Along with being adept at preserving Canada’s heritage and culture, Ottawa is a town that is teeming with cultural influences from around the world.
Ottawa, like numerous other capital cities all over the world, is home to a variety of national landmarks. You can certainly spend several days exploring the city because it has so many wonderful sights and activities to explore.
Check out some of the top activities and locations in Ottawa that you should not really miss while you are traveling there for the first time.
10 Best Things to Do in Ottawa:
1. Rideau Canal
Wide and rich in history, the Rideau Canal winds its way through Ottawa’s central business district. The canal links the city to Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River, two significant local waterways.
Although the canal was originally built in 1832 as a military defense system, it is now a year-round destination for entertainment. Along the trail, there were numerous instructive plaques with historical information about the canal. Try to time your trip for sunset if at all possible.
With a length of almost 8 kilometers, the rink is the widest in the entire globe, making it one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
In the warmer months, people use the sidewalks beside the canal to stroll, cycle, or ride, or they can rent a boat as well as paddle across the water.
The river freezes up and becomes a large, open ice skating rink that winds across the city during the colder months. You do not need to spend to skate if you’re going there and possess your own gear.
The skating rink is a terrific spot to enjoy a fun night and is available twenty-four hours a day. Everyone can enjoy it during the day, including families, partners, and even lone visitors.
The Byward Market Area and the booths around the ice rink sell these deep-fried dough treats, Beaver Tail which is delicious and popular.
Additionally, there are various rest areas scattered all along the course of the skating surface where you may rent gear. Along with heated huts for shelter from the cold, it is also lined with vendors serving hot chocolate, drink and stew.
2. Parliament Hill
In the heart of the city, Parliament Hill, a spectacular Gothic revival structure, looks out over the Ottawa River. The structure houses both the Canadian Parliament and a popular tourist destination.
Parliament Hill is comprised of three structures and a sizable formal landscape. It has a vast collection of outstanding neo-Gothic buildings and is situated on the bank of the Ottawa River.
The complex’s grounds have hosted a number of national events, parades, and performances and is one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
While serving as the formal government structure, the buildings are accessible to the general public for tours that take visitors into the interior of the ancient compound as well as the grounds’ luxuriant monuments & gardens.
Tours are offered in both French and English at various intervals during the day. They can last somewhere between thirty to sixty minutes, but to ensure your position for the day, you must show up at 9 in the morning.
The tours of the Ottawa parliament are free. You first will need to pass through a security check. You can only carry a small bag. You may carry a water bottle but no recordings are permitted.
Parliament Hill hosts regular Changing of Guard performances during the summer. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has a piper & 2 guards who alternate between their positions.
This lavish and vibrant event showcases Canada’s genuine royal attire and is followed by a musical. It also includes a marching routine. You can order tickets in advance if you plan to attend Question Period.
3. Peace Tower
The tower, which was formally called the Tower of Victory and Peace but is more typically referred to as Peace Tower, rises more than 300 feet over Ottawa’s cityscape.
The Peace Tower, which is located in the center of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, houses a central bell as well as a clock and acts as a national symbol; it is even shown on Canada’s 20-dollar note.
The tower, which is thought of as a tribute to the Canadian troops who lost their lives in the First World War, is rich in symbolism, design elements, as well as architectural features that reflect Canadian history, making it one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
Fun Fact – Victoria Tower was replaced by Peace Tower, which was built in the elaborate Victorian Gothic style to match the other structures in the Parliamentary complex after Victoria Tower caught fire in 1916.
4. National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery, a renowned collection in the heart of Ottawa, is one of the country’s top art museums. The building is an enormous glass and granite structure renowned because of its significance to Ottawa’s breathtaking skyline.
The gallery was recognized among the top 500 Canadian structures constructed in the last 1000 years in 2000 by the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada.
The Gallery, which holds almost 65,000 works of art, is renowned throughout the world for its artworks displaying regional and national works. The thing that draws folks in is the enormous spider in front, called Maman.
The museum’s most prominent holdings of Canadian art are on display inside the museum and include paintings, sculptures, prints, contemporary and modern art, drawings, and portraits.
The gallery also has a large collection of contemporary, international, and First Nations artwork, making it one of the best things to do in Ottawa. On-site artwork includes a sizable variety of European and American pieces.
Both seasonal and permanent shows are shown in the exhibit. On-site amenities include a boutique and a restaurant.
On the grounds of the Gallery, in addition to the masterpieces and spectacular architecture, there is a recreated 19th-century church, a clear glass pool, and a walled courtyard garden.
5. ByWard Market
One of Canada’s first public markets, the Byward Market, dates to 1826. Lt. Col. John By, who worked on the Rideau Canal’s construction, created it. It is comprised of a central structure that is encircled by outdoor vendor stalls.
The surrounding stalls are open whenever the outdoors is beautiful, but the original building is open throughout the year. It is a vibrant market where you can buy fresh produce, flowers, vegetables, fruits, and others.
Along with local goods, the main marketplace also offers delectable special delights, making it one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
The marketplace was initially constructed a few 100 years ago, and it swiftly grew to be one of Canada’s biggest public markets.
Eateries, fast-food stands, and various boutiques are also located in ByWard Market. Visit Play Food & Wine; they have some incredible meals and a great wine collection.
During summers, outdoor vendors sell regional specialties like Beaver Tails, which are deep-fried dough wrapped in anything from cheese to chocolate and poutine, which are fries with gravy and cheese.
Visit The Scone Witch to enjoy the finest brunch the city has to offer if you’re in the mood for a full breakfast. It’s a wonderful place to explore and interact with the folks.
With stores, restaurants, cafes and boutiques, the ByWard Market is a busy location both during the day and at night.
