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71 Fun Facts About Ottawa Canada
Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is a beautiful city located on the banks of the Ottawa River.
The city is rich in history and culture, and offers plenty of activities and attractions for tourists to enjoy.
Here are 71 fun facts about Ottawa that will help you learn more about this wonderful city!
Our Favourite Fun Facts About Ottawa
- Ottawa has the largest tulip festival in the world! Even bigger than in the Netherlands.
- The tulips for the Ottawa Tulip Festival come from the Netherlands as a thank you for Canadian politicians during World War 2 declaring a Canadian hospital as Dutch soil when their princess was here in hiding and having her child. This allowed the child to remain in line for the throne.
- There is a literal glass house in Ottawa. In Rockliffe Park, you can find a walking trail to a copper and glass house made by Michael Cowpland.
- From 1930 to 2013, there was a colony of cats living behind Parliament Hill in a special structure. They were meant to help with the plague, but ended up becoming a fixture. This included cleaners and guards to tend to the cats.
- The Rideau Canal is the world’s largest outdoor skating rink at 7.8km long.
- There are legal graffiti areas around the city. These include under bridges, like on Dunbar Bridge. You can also find outdoor galleries under the Chaudiere Bridge.
- Ottawa is in the Arctic … ish. Mer Bleue Bog is actually an Arctic microclimate. It’s a 7,000 year old microclimate that you can easily visit from Ottawa.
- You can sleep in a haunted hostel. The HI Ottawa Jail Hostel is a functioning hostel that was originally a prison. There are regular sightings of prisoner ghosts from guests.
- Ottawa has many statues dedicated to Canadian history. Our favourite is the statue in Confederation Park to the animals who have served in the Canadian military. It’s an adorable German Shepherd in a service vest that dogs often mistake for real. They’ll run up to try to play with it!
- You can climb over 280 stairs from the Ottawa River up to Parliament. This stairway is found directly behind the Parliament Buildings when you’re walking along the Ottawa River Walkway. It’s quite the glute workout! Many citizens use it as a free stair master to avoid gym fees.
- Furniture that was meant for the Chateau Laurier sank on the Titanic, along with the Fairmont’s founder.
- The Fairmont Chateau Laurier may look like a fairytale castle, but it’s actually more of a horror show. It’s said to be haunted by the founder of the Fairmont hotels. He died aboard the Titanic, yet his ghost has come back to Ottawa.
- The Ottawa Institute is the only Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Canada.
- Ottawa and Gatineau are the sites of the first (and currently only) interprovincial zipline! The InterZip Rogers crosses the Ottawa River from Gatineau, Quebec into Ottawa, Ontario.
- Ottawa had the first electric traffic lights in Canada (installed in 1855).
General Facts About Ottawa Everyone Should Know
- The name “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquin word “adawe” or “odawe” (reports vary) which means “to trade”. This refers to the Ottawa River’s essential use for trade, fishing, and navigation to the Indigenous Peoples.
- Parliament Hill draws almost 3 million visitors annually.
- Ottawa is the 4th largest city in Canada with over 994,000 citizens.
- Ottawa has numerous sports teams, including the Ottawa Senators (hockey), the RedBlacks (Football), Blackjacks (Basketball), Atlético Ottawa (Soccer), and the Ottawa Titans (Baseball).
- Ottawa is the most educated city in Canada. 46% of Ottawa citizens aged 25-64 have University or College degrees. The rest of Canada has an average of 29%.
- The hottest temperature ever recorded in Ottawa was 37.8C on August 14, 1944.
- The coldest temperature ever recorded in Ottawa was -36.1C on February 15, 1943.
- On average, Ottawa sees 238cm of snow every winter. The highest amount of snow ever recorded was in 1970/71, when 444.1cm of snow fell.
- Ottawa’s rural areas bring in over $1 billion annually to the city’s economy. This is more than any other city, which is surprising considering agriculture seems bigger in the Prairies.
- Almost 50% of the citizens of Ottawa are under age 35. This makes it one of the youngest cities of Canada in terms of average population age.
- There are 35 major festivals in Ottawa every year. The most popular include Ottawa Blues Fest, Canada Day, Ottawa Tulip Festival, and Winterlude.
- The Federal Government is the largest employer in Ottawa, with most citizens working in public service roles.
