Best Places to Visit in Ottawa
Ottawa grew up between 1820 and 1840 from a construction site where the Rideau Canal diverged from the Ottawa River. British Colonel John Bye (1779-1836) was in charge of the canal works, and the town was known as “Bye City” until it was renamed Ottawa in 1854.
The Parliament Building, built in 1865 on the Ottawa River, was where the first Canadian Parliament met after the establishment of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. Along with all the attractions of Gatineau, the province of Quebec, Ottawa, across the Ottawa River, has developed a rich cultural life. Universities and a number of research institutes contribute to this, as do internationally renowned institutions such as the National Gallery and the National Arts Centre, a venue for opera and concerts.
The Rideau Canal separates central Ottawa, the area to the north is called Lower Town, and the area to the south is called Upper Town. Down Town is where you’ll find the National Gallery of Canada, Notre Dame Cathedral and the lively Byward Market. Stylish Uptown stretches below Parliament Hill and includes the striking Bank of Canada building, designed by architect Arthur Erickson, with plants and fountains in its atrium.
Busy streets include Wellington Street, Kent Street, O’Connor Street, Metcalfe Street and the Sparks Street pedestrian zone. An array of top department stores and smart boutiques make it a shopping destination in Ottawa.
Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in Ottawa and make your trip enjoyable.
Top 10 Best Places to Visit in Ottawa
Here are the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Ottawa:
1. Parliament Hill
The Houses of Parliament have stunning vistas of Victorian Gothic sandstone and are spectacular on the 50-meter-high Colline du Parlement overlooking the Ottawa River.
Behind the building opposite the entrance, the Parliamentary Library is a beautifully furnished octagon that was untouched by the 1916 fire. You can explore the sprawling historic center neighborhood on a guided tour, and the public can also take part in question time during government meetings.
In summer, the Canadian Mounted Police patrol the charming grass in front of the parliament building, looking stylish in their trooper uniforms of scarlet jackets, Stetsons, breeches and knee-high boots.
On summer mornings, the Changing of the Guard always attracts tourists with its troupe bands and bagpipers. The ceremony begins at 9:50am, but you should arrive at least 15 minutes early to enjoy the view. Changing the Guard and visiting Parliament is one of the most popular free things to do in Ottawa.
Address: Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario
Official website: https://lop.parl.ca/sites/Visit/default/en_CA
2. Rideau Canal
The 200km long (but only 1.6m deep) Rideau Canal connects Ottawa with Kingston on Lake Ontario. Sometimes referred to as the Rideau Pass, it started out as a strategic route between Montreal and Lake Ontario, proving a military necessity during the 1812 war with the United States.
In summer, canals and locks are active waterways. Fun things to do include cruising the Rideau Canal on one of the many boats (better yet, frolic in a night cruise of the canal!).
Once it freezes, however, the canal becomes a recreation area for festivals and ice skating, one of Ottawa’s most popular winter activities.
Château Laurier is one of the magnificent buildings on the banks of the canal. While it has the air of a medieval castle, it was actually built in 1912 and is a prime example of how Canada’s major railway companies are adding luxury hotels (and striking landmarks) across Canada.
3. Canadian War Museum
Explore Canada’s military history at the striking Modern Canadian War Museum (Musée Canadien de la Guerre) on the banks of the Ottawa River.
Exhibits cover everything from the battles between the French and Iroquois in the 16th century to Canada’s contributions to the First and Second World Wars. There are also exhibits related to the role of modern peacekeepers.
American visitors will find it particularly interesting to learn the history of familiar historical events, such as the War of 1812, from a Canadian perspective. Parts of the exhibits are interactive, and the military vehicle collection on display includes more than 50 tanks, jeeps, motorcycles, armored trucks, and even Hitler’s limousine. There is a café and gift shop on site.
Address: 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa, Ontario
Official website: www.warmuseum.ca
4. National Gallery of Canada
The ultra-modern Muséedes Beaux-Arts du Canada (Muséedes Beaux-Arts du Canada), designed by Moshe Safdie, is an architectural masterpiece, with its prismatic glass tower echoing the lines of the nearby Parliament building. The glass is in stark contrast to the simulated medieval Château Laurier, but the charm is still a perfect fit for Ottawa’s cityscape.
