Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is a city that offers a wide variety of culinary and photographic experiences. Whether you’re a food lover or a travel photographer like me, Ottawa has something to offer that will suit your taste. In this blog post, we will explore some of the best places to eat and the most photogenic sights in Ottawa, perfect for those who want to indulge in their passions while traveling.
Where to eat in Ottawa?
Ottawa is home to a diverse culinary scene, with everything from casual eats to fine dining. Over the years, I visited and tested a great number of restaurants and cafés during my trips to the Capital city. Here are my favourite options for coffee, brunch, dinner and beer/cocktails.
Top cafés to get caffeinated in Ottawa
First order of business is coffee. While I can definitely start my day without it, I really appreciate a good cup of joe to get things started before brunch. As a huge coffee aficionado, here are the places that made it to my “I’d travel a long distance to go back to this coffee shop” list.
Little Victories: my favourite coffee shop in Ottawa
Little Victories Coffee Roasters is a popular spot for coffee lovers. They are known for their high-quality, ethically sourced coffee beans, which are roasted in-house to ensure a fresh and flavorful cup of coffee. They offer a variety of brewing methods such as pour-over and espresso, as well as a variety of specialty drinks like lattes, cold brew and tea. They also serve a small selection of scrumptious baked goods. The atmosphere is cozy and casual, with a rustic-chic decor. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and are happy to help customers select the perfect cup of coffee to suit their taste.
HeadQuarters: a coffee shop that’s also a hairsalon
Every time I’m near ByWard market, I make sure to visit HeadQuarters, which is one of my favourite places to get coffee in Ottawa. They have a bunch of nice homemade beverages, but I always go back for my double espresso along with the most delicious and flaky croissant.
A carefully brewed cup of coffee at Arlington Five
Best breakfast & brunch options in Ottawa
When it comes to the best places to get breakfast and brunch in Ottawa, there are plenty of great options offering more classic options to modernized brunch dishes. Here are the breakfast and brunch restaurants in the Capital city that made it to my favourites’ list, while I’ve been testing different options over the years.
My favourite brunch in Ottawa is at Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner
Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner in Ottawa is a great option for brunch. The menu features a variety of classic breakfast dishes with a modern twist, such as the Shakshuka Board and the Jerk Benny. They also have a great selection of sides that are easily shareable with your friends like the Chipotle Mac & Cheese and the Breakfast Poutine. The atmosphere is casual and cozy, with a vintage diner feel. Chesterfield’s is also known for their friendly and attentive service. The place is quite small and popular, but it’s totally worth the wait. It’s definitely my favourite brunch spot in Ottawa.
A classic brunch option in Ottawa at Wilf & Ada’s
Wilf & Ada’s is another great spot for breakfast. They offer a variety of classic breakfast options such as eggs, breakfast sandwiches and French toast, as well as more unique dishes like their Mariposa Duck Eggs Benny, a twist on traditional eggs Benedict made with confit duck and hollandaise sauce. They source their ingredients from local farmers and suppliers, which ensures a fresh and high-quality meal. Wilf & Ada’s is a great option for anyone looking for a delicious and satisfying breakfast downtown Ottawa.
Sweet breakfast option at Mavericks Donuts in Ottawa
Mavericks Donuts is known for their delicious and unique doughnuts. They make all of their doughnuts from scratch using high-quality ingredients and unique flavor combinations. Some popular options include the Maple Bacon doughnut, which is a raised doughnut topped with maple glaze and crispy bacon, and the Lemon Ricotta doughnut, which is a raised doughnut dipped in a lemon glaze and topped with a zested lemon and ricotta topping. They also offer a vegan option which is as equally delicious as its non-vegan counterpart. The doughnuts are made fresh daily, which ensures a warm and soft doughnut with a crispy exterior. Everywhere I’ve ever brought Mavericks doughnuts to, the consensus was unanimous: Mavericks Donuts are really the best doughnuts.
Classic breakfast with a twist at The King Eddy
A great option if you’re near ByWard Market is The King Eddy. In addition to their all day breakfast menu, they also have a brunch menu from opening until 4PM everyday. I was really seduced by their NFC Benny, an eggs benedict with fried chicken and country gravy, so yummy!
Scrumptious dinner selection in Ottawa
While Ottawa is not known as a culinary destination per se, over the last few years, it certainly gained some traction and we’re seeing more and more great dining options in the city. Here are the top places I would recommend if you plan on visiting Ottawa and you want great options for the last meal of the day.
The best upscale (yet casual) dining experience in Ottawa at Fauna
Fauna is a modern and upscale restaurant located in Ottawa, Canada. The menu features creative and innovative dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients, but always with a unique touch that makes it “Fauna”. The atmosphere is elegant and intimate, making it a perfect spot for a special occasion or romantic dinner. It is certainly amongst the most memorable culinary experience I’ve had in Canada.
Steamed buns, noodles and dumplings at Datsun in Ottawa
If you’re into Asian street food with a twist, make sure to add Datsun to your itinerary. I really liked everything I tasted there, especially their famous pork belly bao and the always tasty dandan noodles. They also have a great selection of homemade cocktails and some of them are served in cute kitsch and vintage glasses.
Mexican feast at El Camino
El Camino, a lovely space in downtown Ottawa that serves tacos and other great Mexican grubs.
