Ottawa or Toronto Which one should you visit

Ottawa or Toronto: Which one should you visit?

Are you currently trying to figure out if Ottawa or Toronto is the better travel destination? Allow me to give you an unbiased look at the two cities so you can figure out which one will be better for you to visit.

If you want a cutting-edge modern metropolis, you should go and visit Toronto to experience its lively streets and nightlife. But if you desire something more calm and peaceful, then you will enjoy Ottawa’s relaxing roads and charming history.

Ontario’s two heavy hitters feature completely different and unique experiences. Both of the cities have traits that can be attractive to different groups of people. 

Now, let’s take an in-depth look and compare the two. 

Visiting Costs

When it comes to visiting costs, Ottawa’s transportation, accommodation, and food are cheaper than Toronto’s by 22.22%, 15.35%, and 12.06%, respectively.

Overall, you will have 16.54% fewer expenditures if you choose to visit Ottawa over Toronto.

Check out the table below that contains data from LivingCost.org and BudgetYourTrip.com to get a closer look at the expenses attributed to accommodation, transportation, attractions, and restaurants in Toronto and Ottawa.

ExpensesToronto CostOttawa Cost
Accommodation
Hotel or hostel for one person$86$18
Typical double-occupancy room$172$36
Hotel (3 days)$448$367
Hotel (1 week)$1,046$856
Hotel (2 weeks)$2,091$1,712
Transportation
One-way Ticket$2.44$2.79
Monthly Pass$116.00$93.90
Taxi$15$16.00
Food
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant$14.90$14.30
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course$65.80$56.10
McMeal at Mcdonald's (or Equivalent Combo Meal)$9.29$8.45
Beer at a Pub$2.35$2.31
Coca-Cola / Pepsi, 2 L or 67.6 fl oz$2.08$1.87

Based on the table alone, there’s a pretty big difference in spending between Ottawa and Toronto. With Canada’s capital being a smaller city, it has an overall lower cost compared to the much bigger Toronto.

For this reason, Ottawa is the better choice for tourists who want to save money on their travels.

Safety & Security

Safety & Security

Ottawa is safer than Toronto by 43.44%. According to Statcan, Ottawa has a low overall crime rate of 25.96, while Toronto has a moderate overall crime rate of 45.9.

When looking at the statistics, Toronto has had more criminal code violations, criminal incidents, and total persons charged compared to Ottawa from 2017 to 2021.

The city of Ottawa is objectively a more secure place, with both property and violent crimes happening less often here. On the other hand, these occurrences are a lot more common in Toronto.

CrimeOttawaToronto
Crime rate25.9645.90
Property crimes35.0548.05
Violent crimes26.9343.99

As a result, Ottawans are less worried about being victims of crime, whether they are going alone or with a group during the day or at night. This is a good sign for tourists, too, since the streets are pretty safe to explore. 

Although there is more crime in Toronto, it’s good to know that you are less likely to be victims of hate crimes due to race, religion, or gender.

Now that we’ve talked about the safety of the two cities, let’s talk about their attractions. 

Attractions in Ottawa and Toronto

Attractions in Ottawa and Toronto

The two cities have gorgeous attractions that you must visit to truly experience the best of what they have to offer. 

Ottawa places more emphasis on its culture and history, as shown in its architecture and arts. Toronto, on the other hand, is more modern, featuring attractions that highlight its metropolitan and multicultural nature. 

Check out some of their most well-known landmarks. 

Exploring Ottawa

Ottawa is well known for its culture, which is deeply rooted in the arts and history. These locations perfectly show off the beauty of the city. 

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

Location: Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A9, Canada
Operating hours:

  • Monday-Thursday: 8:30 AM–6 PM
  • Friday: 8:30 AM–5 PM
  • Saturday-Sunday: Closed

Parliament Hill is the political and symbolic heart of Ottawa. It’s the seat of the Canadian government and a well-known landmark.

Its most famous buildings have beautiful Gothic Revival architecture, and the Peace Tower stands tall in the middle of the city. This structure is a national symbol, and it has carvings, gargoyles, and a clock that rings every 15 minutes.

If you go to Parliament Hill, you can walk around the grounds and go on guided tours of the buildings to learn about how Canada’s government works. This will also teach you about the place’s history and culture.

