Parliament Hill

A Guide to Ottawa For Meeting/Conference Attendees!

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So you’re coming to Ottawa for a meeting/conference? Great! As Canada’s Capital, this is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year.

From charming festivals, to award-winning restaurants, to seven national museums and the famous Rideau Canal – Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site – you’re sure to be entertained. But what else do you need to know? We’ve put together some useful information to help you navigate the city and make the most of your short time here!

Getting Here & Getting Around

Ottawa is located at a four-hour drive north-east of Toronto and a two-hour drive west of Montreal. You can get to Ottawa by car or by VIA Rail train at any time of year. The Ottawa International Airport is also located at just a short 20-minute drive from Ottawa’s downtown core. The airport offers more than 130 non-stop flights daily to more than 50 destinations in Canada, the United States and European centres.

Now, once you’ve arrived, what do you do? Walk! As Ottawa’s downtown core is compact, most convention and meeting centres are within walking distance of most hotels as well as world-class attractions. You’ll never be far from a hotel, a conference centre or something fun to do!

  • Staying here: Ottawa’s downtown core is home to various hotels in various price ranges. You’ll find national and international brands such as Fairmont, Marriott, Westin, Delta, Novotel Ottawa City Centre, Les Suites and more.
  • New Meeting Space - Shaw Centre: This beautiful bubbled building that overlooks the Rideau Canal is the result of a large-scale renovation that took place a few years ago. The Shaw Centre offers great views, 192,000 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting space and a great location, as it’s attached to the Westin Ottawa

Head into your meeting/event and then during your downtime, stroll along the scenic Canal (located just across the street) or see what the newly renovated CF Rideau Centre shopping mall has to offer, as it’s also attached. Tiffany’s, Kate Spade and Nordstrom are just a few of the many new stores you’ll find here.

Attractions in Walking Distance

In walking distance from the Shaw Centre, you’ll find Parliament Hill, where most of Canada’s important political decisions are made. Sign up for a free public guided tour to see some of Centre Block’s most impressive attributes such as the House of Commons and the Peace Tower. Tours are offered daily at half hour intervals on a first-come, first-served basis.

Here for a meeting over the summer (between May and September)? Bring your gear to participate in a free yoga class on Parliament Hill’s front lawn! Each Wednesday during the noon hour, Lululemon Athletica leads a free, multi-level ‘guerilla yoga’ class in which up to 1,000 people participate on a weekly basis. This is a favourite summer activity for visitors and locals alike!

And just down Sussex Drive, you’ll find the National Gallery of Canada. This beautiful glass building is the permanent home of the world’s most comprehensive collection of Canadian art, including Inuit art. This is a great museum to visit at any time of the year.

Or if you’re looking to learn a lot about Ottawa in a short amount of time, visit the quaint Bytown Museum. Housed in the city’s oldest stone building – it was used during the construction of the Rideau Canal – this small museum recounts the history of Ottawa’s earliest days from Bytown in 1826 to the official City of Ottawa in 1855. See photos and interesting artifacts that tell the story of Ottawa and its emergence as Canada’s Capital.

And depending on your interests as well as your amount of free time, the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canadian Museum of History are all just a short taxi ride away.

Luxury Experiences

Now, after all of those important sessions and sightseeing, some relaxation might be in order and Ottawa is in no shortage of places to go!

  • Holtz Spa:
    Located at 45 Rideau Street, just steps from the Shaw Centre, Holtz is Ottawa’s very first luxury day spa. Pop in here after a long day for a massage, a facial, a pedicure or even a hot stone manicure. Many different treatments are available. Attending a meeting/conference this spring? Celebrate the arrival of the Canadian maple syrup season by indulging in one of the spa’s unique Maple Luscious treatments. Partnering with Fulton's Sugar Bush and Maple Shop, who produces a line of local maple syrup-based body products, Holtz offers a maple manicure, pedicure, massage as well as a body scrub and wrap. You’ll be rejuvenated and smelling sweet after one of these treatments!
  • Nordik Spa-Nature:
    Located at about a 20-minute drive north of Ottawa’s downtown core in Chelsea, Que., Nordik is the largest outdoor spa of its kind in North America. Get some peace and quiet here with the spa’s well-known Thermal Baths and Saunas experience. Soak away the tensions of your day as you move from hot tubs, to steam rooms, to dry saunas and to cozy, fire-lit relaxation areas. And as Nordik is open until 11:00 p.m. daily and until midnight on Friday and Saturday, this is the perfect after work activity.

Souvenir Shopping and All Things Canadiana

If it’s your first time visiting Canada’s Capital, you’ll no doubt want to purchase something to mark the occasion. We’ve put together some helpful information on souvenirs and uniquely Canadian treats that you can find in Ottawa’s downtown core.

Free Public Wi-Fi Access in Ottawa

During your exploration of the city, we’re sure that you’ll want to share a few photos with folks back home. You’ll find free public Wi-Fi access at three locations in Ottawa’s downtown core; the ByWard Market Square Building, Ottawa City Hall and CF Rideau Centre. Catch up on emails or send a few photos home! And if you share your photos on social media, make sure to share them with Ottawa Tourism by using the #MyOttawa hashtag.

This is only a snapshot of the many things there are to see and do in Ottawa. To see what’s going on during your meeting/conference, visit Ottawa Tourism’s Event Calendar.

Stay up to date

Stay up to date on upcoming events and ideas to plan your next trip to Ottawa with friends, family or on your own by signing up for the Ottawa Tourism Newsletter.