With an eclectic mix of cuisines, bustling farmers’ markets, upscale restaurants and fun tasting tours, Ottawa is a group and independent foodie travellers’ delight. Visitors get to taste the best local flavours as they explore the hippest neighbourhoods and the city’s surrounding countryside. Use this 3-day sample itinerary as inspiration to plan a memorable culinary trip to Canada’s capital for your group and FIT travellers. Bon appétit!
Day 1- Market and neighbourhood tour
Morning at the market
Begin in the centre of it all by visiting the ByWard Market, a bustling site that was established in 1826. Visit the indoor boutiques and food kiosks in ByWard Market Square and the outdoor stalls where locals shop for fruit and vegetables. The vibrant neighbourhood that surrounds this area is a dining and shopping destination with more than 600 businesses, artisan stalls and restaurants concentrated within four blocks.
Once you have browsed the market wares and enjoyed a hearty breakfast, meet up with your C’est Bon Ottawa tour guide who will tell you more about the rich history of the ByWard Market area as you sample some of the local flavours.
The market tour ends on a sweet note with a local treat known all over Canada, BeaverTails. This large flat pastry topped with your choice of candies, chocolate spread, fruit or even savoury ingredients has spread all over the country and abroad but started right here in Ottawa back in 1978.
For an active option, try the Bike & Bites Tour offered by C’est Bon Ottawa and Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals. Follow your guide on two wheels through different neighbourhoods and stop for sample treats along the way.
Lunch with a view
In the summer, take advantage of these seasonal and delicious midday food options with naturally stunning backdrops:
- Go to the Tavern on The Hill in Major’s Hill Park for gourmet hotdogs with premium and inventive toppings like pulled pork, kimchi and crispy shallots. Offer a toast to the rest of your trip as you gaze out over the Parliament buildings, the Ottawa River and the bustle of downtown life. Note: Tavern on the Hill is closed in 2022 and plans to reopen in 2024.
- Visit one of the seasonal bistros in scenic locations throughout the city and nibble on sweet and savoury food and beverages. The Confederation Park Bistro is conveniently located between Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal, while the bistro at Remic Rapids Park just west of downtown overlooks rock sculptures installed on the shores of the Ottawa River.
Dinner is served
The culinary delights continue as you prepare for your evening meal. Some tasty options that are perfect for FIT and group travellers include:
- Stroll through a cobbled square in the ByWard Market area to the heritage stone building of the Courtyard Restaurant. This former log tavern constructed in 1827, presents the very best local farmer’s produce in seasonal and exciting menus. Three unique rooms can cater to groups of all sizes.
- For a pre-show dinner or to sample the Inuit influenced menu which includes elk, bison and a delicious cobbler for dessert made from traditional bannock bread, visit The National Arts Centre’s 1 Elgin. Located along the Rideau Canal, this restaurant also offers a children’s menu for the family traveller including mini sliders and brownies.
- For seafood fans, visit Ottawa’s largest raw bar at Métropolitain Brasserie, located close to the iconic Fairmont Château Laurier hotel. Enjoy a platter of fresh oysters, shrimps, mussels, snow crab, and scallops.
- Wander down to Sparks Street, a block south of Parliament Hill, which has been a permanent pedestrianized promenade since 1961, and have dinner at Riviera Ottawa. This elegant restaurant, which was once a bank, features a 70-foot bar and a private room for 10 guests situated in the former bank manager’s office.
- The casual yet elegant tapas-style menu at SIDEDOOR on York Street in the ByWard Market area is served family-style so that groups can chat and share dishes with ease. Enjoy Southeast Asian-inspired dishes like Korean fried rice, dumplings, and Chinese greens. End your day with an order of their much-loved mini doughnuts in white chocolate and cranberry, cinnamon, or dark chocolate.
Day 2- Bakeries and breweries
The smell of freshly baked bread and pastries fills the air at Art-Is-In Bakery, a gastro boulangerie with a cafe in the City Centre area just west of downtown, and a takeout bakery in the ByWard Market area. Beloved by locals, this trendy bakery sells their bread in stores across the city but a trip to their cafe for their “O-Towners,” a cross between a croissant and a doughnut, is a real treat! They also serve soups, pizzas, burgers and of course, delicious loaves of specialty bread. Why not pick up a takeout selection and head to one of Ottawa’s many beautiful green spaces for a picnic?
