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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 15 attractions in Ottawa

#1
Ottawa Parliament Hill

Ottawa Parliament Hill

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A concentrated cluster of grand government buildings overlooking the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill is the centerpiece of Downtown Ottawa. At the heart of the complex is Centre Block, a neo-Gothic riot of greening copper turrets, stone-carved gargoyles, and pointed arches built around a soaring central campanile (bell tower) known as the Peace Tower. Parliament Hill is not just a pretty sight; it’s also home to Canada’s most important democratic institutions, including the Library of Parliament and the chambers of the House of Commons and the Senate.More
#2
Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

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Built between 1826 and 1832 to offer secure passage for British ships from Montreal, the Rideau Canal—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is an engineering masterpiece. It extends for 126 miles (202 kilometers) between Ottawa and Kingston. Ottawa’s most visited stretch lures boaters, cyclists, and strollers in summer, and ice skaters in winter.More
#3
Ottawa Locks

Ottawa Locks

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The eight Ottawa Locks 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 124 miles (200 kilometers) from Ottawa to Kingston, a stunning example of 19th-century ingenuity and engineering.More
#4
Royal Canadian Mint

Royal Canadian Mint

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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
#5
National Gallery of Canada (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada)

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

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Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, Ottawa’s glass-and-granite National Gallery of Canada (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada) showcases an exquisite art collection. As well as an extensive display of European and Canadian art including an assortment of indigenous artworks, the museum also houses the reconstructed 19th-century Rideau Street Convent Chapel.More
#6
Canadian Museum of Nature

Canadian Museum of Nature

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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
#7
ByWard Market

ByWard Market

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Ottawa’s historic food-focused ByWard Market houses hundreds of vendors hawking farm-raised meat, fresh produce, and arts and crafts. Hungry visitors and locals alike flock to this social and shopping hub, where takeout vendors sell ready-to-eat goodies and sit-down eateries offer prime seats for patrons to take in all the market action.More
#8
Gatineau

Gatineau

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Separated by the Ottawa River, Gatineau and Ottawa sit on different sides of the provincial boundary between Quebec and Ontario. Visitors to Canada’s capital often hop across to Gatineau, with the Canadian Museum of History and the 139-square-mile (361-square-kilometer Gatineau Park proving especially popular among tourists.  More
#9
Canadian War Museum

Canadian War Museum

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The Canadian War Museum is an architecturally unique building showcasing the history of Canada’s past conflicts. Honoring those who have served the country and putting focus on the topics of regeneration and building a better future, this Ottawa museum is home to themed exhibits, historical artifacts, military tools, weapons, and vehicles.More
#10
Ottawa Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

Ottawa Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

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Dating back to the 1840s, Ottawa Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica is the oldest church in Canada’s capital. The Gothic Revival structure is full of eye-catching design details, from its two shimmering, silver tin-covered steeples to the interior’s soaring vaults and star-studded blue ceiling.More
#11
Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History

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Previously known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, this cutting-edge museum—just five minutes from downtown Ottawa—underwent a name change and a significant overhaul between 2013 and 2017. The museum’s high-tech exhibitions now tell the history of Canada and its peoples, from the earliest human inhabitants to the present day.More
#12
Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park

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Just across the river from downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park—a 139-square-mile (361-square-kilometer) swath of lake and wood-dotted parkland—offers nature escapes near the city. With a vast network of hiking, cycling, and cross-country ski trails, as well as lakes, waterfalls, and swimming beaches, it’s a veritable outdoor playground.More
#13
Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall

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In addition to being the governor general of Canada’s official residence and the meeting place for foreign dignitaries visiting Ottawa, Rideau Hall is a serene green space beloved by locals and travelers alike. The manicured grounds contain a vast lawn, rose garden, private greenhouse, and more than 10,000 trees—some planted by famous visitors.More
#14
Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

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Showcasing Canada’s aeronautical achievements, this large museum houses more than 130 aircraft. See a replica Silver Dart, the first airplane to fly in Canada, and a Canadarm, Canada’s contribution to the International Space Station, then strap yourself into the cockpit and experience the sensation of flight in the Redbird FMX flight simulator.More
#15
Confederation Square

Confederation Square

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Confederation Square is a triangular plaza wedged between Wellington Street and Elgin Street right in front of Parliament Hill. It is a planned urban space that was, together with the National War Memorial, officially completed around 1939. The big granite memorial sits at the very center of the square and was originally a tribute to the Canadians who fought in World War One, but has since become more of a symbol of all Canadians serving the country in times of war. Bronze soldiers, including infantry, nurses, dispatch riders and many more regiments and corps portray “The Response” under the big granite arch, the heroic sacrifices made by Canada. They are watched over by two figures representing peace and freedom mounted on the top of the arch.Located at Confederation Square and right in front of the National War Memorial is also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a second monument that holds the remains of an unidentified soldier fallen during the First World War in France. The remains of the soldier were set to rest with full military honors and the tomb in form of a sarcophagus is in turn intended to honor the 116,000 Canadians who died or will die in past, present and even future conflicts. The square has become an important ceremonial center in Ottawa and was eventually named a National Historic Site of Canada.More
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Recent reviews from experiences in Ottawa

