Tourist Guide to Must Visit Places in Ottawa

Updated on Apr 30, 2024 | Canada Visa Online

Ottawa, the provincial capital of Ontario, is renowned for its stunning Victorian architecture. Ottawa is located alongside the Ottawa river and is a well-liked tourist destination because there are so many sites to see there.

This city, which is located alongside the Ottawa River, served as a major commerce route in the past for the transportation of numerous natural resources that were mined from various locations across the city.

It is known as the city with the highest level of education in Canada and is a popular travel destination. Additionally, it has the designation of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ottawa offers everything to entice the traveller in you, from breathtaking scenery to historic museums and ancient monuments. These top attractions in Ottawa are ideal for learning about Canada's revolutionary history!

Visiting Canada is simpler than ever since Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has introduced the simplified and streamlined process of obtaining electronic travel authorisation or Online Canada Visa. Online Canada Visa is an travel permit or electronic travel authorization to enter and visit Canada for a period of less than 6 months for tourism or business. International tourists must have a Canada eTA to be able to enter Canada and explore this beautiful country. Foreign citizens can apply for an Online Canada Visa Application in a matter of minutes. Online Canada Visa Application process is automated, simple, and completely online.

A Little History of Ottawa

From a construction hub where the Rideau Canal split off from the Ottawa River, Ottawa expanded between 1820 and 1840. The canal project was overseen by British Colonel John By (1779 – 1836), and the town was first called "Bytown" before being renamed Ottawa in 1854.

The Parliament buildings were completed in 1865, high above the Ottawa River, and it was here that the first Canadian Parliament sat following the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. Ottawa has a vibrant cultural life complemented by all the attractions in Gatineau, located in the province of Québec across the Ottawa River.

Universities, numerous research institutions, as well as globally renowned organisations like the National Gallery and the National Arts Center, a venue for opera and concerts, have all made contributions to this.

Central Ottawa is divided by the Rideau Canal; the region to the north of it is referred to as Lower Town and the region to the south is Upper Town. The National Gallery of Canada, Notre Dame Basilica, and the bustling Byward Market are all located in Lower Town. Below Parliament Hill, in the chic Upper Town, is the spectacular Bank of Canada building, designed by Arthur Erickson, with its atrium filled with plants and fountains.

Wellington Street, Kent Street, O'Connor Street, Metcalfe Street, and the Sparks Street pedestrian precinct are all busy thoroughfares. It is Ottawa's premier shopping destination thanks to a cluster of upscale department stores and chic boutiques!

Parliament Hill

The Parliament Buildings are quite a striking sight atop the 50-meter-high Parliament Hill (Colline du Parlement), which overlooks the Ottawa River, in all its Victorian Gothic magnificence.

The Parliamentary Library is a beautifully decorated octagon that was unaffected by the 1916 fire and is located at the back of the structure, across from the entrance. A guided tour of the enormous historic Centre Block is available, and when the government is in session, anyone can attend a question period.

In the summer, officers of the Canadian Mounted Police patrol the pleasant grassy area in front of the Parliament buildings. They appear quite dapper in their Mountie outfits, which consist of scarlet jackets, Stetsons, riding breeches, and knee boots.

With its military band and pipers, the Changing of the Guard draws crowds on summer mornings. For a decent view, arrive at least 15 minutes before the ceremony, which starts at 9:50am. The two most popular free activities in Ottawa are tours of Parliament and the Changing of the Guard.

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal, which is 200 kilometres long but just 1.6 metres deep, links Kingston on Lake Ontario with Ottawa. Originally planned as a military route connecting Montréal and Lake Ontario - also known as the Rideau Waterway - it served this purpose during the War of 1812 against the United States.

The canal and locks are a busy waterway in the summer. One of the many tour boats that ride the water here is the Rideau Canal, which is a fun place to visit. Even better, spend a lot of money on an overnight cruise down the canal.

But as soon as it freezes over, the canal transforms into a recreational space for events and skating, which is one of the most popular winter activities in Ottawa.

One of the impressive structures on the canal banks is Château Laurier. It was actually erected in 1912, despite having the appearance of a mediaeval castle, and is a perfect example of how major Canadian railroad firms added grand hotels (and notable sites) all around the country.

Online Canada Visa, or Canada eTA, is a mandatory travel documents for citizens of visa-exempt countries. If you are a citizen of a Canada eTA eligible country, or if you are a legal resident of the United States, you will need eTA Canada Visa for layover or transit, or for tourism and sightseeing, or for business purposes, or for medical treatment. Learn more at Online Canada Visa Application Process.

