Ottawa is the capital of Canada. It stands on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario. Ottawa borders Gatineau, Quebec; the two form the cores of the Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) and the National Capital Region (NCR). The 2011 census reported a population of 883,391 within the city, and 1,236,324 within the CMA, making them the fourth-largest city and the fourth-largest CMA in Canada respectively. The City of Ottawa has since estimated it had a population of 943,260 in 2013.
Founded in 1826 as Bytown, and incorporated as "Ottawa" in 1855, the city has evolved into a political and technological centre of Canada. Its original boundaries were expanded through numerous minor annexations and were ultimately replaced by a new city incorporation and major amalgamation in 2001 which significantly increased its land area. The name "Ottawa" is derived from the Algonquin word Odawa, meaning "to trade".
Initially an Irish and French Christian settlement, Ottawa has become a multicultural city with a diverse population. The city is among the most educated in Canada, with several post-secondary, research, and cultural institutions. Ottawa has a high standard of living and low unemployment. It ranks 2nd out of 150 in the Numbeo quality of life index, 14th out of 221 in the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, and it contains a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ottawa is situated on the south bank of the Ottawa River and contains the mouths of the Rideau River and Rideau Canal. The older part of the city (including what remains of Bytown) is known as Lower Town, and occupies an area between the canal and the rivers. Across the canal to the west lies Centretown andDowntown Ottawa, which is the city's financial and commercial hub. As of 29 June 2007, the Rideau Canal, which stretches 202 km (126 mi) to Kingston, Fort Henry and four Martello towers in the Kingston area was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located on a major, yet mostly dormant fault line, Ottawa is occasionally struck by earthquakes. Examples include a magnitude 5.2 earthquake on 1 January 2000, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake on 24 February 2006, a magnitude 5.0 earthquake on 23 June 2010, and a magnitude 5.2 earthquake on 17 May 2013.
Ottawa sits at the confluence of three major rivers: the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the Rideau River. The Ottawa and Gatineau rivers were historically important in the logging and lumber industries and the Rideau as part of the Rideau Canal system for military, commercial and, subsequently, recreational purposes. The Rideau Canal (Rideau Waterway) first opened in 1832 and is 202 kilometers in length. It connects the Saint Lawrence River on Lake Ontario at Kingston, Ontario to the Ottawa River nearParliament Hill. It was able to bypass the unnavigable sections of the Cataraqui and Rideau Rivers and various small lakes along the waterway due to flooding techniques and the construction of 47 water transport locks.The Rideau River got its name from early French explorers who thought that the water falls located at the point where the Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River resembled a 'curtain'. Hence they began naming the falls and river 'rideau' which is the French equivalent of the English word for curtain. During part of the winter season the Ottawa section of the canal forms the world's largest skating rink thereby providing both a recreational venue and a 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi) transportation path to downtown for ice skaters (from Carleton University and Dow's Lake to the Rideau Centre and National Arts Centre).
Across the Ottawa River, which forms the border between Ontario and Quebec, lies the city of Gatineau, itself the result of amalgamation of the former Quebec cities of Hull and Aylmer together with Gatineau. Although formally and administratively separate cities in two separate provinces, Ottawa and Gatineau (along with a number of nearby municipalities) collectively constitute the National Capital Region, which is considered a single metropolitan area. One federal crown corporation, the National Capital Commission, or NCC, has significant land holdings in both cities, including sites of historical and touristic importance. The NCC, through its responsibility for planning and development of these lands, is an important contributor to both cities. Around the main urban area is an extensive greenbelt, administered by the National Capital Commission for conservation and leisure, and comprising mostly forest, farmland and marshland.
Amongst the city's national museums and galleries is the National Gallery of Canada; designed by famous architect Moshe Safdie, it is a permanent home to the Maman sculpture. The Canadian War Museum houses over 3.75 million artifacts and was moved to an expanded facility in 2005. The Canadian Museum of Nature was built in 1905, and underwent a major renovation between 2004 and 2010. Across the Ottawa river in Gatineau is the most visited museum in Canada, the Canadian Museum of History. Designed by Canadian aboriginal architect Douglas Cardinal, the complex, built at a cost of 340 million USD, also houses the Canadian Children's Museum, the Canadian Postal Museum and 3DIMAX theatre.
The city is also home to the Canada Agriculture Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, theCanada Science and Technology Museum, Billings Estate Museum, Bytown Museum, Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Canadian Ski Museum, Currency Museum, and the Portrait Gallery of Canada.
The Ottawa Little Theatre, originally called the Ottawa Drama League at its inception in 1913, is the longest-running community theatre company in Ottawa. Since 1969, Ottawa has been the home of the National Arts Centre, a major performing arts venue that houses four stages and is home to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and Opera Lyra Ottawa. Established in 1975, the Great Canadian Theatre Company specializes in the production of Canadian plays at a local level.
The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and in 2007, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, there are 24 other National Historic Sites of Canada in Ottawa, including: the Central Chambers, the Central Experimental Farm, the Château Laurier, Confederation Square, the former Ottawa Teachers' College, Langevin Block, Laurier House and the Parliament Buildings. Many other properties of cultural value have been designated as having "heritage elements" by the City of Ottawa under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.