Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, offers a plethora of activities and attractions that cater to a wide range of interests. Whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast, nature lover, or foodie, Ottawa has something to offer everyone. In this guide, we will explore the top-rated things to do in Ottawa, ensuring that you make the most of your visit to this vibrant and charming city.
Explore Parliament Hill
Begin your Ottawa adventure by visiting Parliament Hill, the iconic political and cultural hub of Canada. Take a guided tour of the impressive Parliament Buildings, where you can learn about Canadian history, politics, and democracy. Don’t miss the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place daily during the summer months.
Discover the National Gallery of Canada
Art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the National Gallery of Canada, home to an extensive collection of Canadian and international artwork. Marvel at masterpieces by renowned artists like Emily Carr, Tom Thomson, and the Group of Seven. The gallery also frequently hosts temporary exhibitions, ensuring there’s always something new to see.
Stroll through ByWard Market
Immerse yourself in Ottawa’s culinary scene by visiting ByWard Market, a vibrant and historic outdoor market. Here, you’ll find an array of fresh produce, gourmet foods, artisanal products, and unique boutiques. Grab a coffee and explore the charming streets lined with restaurants, cafes, and pubs.
Visit the Rideau Canal
Known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal offers picturesque views and recreational opportunities year-round. During the summer, take a boat tour along the canal or rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore at your own pace. In winter, the canal transforms into the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink, providing endless hours of fun.
Immerse yourself in history at the Canadian Museum of History
Cross the river to Gatineau, Quebec, and visit the Canadian Museum of History. Learn about Canada’s rich heritage through interactive exhibits, fascinating artifacts, and multimedia presentations. The museum’s Grand Hall houses the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles, providing a captivating glimpse into Indigenous cultures.
Admire the beauty of the Rideau Hall
Explore the official residence and workplace of the Governor General of Canada at Rideau Hall. Stroll through the picturesque grounds, which include beautiful gardens, walking paths, and historic monuments. In the summer, enjoy the public Changing of the Guard ceremony, held every day at 10 am.
Discover Canadian military history at the Canadian War Museum
Delve into the stories of Canada’s military past at the Canadian War Museum. This impressive institution showcases Canada’s involvement in conflicts throughout history, featuring a vast collection of military artifacts, vehicles, and interactive exhibits. Gain a deeper understanding of Canada’s role in shaping global events.
Appreciate nature at Gatineau Park
Take a break from the city and venture into nature at Gatineau Park, located just a short drive from downtown Ottawa. Explore over 361 square kilometers of breathtaking wilderness, where you can hike, bike, picnic, swim, ski, or snowshoe, depending on the season. Don’t forget to visit Champlain Lookout for panoramic views of the Ottawa Valley.
Indulge in the culinary delights of Little Italy
Ottawa’s Little Italy neighborhood is a food lover’s paradise. Explore the charming streets lined with cafes, gelato shops, patisseries, and authentic Italian restaurants. Sample delicious pizza, pasta, cannoli, and other Italian delicacies while immersing yourself in the vibrant atmosphere.
Experience the Canadian Museum of Nature
Engage with the natural world at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Take a journey through time as you explore the museum’s diverse exhibits, including dinosaurs, mammals, birds, minerals, and fossils. The museum also features a stunning architecture, adding to the overall awe-inspiring experience.
Embark on a culinary tour
Ottawa is a food lover’s paradise, with a diverse range of culinary experiences to indulge in. Consider joining a guided culinary tour to explore the city’s vibrant food scene. From farm-to-table restaurants to ethnic eateries and trendy food markets, you’re sure to discover delicious flavors and culinary delights that will tantalize your taste buds.
Discover the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum
Aviation enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. Located just minutes from downtown Ottawa, this fascinating museum showcases the history of Canadian aviation and space exploration. Marvel at the collection of vintage aircraft, interactive exhibits, and learn about the pioneering achievements of Canadian aviators.
Explore the vibrant neighborhood of Hintonburg
If you’re looking for a trendy and artistic neighborhood to explore, head to Hintonburg. This hip area is known for its lively atmosphere, unique boutiques, art galleries, and cool cafes. Take a leisurely stroll along Wellington Street West and discover local artisans, vintage shops, and hidden gems tucked away in its charming streets.
Enjoy a picnic at Major’s Hill Park
Take a break from your sightseeing and enjoy a relaxing picnic at Major’s Hill Park. Located near Parliament Hill, this picturesque park offers stunning views of the Ottawa River and the city skyline. Pack a blanket and some delicious snacks, and find a cozy spot to soak in the beauty of your surroundings.
