11 Best Things To Do In Ottawa, Canada

When you think of the capital city of a country, you imagine a huge, uptight place which is all about rules and regulations. However, Canada's capital city of Ottawa is nothing like that! In fact, it is smaller than the popular cities of Vancouver and Toronto and is one of the best Canadian cities to visit. It is charming, peaceful and friendly and is one of the best Canadian cities.

Ottawa is known worldwide for its iconic and historical sites, unique national museums, and delicious food. There are so many must-see locations for each tourist in the city, and so many to put on your travel bucket list right now, along with other best places to visit in Canada. It's got some pretty unique architecture with both classic and modern styles and one of the oldest car free streets in the country.

Apart from this, Ottawa also has world-class museums, beautiful parks, and gardens. There are huge open spaces that enhance the beauty of all the four climates that the city experiences. While in the city, you would have a great time going around the city on a bike and even taking long walks along the river. Apart from these, you must also include Parliament Hill, Jacques Cartier Park, Rideau Hall, Dominion Arboretum, Calypso Park in your list of things to see in Ottawa.

The city is home to the Canadian Parliament on Parliament Hill. There are usually tours of the Centre Block where you can see the House of Commons, the Senate, the Hall of Honour, the Library and take a ride to the top of the Peace Tower with great views of downtown and the Gatineau Hills on the Quebec side. The city is home to the Supreme Court of Canada, west of Parliament Hill.

The Downtown Streets of Elgin and Bank are also home to pubs and bars and the Gay Village. The Royal Canadian Mint is where Canadian Coins and collectables are designed and crated. Paper currency is made at the Bank of Canada. If you want places to relax, you can go to Majors Hill Park Across the Embassy of the United States of America East downtown, Confederation Park across from Ottawa City Hall or Jaques Cartier Park on the Quebec side.

A modern Subway/Light Rail called the “O Train” can take you where you want to go along the Confederation Line and Trillium line along with OC Transpo surface buses. Beaches in the summer can be found at Mooneys Bay, Westboro Beach, Britannia Beach, Petrie Island Beach and at Gatineau Park (Lac Phillip).

Ottawa Bluesfest usually happens in July. While the festival's lineup historically focused on bluesmusic at its inception, it has increasingly showcased mainstream pop, hip hop, reggae, and rock acts in recent years. Bluesfest has become the largest blues festival in Canada and the second largest in North America.

If you like sports, there is much to see with the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club of the National Hockey League that play at Canadian Tire Centre, the Ottawa RedBlacks Football Club of the Canadian Football League that play at TD Place Stadium, the Ottawa 67s Hockey Club of the Ontario Hockey League that play at TD Place Arena, Atletico Ottawa Soccer Club of the Canadian Premier League also play at TD Place Stadium, the Ottawa Blackjacks Basketball Club of the Canadian Elite Basketball League also play at TD Place Arena, and the Ottawa Titans Baseball Club of the Frontier League play at RCGT park.

If you want to hike, there is always the NCC walking and hiking trails everywhere in the city limits. Skiing at Edelweiss, Mount Fortune north of the city on the Quebec side and Mount Pakenham southwest of the city on the Ontario side. There is Canada's largest water park Calypso open in the summer just east of the city.

Tulips pop up every spring in OttawaTulips pop up every spring in Ottawa

It wasn't easy making a selection, but finally, we have chosen must-see places in Ottawa, so let's see which ones they are.

1. Parliament Hill

The first on the list of must-see places in Ottawa is Parliament Hill, with Parliament building that houses Canada's government. Tourists enjoy admiring three neo-Gothic style federal government buildings built between 1859 and 1927 (East, West, and Centre Block). This attraction is open for exploring, and throughout the year, there are many free events, like multimedia shows and ceremonial Changing of the Guard.

If you're traveling on a budget, Ottawa has a lot of free attractions to offer. For the most splendid experience, visit the observation deck of The Peace Tower and enjoy spectacular 360-degree views. Of course, you would get to see the Parliament and other government buildings and appreciate their Gothic architecture and design.