It also lets you see the beautiful rooms inside, like the Senate Chamber, the House of Commons, and the old library.

Parliament Hill has more than just buildings. It also has beautiful gardens, statues, and monuments. 

The Centennial Flame, which is in front of the building, is a representation of the Canadian provinces and territories.

The surrounding grounds provide a beautiful setting for events and ceremonies all year round. One of these is the ceremony to change the guards in the summer.

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

Location: Ottawa, ON, Canada
Operating hours (Subject to change): 

  • Monday-Thursday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Friday-Sunday: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

Admission fee (Boat tours): 

  • Adult: $39.50 + Tax & Services Fees
  • Children (2-11 years old): $27.50 + Tax & Services Fees
  • Infants (0-2 years old): Free

The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is known for its beautiful scenery. It’s also a waterway that you and other tourists can use for recreation and as a transportation route.

During the summer, you can take boat tours and cruises along the canal. This allows you to see beautiful scenery, charming lock stations, and quaint villages.

It’s a calm, peaceful place to go boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, or fishing.

During the winter, the Rideau Canal freezes over and becomes the largest skating rink in the world.

As the weather gets colder, the waterway is carefully cleaned, flooded, and smoothed to make a smooth ice surface. Thousands of locals and tourists like to walk on and go ice skating here, and it provides them with a great chance to socialize.

During the winter, you can also buy and eat beavertails, a popular Canadian dessert, from food vendors along the canal.

National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada

Location: 380 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4, Canada
Operating hours:

  • Monday-Friday (except Thursdays): 10 AM–5 PM
  • Thursday: 10 AM–8 PM

Admission fee: 

  • First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples: Free
  • Members: Free
  • Adults: $20
  • Adults 65+ (Proof of age required): $18
  • 24 and under / Students (Proof of age or ID required): $10
  • Families (2 adults & 3 youths age 17 and under): $40
  • Children (Age 11 and under): Free

The National Gallery of Canada is one of Ottawa’s well-renowned art museums. It has a large collection of art that shows a wide range of art styles and times from all over the world, including Canada.

The museum is known for its beautiful architecture, which was designed by Moshe Safdie and opened in 1988. The building’s glass front and impressive granite structure make it a modern and welcoming place for you to explore.

Inside the National Gallery of Canada is a huge collection of works of art from many different times and places. 

It has European and American paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and contemporary installations, as well as art from Canada and the United States.

The gallery is known for its collection of Canadian art, which includes works by well-known artists like the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, and Jean-Paul Riopelle.

When you go to the museum, you can dive into the world of art by walking through the different exhibition spaces. Along with the permanent collection, it often has rotating displays and temporary exhibitions.

There are also special events, lectures, and educational programs for people of all ages to enjoy at the facility.

Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History

Location: 100 Laurier Street, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
Operating hours (Subject to change): 

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday and Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Thursday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Friday to Sunday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission fee: 

  • Adult: $21
  • Senior: $19
  • Student (ID required): $16
  • Child (2-12): $14
  • Family (6 persons – maximum 2 adults): $53
  • Members: Free

The Canadian Museum of History is one of the best national museums in Canada. Its goal is to show off and protect the country and its people’s rich history, cultural heritage, and achievements.

The building’s architecture is one of its most striking features, with a grand design that looks like a huge crystalline structure. The building overlooks the Ottawa River and has stunning views of Parliament Hill and the rest of Ottawa.

Inside, you can look at a wide range of displays that cover Canadian history from the past to the present.

One of the best parts of the museum is the Grand Hall. Here, you can find towering totem poles, a large Pacific Coast indigenous canoe, and other impressive artifacts that have been preserved.

Also, there is the First Peoples Hall, which is all about the different cultures, histories, and modern lives of Canada’s Indigenous people.

There is also a part of the Canadian Museum of History that is just for kids. This place is called the Canadian Children’s Museum, and it has hands-on exhibits and activities for younger visitors that are meant to keep them interested and make learning fun.

In addition to its permanent displays, the facility often has temporary displays, special events, lectures, and performances that add to the experience of visitors and help them learn more about Canadian history and culture.

Gatineau Park 

Gatineau Park

Location: 33 Chem. Scott, Chelsea, QC J9B 1R5, Canada
Operating hours: Open 24/7 (except during severe weather)
Admission fee: Free

Gatineau Park is the second most visited park in Canada. It’s a 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) drive north of downtown Ottawa.

