There’s nothing we love more than planning an itinerary, packing a suitcase, purchasing a train ticket, and embarking on a new adventure!

This year, we’re partnering with Canada’s VIA Rail in celebration of their 40th anniversary. As the seasons change, we’ll introduce you to other vibrant cities and communities across Canada through this #VIARail40 collaboration. You can take the journey with us on our blog and through social media.

Our first stop, Ontario, is known for its diverse offerings and renowned cultural sites — if you’re planning a day trip to Canada’s capital city, we’ve outlined an itinerary that will give you a good introduction to this beautiful region.

National Gallery

In 1988, Syrian-born architect Moshe Safdie designed a building of epic proportions — it featured strong, angular lines, transparent panes of glass, and an unmistakable sense of grandeur. The building, Ottawa’s National Gallery, became an important cultural landmark for all Canadians, and represented acceptance and national recognition for Safdie, a Syrian-born immigrant who had moved to Canada at age 16.

The structure is a marvel, notably the 30-foot tall spindly spider that guards its entrance. Before entering, take a minute to soak up the general atmosphere, the translucent walls, the geometric architecture of the structure, and the layers of Canadian creative history housed within.

Many of the country’s greatest artists have seen their work displayed here over the years, and it continuously tops lists of Canada’s best galleries. We were awed by the modernist art and bright colors of pieces belonging to Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, which are only two of the extensive collections of paintings and sculptures that spoke to the country’s history and multitude of human experience. We were happy to see exhibitions that proudly showcase works from feminist movements and artists of Native and Inuit heritage. We also marked our calendars to return this summer — there’s an upcoming Impressionist Treasures exhibit we’d like to catch.

ByWard Market

Planned and constructed by the same man (Colonel John By) who built the Rideau canal, the aptly named ByWard Market lies in the heart of downtown Ottawa and is a hallmark of warm Canadian charm. The marketplace stretches for roughly four blocks, each street brimming with artisan shops, museums, restaurants, and what it’s most notably known for: a local farmer’s market with hundreds of vendors — our favorite provided delicious coffee and fresh pastries!

As you approach this unique market, see if you can imagine the entrepreneurial colonel determinedly designing this, his pet project. Take a moment to close your eyes and listen to the friendly chatter of the crowd, smell the scents from food stalls, and enjoy the lively atmosphere of Ottawa’s oldest trading grounds — you may just find yourself transported to the 1800s, if only for a second.

Three Museums, One Roof

Canada’s agricultural and technological history is rich and storied, and well worth learning about. Enter Ingenium, the encompassing brand for three of Canada’s finest museums: Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and Canada Science and Technology Museum. By pooling these entities under one roof, Ingenium has been able to foster collective and collaborative creativity at an unparalleled level, spotlighting the nation’s knack for ingenuity.

Each museum is a world class facility in its own right, and focuses on a different aspect of innovation in Canada. At each location, visitors can interactively engage and learn about three fields that have generated some of Canada’s most impressive progress.

Take a break at the Andaz Hotel

In 2015, the Andaz hotel was constructed off of ByWard market as a standing testament to Canada’s culture, history, and resources. Built from Canadian-sourced materials, the hotel is now an Ottawa institution — a beautiful place that welcomed our team.

Not only does the property offer an impressive view of downtown Ottawa, but the hotel is also a sweetly sophisticated place to get some much needed rest. The hotel is composed mainly of glass, which fills the interior with natural light and creates a beautiful, shimmery façade (especially on sunny days!). Inside are sleek hallways, rooms, and meeting spaces that cater to any need imaginable. And what tops this place off, quite literally, is a stunning rooftop bar where cocktails and sunsets can be enjoyed. From atop the hotel, you can see Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River as it snakes between the border of Ontario and Quebec.

Explore further

The Canadian capital is made even more charming by its tightly knit community. If you want to experience the heart of Ottawa, pay a visit to Rideau Canal, known simply by Ottawans as “the canal.” The area is a hotspot during the summer months, a site so beautiful that it encourages runners, skaters, cyclists, and walkers to take advantage of its rolling green banks. And while the canal is the prime location to explore on two wheels, the rest of the city is fairly bike-friendly as well.

Ottawa’s longstanding dynamic with the Catholic church has resulted in a series of significant architectural contributions, most notably the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, the city’s largest and oldest church. It’s worth a visit to both appreciate and photograph the sweeping Gothic interior.

While the city may seem austere with all of its Gothic architecture, its streets are enlivened by a variety of unique murals and art installations. These stunning art pieces can be found around the city — we suggest visiting Westboro, Quartier Vanier, Little Italy, and The Glebe to spot the most colorful streets and taking your time to explore, camera in hand.

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