- Ottawa sits on the banks of three rivers: the Ottawa River, the Rideau River, and the Gatineau River.
- Nicknames for Ottawa include: Bytown, Hogtown, O-Town, Silicon Valley of the North, The City That Fun Forgot.
- Ottawa’s official motto is “Advance-Ottawa-En Avant”. This represents the combination of English and French in the city (and the country)’s workings.
- Ottawa is on Algonquin land. No treaty has ever been signed.
- There are 26 National Historic Sites in Ottawa. These are locations of importance to Canada’s history throughout the city.
- Ottawa’s southern side has a horseshoe-shaped Greenbelt that includes 20,000 acres of unique ecology. This is one of the best areas for hiking near Ottawa.
- Ottawa is known as the “Silicon Valley of the North” due to its plethora of start up and technology businesses.
- Ottawa is the largest bilingual city in Canada. It is also the largest city in Canada to have co-languages!
Interesting Facts About Ottawa
- Ottawa is the 7th coldest capital city in the world.
- The Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa is the most visited museum in Canada with over 1.2 million visitors annually.
- Ottawa is home to the largest per capita population of scientists, engineers, and PhD’s in Canada.
- Champlain’s astrolabe is upside down on Nepean Point. It’s an unfortunate accident by the sculptor, but most people never notice.
- The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Canadian War Museum is built so the sun aligns with it at 11:11am on November 11th. This marks Remembrance Day, which celebrates Canadian veterans.
- The (creepy) spider statue outside of the National Gallery of Ottawa is known as “Maman”. It’s one of 7 replicas around the world. It was built by a French sculptor to show a mother spider protecting her eggs. Many people misattribute it to the Indigenous stories of Anansi, the trickster spider.
- Famous Ottawa citizens include: Annie Murphy (of Schitt’s Creek), Sarah Chalke (of Scrubs), Dan Aykroyd (of Ghost Busters), Jay Baruchel (of How to Train Your Dragon), Tom Cavanagh (of The Flash TV Show), Kelly Rowan (of the OC), Mark McKinney (of Superstore), Vanessa Morgan (of Riverdale), Alanis Morissette (singer), Paul Anka (singer), Margaret Atwood (author), and more!
- Ottawa citizens are called Ottawans.
- 25% of Ottawans are born outside of Canada.
- The Rideau River in Ottawa is actually 202km long. It stretches all the way to Kingston, with a beautiful hiking trail – the Rideau Trail – running the length of the river.
- In winter, Ottawa has 247 outdoor skating rinks throughout the city.
- Ottawa has it’s own flag. It is an “O” representing the name of Ottawa. The flared bit represents the peace tower, but has pointed tips reminiscent of a maple leaf. The blue and green represent the city’s blend of rivers and green spaces.
- You may think Stratford, Ontario is home to the oldest theatre company in Canada. But that’s not true. Ottawa Little Theater (originally the “Ottawa Drama League”) was founded in 1913 and is the oldest amateur theatre group in Canada!
- Ottawa’s sister cities are Beijing in China and Catania in Italy.
- There are laws in place to ensure the views of Parliament Hill and the Peace Tower are never blocked from view. There are few buildings allowed to be taller than the Parliament Buildings near the Ottawa River.
- On Parliament Hill, there is a wall that is structurally made to be able to hear whispers from one end to the other. The Whispering Wall can be found by spotting the two bronze statues of politicians.
- The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill has a flag on top that is replaced every week day. The used flags are sent free of charge to any Canadian citizen who requests one. However, the waitlist is now over 100 years.
Historical Facts About Ottawa
- Ottawa was originally called “Bytown” after Lieutenant Colonel John By who engineered the Rideau Canal.
- Queen Victoria renamed Ottawa from Bytown to its current name in 1855.
- Ottawa was declared the capital of Canada in 1857.
- The Rideau Canal is said to be the reason Canada was never successfully invaded by the United States. The canal was created in 1832 with mechanical locks and fortified stations on high ground to make it impossible for an unexpected invasion via the Ottawa River or the Rideau Canal. You can learn more about this history at the Bytown Museum along the banks of the Rideau Canal.
- The Rideau Canal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
- You can visit a Cold War Bunker today. The Deifenbaker Museum in Carp allows you to see a preserved moment in history.
