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Things to do in Ottawa

Things to do in  Ottawa

Welcome to Ottawa

The Canadian city of Ottawa sits on the southern shores of the Ottawa River, on the border between the provinces of Ontario and Québec. Located 123 miles (198 kilometers) to the west of Montreal, Ottawa is home to the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Rideau Canal, one of North America’s oldest canal systems. Diverse galleries and museums offer insight into Canada’s rich culture and colorful history, while the plentiful riverside parks and green spaces showcase the changing seasons to the full. Visitors keen to take in the city sights can enjoy walking and cycling tours to top attractions such as Byward Market (Ottawa's oldest public market), the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum, Notre Dame Basilica, and Rideau Hall; or explore by hop-on hop-off buses and sightseeing cruises. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Ottawa is also a great base from which to explore the Canadian countryside. Nature lovers can delve into Algonquin Park to spot native bears, beavers, eagles, and moose in their natural habitat, while thrill-seekers take on the Ottawa River’s swirling class III and IV rapids on adrenaline-pumping white-water rafting adventures. For something a little more sedate, horse-riding treks take visitors deep into the beautiful Ottawa Valley, where life ticks by at an altogether more relaxing pace.

Top 10 attractions in Ottawa


Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal is a signature Ottawa landmark, dividing the city’s downtown into eastern and western segments. Opened in 1832, it’s the oldest still operational canal system in North America. In winter, the 8 km (5-mile) stretch of canal running through the center of Ottawa transforms into the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s longest skating rink. In summer, joggers, sightseers and cyclers promenade along the canal’s banks. One of the best ways to experience life on the canal is aboard a scenic canal cruise.More

Ottawa Parliament Hill

Canada’s political heart focuses on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, crowned with a flurry of grand government buildings. The most impressive building is the Gothic-style Centre Block, the main Parliamentary Building, with its soaring central Peace Tower and gabled copper-topped roofline. The building is flanked by the matching East and West Blocks. Centre Block houses the Senate and Commons chambers, where public galleries are provided for visitors wishing to watch the parliamentary proceedings. It’s well worth taking one of the free daily tours to admire the interior of Centre Block and its hand-carved stonework. Listen out for the 53-bell carillon concerts ringing out from the Peace Tower, or climb the stairs for views of Ottawa from the tower’s observation deck.More

Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum tells the story of Canada’s past conflicts, how the country and its people were affected, and remembers the sacrifices made by those that served the country in wartimes. Among an ever-changing display of new exhibitions and themes, there are several permanent exhibitions. The Legion Hall of Honour, for example, commemorates the past through personal stories, photographs and artifacts and explores common burial practices throughout history. The Military Technology Collection on the other hand is more scientific and documents the technological progress through both personal stories and a collection of different artillery and vehicles, such as fighter jets. Four Canadian Experience Galleries called “Wars on our Soil, For Crown and Country, Forged in Fire and A Violent Peace” delve into separate conflicts and battles.More

Ottawa Locks

The Ottawa Locks 1 to 8 regulate the flow of the city’s signature Rideau Canal as it flows south from the Ottawa River. The hand-cranked locks provide a gradient of 24 meters (79 feet) on the canal, which runs for more than 200 km (124 miles) from Ottawa to Kingston, a stunning example of 19th-century ingenuity and engineering.More

ByWard Market

Canada’s oldest market, operating since 1826, the ByWard Market is one of the most entertaining attractions in Ottawa. Come here year-round, rain or shine to get a taste for Ottawa’s food culture and lively city ambiance. There are more than 260 fresh produce, arts and crafts stands to browse, and 500 businesses operating within the market. Choose from 88 restaurants, two dozen nightlife venues, and scores of shops and boutiques. You’ll also find the National Gallery of Canada nearby.More

National Gallery of Canada (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada)

Canada’s premier art collection is housed in the National Gallery of Canada, a strikingly modern building of glass and pink granite overlooking the Ottawa River. The collection focuses on Canadian and European works, both classical and contemporary. The chronological display of art in the Canadian galleries is especially illuminating, providing a cultural overview of Canada’s history in paintings. You’ll also find photography exhibits, Asian collections and the art of indigenous and Aboriginal Canadians in the Inuit Gallery. The gallery also prides itself on the quality and energy of its ongoing contemporary collection.More