Southern-style dinner at Union Local 613
Union Local 613 in Ottawa offers a unique dining experience with a focus on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. The menu features a variety of Southern-inspired dishes such as fried chicken, shrimp & grits and mac & cheese. The atmosphere is casual and rustic, with exposed brick walls and a warm, inviting ambiance. Make sure to grab their boiled peanuts along with your meal, it’s just so good! P.S.: if you feel adventurous, try to push the bookcase… there’s a speakeasy behind it!
Favourite spots to get beer and cocktails in Ottawa
While I’m not a big drinker, I appreciate alcohol once in a while and these are my two favourite spots in the city to get beer or cocktails.
Grab a local beer at Beyond the Pale Brewing Company
Beyond The Pale is a craft brewery and taproom that offers a wide selection of beers to enjoy. The taproom is spacious and open, allowing visitors to sample beers while enjoying the atmosphere. Beyond The Pale brews a wide range of beer styles, from hoppy IPAs to malty stouts, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and can help guide you through the different options available. Having a beer at Beyond The Pale is a fun and satisfying experience for beer enthusiasts.
Union Local 613
In addition to their great selection of food, Union Local 613 also offer a large selection of homemade cocktails concocted by their team in-house. Every few months, they change their cocktail menu and you’ll find a selection that represents the current season.
What to do and see in Ottawa?
Ottawa offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. One of the best things to do is to take a walk over to Hull at sunrise for a stunning view of the city. Another must-see attraction is the Parliament of Canada, which offers guided tours and is a symbol of Canada’s democracy. The Rideau Canal is also a popular spot, as it offers a picturesque walking path and the opportunity to ice skate in the winter. Overall, Ottawa offers a great blend of history, culture and outdoor activities.
Walk over to Hull, Québec to get the best sunrise on Ottawa
Walking over to Hull, Quebec from Ottawa, Ontario to get the best view on the city at sunrise is a great way to start your day. The walk itself from ByWard Market to Hull is around 2 kilometres and takes about 25 to 30 minutes to complete. This route takes you on the Alexandra Bridge, which offers beautiful views of the city and the river. Once you arrive in Hull, make your way to the park behind the Canadian Museum of History, which offer some of the best panoramic views of the city. The sunrise is particularly stunning from this vantage point, as the light filters through the buildings. It’s a great way to see the city in a unique way and also get some exercise in the morning.
Visiting the Parliament of Canada
Visiting the Parliament of Canada is a unique and educational experience. The Parliament building, located in Ottawa, is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture and is home to the Senate, the House of Commons, and the Library of Parliament. Visitors can take a guided tour of the building, which includes stops at the Senate and House of Commons chambers, as well as the historic Hall of Honour. The tour also includes an overview of the parliamentary process and the role of Canada’s elected officials. In addition, visitors can also attend debates and question period in the House of Commons when the parliament is in session. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about Canada’s government and political system.
Walk along the Rideau Canal at Dominion Arboretum
Walking along the Rideau Canal at Dominion Arboretum in Ottawa is a peaceful and picturesque experience. The Arboretum is a beautiful park located along the Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is home to a wide variety of trees, plants and flowers from around the world, as well as a large collection of conifers. Walking along the Rideau Canal, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the park and the lush greenery, as well as the many benches and picnic areas along the way. The park is also a popular spot for bird watching and is home to a wide variety of bird species. The Arboretum is also a great spot for a picnic or a quiet stroll on a sunny day. It’s a great way to appreciate the beauty of nature and the history of the canal in Ottawa.
Ice skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway and enjoying true Canadian delicacies
Ice skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa is a quintessential Canadian winter experience. The Rideau Canal is transformed into the longest skating rink in the world during the winter months, and is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Skating on the canal is a fun and unique way to take in the sights of Ottawa and enjoy the crisp winter air. After skating, you can warm up and treat yourself to a true Canadian delicacies, such as maple taffy and beavertails. The best part is you don’t even need to bring your ice skating equipment with you as you can easily rent it from Capital Skates.
Where to stay in Ottawa?
Ottawa offers a wide range of accommodation options for visitors. Whether you are looking for luxury, comfort, or affordability, you will find a great place to stay in Ottawa. Three of the best options for a comfortable and enjoyable stay in Ottawa are the Andaz Ottawa, Alt Hotel Ottawa, and Lord Elgin Hotel. These hotels offer a range of amenities and services to cater to the needs of different types of travelers. All three hotels are situated in convenient locations that offer easy access to the city’s main attractions and transportation.
Central location and affordable luxury at Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market
The Andaz Ottawa is my favourite one, it’s a luxury hotel that combines elegance and style with modern amenities. It’s well located near the ByWard Market and the beds are so comfortable.
Modern comfort at Alt Hotel Ottawa
The Alt Hotel Ottawa by Groupe Germain is a stylish and modern hotel that offers comfort and convenience at an affordable price. Plus, you get to see a mural that I was commissioned for, to celebrate the opening of the group’s first hotel in the capital city, a couple years ago. It was created with 6000 of my photos taken throughout Canada over the years.
Lord Elgin Hotel: well located in a historic building
The Lord Elgin Hotel is a historic hotel that has been providing hospitality services for over 80 years. While it’s more on the classic side, it offers great amenities and it’s literally steps away from the popular CF Rideau Centre shopping mall.
In conclusion, Ottawa is a city that offers something for everyone, whether you’re a food lover or a travel photographer. From delicious brunch to fine dining, and from iconic landmarks to natural landscapes, Ottawa has something for everyone. So, next time you’re planning a trip to Canada, be sure to put Ottawa on your list of must-visit destinations.