Apart from holding international meetings, the capital of a country is chosen wisely to serve other purposes. One out of many is the tourism purpose. The capital is seen as a small picture of the country as people from all over are based there. Similarly, Ottawa was selected to represent the first-world country- Canada.
Ottawa was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2007. It is known for Victorian architecture, trade routes, universities, and much more. It is a perfect place for tourism, from medical to educational.
So like many other capital cities, here’s a list of places you must explore if you’re thinking of places to visit in Ottawa this vacation, from the very famous Notre Dame to world-famous museums for all the dark academia enthusiasts.
1. Parliament Hill
The list of the Places to visit in Ottawa is topped by Parliament hill (Colline du Parlement) and the buildings. The buildings were built between 1859 and 1927 and are divided into three blocks: center block, east block, and west block, with the center block being the most important.
Apart from still being used for sitting of the legislature (House of Commons), Parliament buildings or hill is known for their Victorian High Gothic Architecture and parliament library.
It has a centennial Flame that burns all the time. The place also offers free tours, and can participate in the Question Period when the government is in session. When you visit Parliament hill, you can expect fireworks and festivals, celebrations like Canada Day (I mean obviously!). During summers, Canadian Mounted Police patrol the buildings, known for their dashing outfits.
Parliament hill is mostly known for the Changing of the Guard, just like England. The event includes marching, royal uniforms, and a musical performance.
Keeping aside the buildings and the yearly events, parliament hill also has various statues views over the river, making it a great tourist spot.
Location: Wellington St, Ottawa, Canada
Official site: https://lop.parl.ca/sites/Visit/default/en_CA
2. Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal is one of the oldest places in Canada. It was constructed in the 19th century between 1826 to 1832 to connect Ottawa with Kingston.
Ontario was Canada’s original capital city on Lake Ontario. It was a strategic route between Montréal and Lake Ontario for the military during the war with the United States in 1812, making it one of the busiest tourist spots.
Like Rideau falls, Rideau Canal is a 200 km long waterways, lakes, and locks system. It divided Central Ottawa and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the “Cultural” category, the only site in Ontario.
The canal dumps into Dow Lake (a great tourist spot in this article). There are bridges crossing over the Rideau canal,
known for its picturesque view. The best-known place to visit in winter is a great place in summer.
In winter, the canal freezes, making the area recreational for festivals and skating. It is especially famous for its (urban) skating rink- known as the world’s longest and largest skating rink (by total surface area).
In summer, one can boat, cycle, or walk the canal and visit the famous Fairmont Chateau Laurier (listed in this article as a famous spot) on the canal banks.
Suggested Read: https://icycanada.com/rideau-canal-15-unknown-epic-facts/
3. Canadian War Museum
Being a western and developed country, Canada has been a part of some big political conflicts in the world. National Museums in Canada tell us about such conflicts’ rich history. Canadian War Museum was established in 1880, but only in 1999 did it come under the Canadian Museum of History.
The Canadian War Museum, or French: Musée Canadien de la Guerre, is located near the Ottawa river and Parliament hill. This place is perfect for any history enthusiast and, of course, fellow dark academians cause it is best to study and understand the armed conflicts. People can also buy beautiful gifts from the museum shop.
The Canadian War Museum, or CWM, has over 3 million artifacts (including both World War reserves), a huge collection of military vehicles, exhibitions, displays, galleries, presentations, specimens, artworks, documents, and even memoirs.
It shows the human experience of war and makes visitors feel the war personally, giving a personal feeling. Examples of its collections include- Adolf Hitler’s limo, the Canadian contribution to the World Wars, the fight of the 16th century between Frech and Iroquois, etc.
Visitors from USA or people familiar with USA’s history might get to know the Canadian perspective of similar wars like the 1812 war.
Location: 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa, Canada.
Official site: www.warmuseum.ca
4. National Gallery of Canada
Canada has a rich art history, and one of the places to get a hint of that is the National Gallery of Canada. The building is made of glass and granite, designed by Moshe Safdie.
Known for a giant spider that makes a perfect Instagram background, there’s more to learn here, like the place has won awards for architecture. The Canada National Gallery or Musée des beaux-arts du Canada is located near popular tourist places like parliament buildings, the Rideau River, Royal Canadian Mint, Notre Dame, the Canadian War Museum, National War Memorial.