Royal Canadian Mint

Housed in a castle-like structure, Canada’s original mint no longer produces currency for circulation—that now happens at Winnipeg’s Royal Canadian Mint. However the Ottawa facility is still functioning, churning out special-edition collector coins and precious metal bullion. Tours of the facility reveal the processes of coin-making.More

Canadian Museum of Nature

Explore the Great White North’s many wonders at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Set in a historic castle in Ottawa, this five-story museum focuses on the country’s natural history with a fossil gallery, a water gallery (where you can see a blue whale skeleton), mineral displays, and an array of other exhibits.More

Canadian Museum of History

The grand-sounding Canadian Museum of Civilization takes an up-close look at Canada’s history and culture with an entertaining and educational array of exhibits. There’s a topic to intrigue every interest. Special exhibitions examine everything from the role of the horse in civilization to the history of Canada’s fur trade. The museum’s permanent displays explore Canada’s natural world, social history and First Peoples, drawing on the collection’s 3.75 million artifacts. The Children’s Museum is specially designed to spark the imaginations of little ones, and the on-site IMAX cinema entertains all ages with big-screen movies.More

Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall is the residence of the Governor General of Canada, and because of the country’s status as a member of the Commonwealth, is also where the monarch stays when visiting Ottawa. Rideau Hall was built in 1838 by the lumber baron Thomas MacKay and eventually became the official residence for the Canadian head of state in 1867. Most of the 175 rooms in the federal heritage building are used for state business, formal ceremonies and functions, with only a small space being dedicated to living quarters. The grounds are just as historical as the stately mansion and represent Canada’s character and cultural diversity to the core. During the summer months the hourly changing of guard ceremony can be observed at the main gate. A characteristically colorful totem pole with a thunderbird gracing the top and a fisherman holding a salmon stands in the garden as a gift from the Kwakwaka´wakw people in the Pacific Northwest.More

Recent reviews from experiences in Ottawa

Best day!!
Guy_D, Aug 2020
Best of Ottawa Neighbourhoods & Nature Bike Tour
Great way to see parts of Ottawa and fun was had by all!
Amazing tour of Ottawa/Quebec
Kelsey_B, Aug 2020
Self-Guided Biking in Ottawa-Gatineau
Got engaged, got to see some of ottawas attractions
Great 👍 great experience
Adounis_Hamade, Jul 2020
Rideau Canal Cruise
The trip itself was over than what I expected to see I advise every tourist to Ottawa to enjoy a new experience with fun and relaxation
Great Experience
sheenamair453, Oct 2019
Rideau Canal Cruise
Such a beautiful place to visit.
reens2018, Aug 2019
Ottawa River Tour
I highly recommend this relaxing tour for an opportunity to see Ottawa's tourist spots in an hour or so!
Best way to see the city
Deb R, Jul 2018
Ottawa Highlights 3.5 Hour Bike Tour
What a beautiful city Ottawa is & this is the best way to see it.
The Bike Tour was nothing short of...
Nicholas K, May 2017
Ottawa Spring Tulip Festival Bike Tour
It's the perfect way to see Ottawa, and I'd recommend everyone visiting the city for the first time do it.
We had an awesome bike tour with our...
Diane P, May 2017
Ottawa Spring Tulip Festival Bike Tour
We cycled alongside The Rideau canal and stopped to see many historical buildings and beautiful parks, the tulips were so worth seeing.
Excellent way to see Ottawa...
Sue V, Jul 2016
Ottawa Highlights 3.5 Hour Bike Tour
Excellent way to see Ottawa!
Great experience on the canal
Farah_E, Aug 2020
Ottawa River Tour
My boyfriend has never visited Ottawa so it was a great way to see the city.
Ottawa afternoon
bgr0en, Jul 2019
Ultimate Ottawa Tour
He also helped us decide what to do with the rest of our time in Ottawa - great tour!

Frequently Asked Questions

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