Interesting facts about Ottawa


Ottawa is the capital city of Canada.

It is situated on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of southern Ontario.

As of February 2020, the population of Ottawa is about 1 million people. It is the 4th largest city in Canada.

The city covers a total area of 2,790 square kilometers (1,077 square miles).

The average altitude is 70 meters (230 feet) above sea level.


The origin of the name “Ottawa” is derived from the Algonquin word adawe, meaning “to trade”. The word refers to the indigenous peoples who used the river to trade, hunt, fish, camp, harvest plants, ceremonies, and for other traditional uses.

For centuries, Algonquin people have portaged through the waterways of both the Ottawa River and the Rideau River while passing through the area.

On a visit to the Great Lakes, French explorer Etienne Brulé stopped where today city is in 1610, followed by French navigator Samuel de Champlain and missionaries. [Image below: Samuel de Champlain’s depiction of settlements near the Ottawa River in 1632. The present location of the City of Ottawa is number 77 on the map.]

ottawa samue'l de champlains map

No permanent settlement occurred in the area until 1800 when Philemon Wright founded his village near the Chaudière Falls, on the north shore of the Ottawa River.

Early Ottawa became Bytown in 1826, when work on the canal began. The settlement was named after Colonel John By, who was drafted in from England to oversee construction. The Rideau Canal was opened in 1832, allowing for faster and safer transport from Montreal and bringing in much prosperity for the town.

The town developed into a site for the timber, and later sawed lumber trade, causing growth, so that in 1854, Bytown was created a city and its present name, Ottawa was conferred.

ottawa history

Shortly afterward, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada; and the parliament buildings on Parliament Hill were soon completed.

Growth continued in the 20th century, and by the 1960s, the Greber Plan transformed the capital’s appearance and removed much of the old industrial infrastructure.

By the 1980s, Ottawa had become known as Silicon Valley North after large high tech companies formed, bringing economic prosperity and assisting in causing large increases in population in the last several decades of the century.


Ottawa is an urban centre surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. Rapids and waterfalls punctuate river courses, which are protected by parks and driveways.

The Rideau Canal connects Canada’s capital city of Ottawa to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River at Kingston. It is 202 kilometres in length. The canal was opened in 1832 as a precaution in case of war with the United States. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007 in recognition of its unique design and historical significance. In winter the canal freezes and becomes the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s longest skating rink at 7.8 kilometres (approximately 5 miles).

rideau canal

Parliament Hill colloquially known as The Hill, is an area of Crown land on the southern banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa. Its Gothic revival suite of buildings is the home of the Parliament of Canada and has architectural elements of national symbolic importance. Parliament Hill attracts approximately 3 million visitors each year.

parliament hill

The Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Ottawa. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990. The Basilica is the oldest and largest church in Ottawa and the seat of the city’s Roman Catholic archbishop. Its twin spires and gilded Madonna are easily identifiable from nearby Parliament Hill and the surrounding area.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

The Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s national museum of human history. The museum’s primary purpose is to collect, study, preserve, and present material objects that illuminate the human history of Canada and the cultural diversity of its people.

canadian museum of history

The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. The museum covers all facets of Canada’s military past, from the first recorded instances of death by armed violence in Canadian history several hundred years ago to the country’s most recent involvement in conflicts. It includes major permanent exhibitions on wars that have been fought on Canadian soil, the total wars of the twentieth century, the Cold War and peace support operations abroad, and Canada’s history of honouring and remembrance. There is also an open storage area displaying large objects from the Museum’s collection, from naval guns to tanks, from motorcycles to jet aircraft.

canadian war museum

The National Gallery of Canada is Canada’s national art museum. The museum’s building takes up 46,621 square metres (501,820 sq ft), with 12,400 square metres (133,000 square feet) of space used for exhibiting art – making the museum one of the largest art museums in North America by exhibition space. The museum permanent collection includes over 93,000 works from European, American, and Asian, Canadian, and indigenous Canadian artists. In addition to exhibiting works from its permanent collection, the museum also organizes, and hosts a number of travelling exhibitions.

national gallery of canada

The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada’s national natural history and natural sciences museum in Ottawa. The museum features world-class galleries with fossils, mammals, minerals, birds, live creatures and Arctic discovery. There is also Canada’s original collection of dinosaur fossils, an enormous blue whale skeleton, and you can touch real ice on a beautiful installation in the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery.

canadian museum of nature

Winterlude is an annual winter festival held in Ottawa. This unique winter festival featuring snow and ice sculpture competitions, snow playgrounds, and skating and sporting events which transform Ottawa into a winter wonderland. The event is one of Ottawa’s most important tourist draws, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.


Ottawa hosts many other annual seasonal activities — such as Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill and surrounding downtown area, as well as Bluesfest, Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, Ottawa International Jazz Festival, Fringe Festival and Folk Music Festival, that have grown to become some of the largest festivals of their kind in the world.

Three main daily local newspapers are printed in Ottawa: two English newspapers, the Ottawa Citizen established as the Bytown Packet in 1845 and the Ottawa Sun, and one French newspaper, Le Droit.

Ottawa has the most educated population among Canadian cities.