Experience the vibrant festivals
Ottawa is renowned for its diverse and lively festivals throughout the year. From the Canadian Tulip Festival in spring to Winterlude in winter, there’s always something happening in the city. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, enjoy live music, sample delicious local cuisine, and celebrate with locals as they showcase their rich cultural heritage.
Explore the historic Bytown Museum
Dive into Ottawa’s history by visiting the Bytown Museum, located on the picturesque Rideau Canal. Housed in Ottawa’s oldest stone building, the museum provides insight into the city’s early days as Bytown and its transformation into the capital of Canada. Learn about the construction of the Rideau Canal and the impact it had on the region’s development.
Visit the National Arts Centre
If you’re a performing arts enthusiast, a visit to the National Arts Centre is a must. This prestigious venue hosts a wide array of performances, including music, theater, and dance. Check the schedule for upcoming shows, and immerse yourself in the world of arts and culture during your time in Ottawa.
Experience the vibrant ByWard Market at night
ByWard Market transforms into a lively hub of activity once the sun goes down. Experience the vibrant nightlife by exploring the area’s pubs, bars, and clubs. Enjoy live music, dance the night away, or simply soak up the energetic ambiance while sipping on a craft cocktail or sampling local craft beers.
Take a scenic bike ride along the Ottawa River Pathway
Ottawa is a bike-friendly city, so take advantage of the extensive network of scenic pathways. Rent a bike and embark on a leisurely ride along the Ottawa River Pathway. Marvel at the picturesque views, pass by charming parks, and discover hidden gems along the way. This is a great way to explore the city while enjoying the fresh air and beautiful scenery.
Discover the vibrant Glebe neighborhood
Known for its bohemian charm and eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, the Glebe neighborhood is worth a visit. Explore Bank Street, the neighborhood’s main artery, and discover an array of unique boutiques, cozy cafes, and delicious eateries. Make sure to visit Lansdowne Park, home to TD Place Stadium and regularly hosting concerts, sporting events, and farmers’ markets.
Take a leisurely walk along the Sparks Street Mall
Located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, the pedestrian Sparks Street Mall is a historic pedestrian street that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll. Lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes, this vibrant street attracts both locals and visitors alike. Enjoy the lively atmosphere, grab a cup of coffee, and peruse the unique shops for souvenirs and local goods.
Discover the vibrant world of flowers at the Central Experimental Farm
Take a break from the city and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Central Experimental Farm. This expansive agricultural research facility is also home to the Dominion Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens. Wander through the colorful flower gardens, learn about different plant species, and enjoy a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Go on a brewery tour
Ottawa is home to a thriving craft beer scene, so why not go on a brewery tour to taste some local brews? Visit some of the city’s best breweries and learn about the brewing process while sampling a variety of craft beers. From hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts, you’re sure to find a beer that suits your palate.
Catch a live performance at the Great Canadian Theatre Company
For theater enthusiasts looking for an intimate and engaging experience, the Great Canadian Theatre Company is a must-visit. This professional theater company showcases contemporary Canadian plays, providing thought-provoking and entertaining performances that will leave you inspired.
Experience the beauty of the grounds at the Ornamental Gardens
Located within the Central Experimental Farm, the Ornamental Gardens are a true oasis of tranquility. Home to a diverse collection of flowers and plants, these gardens offer a peaceful escape from the city. Take a leisurely walk amongst the vibrant blooms, find a quiet spot to relax and soak in the fragrant aromas.
Marvel at the Gothic Revival architecture of Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
Take a moment to admire the stunning Gothic Revival architecture of Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Located in the heart of Ottawa’s Lower Town, this historic church is a feast for the eyes. Step inside to marvel at the intricate stained glass windows, ornate woodwork, and beautiful artwork that adorns the interior.
Explore the vibrant neighborhood of Chinatown
Journey into the heart of Ottawa’s Chinatown and discover a vibrant community rich in culture and culinary delights. Sample delicious Asian cuisine, browse the unique shops that offer an array of goods, and soak in the colorful ambiance of this bustling neighborhood. Keep an eye out for special events and festivals celebrating Chinese culture throughout the year.
Indulge in a sweet treat at Moulin de Provence
Treat your taste buds to a decadent pastry at Moulin de Provence, famous for its delicious and iconic Obama cookies. This charming bakery and café, located in the heart of the ByWard Market, offers a mouthwatering selection of freshly baked croissants, pastries, and bread. Sit back, relax, and savor every delectable bite.
Conclusion: Best things to do in Ottawa
These additional activities and attractions enhance the already rich list of things to do in Ottawa. From cultural experiences to outdoor adventures and culinary delights, it’s clear that Ottawa is a city where every visitor can find something to suit their interests. Embrace the unique blend of history, art, and natural beauty that Ottawa offers and create unforgettable memories during your visit to Canada’s capital.