You don’t need your passport to take a vacation packed with world-class attractions and eats; just head to our nation’s capital. Ottawa’s got a lot going for it—a lot more than some other capital cities, in fact. (Take that, London.) Want proof? We’ve rounded up 10 ways Ottawa handily beats the global competition.
1. It towers over London
Soaring 98 metres above Parliament Hill, the Peace Tower is one of our country’s most iconic images, just as Big Ben is to England. But with 53 bells that weigh a total of 54 tonnes, our carillons make the big guy’s 13 tonnes seem positively puny. They’re a lot more fun, too: from the Star Wars theme on May the 4th to a 4-20 playlist, which included tunes like “Puff the Magic Dragon,” the bells at the Peace Tower do more than simply chime.
2. Amsterdam’s got nothin’ on its blooms
Amsterdam’s tulips may be world famous, but Ottawa outblooms even the Netherlands. Held in Ottawa every spring, the Canadian Tulip Festival is the world’s largest celebration of tulips, with more than three-million flowering throughout the capital region. (It would, however, be distinctly un-Canadian not to thank the Dutch for their role in this pretty festival: Ottawa’s tulips were a gift from the Netherlands as thanks for harbouring the nation’s royal family during the Second World War.)
3. It brews more beer than Brussels
Belgium is known worldwide for its beer, but the capital itself doesn’t actually house that many breweries. Though there are some epic shops and bars that stock hundreds of beers, you’ll have to travel to the monasteries and abbeys of the Belgian countryside to see where many popular suds are brewed. Ottawa’s craft beer scene, on the other hand, is exploding, with lots of new microbreweries springing up right in town. Beer fans won’t want to miss the city’s annual Craft Beer Festival, where you can sample more than 150 beers brewed in the region (along with local ciders, wines and international beers, which undoubtedly include some from Belgium).
4. Ottawa connaît son vin
While we’re at it, let’s talk wine: Gatineau, Quebec-based sommelier Veronique Rivest was named second-best sommelier in the world at the Sommelier du Monde Competition in 2013 (she was bested by a Swiss sommelier). You can enjoy Rivest’s expertise firsthand at her wine bar, Soif, whether for a relaxed wine flight or a more informative workshop.
5. Best. Cheese. In. The. World.
You can’t talk about wine without talking about cheese, and there are few countries better known for cheese than Switzerland. But Glengarry Fine Cheese, a family-run dairy outside of Ottawa, beat all the cheese in Bern (and all of Switzerland) with its aged Lankaaster, named Best Cheese in the World at the prestigious Global Cheese Awards in the U.K.
6. It’s got more ice than Frozen
Disney’s frosty flick may have moved fans to travel to Norway in search of the real-life sites that inspired the movie (Oslo’s Akershus Fortress was the model for princesses Anna and Elsa’s grand palace). But to get some icy fun, you can’t beat skating on the Rideau Canal, which, at nearly eight kilometres, is one of the world’s longest natural outdoor rinks.
7. Trudeau lives here
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Washington recently, it sparked a new round of Trudeau-mania, and an all-eyes-on-them bromance between Trudeau and President Obama was born. But Washington (and all of the U.S.) is likely looking at Ottawa through green eyes these days, given that we have at least four more years with Trudeau, while the U.S., well…
8. It’s green to the core…literally
With its pedestrian and cycling networks and revitalized brownfields, Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, is officially the E.U.’s greenest city. But Ottawa’s core shines green too thanks to the Ottawa Centre Ecodistrict—the first of its kind in Canada. The area, which includes Parliament, the Ottawa River and Rideau Canal as well as Sparks Street, holds more than 30 green-certified buildings, outdoor recreational spaces and local, sustainable food options. With over 600 kilometres of cycling trails, Ottawa was also the first city in Ontario to win the gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community award presented by Share the Road Cycling Coalition.
9. Historically speaking, it’s got it all
Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities may boast more than three-dozen museums, but you’ll have to travel across the entire country to visit them all. Nearly all of Canada’s national museums, however, are concentrated in Ottawa (only the Canadian Museum of Human Rights and Pier 21 are located elsewhere); to hit them all in a single trip, all you’ll need is time.
10. There’s always something going on
Edinburgh is so known for its festivals that it’s sometimes called Festival City. But with more than 100 every year—from the aforementioned beer and tulip fests to jazz, blues and dragon-boating festivals—Ottawa crushes the Scottish capital with its sheer variety.