I lived in Ottawa for 1.5 years for school, and before that I visited several times a year since I was little. It's basically a second home now. It is nothing like Toronto, and the best way to describe it is a big city with a country vibe. Although I found it incredibly boring to live there (it is a government city after all), I did find some neat places that makes Ottawa unique. See the list below:
1. DIEFENBUNKER MUSEUM
The Diefenbunker, named after ex-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, was built during the Cold War to house 535 Canadian government officials and military officers in the event of a nuclear war. This underground bunker is four-storeys and was used from 1961-1994. It has since then become a museum and offers a variety of programs including an Escape Room, spy camps, tours, and seasonal activities.
Photo credit: Diefenbaker Museum
I went on a weekday in the morning, so it was just my friend and I. In the 2+ hours we spent there, we did not bump into a single soul other than the employee who greeted us on the main level. It was a lot of fun exploring all the rooms, especially the machinery and equipment that dates back to the 60s. Since there was no one else around, it was eerily quiet and creepy walking down the deserted hallways. This place is definitely ideal for a film shoot.
After you have explored the bunker and learned a bit about Canadian Cold War history, I would suggest stopping at Alice's Village Cafe for freshly made sandwiches and desserts. It's 1km south of the bunker, and definitely worth a visit.
Please note that the bunker is located in Carp (west Ottawa). You will definitely need a car to get there because it is far from the city centre.
2. THE LOFT BOARD GAME LOUNGE
Located on the 2nd floor of a historic stone building (built in 1866) is a board game cafe called, The Loft. It is probably the biggest and most popular board game spot in Ottawa. They have hundreds of games, knowledgeable staff, good food and drinks. Be sure to visit the washrooms, even if you don't have to go. The washrooms are located in the basement and plastered all across the stairwell walls are hilarious motivational posters, bound to make you chuckle. This place is certainly unique (helps that it has a cozy atmosphere and is in a historic building!) and charming.
P.S. The Loft recently opened the first floor to the public. It's called Level One. Same business and concept as The Loft, just more space and meant for an adult crowd :)
3. CACAO 70
Photo credit: Cacao 70
This probably has to be my most favourite thing about Ottawa. I LOVE chocolate (who doesn't?) so I was naturally excited to find a chocolate cafe! Cacao 70 offers everything from sandwiches and chocolate pizza's to the most tastiest chocolate drinks. This Montreal company can be found in the Byward Market area in downtown Ottawa. It is not for those on a strict budget, but if you are looking to enjoy a night out (or even lunch) with friends, this is your place to go.
Thankfully, they opened 2 locations in Toronto, but the location in Ottawa will always have a place in my heart.
4. NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA
The National Gallery of Canada is one of the most beautiful galleries I have been to. Not only is the architecture incredible (it is a massive glassed building), the gallery also has a variety of artworks on display with a specialisation on Canadian art. One of its most recognizable work is the massive spider statue, Maman, in front of the gallery. Don't forget to take pictures of it, but remember that photography in the gallery itself is restricted.
5. GATINEAU PARK
Photo: Carbide Wilson ruins. Credit: National Capital Commission
Although Gatineau Park is not located in Ottawa proper, it is in the Capital Region and easy to get to by car. The park is 361 square kilometres of unique places to visit. Every year, on average, it attracts 2.7 million visitors! Activities include visiting William Lyon Mackenzie King's estate (he was the 10th Prime Minister of Canada), exploring caves, waterfalls, and ruins, cycling, camping, and more.
I have only ever done the hike to Mackenzie King's estate, which took about 40 minutes one way, and it was a great hike with some spectacular views.
Have you been to Ottawa or live there? If so, what's your favourite spot? Comment below!