Based on the New York Times article "36 Hours in Ottawa" By Remy Scalza; Jan. 5, 2017 and adapted for CaRMS 2019 by Family Medicine chief residents.
Canada’s capital has no shortage of history and charisma— from Parliament buildings to the UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal — but it has long been dogged by a reputation as a ‘boring’ government centre. Don’t make that mistake. With a thriving food scene, multicultural and multilingual roots and a developing nightlife, Ottawa’s exhibitions and galleries are emerging from the shadow of Montreal and Toronto with new infrastructure projects, including a light-rail line.
If you are able to spend 36 hours in Ottawa during your interview, here are our recommendations for exploring our beautiful city!
Shop and Stroll (4 p.m.)
Start your adventure by taking a stroll along our very own Unesco World Heritage site: the stunning Rideau Canal, the world’s longest skating rink. Continue toward the bustle of the Ottawa ByWard Market, a neighbourhood with a mix of pubs, clubs, fine-food shops and boutiques. Your visit wouldn't be complete without trying a classic treat: Beaver tails (a deep-fried confection topped with cinnamon sugar or such Canadian options as maple butter).
Market Feast (7 p.m.)
While in the ByWard Market, pick one of the unending restaurants or pubs for dinner or a drink. Whether you’re in the mood for fine Italian dining or authentic Mexican delights, you will find it in the ByWard Market.
Just opposite the United States Embassy, try Play Food & Wine, a casual, small-plates restaurant. Alternatively, head over to Copper Spirits and Sights, located on the 16th floor of the Andaz hotel. The rooftop lounge boasts some of the most spectacular city views of Ottawa and high-end drinks.
Nearby, the mazelike Heart & Crown pub consists of five interconnected bars spanning a city block and linked by doorways, dark corridors and stairs. Often featuring live music, it features a diverse lineup (from traditional Irish music to Hip Hop), and draws a crowd of university students and young professionals.
Brunch Set (9 a.m)
For the best bread in Ottawa, try breakfast at Art Is In. Located in an industrial warehouse, the popular kitchen serves delicious breakfast sandwiches in addition to the delicious dessert creations by their French-trained pastry chef (my personal recommendation is the almond croissant or take home a dynamite baguette).
Looking for something on the run? Step inside Ottawa’s own cafe chain, Bridgehead Coffee. Their many locations also feature delicious baked goods, breakfast sandwiches, and excellent coffee, of course.
Outdoor Escapade (11 a.m.)
Upcoming interviews got you stressed? Check out Le Nordik, North America's largest spa, with all-season outdoor baths and pools, saunas and other unique spa experiences overlooking Gatineau Park. Prefer to snowshoe or ski instead? Lace up and hit the trails of stunning Gatineau Park, nestled on the Francophone side of our region.
Considering a visit to our Winchester unit? Stop in at RiverOak Estates, where you can skate on nearly 3 km of flooded, winding orchard trails. Onsite rentals available.
West obsessed (2 p.m.)
If you want to check out another hip and thriving community in the greenbelt, welcome to Hintonburg and Westboro! Featuring local shops, parks, and breweries, these trendy neighborhoods are a must-see. We recommend a tasting with a flannel-wearing crowd at Tooth and Nail microbrewery, or a healthy plant-based lunch at Pure Kitchen.
Art is Medicine (3 p.m.)
You’ll know you’ve made it to the National Gallery when you see ‘Maman’, a house-sized bronze spider sculpture which graces the entrance. It is the place to appreciate Canadian art and houses the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit works, and a gallery devoted to The Group of Seven.
A brisk walk over the Alexandra Bridge leads to the Canadian Museum of History. Displays include a popular children’s museum, an exhibit devoted to the Franklin Expedition and the grand First People’s Hall where you’ll view towering totem poles from Haida Gwaii.
If you have one last evening to spend, head to Elgin Street, home to many taverns and some of the city’s better restaurants. A line often snakes up from the Manx, a tiny, below-ground pub with local beers on tap, including Beau’s and Kichesippi.
If you’re here on the last Friday of every month, explore the galleries of the Canadian Museum of Nature after hours, engage your curiosity with amazing activities and enjoy some great music and mingling during Nature Nocturne.
For more information
Local blog Apt613 provides up-to-the-minute tips by Ottawa locals on things to do and where to eat in Ottawa.
General information on things to see and do is also available on the Ottawa Tourism website.