Canada’s capital city can often be overlooked in favor of its neighbors, Toronto and Montreal, but is in fact a great destination with a wealth of different sightseeing opportunities and attractions on offer. From cultural pursuits to beautiful natural landscape there is something for everyone to enjoy! Here are 10 of the best.
This UNESCO World Heritage Sight is a true must-see. Connecting Ottawa with Canada’s previous capital, Kingston, the canal covers 202km of Ontario and is one of the most famous geographical features of the province. Along this length there are 45 operational locks which function from May to October and are reminiscent of the canal’s original purpose of securing a safe route for British supply ships in the 1800s. Today, the canal is most commonly used by walkers, cyclists and boating enthusiasts who enjoy taking advantage of its beautiful scenery.
Rideau Canal, ON, Canada, +16132835170
Canada’s political centerpiece, Parliament Hill is home to the city’s government buildings, whose impressive Gothic-style architecture dominates the downtown area overlooking the Ottawa River. A focal point of the city, Ottawa’s Canada Day (1 July) celebrations are also centered around the landmark, as are the light and sound shows that takes place in the summer and during the festive season. At other times, the free guided tours are a great way to explore the most prominent aspects and remind yourself of the city’s importance in Canada’s cultural landscape.
Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada, +16139960896
Located in the center of the Canadian Parliament buildings is the Peace Tower; a national landmark in its own right. Its ornate stone carvings and clock face make the structure one of the most widely recognized symbols of Canada, also largely thanks to its appearance on the national twenty-dollar bill. An impressive sight from ground level, the tower’s observation deck also offers unrivaled 360-degree views of the city from 300 feet up.
111 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada, +16139960896
National War Memorial
Built in 1939, the National War Memorial is an impressive 70ft arch commemorating all Canadian nationals killed in military action. Alongside its rose-grey granite structure, the monument features bronze allegories of both peace and freedom and, as such, has become well-known for its symbolism of the foundations of the Canadian nation. The memorial represents the center-point of Ottawa’s Confederation Square and is a humbling place to visit, especially given the violence in its recent history.
Confederation Square, Elgin Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada, +16139960896
National Gallery of Canada
The unusual architecture of this glass-paneled building makes it an intriguing feature of Ottawa’s urban landscape. Equally eye-catching (though somewhat more unsettling) is Maman, Louise Bourgeois’ giant sculpture of a 30-foot spider, installed on the plaza outside. The inside of the gallery is just as interesting, as it houses over 40,000 works of art, including the world’s largest collection of work by Canadian artists as well as international pieces. Special exhibitions often focus on specific themes or highlight lesser-known artists, changing every few months.
380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada, +16139901985
Canadian War Museum
Canadian War Museum
It may be the newest of Ottawa’s fleet of museums, but since its opening in 2005 the Canadian War Museum has proved itself a valuable addition. Its exhibition space covers the full expanse of Canada’s military history, from the country’s first beginnings all the way up to the most contemporary conflicts. A range of audio-visual aids complement the collection of guns, tanks and aircraft and really help to bring the history to life. The information is thoughtfully presented in a way that uniquely focuses attention on the human experience of military conflict.
1 Vimy Place, Ottawa, ON, Canada, +18005555621
Notre Dame Basilica
Completed in 1846, this Basilica is the oldest and largest church in Ottawa and currently functions as a dual-language place of worship, with services conducted in both French and English. Inside its relatively modest structure hides a vibrant and brightly painted interior, featuring beautiful stained glass and Gothic iconography. The cathedral is open daily for self-led and guided tours. It is also worth checking online as it often hosts various concerts sporadically throughout the year, which receive rave reviews.
385 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada, +6132417496
The historic ByWard Market neighborhood is a downtown area definitely worth a visit. A major tourist attraction, the area has still retained its unique feel thanks to the range of eclectic boutiques and lively restaurants that sprawl through a series of interconnected streets. The market building itself is open all year and, in the summer months, houses Canada’s oldest farmer’s market where you can peruse a range of fresh produce and artisan products. At night, the area transforms into a hub of energy, filled with popular bars and nightclubs.
ByWard Market Sqaure, Ottawa, ON, Canada, +16135623325
Some tourists might be keen to avoid Canada’s freezing winter temperatures. But for the more courageous, Ottawa’s Winterlude Festival is one of the city’s real highlights. Taking place for three weekends in January to mid February, North America’s largest winter festival attracts close to 600,000 visitors from across the world every year. The Rideau Canal is transformed into the world’s largest naturally formed skating rink and forms a 7.8km skateway where visitors can put their skills to the test or watch the professionals in several hockey tournaments. The festival also features an international ice-carving competition and the Snowflake Kingdom children’s playground, complete with ice slides.
Rideau Canal, ON, Canada, +16132835170
Snowflake Kingdom, Rue Laurier, Gatineau, QC, Canada, +8192433383
Located 4km north of downtown Ottawa, and across the provincial border into Quebec, Gatineau Park is the perfect escape from the city. In the warmer months, locals and tourists come from miles around to enjoy biking and hiking through an expansive network of trails, and swimming in one of the many lakes. Of these, Pink Lake, is particularly notable as, despite its name, in the summer its surface appears as a vivid green color due to the mass of algae. In late October, the fall colors are stunning, with a gorgeous range of yellow, orange and red hued leaves as the seasons turn.
Address: 33 Scott Road, Chelsea, QC, Canada, +18198272020