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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 10 attractions in Ottawa

#1
Gatineau

Gatineau

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Gatineau is a city of about 300,000 right across from Ottawa on the northern shores of the Ottawa River. While Gatineau belongs to Quebec and Ottawa to Ontario, together they form Canada’s National Capital Region. Gatineau is a popular place to live, especially for young families and professionals and is actually the most bilingual city in Canada with over 60% of inhabitants speaking both English and French. The city is also known for its cultural value and is home to a variety of events and venues, such as one of the largest hot air balloon festivals in the world, filling the sky with hundreds of passenger balloons in every shape and color and the Casino du Lac-Leamy. The casino isn’t only a posh gambling hall though. Each year in August, the location hosts an international firework competition called the Sound of Light, where countries demonstrate their pyro-musical skills in the sky.At the Canadian Museum of History, visitors can get a detailed look into the origins and human history of Canada and walk through whole recreated townscapes, including pre-European settlements. Although there is quite some culture and history to be discovered, the city of Gatineau is also associated with its many parks, as there are plenty of green areas ranging from wild nature to playgrounds and recreational parks. The biggest and most well-known of these parks is Gatineau Park, a massive conservation area north of the city. Apart from having a rich biodiversity, including black bears, beavers and wolves, the park is also an outdoor paradise, where anything from hiking, camping, biking to cross country skiing, horseback riding and snowshoeing is possible.More
#2
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
#3
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
#4
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
#5
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
#6
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
#7
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
#8
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
#9
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
#10
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

Recent reviews from experiences in Ottawa

star-5
A lovely boat ride
Richard_T, Jul 2021
Rideau Canal Cruise
we're from Ottawa but, with travel still being kind of iffy, we're hanging around home this summer but still want to have some fun.
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!
star-5
Amazing tour of Ottawa/Quebec
Kelsey_B, Aug 2020
Self-Guided Biking in Ottawa-Gatineau
Got engaged, got to see some of ottawas attractions
star-5
Great 👍 great experience
Adounis_Hamade, Jul 2020
Rideau Canal Cruise
The trip itself was over than what I expected to see I advise every tourist to Ottawa to enjoy a new experience with fun and relaxation
star-5
Amazing!
reens2018, Aug 2019
Ottawa River Tour
I highly recommend this relaxing tour for an opportunity to see Ottawa's tourist spots in an hour or so!
star-5
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.
star-5
Great way to see the sights of...
Leo P, Jul 2017
Ottawa City Tour by Land and Water
Great way to see the sights of Ottawa.
star-4
A really good quick overview of the...
Robert B, Oct 2017
Ottawa City Tour by Land and Water
A really good quick overview of the city of Ottawa with an informative and amusing commentary by the guide in English and French.
star-5
Excellent way to see Ottawa...
Sue V, Jul 2016
Ottawa Highlights 3.5 Hour Bike Tour
Excellent way to see Ottawa!
star-5
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
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.
star-5
Great experience on the canal
Farah_E, Aug 2020
Ottawa River Tour
My boyfriend has never visited Ottawa so it was a great way to see the city.
star-5
Great Experience
sheenamair453, Oct 2019
Rideau Canal Cruise
Such a beautiful place to visit.
star-4
Pleasant adventure
Ahmed C, Sep 2019
Ottawa City Tour by Land and Water
She did both English and French.
star-5
ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE !!!!...This...
JANE S, Jul 2017
Ottawa City Tour by Land and Water
they guide pointed out what to see and an explanation and some history...
star-5
A most excellent tour and well worth...
Ravindra J, May 2016
Ottawa City Tour by Land and Water
Strongly recommended for all those who don't have the time to spare and wish to see the major sights in Ottawa in just over an hour.
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