You are about to visit Ottawa, the capital of Canada? Come here to find out how to visit the city’s main attractions in just a few hours.

ITINERARY - CANADA: here is the full itinerary for a tour of Canada.

Ottawa - Rideau Canal locks

Because Ottawa is the capital of Canada, it is the home of the Parliament of Canada. However, the city is also known for the quite impressive locks located on the Rideau Canal.
The city sightseeing sites are pretty close to each other and are totally reachable on foot. Basically you have the locks of the Rideau Canal in the middle, Major’s Hill Park and Byward Market on one side, and Parliament Hill on the other.

With that being said, let’s go to see the details of the schedule:

Schedule - Ottawa, 7 hours

Stop No.1 : Rideau Canal and Major’s Hill Park

If like me you started the drive halfway between Quebec and Ottawa early morning by car, you should arrive in Ottawa by midday. Then, you’ll have to drop your car in a parking lot and from there, you can start the visit to the city. You can either have lunch before starting the tour, or after your visit to the Rideau Canal, at the Byward Market for example.

To start the tour, go toward the locks of the Rideau Canal. After getting a glimpse of this very impressive structure from the bridge, go down to have a look more closely. Then, cross the locks to access Major’s Hill Park where you’ll find some overlooks that allow having a beautiful view of the city. You can also take the opportunity to stroll in this green setting.

Ottawa - Byward Market

Once your walk is over, cross the park and you’ll see the Byward Market located just behind the US Embassy. This market doesn’t really look like a market. It’s more like a neighborhood with shops and restaurants. You’ll still be able to find a few stalls that sell fresh food.

Stop No.2 : Parliament Hill and Supreme Court

Ottawa - Parliament Hill - Centre Block
Ottawa - Parliament Hill - Centre Block - Hall of Honour Ottawa - Parliament Hill - Centre Block - Library of Parliament
Click to enlarge images.

Last stop, Parliament Hill. Back then I had visited the inside of the Centre Block, but it’s now closed to the public for renovation and the work is expected to last for at least 10 years. However, the Senate and the House of Commons have been moved and it’s still possible to visit them (a booking is required via the website). Otherwise the outside of the buildings is also interesting to see. In addition, by continuing on Wellington Street (going away from the locks), you’ll arrive at the Supreme Court of Canada, which can also be visited (a booking is also required via the website)

Tip 1: if you follow the route I took, after this full day of sightseeing, you should start your journey to Toronto. And don’t forget to book a hotel located halfway between Ottawa and Toronto.
Tip 2: During your stop halfway between Ottawa and Toronto, you might also consider visiting the Thousand Islands if you’re interested in. The main attraction there is to take a cruise that sails among the many islands (sightseeing cruises range from 1, 2 or 5 hours) and you can also hike into the Thousand Islands National Park.



Canadian dollars

To get Canadian dollars, there are, to me, 2 excellent ways:

  • Global Alliance: if your bank is a member of this alliance, then you can withdraw cash at any of the cash withdrawal machines of the Scotiabank in Canada with your credit card. They don’t take commission and have one of the best rates.

Tip: for example, the members are:

  • Bank of America or Bank of the West in the USA
  • Barclays in the UK
  • Westpac in Australia and New-Zealand
  • BNP Paribas or Hello Bank in France
  • Currency exchange offices: you can also carry some cash and go to change it over there (or even change it before going). And if you need money at the airport, just change what you need there, you’ll change the rest in town.

Note: while in Canada, take a good look at the banknotes, you will notice that they are all made of plastic!



In Canada, like in the U.S., all stores display prices without tax. The tax is approximately 15% in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia (7% to 10% provincial tax and 5% federal tax). So you just need to know that the price will be higher at checkout. However there is an exception on all unprocessed food because the tax doesn’t apply.


If you are planning on going to the restaurant, be aware that the bill can quickly become very expensive because on top of the price of the meal is added the 15% tax and you also have to add 15% tip. Basically, when paying the bill, you have to add twice the amount of the tax!


The drive between Ottawa and Toronto being quite long, to avoid spending half a day driving, it’s worth booking a hotel located halfway between the 2 cities, to make a break during the drive.

Back then, I stayed at Ramada by Wyndham Belleville, it’s good value for money.

Description: comfortable and functional rooms. The bathroom is provided with a bathtub. Breakfast is included into the price of the room. It’s a kind of buffet, with corn flakes, oatmeal, toasts, milk, coffee, juices, a waffle maker, fruits …

Price: about €75 per night for 2 people, in September.

Location: the hotel is located halfway between Ottawa and Toronto.

Pros Cons
comfortable and decent sized rooms -
good value for money -
breakfast included -



Renting a car to visit Canada is definitely the best solution. It gives you a lot of freedom, you can go anywhere you want to go at any time! You won’t need an international drivers licence for a trip up to 3 months, it can be up to 6 months in some provinces. Just remember to take out CDW (included into Gold Mastercards and Visa Premier cards) and LIS insurance when renting a car. And I highly recommend considering renting a car in one city and returning it in another, that way you won’t have to drive all the way back. Last thing to know, renting a car from the airport is not more expensive than renting it in the inner city!

Tip: to park in the city, it’s better to go to underground car parks rather than parking on the street because the price is often the same. The advantage of car parks is that they allow you to park for an indefinite period, you pay for the number of hours parked, while street parking is usually limited to a few hours.
Please note: during rush hour, street parking spaces are removed to allow the opening of an additional lane for cars. So if it is written $2 per hour from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. then $1 per hour from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., parking is often prohibited from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.!
Very often in Canada, the parking meter ticket should be kept with you and not displayed on the dashboard. Sometimes street parking is free for 3 hours, but there is nothing to do. You just have to park and remember to leave within 3 hours.


To be able to find your way when driving the car, there are several options available:

  • Google MAPS: it works even without any connection, it’s just that there won’t be traffic information. All you have to do is to save the maps before going or even once there, as long as you have an internet connection. To do so, on your smartphone, in the application, click on your profile picture at the top right of the screen, then click on « offline maps ». And then click on « select your own map » and zoom out the map until you see the area you want to save. You have to repeat the operation several times if the area to be saved is too large.
  • GPS rental from the rental car company: you can rent an optional GPS from the rental car company, but it’s pretty expensive and you won’t have traffic information either. In my opinion, this is not an option to consider. However, if you are renting a high-end car, there is frequently a GPS already available in the car, so without extra charge. But you won’t know it until you get on board, because no one will tell you, either at booking or when getting the keys. For example, when I arrived at Montreal airport, as I had requested to return the car to Toronto and that they only had 2 cars registered from Ontario that had to return to Toronto, I got a « free upgrade » for an Audi A4 which had a GPS on board!

Thanks for reading :)