Ottawa, the Capital City of Canada

The Beating Heart of Canada Is Picturesque and Safe

Ottawa Downtown in the Summer
Ottawa's Rideau Canal and downtown in the summer. Danielle Donders / Moment / Getty Images

Ottawa, in the province of Ontario, is the capital of Canada. This picturesque and safe city is the fourth largest city in the country, with a population of 883,391 as of the 2011 Canadian census. It's on the eastern border of Ontario, just across the Ottawa River from Gatineau, Quebec.

Ottawa is cosmopolitan, with museums, galleries, performing arts and festivals, but it still has the feel of a small town and is relatively affordable. English and French are the main languages spoken, and Ottawa is a diverse, multicultural city, and about 25 percent of its residents are from other countries.

The city has 150 kilometers, or 93 miles, of recreational paths, 850 parks and access to three major waterways. It's iconic Rideau Canal becomes the world's largest naturally frozen skating rink in the winter. Ottawa is a high-technology center and boasts more engineers, scientists and Ph.D. graduates per capita than any other city in Canada. It's a great place to bring up a family and a fascinating city to visit.


Ottawa began in 1826 as a staging area -- a campsite -- for the construction of the Rideau Canal. Within a year a small town had grown up, and it was called Bytown, named after the leader of the Royal Engineers who were building the canal, John By. The timber trade helped the town grow, and in 1855 it was incorporated and the name was changed to Ottawa. In 1857, Ottawa was chosen by Queen Victoria as the capital of the province of Canada. In 1867, Ottawa was officially defined by the BNA Act as the capital of the Dominion of Canada.

Ottawa Attractions

The Parliament of Canada dominates the Ottawa scene, with its Gothic-revival spires rising high from Parliament Hill and overlooking the Ottawa River. During the summer it includes a changing of the guard ceremony, so you can get a taste of London without crossing the Atlantic. You can tour the Parliament buildings year-round. Canada's National Gallery, the National War Memorial, the Supreme Court of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mint are within walking distance of the Parliament.

The National Gallery's architecture is a modern reflection of the Parliament buildings, with glass spires standing in for Gothic ones. It houses mostly the work of Canadian artists and is the largest collection of Canadian art in the world. It also includes work by European and American artists.

The Canadian Museum of History, across the river in Hull, Quebec, is not to be missed. And don't miss the spectacular views of Parliament Hill from this vantage across the river. Other museums to check out are the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian War Museum and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

Weather in Ottawa

Ottawa has a humid, semi-continental climate with four distinct seasons. Average winter temperatures are around 14 degrees Fahrenheit, but can it sometimes dip to -40. There is significant snowfall in the winter, as well as many sunny days.

While average summer temperatures in Ottawa are around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, they can soar to 93 degrees and above. 

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Munroe, Susan. "Ottawa, the Capital City of Canada." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Munroe, Susan. (2020, August 25). Ottawa, the Capital City of Canada. Retrieved from Munroe, Susan. "Ottawa, the Capital City of Canada." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).