Ottawa Facts

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Ottawa Facts

Slightly over 1 million people live in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. The city is Canada's fourth largest. It is situated about 65 km west of Kingston, about 110 kilometres southwest of Montreal, about 260 kilometres northeast of Toronto, and about 110 kilometres southwest of Gatineau, Quebec. After Toronto, it is the second largest municipality in Ontario. The city has an area of 267 KM2 (103 square miles) and a density of about 2,587 people per KM2.

16:12 mins video of Ottawa


Since Ottawa is Canada's capital, there are plenty of exciting facts about Ottawa to discover. So, keep reading to learn some interesting facts about Ottawa below.

Due to its importance as the nation's capital, it shouldn't be surprising that there are tons of educational facts about Ottawa. These educational facts are worth sharing, so please go ahead and share the love on your social media!

Ottawa has plenty to offer in the summer, whether you're a foodie or just looking for fun things to do in the city.

Let's dive into this great list of Ottawa facts, whether you're thinking about visiting from home or planning to head there soon!

Here are some of our favourite cool facts about Ottawa

Although there are many unique, fun facts about Ottawa, we narrowed it down to a few.

Sidebar: also check out our article about fun facts about Toronto if you're like us and love learning new things.

1. The prime minister of Canada lives here.

The prime minister of Canada's residence is located at 24 Sussex Drive, although he doesn't live there. Instead, he and his family stay at Rideau Cottage.

2. One of the most educated cities in the country

Ottawa is also home to one of the most educated cities in Canada, with about 46% of people aged 25-64 holding post-secondary degrees (compared to 29% for all of Canada). In 2006 over 56% of residents in the city's core had a post-secondary degree – while only 20% did in 1986.

3. Tourism is vital to the city

city of ottawa in 2023

The National Capital Region attracts over 10 million tourists annually, injecting about $3 billion into the local economy.

4. Until the 1970s, the Peace Tower was Ottawa's tallest building.

There is no doubt that The Peace Tower is the tallest building on Parliament Hill. Ottawa's Peace Tower features a giant clock and a lookout tower with a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

As the tallest building in Ottawa until the 1970s, the Peace Tower is an iconic landmark. To avoid distractions, no building could be taller.

It has been about 50 years since that rule was changed. So it is unlikely that any taller buildings you see today are older than that.

5. Located underground, it's home to a vast Cold War bunker.

Former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker built a highly secret underground bunker in 1959. A remote location was discovered approximately 30 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa, in the rural area of Carp. The plans' depths are extensive and detailed, taking two years to construct.

Sceptics argue that building such a bunker for a Canadian Prime Minister was wasteful. Furthermore, in years to come, the public would view Diefenbaker as paranoid and frivolous.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and this bunker was never used. Diefenbunker Museum has been cleverly renamed since then.

Nevertheless, cold War-era history remains perfectly preserved in its new interior. Seeing the extent of the Cold War and learning about its history makes it a wonderful place to visit. Visit it if you have a chance.

6. Ottawa has the world's largest ice skating rink.

skating rink rideau

During the winter, the Rideau Canal becomes the world's longest skating rink when it freezes over. When you lace up your skates and realize you can keep skating for as long as you like, it's a beautiful feeling.

Skating along the canal and eating BeaverTail treats is an actual Canadian moment.

Unreliable ice may close some canal sections, depending on the weather. So before heading out, double-check the local information!

A boat cruise along the Rideau Canal is also available in the summer.

7. A fire almost completely destroyed the Parliament Buildings.

parliament hill

Parliament was destroyed by fire in 1916. The wastepaper basket caught fire, causing the fire to spread. 1866 was a year of instant inferno because most buildings were constructed of wood.

Only the Parliamentary Library survived. However, a clever librarian who closed the iron fire door saved the inspiring library and many essential documents.

As a result, the library appears older than the rest of the parliament buildings. On tour or from a distance, you'll notice the circular structure behind Parliament.

8. There are seven replicas of the sculpture "Maman" in the world.

Maman

The famous sculpture of "Maman" can be found outside the National Gallery of Canada. A giant mother spider protecting 32 marble eggs is depicted in this sculpture by French sculptor Louise Bourgeois. As a symbol of motherhood, it was created.

A replica of this sculpture can be found in seven cities worldwide, including Tokyo and London.

9. BeaverTails' first hut can be found here.

BeaverTails

BeaverTails opened its first hut in Ottawa in 1980 after being sold at local fairs for a few years. Long lines form today for these delicious pastries in the historic Byward Market.

It is definitely worth trying BeaverTails, which are basically Canadian doughnuts.

BeaverTail trucks, huts, and shops can be found across Canada and abroad. In addition to being a classic wintertime treat, they are delicious at any time of year.

Additionally, Ottawa has a year-round Farmers' Market if food is your thing!

10. The city was never intended to be the capital.

The original capital of Upper Canada was Kingston, Ontario. However, several Canadian cities vied for the title of the capital city following Canada's official confederation in 1867.

There were three contenders: Montreal, Toronto, and Kingston. But, surprisingly, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital, despite all three cities being more developed then.

She gave it because it was near the border of English and French-speaking Canada at the time and somewhat between Montreal and Toronto. Additionally, it was farther away from the American border than Kingston, making it a more strategic location in case of an attack.