Canadian war Museum (Musée Canadien de la Guerre) 

The stunningly contemporary Canadian War Museum (Musée Canadien de la Guerre) is situated next to the Ottawa River and chronicles Canada's military history.

Everything from the conflict between the French and Iroquois people in the sixteenth century to Canada's role in the First and Second World Wars is covered in the exhibits. There are also exhibits that discuss the function of contemporary peacekeepers.

The history of well-known historical occurrences, such as the War of 1812, from the Canadian perspective will be very fascinating to US tourists. The collection of military vehicles on display includes more than 50 tanks, jeeps, motorbikes, armoured trucks, and even Hitler's limousine. Some of the exhibits are interactive. On the property are a café and gift shop.

National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada), an ultra-modern building with prism-like glass towers that mimic the shapes of the surrounding Parliament Buildings, was created by Moshe Safdie. The faux mediaeval Château Laurier contrasts with the glass, but the attraction nonetheless blends in well with Ottawa's urban landscape.

One of the largest art museums in North America is home to galleries that showcase indigenous art, examine European Impressionism, follow the evolution of Canadian art from religious works through the Group of Seven, and host temporary exhibitions. The Inuit art galleries are located on the lower level, next to the Great Hall's glass enclosure. It's free to enter this lovely gallery on Thursdays from 5 to 8 o'clock.

The National Gallery is conveniently located close to a number of other Lower Town tourist destinations, including as Notre-Dame, the Canadian War Museum, and Major's Hill Park, for further sightseeing.

Peace Tower (Tour de la Paix)

Parliament Hill, the entire city, the river, Gatineau, and the hills to the north are all visible from the observation deck at the top of Ottawa's highest building, the Peace Tower (Tour de la Paix). You can see the bells of the tower while riding the elevator up, and there is a section dedicated to the Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in World War One.

Note - Even though entrance to the tower, popularly known as the "Tower of Victory and Peace," is free, you must first obtain a ticket

Before applying for the Canada Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) you must make sure to have a valid passport from a visa-exempt country, an email address that is valid and working and credit/debit card for online payment. Learn more at Canada Visa Eligibility and Requirements.

Canadian Museum of Nature (Musée Canadien de la Nature)

The Canadian Museum of Nature (Musée Canadien de la Nature) offers moving temporary exhibitions and takes visitors on a journey from the time of the dinosaurs to the current animal population.

It is Canada's national museum for natural sciences and history, housed in a landmark structure that was formerly the Victoria Memorial Museum. This castle-like structure's construction was finished in 1910.

National War Memorial

At the base of a magnificent bronze sculpture of World War I soldiers emerging from a granite arch is Canada's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National War Memorial (Monument Commémoratif de Guerre). The years of conflicts in which Canadian military have participated are listed around the base of the statue, also known as "The Response."

A lone bagpiper conducts a brief but solemn Changing of the Guard ceremony here, and the memorial is the focal point of festivities on Remembrance Day, when it is customary for people to lay poppies on the tomb.

Diefenbunker, Canada's Cold War Museum

The Canadian Cold War Museum is housed in a sizable subterranean complex that is located outside of Ottawa and was built in the early 1960s to safeguard crucial government operations in the event of a nuclear conflict.

As part of Project EASE, several subterranean shelters that were self-sufficient, shockproof, and radiation-proof were constructed around Canada during the Cold War (Experimental Army Signals Establishments).

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who supported their development, was given the moniker "Diefenbunker" by political sceptics. The massive bunker is now home to an intriguing Cold War-themed museum. The Diefenbunker Escape Room experience, allegedly the biggest of its kind in the world, is enjoyable if you have the time.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

A stunning Catholic basilica dedicated in 1846, Notre-Dame Cathedral is located across from the National Gallery. It is renowned for its interior mahogany carvings by Philippe Parizeau and Louis-Philippe Hébert's statues of the four apostles, prophets, and evangelists.

Stained-glass windows are especially beautiful. The work of Montreal artist Guido Nincheri, depicting scenes from the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary, was finished in a series of 17 windows between 1956 and 1061. The largest and oldest standing church in the nation's capital is housed in this historic structure, which was started in 1841 and finished in 1880.

Ontario is the home to Toronto, the largest city in the country, as well as Ottawa, the nation's capital. But what makes Ontario stand out is its extensive stretches of wilderness, pristine lakes, and Niagara Falls, one of Canada's most popular natural attractions. Learn more at Tourist Guide to Must Visit Places in Ontario.

