky was a beautiful burnt orange and I could not take my eyes off it.

The following morning, I rose early ready for a day of random rambling around the city. It was lovely weather and I walked for miles.

However, my first stop was Parliament Hill to see Ottawa’s attractive historic district in the daylight.

The luminous limestone Parliament Buildings were gorgeous seen from close up and afar.

This shining example of gothic revival architecture was built in the 19th century and is home to the Parliament of Canada.

I did not get a chance to have a look inside the National Gallery of Canada, but instead wandered around the vicinity and noticed an interesting spider sculpture near the entrance.

Enough to send shivers down the spine of anybody with arachnophobia…

Across the way are the stunning silver spires of the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica – a National Historic Site.

Overall, Ottawa has an extremely European feel. Located close to the Quebec border, and being the Government centre, it is a bilingual city. You can hear both English and French being widely spoken.

In fact, when I sat down for lunch one day, there was a young family having a conversation that kept swaying from French to English. A lot of youngsters grow up speaking both languages.

Even the street art is bilingual…

Speaking of street art, this imagery, which looks like it is depicting Rhianna, was located around the corner from my hostel…

I was staying not far from one of the main roads, Rideau Street.

On one side, you could find Parliament Hill, gleaming with historic architecture, and on the other side there appeared to be a high concentration of tattoo shops.

I even spotted a Church of Scientology.

Hundreds of eateries and stalls can be found at ByWard Market, which takes up numerous streets in the centre and is an unmissable attraction.

This is one of Canada’s oldest and largest markets – founded in 1826 – and it has a farmers’ market along with a variety of stands featuring local artisans.

A scene that reminded me very much of some of the views of the River Seine I remembered from my spring trip to Paris last year was the Rideau Canal.

This actually transforms into the largest ice rink in the world during the winter.

I later walked down besides the canal and found a memorial cross dedicated to around 1,000 people that lost their lives during its construction in the 19th century.

Most of them were Irish immigrants that perished as a result of unsafe working conditions or diseases such as malaria.

Ottawa is a great city to explore on foot and I would definitely add it to my list of favourite walkable cities.

Another very European-looking area of the city that is worth walking around is Major’s Hill Park – a peaceful oasis that is a popular hangout for those wanting some down time.


Have you ever visited Ottawa? What did you do/see?



  1. September 8, 2012 / 19:32

    Yes, we are proud of our caital city. Unfortunately I have yet to visit Ottawa. Your picture are amazing as always and it was the next best thing to being there. How much longer are you in Canada?

    • September 10, 2012 / 20:05

      Cheers Darlene, I have just three weeks left here in your lovely country! Had to bring flight day forward a month.

  2. September 11, 2012 / 06:21

    Wow. Everything looks stunning. I’m growing more jealous every day ;)
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  3. November 28, 2012 / 10:24

    That looks pretty awesome. I am thinking about doing the Canadian working holiday visa before I age out, and I’ve realized how little I know about Canada despite Canadians being Commonwealth cousins with New Zealand.
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    • December 7, 2012 / 21:25

      Do it! Canada is amazing! And don’t worry about not knowing too much, I went there pretty blind and made it up as I went along mostly :-)