The National Capital Region is an official designation comprising Canada's capital Ottawa, in Ontario, the neighbouring city of Gatineau, in Quebec, and surrounding urban and rural communities. It used to be called Ottawa/Hull and is now sometimes called Ottawa/Gatineau, effectively one city but on two sides of the Ottawa River and therefore of the Ontario/Quebec border in Canada.
It has two parts:
- the area around Ottawa in Eastern Ontario
- the area around Gatineau in the Outaouais region of Quebec
The two cities are on mostly flat land along the river. Many of the region's recreational areas — ski resorts, lakes, hiking or biking trails in summer and cross-country ski trails in winter — are in the Gatineau Hills on the Quebec side.
This is not a separately administered capital region like the US District of Columbia or the Australian Capital Territory. There has been some discussion of giving it that status, but it has not gone anywhere yet and seems unlikely to do so. The two parts are administered separately by their respective municipal and provincial governments.
Federal government buildings pay no municipal taxes, but the federally-funded National Capital Commission (NCC) maintains some of the roads, parks and buildings.
Most people will arrive via Ottawa but there is also a good highway (A50) to Montreal running along the Quebec side of the river. There is a bridge across the Ottawa between Hawkesbury and Grenville, so it is possible to switch between Quebec A 50 and Ontario 417 about halfway between Ottawa and Montreal.
The municipal bus systems of both Ottawa and Gatineau have a few bus routes which go into the other city. All the Gatineau buses that cross the river run along Rideau Street on the Ottawa side and can be caught near the Rideau Centre shopping mall.
For drivers, there are three bridges connecting the two cities downtown and a fourth bridge upriver to the west of downtown. Traffic on the bridges can be dreadful, especially at rush hours since many people live on one side of the river and work on the other.
Ottawa's parliamentary precinct is an architectural joy, full of grand late 19th- and early 20th-century building erected to present the face of a new and ambitious country.
As the capital, the region has many museums. Most are in Ottawa but the most popular, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada Agriculture Museum, and the Canada Aviation Museum.
The Canadian Museum of History is on the Quebec side opposite the Parliament buildings, while the Library and Archives Canada Gatineau Preservation Centre is to the northeast of downtown Gatineau.
The Diefenbunker - Canada's Cold War Museum is west of Ottawa in Carp in the government's Cold War-era bunker.
Ottawa is very much an outdoor activities city. There are walking and bike paths along the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River. In winter, the canal becomes and 8-km-long skating rink, and there are lots of trails for cross-country skiers.
Gatineau Park is the outdoor playground for the National Capital Region. It offers amazing possibilities for outdoor recreation, within a 20 minutes drive of either city. There's skiing (cross-country and downhill), hiking, canoeing, camping, rock-climbing, mountain biking, roller-blading, wildlife watching and lots of trails for leisurely strolls.