star-4
Nice tour by boat
Inge_M, Aug 2022
Ottawa Boat Cruise - Rideau Canal Cruise
It was a lovely and calm way to see parts of Ottawa.
star-4
Boat cruise
Sandryne_D, Aug 2022
Ottawa Boat Cruise - Rideau Canal Cruise
It's a great and fun way to see the historic monuments in Ottawa.
star-5
Excellent tour!
Lisa_B, Aug 2022
Ottawa Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour
Excellent way to see many areas of Ottawa!
star-5
Excellent tour, highly recommend!
Leigh_A, Jul 2022
Ottawa Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour
He was wonderful, explained everything in both English & French.
star-5
Nice educational enjoyable cruise
Wendee_B, Jul 2022
Ottawa Boat Cruise - Paul's Boat Line
Great way to see the landmarks and hear of the history of Ottawa.
star-4
Relaxing, good guide and...
Deborah_H, Aug 2022
Ottawa Boat Cruise - Rideau Canal Cruise
Some people were not aware it is a winter commute route skate to work..
star-5
Fun for the whole family!
Sonia_C, Jul 2022
Ottawa City Tour by Land and Water
It is a great way to see Ottawa and Gatineau and find out interesting facts at the same time.
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Ottawa by Land and Canal
Sudipta_T, Jul 2022
Ultimate Ottawa Tour
Able to see the city from different angles.
star-4
Beautiful cruise, careful about the location
Christina_W, Jul 2022
Ottawa Boat Cruise - Paul's Boat Line
Commentary is in English and French, and had some jokes and history.
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Great walk
Tammy_K, Oct 2021
Original Haunted Walk of Ottawa
We did it with three teenagers and we come to the conclusion it's better to see Ottawa at night then during the day.
star-5
The tour was informative...
Robert_T, Oct 2021
Ottawa City Tour by Land and Water
The tour was informative and good to see Ottawa from land and water the departure point easily found and staff was friendly
star-5
A nice time on the Rideau Canal
Judy_M, Aug 2022
Ottawa Boat Cruise - Rideau Canal Cruise
The cruise was informative and relaxing on a hot summer day.
star-5
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!
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Amazing tour of Ottawa/Quebec
Kelsey_B, Aug 2020
Self-Guided Biking in Ottawa-Gatineau
Got engaged, got to see some of ottawas attractions
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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.
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Excellent way to see Ottawa...
Sue V, Jul 2016
Ottawa Highlights 3.5 Hour Bike Tour
Excellent way to see Ottawa!
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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.
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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.
star-5
Having been to Ottawa...
Bonnie_B, May 2022
Ottawa Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour
This tour fulfilled my desire to see the wider Ottawa area.
star-5
Well Worth the Tour!
Franklin_H, Jul 2022
Ottawa Boat Cruise - Rideau Canal Cruise
A beautiful and relaxing way to see the Rideau canal, and learn about its history and some of the history of Ottawa.
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People Also Ask

What is Ottawa best known for?

As Canada's capital, Ottawa is home to the seat of the Canadian government and known for its historic sites and landmarks. With up to three million visitors a year, Parliament Hill is Ottawa’s most famous attraction: Its complex of Gothic revival buildings is on the southern banks of the Ottawa River.

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Is there anything to do in Ottawa?

Yes. Visitors to Ottawa will find plenty to do. You can stroll around Parliament Hill; explore the historic ByWard Market area; paddle or skate on the UNESCO-listed Rideau Canal; and visit the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of History, and Canadian War Museum.

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What can you do in Ottawa during winter?

Yes. Visitors to Ottawa will find plenty to do. You can stroll around Parliament Hill; explore the historic ByWard Market area; paddle or skate on the UNESCO-listed Rideau Canal; and visit the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of History, and Canadian War Museum.

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What can you do in Ottawa for free?

In winter, when the Rideau Canal freezes over, Ottawa is home to the longest skating rink in the world—you can rent skates at booths along the skateway. There’s also a skating trail in Gatineau Park and at Lansdowne Pavilion. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also popular in the Greenbelt area.

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What is there to do in Ottawa for teenagers?

Most teenagers visiting Ottawa enjoy visiting the Big Locks where the Rideau Canal meets the Ottawa River; paddling or skating the Rideau Canal; exploring the Byward Market; and shopping at the Rideau Centre. The Canadian Museum of Nature, Aviation and Space Museum, and Science and Technology Museum all offer engaging exhibits.

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Is Ottawa worth visiting?

Yes. Ottawa is worth visiting. The city offers a rich blend of history, culture, nature, and wide-open public spaces. You can go from exploring world-class museums and historic parliament buildings to paddling or skating on the canal and hiking forested trails—all in just a few hours.

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