Why Is Ottawa The Capital Of Canada?

Why Is Ottawa The Capital Of Canada?
Why Is Ottawa The Capital Of Canada?







Canada is a beautiful country that a lot of people fall in love with, and it’s full of interesting places and creativity – but do you know what its capital city is? A lot of people don’t!

Canada’s capital city is Ottawa, and this name comes from the Algonquin word for “trade.” It’s found on the Ottawa River and the Rideau River, and it’s the fourth-largest city in all of Canada. It has excellent rates of education, with many universities and colleges, and welcomes over 11 million visitors each year.

If you plan to be one of those visitors, or if you just want to learn more about this city, you aren’t alone – so let’s find out about Ottawa!

Where Is The Capital Of Canada Located?

Where Is The Capital Of Canada Located?
Where Is The Capital Of Canada Located?

The capital of Canada is found on the Ottawa River and the Rideau River, in the province of Ontario. It is located far in the southeast of Canada, very close to the border with the United States, and it’s home to most of Canada’s key buildings, including the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Supreme Court.

It might seem strange to have the capital so far from the center of the country, but bear in mind that for trade with America and Europe, Ottawa is well positioned. We’ll cover more about why the capital city is located where it is later in this article.

Brief History Of Ottawa

Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada at Sunset
Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada at Sunset

Ottawa was originally known as Bytown, and it was established in 1826. Its name wasn’t changed to Ottawa until 1855. Before it was colonized, the site was home to the Algonquin people, who are thought to have hunted, fished, foraged, and traded with other tribes. Its proximity to the rivers means that the site has been important for centuries.

The area was colonized around 1800, by a man named Philemon Wright, who founded a town to process lumber on the north of the Ottawa River. This was named Wrightsville, and it sent timber along the river to Quebec City.

Further settlements followed in the 1820s, and Bytown grew in significance after the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832. In 1855, the town was incorporated into a city, and was rechristened as Ottawa.

Its selection as the capital came before the Confederation of Canada, although there was great contention around its selection, and many more significant towns vied for the title. The capital position had previously been held by Kingston, and in 1844, Queen Victoria accepted a Parliamentary vote to make the capital Montreal.

In 1849, violence in Montreal led to another vote, and both Kingston and Ottawa (then Bytown) were given shared status, with legislature alternating between the two cities. This was not a popular arrangement. The Queen eventually selected Ottawa in 1857, on advice from governor general Edmund Head.

Attempts to reverse this decision failed, and Parliament ratified the choice in 1859 (though Quebec City served as the capital until 1865). 

When Did Ottawa Become The Capital Of Canada?

Chateau Laurier ottawa river canada
Chateau Laurier ottawa river canada

Ottawa finally became the capital city of Canada in 1859, by an official parliamentary vote. The first session was held there in 1866, when the construction of Parliament Hill was complete and the city was ready for the officials.

Why Is Ottawa The Capital Of Canada?

Ottawa seems an odd choice for capital, but it holds some advantages. It is in a highly defensible position, with a cliff face and dense forest guarding its borders. Given the difficulties with the US that had occurred just 45 years earlier, this position was seen as key, and the American press acknowledged just how defensible the position was shortly after the decision was made.

It’s also a halfway point between Toronto and Kingston, and Montreal and Quebec City. All of these were fierce contenders for the title, so Ottawa made a logical compromise.

There were other minor advantages, including a railway, river transport, and government land ownership. Ottawa’s small size may also have been an attraction, because it decreased the risk of violence arising as a result of the decision, as had happened in some of the other large cities.

Many people were unhappy with the selection of Ottawa as the capital and claimed that it was chosen almost at random, but it’s clear that Queen Victoria selected the site with care, balancing a lot of political and non-political considerations.

Best Places To Visit In Ottawa

There are many fantastic things to do in Ottawa, so if you’re visiting, be prepared to fill your itinerary. The Rideau Canal is a must-see for history buffs, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, connecting Ottawa with the former capital Kingston. It was built between 1826 and 1832, and when it freezes, it makes a fabulous skating rink, attracting millions of people each year.

The Notre Dame Basilica is also well worth a visit, offering you an opportunity to view some truly breathtaking architecture. It is the oldest church in Ottawa, and boasts two steeples, with a blue ceiling that is studded with romantic stars. Whether you are interested in the history of the church or simply in love with beautiful buildings, add this to your list of places to see.

The Bywater Market is also great to see if you want to get a better taste of Canadian culture. It’s one of the busiest markets in Canada, and offers fantastic Canadian food to eat, surrounded by Canadian scenery.

The Canadian Aviation and Space Museum is also worth checking out, especially if you’re interested in flight. It will take you through all you need to know about Canada’s avian history, and it’s located on a former military air base. You’ll learn lots about both military and civilian planes, and how Canada helped to shape the history of flight.


Ottawa is a fascinating city that has been the capital of Canada since 1859. There was a lot of contention surrounding which city would be the capital of Canada, which only makes Ottawa a more fascinating place, especially as there were stronger contenders at the time. If you have an opportunity to visit this amazing city, you should take it!

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!