11. The tulips in Ottawa are an original gift from the Netherlands.

tulips in ottawa

Ottawa has approximately 300,000 tulips. When Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands gave birth to her daughter during World War Two, Ottawa received at least 20,000 of those flowers.

The Princess had to give birth on Dutch grounds to produce a Dutch heir. In response, the Canadian government declared the maternity suite extraterritorial. As a result, the newborn royal baby had an entirely Dutch ethnicity.

Ottawa has gained a reputation as the home of a wide variety of tulips due to that gift from the Dutch Royal family. A tulip festival is held in Ottawa every spring.

12. The Titanic sank furniture destined for the Chateau Laurier.

Chateau Laurier

It was Charles M. Hays who conceived the Chateau Laurier. A major railway in Canada, Grand Trunk Railway, was headed by Hays. A luxurious place to stay in Ottawa was Hays' desire when he built the Chateau Laurier.

In 1911, the hotel was built. To furnish the hotel's dining room, Hays travelled to London, England. Spring 1912 was the planned opening date for the hotel.

The Titanic offered Hays a luxurious suite on his way back from London. But, of course, all of us know how that ship sailed.

Hays and three cases of furniture for the Chateau Laurier's dining room went down with the ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

13. You can get a free Canadian flag (in 100 years) from the Peace Tower every day.

One of the flags from Parliament's Peace Tower has been on a waiting list for over 100 years. Canadian residents are allowed to display one flag per household.

The government of Canada's website allows you to reserve a spot for one of the used flags. You can designate one for a younger family member if you aren't sure you will be around in 100 years.

Among our favourite Ottawa fun facts, this tradition just feels Canadian.

14. In its history, Ottawa has been named twice.

ottawa from far

Bytown was the original name of Ottawa. Bytown resulted from the Rideau Canal built by the English military engineer Colonel John By.

As the northernmost point of the Rideau Canal, Bytown was founded in 1826. Ottawa was later renamed after the Algonquin word "Adawe", meaning "to trade", in the 1850s. For over 200 years, the river (now the Ottawa River) served as a trade route between Montreal and this region.

15. A modern sphinx shapes the Canadian Foreign Affairs building.

As the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters, the Lester B. Pearson Building is designed like a modernist sphinx. The design reflects Canada's role in peacekeeping missions worldwide since it is named after former Prime Minister Pearson.

During Pearson's tenure as Prime Minister, Canadian peacekeeping missions were spearheaded. He was crucial in resolving the Suez Canal Crisis in the 1950s. This building was inspired by Egyptian statues of the sphinx. Visit 125 Sussex Drive to see it for yourself.

16. At the Whispering Wall, you can whisper to a friend 15 metres away, and they will hear you clearly.

Behind the Parliament Buildings is the "Whispering Wall" monument.

Dedicated to Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, two Canadian politicians, it was built in 1914. As well as encouraging discussion, it symbolizes the importance of open and honest democracy.

Whispering against the monument wall will be heard by a friend on the other side if you sit or stand on one side. They sound like they're sitting right next to you! Whispering allows you to have a complete conversation.

17. On November 11th, Remembrance Day, the sun shines on the Tombstone of the Unknown Soldier.

On November 11th, the sun falls on the Tombstone of the Unknown Soldier in the Hall of Remembrance at 11:11 am each year because the entire museum is aligned with the sun.

There is actually a line built into the floor of the Canadian War Museum, a fantastic museum in its own right that follows the same line as the sun.

18. It is the seventh coldest among the world's capital cities.

You are missing out if you haven't spent some time in Ottawa in the winter. Wintertime in Ottawa is certainly done right. Our cold capital city has many things to do, such as skating, winter light shows, and the Winterlude festival.

Besides Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Astana, Kazakhstan; Moscow, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Tallin, Estonia, Ottawa is the seventh coldest capital.

19. One of Ottawa's old haunted jails has been converted into a hostel.

Carlton County Jail

In 1862, the Carlton County Jail opened, and it remained operational until 1972, when it was closed. A variety of crimes, including murder, were committed there.

It was known for its cruel treatment of its inmates during its heyday, and it held several public executions on its grounds. In addition, many unmarked graves were discovered on its grounds after it closed and was later purchased.

Today, it operates as a hostel, as is the natural next step for old jails. Several scary stories have been told about its four walls. It's believed to be haunted. On the top floor, if you could make it through the night in one of the death row cells, you could stay for free.

A Haunted Walk tour of Ottawa is a great way to check out the jail if you are staying elsewhere in the city.

20. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal is located in Ottawa, Canada.

Rideau Canal

Ontario has only one world heritage site out of 20 in Canada. The Rideau Canal is one of those heritage sites. Located from Ottawa to the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, the Rideau Canal consists of many lock systems.

North American slackwater canal technology was introduced here in a diligent manner. It was initially built as a way to connect Ottawa and Kingston, but it is now being used for a wide variety of purposes.

In the winter, you can skate on it; in the warmer months, you can kayak or charter a boat.

Isn't that a pretty informative list of Ottawa facts? We hope the answer is yes. :)

It was great fun putting together this list of Ottawa facts, so we hope you enjoyed it. In any case, it's a historic city, so there are bound to be some fun facts about Ottawa.

We'd love to hear what you think we missed or what you particularly enjoyed about Ottawa.