Ottawa is one of the most beautiful and easiest cities to visit, particularly during the summer. The Canadian capital sits at the confluence of three rivers - the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the Rideau River. Thus, wherever one turns there is always plenty of water, and most residents and visitors must cross a bridge at one time or another.
Despite the formality of public/government buildings and the severity of federal politics, the city is green, clean and fun. The National Capital Region boasts a large number of attractions, monuments, museums, scenic parks, and also fantastic food venues, including street-food at lively markets, fine restaurants, groovy pubs and places where one can enjoy those famous BeaverTail pastries
Ottawa was not always as neat and respectable as it is today. Around the 1600s, at the time French explorer Étienne Brûlé
adopted the ways of the Algonquin and Huron Indians and travelled up the St. Lawrence River towards the Great Lakes, the Ottawa region was nothing but a vast wilderness. Life was harsh and dominated by tough pioneers and fur traders who fought each other and made the Indians sick with smallpox.
The first settlement by the Ottawa River was established in 1826 by Lieutenant-Colonel John By
, a British military engineer assigned to the area to supervise the construction of a canal system connecting a series of natural waterways between Kingston and the Ottawa River. Lt.-Col. By wisely decided that building a town to house the workers was a priority. The settlement grew to provide lodgings and services to thousands of soldiers, engineers and labourers working on the canal. To honour the founder, the town was given the name of Bytown.
It took about six years to build the canal at a cost over four times higher than initially estimated. About a thousand workers died of accidents, malaria and other diseases. Because of its historical significance, in 1925 Rideau Canal was included in the list of National Historic Sites of Canada. In 2007, the Rideau Canal and associated structures, including fortifications, watercourses, dams, bridges and locks, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site
as "the best preserved example of North American canal building", having many of its original structures in place and operating.
By 1832, work in the canal had been completed, but most of the 1000 settlers opted to remain in the area to work on the growing lumber industry mostly destined for British and American markets. Large sawmills processing red and white pine operated in the Gatineau (Hull) area, across the Ottawa River. On January 1, 1855, when the community had about 6000 residents, Bytown was incorporated as a city, and the name of the town was changed to “Ottawa”.
Just two years later, in 1857, Queen Victoria had the privilege a naming Canada’s capital city by deciding among 5 options: the choices included four previous capitals, Toronto, Kingston, Montreal and Quebec City, and also Ottawa. She chose the latter for several reasons: because the budding city was in a strategically defensible setting; at a good distance from the American border and in a favourable location for economic growth and potential westward expansion of Canada; its population already had a multicultural mix of English, French and Irish peoples; and, very decisively, because the new Capital city could bring the territories of Upper Canada (present-day Southern Ontario) and Lower Canada (parts of modern-day Quebec and the Labrador region) into the United Province of Canada.
The new capital city needed appropriate infrastructure to conduct the political businesses. Thus, in 1859, the land until then known as Barrack Hill, where the lodgings of Lt.-Col. John By’s troops stood during the construction of the Rideau Canal, was allocated for the erection of the Parliament Buildings. The construction of Parliament Hill run into several technical and budgetary problems, and it was suspended in 1763. The government of the United Province of Canada did not get to use the new facilities since on July 1, 1867, the Province of Canada along with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia established a new confederation under the name of Dominion of Canada. The buildings on Parliament Hill were completed in 1876.
Much history has taken place since then, including fires, strikes, riots, the Great Depression, two World Wars, smallpox and influenza epidemics, the Universities of Ottawa and Carleton were established, and so on. But, perhaps one of the most significant events for Canada and Ottawa, from the patriotic perspective, took place on February 15, 1965, when the new Canadian flag, the red and white Maple Leaf was raised for the first time atop the 92-metre-tall Peace Tower in the Centre Block at Parliament Hill.
Ottawa is an exciting and dynamic place for close to 1.2 million residents. In 2010, Mercer placed Ottawa second
(after Vancouver) among large cities in the Americas for quality of life and in 14th place in the world. In 2012, MoneySense weighed and ranked 190 Canadian cities and towns in 22 categories; Ottawa was named the best city to live in Canada
for the third consecutive year.
Understandably, Ottawa is also a delightful place to visit for about 8 million tourists
spending over $2.2 billion each year in the Nation’s Capital. The city has a lot of history and is an outstanding example of Canadian culture and traditions. Among the major attractions in the city are the Rideau Canal and Locks, the historic, supposedly haunted, Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel
, the Canadian Museum of Civilization
, the National Gallery of Canada
, the Canadian War Museum, the Byward Market and of course, the Parliament Buildings including the magnificent Changing of the Guard
Ceremony performed by the Governor General's Foot Guards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards with their regimental band, drums and pipers, wearing their distinct red coats and black bearskin tall hats
Ottawa’s history is relatively recent. Since its beginning in 1826 as a rough frontier outpost by the Ottawa River, Bytown became a multicultural community, the nation’s capital and a beautiful city. Within a week, in July 1, Ottawa will be the focus of Canada Day celebrations
, commemorating the passing of the Constitution Act, 1867, and the establishment of Canadian Confederation.