The National Capital Region is an official designation comprising Canada's capital Ottawa, in Ontario, the neighbouring city of Gatineau, in Quebec, and surrounding urban and rural communities. It used to be called Ottawa/Hull and is now sometimes called Ottawa/Gatineau, effectively one city but on two sides of the Ottawa River and therefore of the Ontario/Quebec border.
In 2001, Ottawa swallowed the former Carelton County which surrounded it. But still, twenty years later, when most people say they are "going to Ottawa" they mean the urban area at the core ("Old Ottawa") not the suburbs. Likewise in 2002 the City of Gatineau was created by merger of several smaller places, you can still be specific about which part you are visiting. If you are going to the urban area immediately across the river from Ottawa, then you are going to Hull.
|City of Ottawa (Old Ottawa, Kanata, Carp)
The northern parts of the Ottawa-Rideau region, in Eastern Ontario
|Gatineau (Hull, Aylmer)
The southern parts of the Outaouais region of Quebec
The large forested recreation area just north of the city.
A rural farming area surrounding Old Ottawa preserved from suburbanization by the Canadian government.
Other destinations edit
Many of the region's recreational areas — ski resorts, lakes, hiking or biking trails in summer and cross-country ski trails in winter — are in the Gatineau Hills on the Quebec side.
- 1 Chelsea — a gateway to the eastern parts of Gatineau Park
- 2 Gatineau Park —
- 3 Montebello — a small town in the Outaouais countryside, that sometimes hosts large government conferences in the Château Montebello, the largest log structure ever built, and one of Canada's Grand railway hotels
- 4 Wakefield — a charming village with many restaurants and other tourist facilities
Outside Ottawa's downtown, the region on the Ontario side is characterized by the villages of the region's vast rural area, and the historic Rideau Canal which connects the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
This is not a separately administered capital region like the US District of Columbia or the Australian Capital Territory. There has been some discussion of giving it that status, but it has not gone anywhere yet and seems unlikely to do so. The two parts are administered separately by their respective municipal and provincial governments.
Federal government buildings pay no municipal taxes, but the federally-funded National Capital Commission (NCC) maintains some of the roads, parks and buildings.
Bilingualism is extremely common in this region, perhaps more so than anywhere else in Canada. You can count on being served in your choice of English or French in almost any restaurant, store or transport facility.
Most of the Ontario side is predominantly English-speaking and most of the Quebec side French. There are exceptions — in Quebec Hull, Aylmer and Wakefield were originally settled by English speakers and in Ontario Orleans and Embrun were originally French — but they are all becoming less exceptional over time.
Get in edit
Most people will arrive via Ottawa but there is also a good highway (A50) to Montreal running along the Quebec side of the river. There is a bridge across the Ottawa between Hawkesbury and Grenville, so it is possible to switch between Quebec A 50 and Ontario 417 about halfway between Ottawa and Montreal.
Get around edit
The municipal bus systems of both Ottawa and Gatineau have a few bus routes which go into the other city. All the Gatineau buses that cross the river run along Rideau Street on the Ottawa side and can be caught near the Rideau Centre shopping mall.
For drivers, there are three bridges connecting the two cities downtown and a fourth bridge upriver to the west of downtown. Traffic on the bridges can be dreadful, especially at rush hours since many people live on one side of the river and work on the other.
As the capital, the region has many museums. Most are in Ottawa including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada Agriculture Museum, and the Canada Aviation Museum.
The Canadian Museum of History is on the Quebec side opposite the Parliament buildings, while the Library and Archives Canada Gatineau Preservation Centre is to the northeast of downtown Gatineau.
The Diefenbunker - Canada's Cold War Museum is west of Ottawa in Carp in the government's Cold War-era bunker.
Ottawa is very much an outdoor activities city. There are walking and bike paths along the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River. In winter, the canal becomes and 8-km-long skating rink, and there are lots of trails for cross-country skiers.
Gatineau Park is the outdoor playground for the National Capital Region. It offers amazing possibilities for outdoor recreation, within a 20 minutes drive of either city. There's skiing (cross-country and downhill), hiking, canoeing, camping, rock-climbing, mountain biking, roller-blading, wildlife watching and lots of trails for leisurely strolls.
Go next edit
|The best thing about Ottawa is the train to Montreal.
—Jean Marchand, Liberal cabinet minister under Pierre Trudeau.