Pick a picnic spot
- Pack your picnic basket and head to Major’s Hill Park a perfect scenic spot for families, couples or FIT to enjoy their lunch. Don’t forget to wander through the pretty garden beds, and stop to read the interpretive panels which give a little local and historical information about the park. With views across the Parliament buildings and the Rideau Canal, it’s easy to see why this spot was chosen as the capital’s first park back in 1826.
- Travel just 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) from downtown to the Dominion Arboretum and you’ll feel like you have escaped to the countryside. With a picturesque bridge, rolling green hills and views to both Dows Lake and the Rideau Canal, it creates a beautiful landscape photograph. This historic site and Canada’s oldest arboretum is home to 10,000 different plants.
- The nearby Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is well worth a visit. At this working farm within the city, you can learn about Canada's farming heritage and food production by visiting animal barns and exhibits. There are also fun playground structures for kids.
After refuelling and enjoying the peace and serenity of Ottawa’s green spaces you’ll likely be a little thirsty and ready to explore another part of Ottawa’s gastronomy scene.
Meet the microbrewers
Ottawa has a vibrant and growing craft beer scene which is best explored on a Brew Donkey bus tour. Whether you choose a totally curated private tour or join an organized tour with a small group suitable for FIT, you’ll enjoy behind-the-scenes access and generous samples. Find out more about the local craft brewing by Tapping into Ottawa.
Tonight, choose from these three amazing dining options for a memorable evening meal:
- Cross over into Gatineau, on the Quebec side and experience a traditional Swiss raclette meal, at the restaurant Meule et Caquelon. A perfect choice for groups, couples or families, this fun interactive dining experience is enhanced by the Swiss decor and the traditional costumes worn by the waiting staff.
- For something really special, reserve a table at Atelier, located near Ottawa’s Little Italy neighbourhood. Chef Marc Lepine and his team prepare an exclusive 44-course blind tasting menu featuring contemporary Canadian cuisine.
- Go to SOIF Bar à Vin for the award-winning wines and stay for the delicious food! The owner, world-renown sommelier Véronique Rivest, offers wine pairings to all guests as well as tasting workshops for small groups.
Day 3 -Agritourism in and around Ottawa
Ottawa is surrounded by green spaces, farmlands, and unique foodie spots that are easily accessible and worth exploring. Some businesses and products are seasonal. (Driving distances and times are based on Parliament Hill as a departure point.)
- Located 53 kilometres (32.9 miles) east, Les Vergers Villeneuve and Blueberry Farm is a family farm dating back to the 1850s where you can pick your own fruit, attend a wine tasting tour and shop for locally made wine and cheese.
- Have you tried poutine yet? Visit the St-Albert Cheese Co-op about a 40-minute drive east to see how the famous cheese curds used in poutine are made from the observation deck. Then try one yourself! It’s a true taste of Canadiana that can’t be missed!
- Visiting a sugar shack is a traditional Canadian springtime activity, typically running from mid-February to mid-April. Fulton's Sugar Bush and Maple Shop, located 74 kilometres (45.9 miles) west, is a 400-acre farm that has been in operation since 1840. Learn how maple syrup is made and pick up maple-inspired souvenirs to take home.
- Walk the trails, or if the weather allows, bring your snowshoes or cross-country skis to get around Stanley’s Old Maple Lane Farm. Stop at the Heritage Sugarshack to see how maple goes from sap to your plate. You can also visit the animals who live on the farm and experience fresh maple taffy on the snow. Don’t leave before visiting the farm shop and stocking up on homemade maple goods.
- Play beekeeper for the day (including a honey tasting) by booking a private bee experience at Gees Bees Honey Company. Alternatively, take a self-guided walk around the lovely 8-acre urban property located along the Rideau River.
- In the suburban village of Manotick, you can visit a fully functioning flour mill from the 1860s. When you tour Watson's Mill on the shores of the Rideau River, guides wearing costumes tell you how the original millstones turn wheat into flour. You can even buy the flour in the museum shop!