Inside the gallery are two courtyards and the Rideau Street Convent Chapel, 100 years old. The gallery also has coffee shops (cause they know the place is big enough to make some visitors tired).
The collection started in the 18th century and has works of artists from the 15th and 17th centuries. It has collections like paintings, prints, drawings, modern and contemporary art, sculptures, and photographs. Apart from Canadian art, it has works of European and American artists.
A great example of a work in this gallery is Maman (a famous sculpture, also found in other Asian and European museums).
Location: 380 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, Canada
Official Site: www.gallery.ca
Suggested Read: https://icycanada.com/top-10-edmonton-art-gallery/
5. Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
After getting donations from people worldwide in 2019 due to a fire, tourists have preferred visiting Notre Dame Basilica more than ever. Built-in 1846, it is one of Ottawa’s largest and oldest churches, with mesmerizing religious art and Gothic Revival architecture.
The Notre-Dame cathedral basilica is opposite the National Gallery of Canada or near the parliament buildings. It has two silver tin-topped steeples making it different from other Canadian buildings. It has biblical inscriptions and is an important part of Canadian history.
The interior has blue ceilings. The altar has carved mahogany by Philippe Parizeau. The statues inside include prophets, apostles, and evangelists by Louis-Philippe Hébert, a series of 17 windows picturing scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, works of Montreal artist Guido Nincheri, etc.
It was designated a National Historic Site title in 1990. Guided tours are available that help people understand more about the significance of this historical site.
Location: 385 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Canada
Official site: www.notredameottawa.com
6. Canadian Museum of Nature
Among many Ottawa museums, the Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN) or Musée Canadien de la nature is well-known and one of Ottawa’s best places to visit.
Called the National Museum of Natural Sciences, the CMN is also known for its historic building (once the Victoria Memorial Museum). The construction of this building was completed in 1910.
Located near Parliament Hill and Rideau Canal, the Canadian Government once headquartered the Canadian museum of nature. It has both permanent and temporary exhibitions. Some examples of its exhibits are Dinosaur fossils, minerals, gemstones, iconic Canadian mammals, live insects, birds and blue whale skeletons, butterflies, and plants.
The Canadian Museum of Nature has a different gallery to display creatures of Canada like moose, cougars, etc., giving tourists an insight into Canadian wildlife.
The life-size specimens, 3D movies, guided tours, workshops, etc., allow visitors to educate themselves about nature, making this place a good visit for learning purposes.
Location: 240 McLeod St, Ottawa, Canada
Official Site: https://nature.ca/
7. Aviation and Space Museum
If that childhood imagination and hope to fly is still with you, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum is a perfect place to give answers to your eager inner child by exploring real aircraft. The Canada Aviation and Space Museum was founded in 1964 and is located northeast of downtown Ottawa at the Ottawa Rockcliffe Airport.
The Canada Aviation and Space Museum or Musée de l’Aviation et de l’Espace du Canada is home to 130 aircraft. It has displays of actual planes and aircraft from World Wars to the present day showing Canadian aviation history.
Some examples of what you will find here are: Avro Arrow and the Lancaster bomber from the second World War dating back to the 1950s, Space Shuttle Endeavor’s Canadarm, a replica of Silver Dart which in 1909 made the first flight in Canada, the Canadian built robotic arm which was once installed in the International Space Station.
You can take guided tours, expect demonstrations, exhibits and films and even participate in flight simulations to get some real-life flying experience (if it sounds this exciting, imagine the experience, I mean, it’s a must-visit at this point!)
Location: Rockcliffe Airport, 11 Aviation Parkway, Ottawa, Canada
Official Site: https://ingeniumcanada.org/casm
Suggested Read: https://icycanada.com/ontario-science-centre/
8. National War Memorial
It was built in 1939 by Vernon March to commemorate the Canadian soldiers who died in the first world war. Time like in the 1980s to the present, it included all Canadian soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country in wars like the world wars, the Korean war, and Afghanistan.
In 2000, the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was added, guided by ceremonial guards.