2. Rideau canal

If you have a boat, you can travel along the Rideau Canal, Ottawa River and Dows Lake. In the winter months, the Rideau Canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink with the winter festival of Winterlude in January and February. Rideau canal is a UNESCO world heritage site (the only one in Ontario), so make sure you don't miss it while in Ottawa. This canal is 200km long and connects the capital with Kingston. Ottawa is the snowiest capital city on the planet. But on the other hand, the cold temperatures turn the Rideau Canal into the world's largest skating rink.

People like visiting this place in winter for a memorable, magical experience since the canal water completely freezes and welcomes visitors into the skating rink. This epic skating rink is the largest urban skating trail in the world, stretching 7.8 km through downtown Ottawa. If you come here in the warmer months, you can stroll or cycle along the beautiful canal's pathways. You can also take a cruise here or explore the canal on your own - if you decide to rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard.

In May, there is the Canadian Tulip Festival. The festival claims to be the world's largest tulip festival, displaying over one million tulips, with attendance of over 650,000 visitors annually.Large displays of tulips are planted throughout the city, and the largest display of tulips is found in Commissioners Park on the shores of Dow's Lake, and along the Rideau Canal with 300,000 tulips planted there alone.

3. Alexandra Bridge

This majestic Ottawa river connects Ottawa to Gatineau, Quebec, and is one of the most photographed sites in the city. You can walk, ride a bike or drive across the bridge using one of the pathways leading to remarkable sites, like balanced rock sculptures and city beaches. For a unique experience, you can ride an electric Aqua-taxi.

If you're up for something calmer or romantic, book an afternoon sightseeing cruise, so you can enjoy the sunset from the water and gaze at the city highlights. For those who have moved here with the help of Number 1 Movers and are seeking adventure and adrenaline, there are plenty of activities on the river. From epic whitewater adventures, rafting, and kayaking to flatwater fun - paddleboard and canoe, you can definitely find something that suits your style.

Whatever you choose, you'll pass by Parliament Hill, Ottawa Locks, and Rideau Falls, so be sure to capture something with your camera for a nice memento. It feels amazing crossing the bridge into Quebec. It drops you off close to the Museum of History, you get to see a great view of Ottawa-Gatineau. It’s amazing for selfies and walking into Quebec is almost like walking into a different country.

If you have access to a car and happen to be in Ottawa in the fall time, Gatineau Hills is a popular place to go. It's really dramatic to drive through all the fall colours. On top of that, the small towns next to Gatineau have some great poutine. You can ferry back to Ottawa after.

4. Canadian Museum of History

In nearby Gatineau, Quebec is the Canadian Museum of History. This showcases Canadian identity and Canadian history. In the same museum there is also the Canadian Childrens Museum.

The ByWard Market is one of the oldest and largest farmer's markets in Canada. It's also the name of a historic neighborhood that surrounds it. Enjoy the wide choice of fresh foods, maple syrup, crafts from local vendors, unique coffee shops, pubs, eateries, boutiques, and galleries.

At night, when you're tired of walking and shopping, try a craft cocktail on a rooftop patio while enjoying the stunning view. Visit one of many charming little shops, full of souvenirs and gifts. If you're up for some Canadian fashion or jewelry, you can easily find it throughout this neighborhood.

Once you go a bit past Byward Market, you will hit Lowertown. It’s on the verge of Vanier. It has all the embassies and you can walk to Gatineau from there.

The Rideau Centre is a Mall in the East downtown area adjacent to the Byward Market. The Rideau centre has higher end stores compared to other malls in the city. The Byward market has bars, pubs, restaurants and clubs that are packed in the evenings and weekends. There are also shops with souvenirs for tourists.

