Dating back to the 1840s, Ottawa Notre Dame Basilica (Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame) is the oldest church in Canada’s capital. The Gothic Revival structure is full of eye-catching design details, from its two shimmering, silver tin-covered steeples to the interior’s soaring vaults and star-studded blue ceiling.
Many visitors get a glimpse of Ottawa’s Notre Dame Basilica during sightseeing tours of the city, whether on foot, by bus, or even by amphibious vehicles that travel on both dry land and water. You can tour the cathedral independently year-round. Guided tours, lasting 45 to 60 minutes, are available from mid-May to mid-October, and must be booked in advance. You can also attend a mass in the cathedral; English- and French-language services are hosted here.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Ottawa Notre Dame Basilica is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in religious art or architecture.
- The basilica is an active Roman Catholic church. Be quiet and respectful of worshippers engaging in prayer or reflection.
- Concerts are occasionally staged at the cathedral; check ahead to see if any are taking place during your stay in Ottawa.
- The basilica is accessible to wheelchair users and strollers.
How to Get There
Notre Dame Basilica is located on Sussex Drive, just opposite the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Walk here from Parliament Hill in under 15 minutes, or from ByWard Market in around five minutes. Alternatively, ride the 1 or 9 bus to Dalhousie Street, which is just two blocks from the cathedral.
When to Get There
The best time to visit the church is outside of mass times, as you may not explore while services are taking place. From May through October, consider coming for opening (9am) or in the afternoon (1pm to 3pm) Tuesday to Saturday, to avoid clashing with services. From November through April, opening hours are more restrictive; try coming around 10am Tuesday through Friday or 2pm on Saturdays.
The Basilica’s Treasures
The Ottawa cathedral is loaded with architectural and decorative adornments, including ribbed vaults and stained glass windows. Among the standout features are the the intricately carved sculptures of apostles, saints, and prophets visible in the sanctuary’s niches, as well as the carved wooden altars, which are interspersed with gold leaf and gems. Liturgical objects, including precious stone-embedded chalices and gold cloth vestments, are also on display in the basilica.