Montreal is an amazing city, but this doesn’t mean that we should stay here all the time! Indeed, as I argued in my previous post Six reasons why an international student should visit Quebec City, I would feel my international student experience as incomplete if I didn’t visit some other place every now and then.
This time I’ll talk about Ottawa, that I visited a few days ago. Since I was there for a conference, I dedicated little time to sightseeing, but neverthess I could appreciate this city very much, and in these seven points I’ll tell you why.
First, as we all know from our Geography classes, Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. If you–like me–find capital cities fascinating per se, for what they represent at the national and international level, then of course Ottawa is the place to go.
Second, being Ottawa the Capital of Canada, there are many embassies and, above all (literally!), there is the Parliament. If you go to Ottawa, you just can’t miss this place. The Parliament is on top of a hill, with an amazing view on the rest of the city, and my first impression was that it looked a bit like Hogwarts. My second impression was that, as everybody can notice, it has a tower, the Tower of Victory and Peace, that looks and sounds very much like the Big Ben. Definitely, if you like this kind of architecture or you are a fan of British-looking places like me, you’ll enjoy this part of the city.
Third, the ByWard Market or Marché By district, where there are countless shops, cafes and restaurants, all permeated by a cozy atmoshpere. If I lived in Ottawa, I would probably go there to hang out with friends and spend relaxing weekend afternoons.
Fourth, the museums. Indeed, the advice I got from my friends when I said I was going to Ottawa, was: “First go to the Parliament, and then visit at least one museum!”. Being in the capital city, I felt compelled to choose the Canadian Museum of History, and I really liked seeing the Canadian History as it is studied and seen by Canadians. Also, on my way to this museum I happened to see–from the outside only–the National Gallery of Canada, and its incredible glass building, juxtaposed to an interesting, somewhat graceful sculpture of a giant spider.
Fifth, Ottawa’s interesting position. I knew Ottawa as “Ottawa, Ontario”, and I was surprised when I discovered that this city is actually on the Ontario-Quebec border and that, in fact, the Canadian Museum of History I mentioned above is not in Ottawa, Ontario, but in Gatineau, Quebec. The two cities are separated by the Ottawa river, but they are well connected through a few bridges. In my case, I easily reached Gatineau on foot through the Alexandra Bridge.
Six, the Rideau Canal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and during part of the Winter it is possible to skate on it–see this website! Unfortunately, during my visit I was told skating was not possible anymore… but if I happen to go to Ottawa next Winter, this will certainly be on my to-do list.
Seventh, the simplicity. I am the kind of person who relies heavily on google maps, and I was quite worried when my mobile phone stopped working during my stay in Ottawa. Luckily, Ottawa–at least the city centre–is quite easy to navigate, even without google maps! 🙂