This place is known for its beautiful scenery, which includes lush forests, clear lakes, and rolling hills. It’s a popular place for people who like being outside nature and want to get away from the city.

Gatineau Park is a place where you can do many different things all year long. During the summer, it has different hiking trails that suit all levels of skill, allowing you to learn about different ecosystems and find amazing views.

There are also picnic areas, campsites, and beaches where you can relax and enjoy the natural surroundings.

In the fall, it turns into a vibrant display of colorful leaves, which brings people from all over the world to see the gorgeous fall scenery. This season is a great time to go hiking, biking, or on a scenic drive to see the beauty of the changing leaves.

During the winter, the park turns into a frozen landscape. It has more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating on icy lakes.

The famous Rideau Canal Skateway goes through the park and gives skaters a unique way to enjoy ice skating.

Exploring Toronto

When in Toronto, you can expect to find attractions that highlight the city’s diversity, vibrant energy, and multicultural identity. Here’s what you can expect from its attractions. 

CN Tower

CN Tower

Location: 290 Bremner Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3L9, Canada
Operating hours: Monday-Friday: 9 AM–9:30 PM
Admission fee:

  • Adult (14 – 64): $43.00
  • Senior (65+): $30.00
  • Youth (6 – 13): $30.00
  • Child (3 – 5):  $14.00

The CN Tower is a well-known landmark and one of the most iconic symbols of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

For 30 years, it has been one of the tallest freestanding structures in the world, standing at a height of 553.33 meters (1,815 feet) It offers a wide view of Toronto that you can admire and take pictures of.

The design of the tower is unique, with a thin concrete structure and a metal broadcasting antenna on top. From its observation decks, it has unmatched views of the city and its surroundings.

When you go to the CN Tower, you can take fast elevators to different observation decks at varying heights.

The main observation deck called the LookOut Level has amazing views of Lake Ontario and the city of Toronto. On clear days, you can even see parts of nearby cities from there.

With glass floor panels, you can feel what it’s like to be more than 342 meters (1,122 feet) above the ground.

The CN Tower has the EdgeWalk if you want an even more thrilling experience. This is a thrilling outdoor activity in which you are harnessed and led on a hands-free walk around the main pod of the tower on a 1.5-meter ledge.

This place also has some places to eat, including the 360 Restaurant, which spins around while you dine. You can enjoy your meal while watching the city below change in front of you.

The CN Tower is more than just a place to look out at the city and eat. It’s also a major communications hub that houses equipment for sending TV and radio signals.

Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum

Location: 100 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C6, Canada
Operating hours:

  • Tuesday-Sunday: 10 AM–5:30 PM
  • Monday: Closed

Admission fee: 

  • Adult: $26.00
  • Child (ages 4-14): $16.00
  • Senior (rages 65+): $21.00
  • Student (with valid student card): $20.00
  • Youth (ages 15-19): $20.00

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is a famous place where you can learn about art, culture, and natural history.

The facility is one of the largest and most diverse places in North America. It has been around for more than a hundred years. 

It has an interesting mix of old and new architecture, with both classical revival and modern styles.

More than six million artifacts from fields like archaeology, paleontology, ethnology, and fine arts are on display in the museum.

From huge dinosaur bones to mummies that came from ancient Egypt, the exhibits take you on a fascinating journey through time and across cultures.

In the galleries of the ROM, you can get into the experience through interactive displays, multimedia installations, and hands-on activities.

Besides its permanent displays, the museum has temporary shows that cover a wide range of topics, such as world cultures, biodiversity, and modern art.

It also has educational programs, lectures, and special events for people who want to learn about the subject and are interested in it.

With its commitment to research, preservation, and public engagement, the Royal Ontario Museum continues to inspire and educate visitors by showing the wonders of the past and present and shaping our understanding of the world we live in.

Distillery District

Distillery District

Location: St Lawrence-East Bayfront-The Islands, ON, Canada
Operating hours: Monday-Sunday: 10 AM–7 PM

In Toronto, the Distillery District is a fascinating mix of history, culture, and art. This neighborhood is a good example of the city’s industrial past.

The area used to be home to one of the biggest whiskey distilleries in the world, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. Today, it has many shops, galleries, restaurants, and entertainment venues in beautiful brick buildings from the Victorian era.