Housed inside one of the largest art museums in North America, the gallery showcases Aboriginal art, traces the evolution of Canadian art from religious artifacts to the Group of Seven, explores European Impressionism, and offers temporary exhibitions. Inuit art rooms are located downstairs below the glass-enclosed hall. Admission to this beautiful gallery is free on Thursdays from 17:00 to 20:00.
For further sightseeing, the National Gallery is ideally located near many other downtown attractions, including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Canadian War Museum, and Major Hill Park.
Address: 380 Sussex Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario
Official website: www.gallery.ca
5. Peace Tower
From the observation deck at the top of the Tour de la Paix, Ottawa’s highest point, you can watch Parliament Hill, the entire city, the river, Gatineau, and the hills to the north. As you take the elevator you will see the bells of the tower and a memorial room for Canadians killed in the First World War.
Sometimes referred to as the “Tower of Victory and Peace”, the tower is free to enter, although you must first purchase a ticket. (See the official government website below for details.)
Address: Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario
Official website: https://visit.parl.ca/sites/Visit/default/en_CA
6. Diefenbunker, Canadian Cold War Museum
The Canadian Cold War Museum is housed in a large underground facility outside of Ottawa that was built in the early 1960s to protect the Canadian government’s vital functions in the event of a nuclear war.
This is one of the independent earthquake-proof, radiation-proof underground bunkers built across Canada during the Cold War as part of the EASE project (Experimental Army Signal Facility).
Political commentators have used the nickname “Diefenbunker” to refer to Prime Minister John Diefenbunker, who pushed for its construction. The spacious bunker now houses a fascinating museum dedicated to the Cold War era.
If you have the time, the Diefenbunker Escape Room experience, claimed to be the largest attraction of its kind in the world, is interesting.
Address: 3929 Carp Road, Carp City, Ottawa, Ontario
Official website: http://diefenbunker.ca/
7. Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica
Opposite the National Gallery, Notre-Dame de Paris is a beautiful Catholic cathedral consecrated in 1846. It is notable for the interior mahogany carvings by Philippe Parizeau and the four figures of evangelists, prophets and apostles by Louis-Philippe Hébert.
The stained glass windows are especially beautiful. Completed between 1956 and 1061, this sequence of 17 windows showing scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary is the work of Montreal-based artist Guido Nincheri. Begun in 1841 and completed in 1880, the historic building is the largest and oldest permanent church in the nation’s capital.
Address: 385 Sussex Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario
Official website: www.notredameottawa.com
8. Canadian Aviation and Space Museum
The Canadian Air and Space Museum (Musée de l’Aviation et de l’Espace du Canada) details the story of Canada’s civil and military aviation and is located at Rockcliffe Airport at the north end of the city.
Aircraft on display include a replica of the Silver Dart that flew for the first time in Canada in 1909, warplanes from the First and Second World Wars, and some seaplanes and other aircraft that helped open up Canada’s uncharted northern wilderness.
Address: 11 Aviation Park Road, Ottawa
Official website: https://ingeniumcanada.org/casm
9. Royal Canadian Mint
While the Monnaie royale Canadienne no longer produces coins in circulation in Canada, the Ottawa factory produces exquisite medals, commemorative coins and precious metal awards for collectors. These include Olympic medals.
The tour is fascinating, especially on weekdays when you can see the artisans at work. You will also see one of the three giant gold coins (CAD coins) minted here and you can get a real gold nugget. Tours are small, so you should book in advance.
Address: 320 Sussex Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario
Official website: http://www.mint.ca
10. Canadian Tulip Festival
Ottawa’s Chinese New Year marks the end of winter, and Queen Juliana of the Netherlands celebrates World War II. The banks of the canal and especially the Commissariat Park are places where celebrations are held in general.
Major’s Hill Park, southwest of the main hall, is filled with thousands of tulips. There are millions of tulips in bloom in the city, and tulip spots are scattered along the scenic “Tulip Road”. Fireworks and displays are also regular attractions.
Address: Queen Elizabeth Lane, Ottawa, Ontario
Official website: http://tulipfestival.ca/
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Ottawa. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Ottawa, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.