6. Canadian Museum of Nature
An Ottawa-based natural history museum is called the Canadian Museum of Nature. With engaging programs and instructive, guided tours, the museum offers insight and knowledge into a range of themes.
The Canadian Museum of Nature displays four billion years of History of the earth and has over ten million samples. It is the perfect spot to visit with kids, because of all the interactive displays in the gallery.
You can observe panoramic exhibits of Canadian animals in the Mammal Gallery before moving toward the Bird Gallery to witness the biggest selection of Canadian avians across the world.
The Vale Earth Gallery showcases geological processes, the minerals and rocks that have shaped the world, and the alterations they undergo over time, while the Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery features dinosaur bones and displays.
Other features investigate avian creatures, living insects, aquatic life, and much more. Every gallery features a number of exhibitions, demonstrations, and hands-on activities, making it one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
The site calendar collects details on upcoming, touring, and recurring exhibits. You will discover additional details on ancient relics, insects, animals, and other topics.
There is a ton of parking available close to the gallery, however, if you do not have a vehicle, you can get dropped off on a number of Transportation routes just a block away.
The facility is just a twenty-minute stroll from Parliament Hill.
7. Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
In Ottawa’s Lower Town district, the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica stands as a National Historical Site.
The current structure was erected 10 years after the original one, which had been constructed in 1832. The Neo-Classical structure is an intricate and magnificent masterpiece that functions as Ottawa’s oldest and biggest church.
You will rave about the cathedral’s interior architecture and smudged windows, therefore it is likewise imperative that you schedule a quick visit there, especially when you have plans to visit the National Gallery of Canada.
however, you must verify the schedule beforehand prior to your visit to Notre Dame because it remains a functioning house of worship.
From May to October, the church is available for public tours with a guide with advance bookings for a nominal fee. The tours give background information and instruction on the design and development of the church as well as current details.
On weekdays, tours are often offered in the mornings and in the afternoons. They typically last anywhere between thirty and forty-five minutes.
Throughout the summer, volunteers are on hand to welcome visitors, respond to their inquiries, and lead casual tours.
The hours of operation for the basilica change daily depending on the day and season. Both tours and services are completely free to attend, making it one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
8. Canada Aviation and Space Museum
This vast complex, which is home to the national aviation historical museum of Canada, is situated at Ottawa Rockcliffe Airport.
The museum’s collection, which includes a wide variety of civilian and military aircraft, spans a substantial amount of the aviation history of Canada, starting in the early era and continuing through both World Wars to the present.
Over 130 aircraft and artifacts from the civil and military service are housed in the largest collection of historic aircraft at the Canada Aviation & Space Museum.
The Walkway of Time is the name of the primary display hall, which covers Canadian aviation advancements from the turn of the twentieth century to the current day and includes both real aircraft and models of the most significant ones.
Even an antique, open-cockpit aircraft from 1939 called a Waco UPF-7 is available for reservations for scenic flights over Ottawa. Additionally, the museum provides periodic Cessna sightseeing aircraft.
Alongside military aircraft that served through both World Wars as well as the Cold War, vintage forest planes from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s are a main draw.
The museum’s display of the Avro Arrow interceptor’s residual parts that belongs to the 1950s serves as its most well-known highlight.
The Canadarm, a robotic arm made in Canada and originally attached to the International Space Station, is also on display at the museum. It was part of the Space Shuttle Endeavor. On-site activities include guided tours, interactive exhibitions, performances, and movies, making it one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
Particularly for children, the museum is interesting and engaging. It is advised to block out a couple of hours to explore the interactive displays in the museum.
Although driving is the quickest way to get to the museum, you may also take a motorbike or public transportation.
9. Bytown Museum
Ottawa was once known as Bytown and the little Bytown Museum is situated on the shores of the Rideau Canal, just under Ottawa’s enormous Parliament Hill.
The stone house was built on a British military commission in the 1820s, and it served as a warehouse and treasury. It was relocated to the river’s edge in 1951 and given museum status.
The Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa established the historic museum, which debuted in 1917 with the goal of preserving early Ottawa items that the organization had amassed ever since its inception in 1889.
Early Ottawa antiquities, featuring late 19th-century home goods and period chambers, are on display in the exhibits.
These days, the Commissariat Building is home to this exhibit, which includes relics dating back to the very beginning of the history of Ottawa.
Currently, guests are welcome to explore the historic structure and browse the relics from Ottawa’s early history. Despite Bytown’s modest size, it’s worth visiting and is one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
10. Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum, one of the finest in the world for studying and comprehending armed battles, is comprised of a variety of exhibitions and displays that protect and instruct tourists concerning the military history of Canada.
The museum was founded in 1880 and began as a modest gathering of militia items. Over the years, it expanded to house more than Three million war relics, samples, works of art, papers, and even remembrances.
It is renowned for its distinctive presentation, which emphasizes and underlines the impact of war on people.
With rare weaponry, outfits, equipment, and honors preserved in its renowned Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, the gallery also houses one of the best military collections in the entire globe.
Its collection includes weaponry, uniforms, honors, papers, recordings (both audio and visual), and unique vehicles.
Additionally, it features transient participatory installations, such as a previous show that used a graphic novel to depict the history of World War I air warfare, making it one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
Further than the antiques and educational exhibits, the museum gained popularity for its carefully considered arrangement and layout.
You can get to the museum by automobile, foot, motorbike, or public transportation.
On-site amenities include a museum store and a café. You can enter the museum for free if you plan your trip in the evening on Thursday. If you are a history enthusiast, it’s advised to set aside a half day or more to explore the interactive exhibitions.
These were the 10 best things to do in Ottawa. Explore renowned museums like the National Gallery, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Museum of Nature, and Bytown Museum, as well as the stunning Parliament Hill and Rideau Canal. The town is something that you can readily explore for days.