From world-class museums and a thriving arts and culture scene, to eclectic boutiques and award-winning restaurants, Ottawa-Gatineau could keep visitors busy for weeks. But if you have only 24 hours to spare, ensure you make the most of it with these suggestions
A Morning of Museum-Hopping
Peruse more than 40,000 works of Canadian and Indigenous art at the breathtaking glass-walled National Gallery of Canada. Make sure to take a photo with Maman, the iconic 30-foot spider sculpture at its entrance. From here, walk to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, where you’ll take a trip through 15,000 years of history and admire the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles. If the animal kingdom is more your style, check out the lifelike exhibits at the Museum of Nature – if you’re in luck, your stay might coincide with its monthly transformation into an adults-only dance club called Nature Nocturne.
Afternoon Shopping Spree
For an eclectic selection of boutiques offering the latest wares by Canadian designers, the ByWard Market is a must. Here you might indulge your inner magpie with a sparkly trinket from the tiny yet mighty jewelry emporium, Stunning, or discover new indie brands for both men and women at Roadtrip. Another shopping destination is the neighborhood of Hintonburg, where you can pick up a souvenir made by one of the 150 Canadian artisans represented at Maker House Company, or celebrate Christmas year-round at the Tinseltown Christmas Emporium.
Is it snack time yet? If you happen to be in the ByWard Market, it’s always time for a BeaverTail, the beloved Canadian pastry dough served crispy and hot out of the fryer. It’s best enjoyed with a squirt of fresh lemon and a healthy shake of cinnamon sugar. For lunch, head to the counter at the back of La Bottega Nicastro, from where your new best friend Maria serves veal parmigiana that can make you weep with joy.
Dinner and Dancing
From molecular fine dining in the discreetly tucked away Atelier in the heart of Little Italy, to small plates at Westboro’s Supply and Demand or vegetarian cuisine at Pure Kitchen in the entertainment district of Elgin St., your dinner choices in Ottawa are unlimited. Afterwards, check out a live music performance at the Mercury Lounge, sit back with an aperitif at Charlotte or Moscow Tea Room, or guzzle back a pint at Chateau Lafayette, where it’s rumored a young Queen Victoria once wandered the halls. Is the cha-cha more your style? Salsa dance the night away to Latin tunes at Rahim’s every Friday night.
Next Morning Brunch
Ottawa’s best dim sum, piping hot and made to order, is yours for the taking at the family-owned Hung Sum in Chinatown. If you’re looking for something more substantial, spring for the brunch on a board at the Clarendon Tavern, or venture out to Edgar in Gatineau, where you’d be remiss not to order the Dutch Baby, a fluffy concoction of caramelized pork belly, five-year-old local cheddar and, of course, maple syrup.
After all that eating, drinking, dancing and more eating, you’re going to need to detox. Where better to do so than at North America’s largest spa? Plan to spend at least half a day at the Nordik Spa, just a 15-minute drive from downtown Ottawa. Here you can float in a cavernous saltwater pool, experience a traditional Russian banyä, and relax in countless hot- and cold-water pools. Book a massage or body treatment to work out the jet lag before it’s time to get back on the plane again.
For convenient access to attractions across the Ottawa-Gatineau region, consider booking your next stay at a Hilton hotel. Choose the Hilton Lac Leamy, DoubleTree by Hilton Gatineau-Ottawa or the Hampton Inn Ottawa if you’re looking for easy access to the downtown core. If you’re coming in for a short stay and need to be close to the airport, there’s always the Hilton Garden Inn Ottawa Airport, while extended visits can be comfortably accommodated at the all-suite Homewood Suites by Hilton Ottawa-Kanata.