Canada’s capital is very chic. In this city, everything you set your eyes on has the potential to amaze. Art galleries, museums, historical buildings, new architecture, and a legendary canal, which have every bit as much to offer as the magnificent Parliament Hill, crowning Ottawa in stone and copper. As beautiful as it is, the city bridging Québec and Ontario can’t seem to shake off its reputation for lack of excitement. We have good news for you: it’s not true at all. While Ottawa has many facets, we are particularly in tune with its savvy and wild side, and of course, its refinement. We came up with two 24-hour itineraries; and while they may be in the same city, they couldn’t be more different.
For a late, sophisticated brunch, head to Vanitea Room, where, in a fairytale setting, you can taste delicious toast, and—gasp!— all-you-can-drink mimosas. Primarily a teahouse, the Vanitea Room also offers afternoon tea.
In the same building that houses the all-new Le Germain Hotel Ottawa, you’ll find the Ottawa Art Gallery. Vast and spectacular, the completely revamped gallery functions as a cultural meeting place that fosters exchanges between artists and the community. A splendid way to spend the afternoon.
Drawn to Nature?
About a thirty minute walk from the Gallery, you’ll find the Canadian Museum of Nature, an architectural gem featuring exhibitions each more gorgeous than the last.
After a busy day, there’s nothing better than an excellent martini, and—why not?—a charcuterie platter at the hotel bar. Norca, the new restaurant inside the walls of the Le Germain Hotel Ottawa, will put you under its spell with its plush atmosphere local, and sustainable cuisine.
Riviera opened its doors barely a year ago and, already, it’s an institution. The wine list, prepared by Alex McMahon, is impressive, the menu is fresh, local, and delicious, and the patrons are distinguished and enthusiastic.
In the Morning
After a good breakfast in the hotel, head over to the Rideau Centre, where luxury stores and boutiques like Birks, Coach, Nordstrom, and Harry Rosen rub shoulders with cool J.Crew, Frank & Oak, and Sephora.
Arrive in Ottawa just in time for lunch. Head to Chinatown for a bite at the Shanghai family restaurant. If your trip is on a Saturday, you may even want to go back in the evening, since every Saturday night, the Shanghai restaurant is home to a hot karaoke night hosted by drag queen China Doll.
Artist Brenda Gale Warner invites you to admire local and international contemporary artwork in the comfort of her own living room. A visit to Galerie 240 is a foray into the wonderful and vibrant world of contemporary art, right inside the artist’s own home.
After checking in at the Alt Hotel, it’s time to sip a cocktail, and the best ones in the city are mixed at Bar Laurel. This cute, Iberian-inspired bar is perfect for a late afternoon drink and snack. After a few tapas and delicious cocktails, you’ll be ready to fully experience Ottawa’s nightlife.
It’s a short trip, and there are options aplenty. We suggest you split dinner in two parts and cuisines. First stop, Asia, at the very hip Datsun restaurant. You can savour Tiki-inspired cocktails and great spicy noodles, bao, dumplings, and fish prepared as sashimi or tataki.
Right next door to Datsun, you’ll find El Camino, a Mexican cantina serving up authentic tacos with beer aplenty on tap. Finish your night with loud, catchy music and fits of laughter from customers and staff who don’t take themselves too seriously. Inside tip: if there’s room at the bar by the kitchen, snag a spot, the kitchen staff is great.
Not yet ready for bed? Head over to Union Local 613, one of the capital’s legendary bars (a lot has been said about the open-minded and egalitarian work conditions advocated by its owners). When you get there, ask for a spot in the speakeasy. Located behind a trompe-l’oeil door in the basement, the tiny bar is cozy and has a great selection of scotches and other spirits on offer.
In the morning
During the summer, the Rideau Centre’s lululemon store organizes weekly sun salutations on Parliament Hill, so you can really take full advantage of all the beauty Ottawa has to offer. The schedule is available online.
Before leaving the city, don’t forget to check out Art-is-in. Located in an industrial building, this bakery’s brunch is the coolest—and best—in the city. Don’t get discouraged by the lineup—it moves quickly. And what are a few minutes of waiting when you can have hours of happiness? Finally, when wandering Ottawa’s streets, take time to admire the colourful murals on many of the city’s walls. Have fun exploring!
Are you a History Buff?
Many people know the famous (and splendid) Canadian War Museum, but few people are aware the Diefenbunker even exists. Located just over a half hour from downtown Ottawa, Canada’s Cold War Museum is a real bunker that was commissioned by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1959, as a government reaction to escalating tensions during the Cold War. Fascinating.