As you walk along the cobblestone streets, you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time because the buildings are so grand.

The Distillery District is a center for artistic expression, with many art galleries, studios, and theaters where local artists and performers can show off their work.

Throughout the year, the area also has festivals, outdoor markets, and cultural events that make it feel lively and full of life.

In addition to its cultural attractions, the Distillery District is a great place for food lovers. There is a wide range of places to eat, from cozy cafes to fancy restaurants, so everyone can find something they like.

The Distillery District is a fascinating mix of old-world charm and modern appeal. It’s a great place to go shopping, learn about history, or just take a walk around.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada 

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

Location: 288 Bremner Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3L9, Canada
Operating hours: Monday-Sunday: 9 AM–11 PM
Admission fee: 

Timed tickets:

  • Adult (14+): $44
  • Youth (6–13): $29  
  • Child (3–5): $12.50
  • Senior (65+): $29

Annual Passes:

  • Adult (14+): $100
  • Youth (6–13): $75  
  • Child (3–5): $30  
  • Senior (65+): $75

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is a beautiful underwater world right in the middle of downtown Toronto. It invites you to go deep into the oceans of the world.

Spanning 135,000 square feet, this state-of-the-art facility is home to a diverse array of marine life from around the globe. With more than 20,000 animals from 450 species, the aquarium is a fascinating place for people of all ages.

Upon walking into the aquarium, you will see a mesmerizing underwater tunnel where sharks, rays, and other beautiful sea creatures swim above and around them.

In the aquarium’s many exhibits, you can see colorful coral reefs and fascinating sea creatures. There are also interactive touch tanks where you can get up close and personal with the marine life.

Throughout the day, educational talks and feeding sessions teach you about the different species’ routines and where they live. Every exhibit is different and amazing, from the playful penguins to the graceful jellyfish.

Ripley’s Aquarium has special activities for people who like to try new things, like diving with sharks or sleeping overnight under the ocean displays.

With these hands-on experiences, you can learn more about the marine world and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is dedicated to conservation and education, so it serves to entertain and help us understand how important marine ecosystems are.

The facility is a great way to have fun, learn, and get a better understanding of how beautiful and different our oceans are.

Art Gallery of Ontario

Art Gallery of Ontario

Location: 317 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 1G4, Canada
Operating hours: 

  • Monday-Friday (except Thursdays): 10:30 AM–9 PM
  • Thursday: 10:30 AM–5 PM
  • Saturday-Sunday: 10:30 AM–5:30 PM

Admission fee: 

  • Adult (26+): $30
  • Visitors 25 and under: Free

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the best places to learn about art and culture in downtown Toronto.

The well-known architect Frank Gehry designed the AGO’s building, which makes its impressive collection even more interesting.

The gallery has more than 95,000 pieces of art from ancient times to the present day. They come from many different styles, mediums, and cultures from around the world.

You can walk through its huge halls, which are full of works by famous artists like Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso.

The AGO also has a big collection of Canadian art that shows off the country’s artistic achievements and cultural history.

In addition to its permanent collection, the AGO has changing exhibits that cover a wide range of topics and introduce you to new artists and ways of making art.

The interactive displays, guided tours, workshops, and lectures really convey that the founders of the facility want their visitors to learn and love art. You can learn more about the medium and how to appreciate it better by doing these things.

The AGO aims to be open and diverse, so it has programs and initiatives that bring people from different backgrounds together and encourage creativity.

The gallery also has many places to eat and a well-stocked gift shop with unique items inspired by art.

The Ottawa and Toronto Food Scene

The Ottawa and Toronto Food Scene

Ottawa and Toronto, two vibrant Canadian cities, both boast diverse and thriving food scenes that showcase a wide range of culinary delights. 

While each city has its own unique culinary identity, they share a commitment to quality ingredients, innovation, and multicultural influences. Here’s an overview of the cuisines that the cities offer. 

Ottawa’s Cuisine

Ottawa’s food scene is characterized by its blend of traditional Canadian fare, international cuisines, and a focus on farm-to-table dining. 

The city’s proximity to local farms and agricultural regions contributes to a strong emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

In Ottawa, you can find numerous farm-to-table restaurants, where chefs prioritize using seasonal produce, artisanal meats, and sustainable seafood. 