- Rideau means “curtain” in French, in honour of the way the Twin Waterfalls on the river look like curtains.
- The Rideau Canal is the oldest canal system in Canada that has been in continuous use.
- The Parliament Buildings have an eternal flame burning in the center square. This flame has been burning since 1967, when Canada celebrated its 100th birthday.
- The world’s first Bitcoin ATM was invented in Ottawa.
- BeaverTails were founded in Ottawa in Byward Market.
- Spartan apples were developed in Ottawa, and can still be picked at many apple orchards every fall.
- Until 10,000 years ago, Ottawa was under the Champlain Sea.
- Ottawa was first visited by Europeans in 1608, then again in 1613 by Samuel de Champlain. The first settlement by Europeans wasn’t built until 1800 (which was actually in what is now Hull in Quebec).
- The Parliament Buildings were built from 1859 to 1866. This was the largest building project in North America at the time.
- In 1900, 20% of Ottawa was destroyed by fire. Hull, across the Ottawa River, suffered a greater loss with 66% of the city burning down.
- In 1916, a fire destroyed Centre Block of Parliament.
- In 1950, the “Gerber Plan” was put into effect and the city was massively redesigned to feature more green space and make it more aesthetically pleasing. … I’m not sure if it was worth it considering the number of hideous 70s and 80s office buildings still in the downtown core.
- On February 15, 1965, the newly designed Canadian flag was raised on Parliament Hill for the first time.
Wrap Up: Fun Facts About Ottawa
If you’re looking for a fun and interesting city to visit, Ottawa is definitely worth checking out.
This charming Canadian city is home to some amazing historical sites and cultural attractions, not to mention plenty of activities and events that will keep you entertained all day long.
So what are you waiting for?
Start planning your trip to Ottawa today!
Read More About Ottawa
- Local’s Ottawa Pronunciation Guide: How to Pronounce “Ottawa”
- What is the Primary Language in Ottawa, Canada?
- Is Ottawa in Quebec?
- Is Ottawa tap water safe to drink?
- How to Get From Ottawa Airport to Downtown Ottawa
- Where to Stay in Ottawa: 13 Best Neighbourhoods and Hotels
- Is Ottawa a Province?
- How Many Days in Ottawa is Ideal?
- Best Grocery Stores in Ottawa: Where to Shop in Ottawa
- 71 Fun Facts About Ottawa Canada
- 12 Best Ottawa Hotels With Jacuzzi In Room
- 22 Best Hotels in Ottawa with Pools
Ottawa Travel Planning Guide
🚑 Should I buy Ottawa travel insurance?
100% YES! — There’s a misconception that Canada has “free healthcare” for everyone. Nope! Only Canadians. So you’ll need to get travel insurance to visit Ottawa. I recommend this one.
💧Can you drink the tap water in Ottawa?
Yes – ish — While you can technically drink the tap water in Ottawa, as a local I don’t recommend it. Old hotels especially can have some nasty things in their pipes. Instead, get a filtered water bottle. (Read more)
🚙💨 Do I need to rent a car in Ottawa?
Yes — Renting a car in Ottawa is one of the best ways to get around! You’ll be able to see more of the city and beyond, like the epic hiking trails. I recommend Discover Cars for the cheapest rates possible.
📲 Do I need to know French in Ottawa?
Nope! — The primary language of Ottawa is English. While French is also spoken and on some signs, you can easily get by without knowing any French. (Read more)
🏩 What’s the best way to book my Ottawa accommodations?
For Ottawa hotels, Booking is the best site. If you’re considering an Ottawa Airbnb, don’t forget to also check VRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb. My #1 hotel recommendation in Ottawa is the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
✈️ What’s the best site to buy Ottawa flights?
For finding cheap Ottawa flights, I recommend Skyscanner. You can even set a price alert to find out when flights are on sale.
🎫 Do I need a Visa for Ottawa?
Likely Not — U.S. and most European Passport holders don’t need a Visa to visit Canada.
📍 Where is Ottawa? And what’s nearby?
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada, located in Ontario. It’s right on the border of Quebec. It’s about 2 hours from Mont Tremblant, 3 hours from Montreal, or 5 hours from Toronto. You can take a road trip to get to other places or fly.