The National War Memorial or Monument commémoratif de guerre du Canada, in total has 76 cenotaphs. Located close to Parliament Buildings and Major’s Hill Park, it is among the best places to visit in Ottawa, where visitors honor the heroism and courage of the soldiers. The memorial is titled ‘The Response’ or La Réponse.
During important occasions, this place has ceremonies like Canada Day celebrations, Remembrance Day ceremonies, change of Guard ceremonies, etc., making it one of the must-visit places in your list of places to visit in Ottawa.
Location: Wellington Street, Ottawa, Canada.
9. Royal Canadian Mint
Founded in 1908, the Royal Canadian Mint or French Monnaie royale Canadienne operates under the Royal Canadian Mint Act and is indispensable.
Located near ByWard Market and the National Gallery of Canada, you can see medals (including Olympic Medals), hand-crafted commemorative coins for collectors, and awards in metals. You can see medals from Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics and information on the million-dollar coin, the largest coin ever.
If visiting Ottawa on the weekend, here at the Royal Canadian Mint, you will be able to see craftspeople at work. You can take guided tours to learn more. It also allows visitors to hold a gold bar. Reservation beforehand is highly recommended.
Location: 320 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Canada
Official Site: https://www.mint.ca
10. Laurier House
Built-in 1878, Laurier House or Maison Laurieris is considered a National Historic Site. It was home to two Canadian Prime Ministers: Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King and have been converted into a museum.
You can expect to see artifacts and décor used by the two leaders when living there. The site was named after Sir Wilfred Laurier.
It was visited by many other famous people, including United Kingdom’s Sir Winston Churchill and King George VI, Charles de Gaulle, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (US President). When visiting, one can hope to find their pictures.
Located in downtown Ottawa (Sandy Hill District), tourists can take a guided tour of the house, participate in activities organized (during summer) like Sweet Picnic Tea and get the Royal Life experience, and go to “Escape Room,” where visitors are allowed in a kitchen set up with 1940s background and gives recipes to cook.
Location: 335 Laurier Ave East, Ottawa, Canada
11. ByWard Market
What is a weekend or a vacation without shopping? If you are looking for a good place to buy things for fun or remember your visit, ByWard Market is THE place to go.
ByWard Market is one of the oldest markets, dating back to 1826, started by Lt-Col. John By, who had helped build the Rideau Canal.
It is near the well-known National War Memorial and the National Gallery of Canada, at the heart of Ottawa’s city center. If you wish to support small businesses, you can buy things in boutique shops, artisan crafts, local goods, and clubs with live music!
In ByWard Market, you can expect local restaurants to try local dishes. The same place has different vibes during the day and the evening, giving the experience of both sides of the city.
Location: ByWard Market Area, Ottawa, Canada.
Official Site: https://byward-market.com/en/home/
Suggested Read: https://icycanada.com/must-see-shopping-malls-in-canada/
12. Canadian Museum of History
The Canadian Museum of History or Musée Canadien de l’histoire was established in 1856 by the Geological Survey of Canada.
It was designed by Douglas Cardinal and gave a unique sight of the city with views like Ottawa Skyline. The Canadian Museum of History is located in Hull, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada.
It is based on anthropology, cultural studies, and ethnology in Quebec, Canada. Presently Canadian history hall has over 3 million artifacts, including works from Indigenous people of Canada, famous personalities of Canada, etc.
Location: 100 Laurier Street, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
Official Site: https://www.historymuseum.ca/
13. Rideau Hall
Canada has many similarities with Britain, and Rideau hall is one. It is also called the Government House, where the Governor-General of Canada resides.
The governor-general has the same duties as of Queen of England. Rideau Hall was made in 1838 with over 175 rooms. It is located in downtown Ottawa in the area of New Edinburgh.
Although home to some critical Canadian officials, a portion of the site is open for visitors, unlike 24 Sussex Drive (the prime minister’s official residence closed for the public) to learn about Canada’s history.
Visitors can take guides to understand the national historic site.
Location: 1 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, Canada
14. Dow Lake
Dow Lake Pavilion is another place to experience Ottawa’s beautiful nature and surroundings.
With a relaxing atmosphere, Dow Lake, located in downtown Ottawa, is a great place for weekend activities like fishing, canoeing, boating, biking, skating, etc. The nearby restaurants offer visitors a place to eat, relax, and try local or world-class cuisines.
