Ottawa Travel Guide – Free Things to Do In Ottawa and Vegan Food – Weekend in Ottawa
We went to Ottawa a few weeks back and I was pleasantly surprised by how cool it was. It’s Canada’s capital city and there and my first impression of it was that it was beautiful! There are so many old and cool buildings, lots of vegan food, and although there aren’t any mountains, the city is surrounded by a canal connecting the Ottawa River & Lake Ontario, making it look very beautiful. I’ll share what we did, vegan food we ate and tips and tricks I learned to save some money on a perfect weekend trip! Get ready to learn about some free things to do in Ottawa!
Okay, first let’s start with things to do/places to visit. One thing I noticed about Ottawa is that it is very quiet. There aren’t very many people on the streets and overall, to me it had a peaceful feel. To get around, we used our car, because we had driven from Brampton (4 hour car ride). We didn’t ever pay for parking either. We used parkopedia.ca and most of the car lots had free parking on weekends and evenings after 6 pm. The things I’ll mention below were mostly in downtown Ottawa, so I recommend finding a parking spot near Parliament Hill and walking around to the rest of the places.
Free Things to Do:
- Parliament Building: You can visit the Parliament building free of charge, but you must get tickets first! You can get free same day tour tickets from across Parliament Hill, but make sure you get there early, because they do sell out. This was one thing we didn’t know, so therefore didn’t get a chance to get a tour. With this ticket you can also visit the Memorial Chamber and Peace Tower, from which you can get a beautiful view of the city as well. If you come there late like us, you can still walk around Parliament Hill and take pictures because it truly is quite beautiful.
- The Library of Parliament: This again was another place I really wanted to visit because from the pictures it looks amazing. It’s huge and apparently there was a fire a while ago and the library had survived. Again, I don’t know the details of this because unfortunately we couldn’t take a tour because we came to late and the tickets had sold out. But I don’t want you guys to miss out, so please make sure to get tickets for the Parliament building and the library early!
- Walk around Ottawa River: Ottawa River surrounds Parliament Hill and as you walk around, you will get amazing views of the river and can even walk right around it. I’m not exactly sure where the Rideau Canal starts and finishes, but because it connects Ottawa River and Lake Ontario, I’m sure it is somewhere around there. Also, apparently Rideau Canal freezes over completely in the winter, so people actually ice skate over it! Which is another free thing to do in the winter. I must come back in the winter and try this out! This walk was definitely one of my favorite free things to do in Ottawa.
- Notre Dame Cathedral: If you parked near Parliament Hill, getting to Notre Dame Cathedral is probably a 10 minute walk. But as you walk towards the Cathedral, there is a lot to see and take in. You will see the Fairmont Hotel, other Parliament buildings, National War Memorial and the walk will be along the river. It is really quite beautiful and we saw a lot of tourists in this area. Anyways, once you reach the Cathedral, you will be impressed! It’s huge! And the inside is even more impressive. Again, this is also free to visit and take pictures!
- Giant Spider – Maman (sculpture): I really wanted to go here and Gursheel thinks I’m weird from wanting to visit the randomest things. I honestly thought this giant spider sculpture was super cool and was impressed with how “giant” the actual giant spider was. The other great thing, it was literally right across the street from the Cathedral! So even if you don’t like spiders (like me), you may enjoy appreciating this sculpture and take a bunch of cool pictures (with the Cathedral in the background).
- Byward Market: Next, walk toward Byward Market, which is around a 5 minute walk from the Cathedral. Byward market has a bunch of cool shops, restaurants, as well as lots of cool vegan food options! I’ll talk about the food we ate in Byward Market in the vegan food section below.
- Gatineau Park in Quebec: Now, to get to Gatineau Park, you definitely can’t walk, so head back to your car and drive across the Ottawa River and into Quebec. I think it was a 10 minute drive from Parliament Hill to Gatineau Park, which is National Conservation Park. We were recommended by friends to go to Pink Lake, a lake located in Gatineau Park and is the parks most famous lake because it is meromictic lake, which means it has layers of water that do not intermix. But again, due to our amazing luck, the lake was closed! It opens in the beginnning of May, so we definitely need to come back and visit this!
- Diefenbunker: Finally, the last place I am going to recommend visiting is the Diefenbunker. This is a bit of a drive away so put on your GPS and head on over. We had gone to the Ottawa Gurdwara that morning and we went to the Diefenbunker on our way home so I still had my suit on. When I searched for cool things to do in Ottawa, the Diefenbunker kept popping up. It is a Cold War Museum that is famous for its four-story underground bunker built in the 1960s. When you enter the museum, you need to open this door that looks quite creepy and the entrance to the actual museum is through this tunnel (see photo below). I thought it was quite creepy and we decided to just take a couple of pictures an pass on paying the fee to enter the museum. Still a cool spot in my opinion. You can pay the fee and tour the museum if you like, but for a post on free things to do in Ottawa, I would suggest otherwise. Hahaha!
Now on to food!
Vegan Food to Eat:
- Pure Kitchen: Is a vegetarian food and juice bar with a lot of delicious food. I regret not trying the cauliflower wings because everyone that came to the restaurant seemed to order it. Oh, well, there is always a next time! Highly recommend!
- The Gifted Type: Okay, so this isn’t a food recommendation, but I thought I’d mention this really cool store, because it is right by Pure Kitchen. It is a gift shop with really cool things!! I picked up a card holder by a Toronto based brand called Pixie Mood that is cruelty free and vegan. It looks a lot like Mat and Nat but with a nice color palette. Definitely check it out!
- Ahora: This was a really cool Mexican place that a friend of Gursheel’s from work recommended and it did not dissapoint! Gursheel rated the burrito he ordered a high 6/10! I know, you must all be thinking a 6? But yes, that is the highest Gursheel has rated a burrito! The burritos we make are a 3/10 apparently! Yikes!
- ThimbleCakes: OMG this little bakery in Ottawa is ALL eggless and 90% VEGAN!!! They have a huge assortment of cupcakes, cookies, ice cream and they even make wedding cakes. I kind of wish they had a location in Brampton/Toronto because I would go all the time! Anyways, we bought a dozen cupcakes, one of each flavor, so everyone at home can eat them. But guess who ate them all? Me and Gursheel. WHOOPS!! But they were DELICIOUS!
- Mantovani: So Gursheel has never had gelato before! Can you believe that? Well, it’s not too surprising since a lot of gelato does have egg in it. However, at Mantovani, we didn’t just find eggless gelato, but VEGAN gelato. Yes, vegan. And, it was so creamy and delicious! I got a hazelnut flavor and Gursheel got pistachio. At Mantovani they have some gelato that does have egg it it, but the vegan flavors are labeled clearly!
- The Cupcake Lounge: Finally, this was another bakery in Byward Market that had some vegan cupcakes that were really good!!
And that was it! I hope you enjoyed this post about free things to do in Ottawa and found the vegan food recommendations helpful! Let me know in the comments below if you are planning on going to Ottawa soon!
Oh, and I’ve been getting a lot of comments about the photography on the blog. And I just wanted to give a huge thanks to Gursheel who does all the amazing photography for me!! And because I have been getting questions as to what camera and lenses he uses, I will link them here:
Camera: Sony SLTA99V Alpha SLT-A99V
Oh, and we stayed with some of Gursheel’s friends in Ottawa, but airbnb is a great way to save money and find some cool places to stay. Use my referral link to get $50 off your booking! www.airbnb.ca/c/kjawanda