One Day

If you're only here for a day, there's no time to waste! Get yourself to Parliament Hill for happy snaps with the Peace Tower and a quick tour of the lavish, Harry Potter-esque interior. Next, be seduced by the shimmering glass spires of the National Gallery of Canada, with its carefully curated collection of Canadian and world art and the restored remains of a lovely wooden chapel. Pause for lunch at the ByWard Market, where you'll uncover scores of vendors hawking farm-fresh produce around the maroon-brick market building, including several hundred local and international cheeses. Sample a fried dough beavertail and make tracks to the Rideau Canal: in winter it becomes one of the world's largest ice-skating rinks (7.8km long).

Three Days

Cover the major sights flanking the Ottawa Locks on the first day, then gravitate toward the awe-inducing architecture, city views and fascinating exhibits of the Canadian Museum of History. Ogle taxidermic megafauna at the Canadian Museum of Nature before heading for an inspired hike or swim in picturesque Gatineau Park. Head back to town in time for tea, which could mean cocktails and tacos at El Camino or plats du jour at Métropolitain Brasserie.

After a lazy brunch and morning stroll around Confederation Park, head to the quirky, Cold War marvel of the Diefenbunker and the pretty landscapes outside town. After another delicious dinner, round out your final day with a show at the National Arts Centre or rock out with some live music in the ByWard Market area's many venues.