The ByWard Market, one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets, is a culinary hub offering a vast array of fresh produce, baked goods, cheese, and local specialties.

The city also has a burgeoning craft beer and microbrewery scene, with several breweries offering tours and tastings. 

Additionally, Ottawa hosts various food festivals throughout the year, including the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival and Poutinefest, where visitors can indulge in unique food experiences.

Toronto’s Cuisine 

Toronto’s food scene is renowned for its diversity, reflecting the city’s multicultural population. 

You can find virtually any cuisine imaginable in Toronto, from authentic Chinese dim sum and spicy Indian curries to Middle Eastern shawarma and Italian pasta.

The city is home to several ethnic neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, Koreatown, and Little Italy, where you can explore a rich tapestry of flavors and culinary traditions. 

Kensington Market, a bohemian neighborhood, is another hotspot for food enthusiasts, offering a mix of international street food, specialty shops, and vibrant food markets.

Toronto is also known for its thriving fine dining scene, with a plethora of upscale restaurants helmed by talented chefs who push the boundaries of culinary creativity. 

The city embraces farm-to-table concepts, with many restaurants featuring locally sourced ingredients and highlighting seasonal flavors.

Moreover, Toronto hosts numerous food festivals, including Taste of Toronto, Winterlicious, and the Toronto Food Truck Festival, providing opportunities to savor an assortment of cuisines and culinary experiences.

Overall, both Ottawa and Toronto offer exciting food scenes that cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences. 

Whether you’re seeking traditional Canadian dishes, international flavors, or innovative culinary creations, these cities have something to satisfy every palate.

Shopping in Toronto vs Ottawa

Shopping in Toronto vs Ottawa

Both Ottawa and Toronto offer great options for shoppers, but Toronto’s shopping scene is generally larger in scale, offering a wider variety of stores and brands. 

Meanwhile, Ottawa provides a more intimate and localized shopping experience, with an emphasis on local and independent businesses.

Shopping in Toronto

As Canada’s largest city, Toronto boasts a vibrant and diverse shopping scene. It’s home to numerous shopping districts, including the bustling Yonge Street, the upscale Bloor-Yorkville, and the eclectic Queen Street West. 

Toronto offers a mix of high-end luxury boutiques, flagship stores of international brands, and trendy independent shops. If you love branded items, you will have a great time here. 

Shopping malls like the Eaton Centre provide a one-stop destination with a vast selection of retailers, while street markets like Kensington Market offer a bohemian and artistic atmosphere.

Shopping in Ottawa

In contrast, Ottawa’s shopping scene is more focused and concentrated. The ByWard Market stands as a central hub for shopping, featuring a blend of local vendors, artisanal shops, and specialty boutiques. 

It offers a unique shopping experience with its lively outdoor market atmosphere, where visitors can find fresh produce, unique crafts, and local artwork. 

Ottawa also houses shopping centers such as the Rideau Centre, which houses a mix of popular retail brands.

Nightlife in Toronto vs. Ottawa

Nightlife in Toronto vs. Ottawa

Toronto’s nightlife leans more on the expansive and dynamic side and features larger-scale events and international DJ appearances. 

Meanwhile, Ottawa offers a more relaxed and approachable atmosphere with its smaller-scale shows and local talent. 

Toronto’s Nightlife

As Canada’s largest city, Toronto boasts a thriving and diverse nightlife scene. The city is renowned for its multitude of bars, clubs, and live music venues spread across various neighborhoods. 

From the bustling entertainment district to the trendy Queen Street West, Toronto offers a wide range of options for partygoers. You can find establishments with various music genres and styles that can cater to your tastes. 

The city’s nightlife is known for its energy, with a bustling crowd, a lively atmosphere, and a constant stream of events and concerts happening throughout the year.

Ottawa’s Nightlife

Ottawa, as Canada’s capital, presents a more laid-back and intimate nightlife experience. The city offers a variety of cozy pubs, lounges, and wine bars where locals and visitors can unwind and socialize. 

The ByWard Market area is a popular destination, featuring a mix of bars, restaurants, and clubs, where live music and DJ sets create a vibrant ambiance. 

Ottawa’s nightlife scene is known for its friendly and welcoming atmosphere, making it easier to strike up conversations and meet new people.