How many days do you need in Ottawa?

Serving as the vibrant capital of Canada, Ottawa lies on the riverside border between Ontario and Quebec. It’s home to grand Victorian buildings and a plethora of museums exploring everything from the nation’s artistic traditions to its natural heritage. With its cultural diversity and exceptional dining scene, Ottawa offers an authentic take on modern-day Canada.

Read on to discover how many days you need to explore this energized city, whether you’re just after a taste or really want to immerse yourself in everything it has to offer. This guide touches on the best time to visit and how to get around the city, as well as offering a few recommended itineraries. A wide range of Ottawa accommodations can be found at to suit your stay, whether it’s a three-day weekend away or a full week’s vacation. In addition to apartments in the Downtown area, you’ll find historic residences around ByWard Market and family homes in the leafy streets of the Golden Triangle.

Best time to visit Ottawa

An ideal time to visit Ottawa is between March and November when temperatures are mild to warm. During the summer months of June, July, and August, there is an influx of visitors to the city, which drives up accommodation prices. If you don’t mind the chilly temperatures (which peak around 20°F (-6°C)), winter is a great alternative and offers the chance to go ice skating on the Rideau Canal.

Getting to and around Ottawa

Ottawa International Airport is around 20 minutes’ drive from the Downtown area and has flights to destinations across the globe. Regular trains connect from Toronto, Montreal, and New York to the Ottawa railway station while buses and light rail services travel throughout the city. Battery-powered e-scooters are also available for getting around.

Ottawa in 3 days

If you only have three days to spare in Ottawa, then focus your attention on the city’s big-ticket attractions, including the National Gallery of Canada and The Response, which serves as the National War Memorial. Spend an hour or so touring the Gothic Revival-style buildings of Parliament Hill and delve into the nation’s natural heritage at the Canadian Museum of Nature. No visit is complete without getting your retail fix at one of Canada’s best markets, the ByWard Market, where you’ll find everything from fresh produce to fashions and ready-to-eat foods.

Ottawa in 4 days

With an extra day up your sleeve, you can add on a visit to the Royal Canadian Mint to learn about the precision that goes into designing and crafting coins. Alternatively, head to the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, which forms part of the Central Experimental Farm to the south of Ottawa’s Downtown area. If you’re traveling with a budding astronaut, then make a beeline for the Canada Aviation and Space Museum where you’ll find aircraft dating from the early 20th century to the modern day.

Ottawa in 5 days

Once you’ve got your city sightseeing out of the way, spend a day enjoying the views across Ottawa from the Rideau Canal. In the warmer months, you can kayak along the waterway before it transforms into an immense outdoor skating rink. Spending five days in Ottawa will also give you time to get out to the Chaudière Falls, which tumble spectacularly along the Ottawa River.

Ottawa in 6 days

If you want to get a little off-the-beaten-sightseeing-track, then six days in Ottawa is ideal. It will give you time to explore the city’s underbelly on the Haunted Walk of Ottawa, which takes in the storied Ottawa Jail Hostel. If picnicking in the park is more your thing, pick up some gourmet supplies before heading to Major’s Hill Park, from where there are sweeping views across the city.

Ottawa in 7 days

With a full week to explore, you can spend a day kicking back on the sands of beautiful Petrie Island or use it as a base for kayaking the Ottawa River. Alternatively, venture into leafy Westboro Village to discover its unique boutiques and fashion houses, which are interspersed with art galleries and eclectic cafes. Ice hockey fans might want to coincide their visit with a home game of the Ottawa Senators at the 19,000-seat arena known as the Canadian Tire Centre.

Where to eat in Ottawa

Ottawa is a foodie’s wonderland, with cuisines from around the globe represented in its world-class restaurants. Discover the internationally-inspired menu at Gezellig or the Canadian classics on offer at Next, which is famed for its steak tartare. Communal dining is the name of the game at Union 613 where you’ll find Southern fare and craft beers in a mural-adorned setting. Award-winning meat and seafood dishes are served up to celebrities at Beckta while poached lobster is the specialty at Fraser Café. For a sweet treat, be sure to try a BeaverTail, a fried, doughy pastry that’s topped with everything from choc hazelnut spread to maple syrup.