highlights of a visit to Ottawa

I read in a Kostuch Media news blast that Judson Simpson, executive chef at the House of Commons restaurant in Ottawa is the first Canadian to earn the Certified Master Chef (CMC) designation. It made me realize that I should devote another post to Ottawa before moving on, as the Canadian capital really does have some very fine restaurants and major attractions worth checking out. We talked about some of Ottawa’s finest chocolate in this post.

 favourite Ottawa attractions

In this post, I’d like to show you a few Ottawa attractions in that I really enjoy. Top of the list is the Canadian Museum of History (formerly called the Museum of Civilization.) For first time visitors, spending at least an hour in the First Peoples Hall is a must. Here, you’ll see many First Nations carvings, artwork, and artifacts. This is a permanent exhibit, and the backbone of the museum. You’ll see from the photo below that the setting of the museum is stunning. A full glass wall gives you a panoramic view of the Parliament Buildings located just across the river. The museum itself is a work of art, and the design of architect Douglas Cardinal. You can take a virtual tour of the museum and learn about its design via its website.


The First Peoples Hall at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.

While I was there, I took time to explore a temporary exhibit called Vodou, an examination of Haiti’s voodoo culture. It was really quite compelling. The museum’s temporary exhibits change regularly, so be sure to check the website before your visit to know what’s on.


Visiting the Vodou exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History was an intriguing experience.

I love to visit farmers’ markets wherever I go, and Ottawa’s ByWard Market is a fine example of combining fresh produce and garden offerings with every other kind of handcrafted item you can imagine. The ByWard Market is one of Canada’s oldest, longest running farmers’ markets. A few years ago, I managed to visit the market in time for the weigh-in at the giant squash/pumpkin contest. They really were big enough to live in! This year, my visit was at the beginning of the growing season, so plenty of fresh flowers, herbs, and berries were the prime offering.


Ottawa’s ByWard Market is a terrific place to visit to enjoy the fruits and flowers of the season.

And yes, I managed to find a terrific new restaurant to try. If you are a vegan, or into really healthy cooking featuring the utmost in creativity, I’d highly recommend a visit to Zen Kitchen, located in Ottawa’s Chinatown. We were treated to the chef’s sampling menu and were not disappointed. And yes … there was chocolate involved.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

15 Responses

  1. I heard Ottawa’s really a good travel destination.. Hope you enjoyed your trip
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  2. Chocolate Travel Diversions takes you on a global quest for the world’s best chocolate and most memorable chocolate travel experiences on the planet. If you love chocolate and travel you’ve definitely come to the right place!
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  3. I do not travel much but I do have a list of destinations I want to visit. This seems to be that I will add to my list. I too love museums and the local culture.
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  4. Geek Girl says:

    I have not been to Ottawa. I suspect that it is every bit as wonderful as Toronto. So many things to see and do and so little time to do them. 🙂
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    • Doreen says:

      Hi, Cheryl. Ottawa is very different from Toronto. Toronto is a huge, fast-paced city. Ottawa is small and cosmopolitan. I love visiting Toronto, as there is always some new diversion to explore, but Ottawa has a charm all it’s own, and is much easier to navigate.
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  5. I have heard great things about Ottawa as a place to visit. The museum looks wonderful. I love museum for many reasons, one being the rotating and temporary exhibits. I know I would LOVE the market and all it has to offer. The restaurant without saying is one I wouldn’t want to miss. 🙂
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    • Doreen says:

      Hi Susan, and thanks for your comment. I’m not that big on museums, but I love the epic ones, and the Museum of Civilization is certainly one of those. I think you’d really enjoy Ottawa, as the culinary scene is quite incredible, and because of all the international visitors to the city, the restaurants have amazing wine lists! 🙂
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  6. Ottawa is one of our more under-appreciated cities, isn’t it? Never mind that it’s the capital of Canada, there’s so much history and places to visit. The National Gallery is another of my favourite spots, with great Canadian art. And the War Museum is pretty interesting too, especially for militaria and history buffs. I believe they have a full-size replica of the legendary Avro Arrow, which could have been Canada’s claim to aerospace fame. May just put Ottawa on my summer travel itinerary!
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    • Doreen says:

      Hi, Krystyna. Yes, I do feel that Ottawa is under-appreciated. I really enjoy it every time I visit. And yes, I, too, love the National Gallery. I had intended to mention it in the post but ran out of time. Thanks for dropping in and sharing!
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  7. Catarina says:

    Interesting to find out more about Ottawa’s attractions. Have never been there but if I go I now know what to do. Will for instance have to eat at Zen Kitchen.
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  8. Glynis Jolly says:

    I think there’s a general store just outside of Ottawa that I remember. The reason I remember is because of the weather rock in front of the store.

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Glynis and thanks for your comment.

      Ottawa is cool in that it’s a small enough city to feel comfortable, yet cosmopolitan enough to feel like a world capital. And right on the border with Quebec, so in minutes, you can be right in the heart of French-speaking country.
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  9. Doreen says:

    Thanks for your comment, Debra. I didn’t know the Museum of Civilization was changing its name!

    And yes, that Vodou exhibit was pretty scary. Not something I would normally go to.

  10. It was great seeing what someone who isn’t from here thinks of my home town. You hit my favorites. The museum of civilization (soon to be the Museum of History) is an excellent museum in a city full of great museums. I caught the Vodou exhibit as well, I found it disturbing to say the least. I went with two friends and we all felt shell shocked by it.

    I don’t think a trip to Ottawa would be complete without a trip to the Byward Market and we are fortunate enough that we have seen the blossoming of many more markets in different parts of town too.
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