Location: Dow Lake, Ottawa, Canada
Official Site: www.dowslake.com
Suggested Read: https://icycanada.com/rice-lake-10-best-things-to-do-there/
15. Diefenbunker Museum
The Diefenbunker Museum was known as Canadian Forces Station Carp (CFS Carp)- its military designation. It is also preferred by people like Canada’s cold war museum.
Located 30 km outside Ottawa, it was founded in 1964, during the cold-war period, by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. It was built as a part of Project EASE (Experimental Army Signals Establishments) to be self-sufficient, shock-resistant, and radiation-proof to keep the important personalities of Canada safe from the potential nuclear war.
The bunker is now a National Historic Site converted into a museum outside Ottawa.
Visitors can get a guide and experience the Diefenbunker Escape Room, one of a kind globally, making it on the list of places to visit in Ottawa.
Location: 3929 Carp Road, Carp, Ottawa, Canada.
Official Site: https://diefenbunker.ca/
Suggested Read: https://icycanada.com/the-story-of-justin-trudeau/
16. Peace Tower
A Victoria Tower was brought down in 1916, and the Peace Tower was built. It made the tower similar to the Parliament Hill buildings and was designed in Victorian Gothic Style.
The Peace, also known as the Tower of Victory and Peace, is located at the center of the Parliament Buildings; it is built 300 meters high, making it the tallest city and the best tourist location. It is a significant part of Ottawa’s skyline. It is also featured in 20 dollar bill of Canada.
The Peace tower has a focal bell and a clock, which visitors can see from the elevator. Built to commemorate First World War soldiers, it is historically significant in Canada, making it one of the best places to visit Ottawa.
To know more about the place, check the website linked below, and to get a ticket go to the government website linked below.
Location: Wellington St, Ottawa, Canada
Official Site: https://visit.parl.ca/sites/Visit/default/en_CA
There’s a never-ending list of what you can do visiting Ottawa. Apart from the above 16 must-visit places, some other places can be a part of your Ottawa tourism.
Major’s Hill Park
Located in downtown Ottawa, near the Canada National Gallery and at the mouth of the Ottawa River and many other notable tourist spots, Majors Hill Park is a perfect place for picnics.
With a picturesque view of perfectly laid paths, the park plays a major role in organizing events as big as Canada Day.
Jacques Cartier Park
Located near the Ottawa river, it is located in Gatineau, Quebec. Named after Jacques Cartier, this park makes a great tourist spot for summer and winter. It is famous for Canada Day and Winterlude festival (NCC annual event) hosted in winter etc.
Location: 285 Laurier St, Gatineau, QC J8X 3W9, Canada
Located between Ontario and Quebec, the Ottawa River was a major trade route between these two places in history. It is the longest river in Quebec and is known for bridges, Rideau falls, islands, and boat cruises.
Lastly, the views alongside this river will make a perfect background for your social media.
Canada Science and Technology Museum
It was established in 1968, and it underwent renovations not long ago. It shows Canada’s tech development and scientific history. It has over 20,000 artifacts, making it a great tourist attraction. Some famous exhibits here are ‘Crazy Kitchen,’ ‘Artifact Alley’ etc.
Location: 1867 St Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON K1G 5A3, Canada
Official Site: https://ingeniumcanada.org/scitech
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
Established in 1983, the museum works as a farm. It has exhibitions and programs to educate visitors about the science and technology of farming.
Location: 901 Prince of Wales Dr, Ottawa, Canada
Official Site: https://ingeniumcanada.org/agriculture
Canadian Tulip Festival
Started cause of a thankful practice by Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, the Canadian Tulip Festival is held annually in Ottawa and is the world’s largest tulip festival. Some best places decorated with tulips include Rideau Canal and Commissioner’s Park.
Other celebrations of the festival include fireworks and performances by celebrities.
Location: Queen Elizabeth Driveway, Ottawa, Ontario OR National Capital Region (NCR) Canada
Official Site: https://tulipfestival.ca/
National Arts Centre
Established in 1966 near the Rideau Canal, the (NAC) is one of the most popular and largest places where numerous performances occur. It hosts approx concerts a year.
I hope this article was helpful to the readers in organizing their vacation in Ottawa.