5. National Gallery of Canada

East of downtown, you will also find the National Gallery of Canada that houses European, American, Asian, Canadian and Indigenous Art as well as traveling exhibits. For something ultra-modern, head straight to the National Gallery of Canada, and let yourself be mesmerized by this architectural masterpiece with prism-like glass towers. Art lovers shouldn't miss this gem, more so because it's one of the largest art museums in North America. It's also ranked one of the best art galleries in Canada on various travel planning apps.

This gallery displays aboriginal art, Inuit art, and European Impressionism, and houses many temporary exhibitions. The National Gallery is located near many other Lower Town attractions, so it won't be hard to spot.

6. Canadian Museum of Nature

The city has some great museums. Do take time to check out the Canadian Museum of History, Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Children's Museum, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, Bytown Museum to name a few. South of downtown is the Canadian Museum of Nature. The museum's collection contains over 14.6 million specimens relating to the natural world, a number of which are displayed in the museum's permanent exhibitions.

This fantastic museum will take you from the dinosaur's world all the way up to today's animals and wonders. The castle-like museum building was completed in 1910, and visitors adore it to this day, especially families with children. Discover all of Canada's nature in one place at its best, from fossils, minerals, and gemstones to skeletons of mammals, birds, and even a blue whale. You can spend almost a whole day here, enjoying 3D movies, special exhibitions, workshops, and guided tours.

7. Canada aviation and space museum

To learn the story of Canadian aviation, visit this spectacular museum at Rockcliffe airport. It's located on the northern edge of the town. It is home to more than 130 aircraft, both civilian and military. You can find a replica of the Silver Dart here, which made the first-ever flight in Canada in 1909.

You'll also see fighter planes from both world wars, seaplanes, and aircraft that had a significant role in opening up Canada's uncharted northern territories and wilderness. It will also take you on a journey through Canada's space exploration history.

8. Notre-Dame basilica

Just across the National Gallery, the beautiful Notre-Dame Catholic basilica will amaze you. This historic building was completed in 1880 and consecrated in 1846. It's unique in design and famous for its interior mahogany carvings and figures, as well as 17 gorgeous stained-glass windows, picturing different scenes from the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The basilica is so special and sacred because it's the largest and oldest standing church in Canada's capital city.

9. Commissioners Park

And because of Canada's contribution in World War II in liberating the Netherlands, the capital got a wonderful present - more tulips than you can shake a stick at.

Elgin Street and the Glebe is in the same category as Hintonburg. It has a lot of small mom and pop stores with that midtown feel. Especially in the Glebe where you can see a lot of old churches, shops, flower petals in the sidewalks and get some pretty fine gelato. Elgin Street has the Elgin Street Diner, which is a big name 24/hour tourist attraction, but you could also try the bakeries and independent restaurants.

10. National War Memorial

Just east of the parliament to the south is the National War Memorial with a pair of sentries in the summer months from the Ceremonial Guard, Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Special Operation Command. Also at the War Memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You can also check out the old City Hall if you want.

11. Mooney's Bay Park and Beach

Mooney's Bay is more towards the West End (South Keys and Nepean) and Petrie Island is in the East End (Orleans).

New to Ottawa or planning a relocation?

If you're a fan of museums, art, history, and science, Ottawa is a perfect place for you. And who knows, maybe you even decide to become a resident of this amazing city. Many who have gone through a long-distance move and settled down here say it's the best decision that they've made. There are many reasons why, but most of all, Ottawa offers you a wide choice of entertainment, job opportunities and has an excellent school and medical system.

Long-distance relocation won't be so hard when you have defined priorities. Research thoroughly, and if you decide to begin a new life chapter here, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy each of these attractions.

Most tourist attractions in Canada's capital can be reached within an easy 20-minute walk from downtown. People who live in the city center can basically see all the highlights going around only on foot. No matter if you're traveling alone or with friends and family, don't miss visiting these fantastic must-see places in Ottawa. Whether you're coming for a short trip or coming to settle down here, we wish you good luck in exploring.

Kalyan Panja