• By: Allen Brown

Travel guide to Gatineau, Ottawa’s sister city

ABOVE: View of Parliament from across the river in Gatineau.

When it comes to travel in the capital region, Ottawa naturally tends to get all of the attention. However, just across the river lies a destination that is buzzing and jam-packed with architecture, history, cuisine, and culture. The city of Gatineau, with a population of 276,000, might be overlooked by tourists and Ottawans alike, but that doesn't mean that this fascinating destination should be ignored. A largely Francophone city, Gatineau has a long, proud, and fiercely individual history that makes it ideal for both a day trip and a week-long stay. Read on to find out what's good in Ville de Gatineau.

A Hub of Canadian History

If you're a history buff looking to learn all there is to know about the region and the country more generally, then you're in luck. Gatineau is home to the Canadian Museum of History, a sprawling cultural complex that holds the distinction of being the most visited museum in the country.

Here, you can embark on a whirlwind journey through Canada's long and fascinating history, from the first Aboriginal settlements right up to the present day. You can check out all of their latest exhibits, which are constantly changing, at historymuseum.ca.

In addition, culture vultures can explore the world's largest collection of totem poles at the Grand Hall, as well as Canada's most treasured texts and literature at the Gatineau Preservation Centre.

Festivals Galore

If there's one thing that Gatineau truly excels at, it's festivals. For party animals, the one that truly cannot be missed is the Fête Nationale du Québec, a celebration of Quebec's culture that begins on June 23 and typically carries on for weeks.

Expect street parties, fairs, city-organized barbeques, and up-all-night partying. More information about this iconic party is available at fetenationale.quebec. Other major festivals include the Wonders of Sand festival, one of the biggest sand sculpting competitions in North America, and the Festival d'Humour de Gatineau, a city-wide comedy festival that runs throughout July.

One of Canada's Largest Casino Resorts

While Gatineau might have a reputation for being a more quiet, low-key destination, it is also home to one of Canada's largest and most iconic nightlife hotspots. The government-run Casino du Lac-Leamy is one of Gatineau's most instantly recognizable structures and a place where both locals and out-of-towners go to let their hair down.

The casino houses slots and table games, as well as a 1100-seat theatre and several acclaimed restaurants and nightclubs. If you're wondering how your legal gambling options stack up in the region, casinomarket.com has all of the information you need on both land-based and online gambling in the states of Quebec and Ontario. The Lac-Leamy Casino is due to open in full on July 23.

A Thriving and Bold Dining Scene

Gatineau also has no shortage of exciting and experimental restaurants that are worth stopping by for dinner and drinks. Towering above them all is Le Baccara, a CAA-AAA Five Diamond-certified restaurant that is the place to see and be seen in the city.

The menu focuses strictly on experimental reimaginings of classic French dishes, such as bison tartare, quail egg tempura, and rock lobster tail. Other top contenders for dinner in Gatineau include leclandestin.ca, a craft beer haven with French lunchtime staples, and L'Aubergiste, a charming bistro set in a crumbling old house with a gorgeous patio and poutine to die for.

These are the essential stop-offs for anyone wishing to make the trip to the wonderful city of Gatineau.