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

The Canada Aircraft and Space Museum (Musée de l'Aviation et de l'Espace du Canada), situated near Rockcliffe Airport on the outskirts of town, provides a detailed account of Canadian civil and military aviation.

Fighter planes from the Maiden and Second World Wars, as well as some of the seaplanes and other aircraft that helped explore Canada's unexplored northern wilderness, are among the aircraft on exhibit. Another is a copy of the Silver Dart, which made the country's first flight in 1909.

Royal Canadian Mint

The Ottawa plant of the Royal Canadian Mint (Monnaie royale canadienne) still produces exquisite medals, collectible commemorative coins, and awards in precious metals even though it no longer produces Canada's circulating currency. Among them are Olympic medals.

Particularly on weekdays when you can observe the artisans at work, the trip is intriguing. Additionally, you'll get to hold a genuine gold ingot and witness one of the three enormous gold loonies (Canadian dollar coins) that are produced here. Since tour groups are typically limited, reserving in advance is advised.

Canadian Tulip Festival

Canadian Tulip Festival

The tulips that Queen Juliana of the Netherlands gave to Ottawa in appreciation for the city's hospitality during the Second World War blossom all across the city during the spring celebration, signalling the end of winter. The venue of general celebrations is Commissioner's Park and the canal banks in particular.

Thousands of tulips are in full bloom in Major's Hill Park, which lies southwest of the basilica. Millions of tulips blossom around the city, and there is a picturesque "Tulip Route" of tulip attraction places. Another common draw are shows and fireworks.

Byward Market

The Byward Market has been a vibrant part of Ottawa's bustling Lower Town to the north of the Rideau Canal since 1846. In addition to the food businesses in the main market hall, fruit, flower, and vegetable stalls line the streets during the summer.

After being painstakingly renovated, the entire area surrounding the market has been transformed into a neighbourhood featuring eateries and upscale shops.

Dows Lake Pavilion

The Dows Lake Pavilion is situated in a stunning area, jutting into and overlooking the lake. This establishment features a variety of dining options, including an outside patio that is particularly busy in the summer. The pavilion also overlooks the docks where paddleboats, canoes, kayaks, and bicycles can be rented.

The lake is a well-liked spot for fishing as well. In the winter, you can hire sleds and skates, and the park holds Winterlude festival events. During the Tulip Festival in the spring, it is decked with official tulip displays.

Activities In Ottawa

This in-depth Ottawa travel guide will inspire you with suggestions for attractions to see and activities to partake in! Here are some reasons why Ottawa is swiftly rising to the top of Canada's coolest cities.

SUP with Urban Ocean

Imagine paddling along the Gatineau River while seeing Ottawa's magnificent parliament buildings. City Ocean - The first SUP centre in Eastern Ontario debuted in Ottawa, and it now provides certification, instruction, tours, and SUP yoga. We ranked it first because it is among the most distinctive and enjoyable things to do in Ottawa.

You'll leave with a trip that takes you from the yacht club to the Parliament Buildings, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Rideau Canal Locks, and out to the river's centre for a sweeping view of Ottawa and Gatineau.

Once you find your balance, you won't need any prior experience to be taken around the river to see the sights.

BiPlane Flight

You must never have imagined that the Canada Air and Space Museum offered frequent flights in real World War II biplanes during the summertime!

We boarded a Waco UPF-7 open-cockpit biplane built about 1939, and we sat next to each other for the 25-minute flight that featured views of the Gatineau Hills, Downtown Ottawa, and the Parliament Buildings. Before turning around and heading back for the runway, our pilot even performed a few manoeuvres above Gatineau. It was hilarious!

  • Visit the Aviation and Space Museum website for additional information.
  • The lowest priced tour is $65. Gatineau and Ottawa tours cost $145 each.

Hiking Gatineau

We are  aware that the topic of this post is Things to Do in Ottawa, yet Ottawa and Gatineau are closely related. Just across the river from Ottawa, Ontario, is the Quebec city of Gatineau. Bridges, aqua taxis, and ferries connect the two cities, and they are a perfect match for one another. Gatineau is home to world-class museums, nightlife, and hiking trails. But we adore the outdoors the most. It is imperative that you visit Gatineau Park while you are in Ottawa

Vancouver is one of the few places on Earth where you can ski, surf, travel back in time more than 5,000 years, see a pod of orcas play, or take a stroll through the best urban park in the world all in the same day. Vancouver, British Columbia, is indisputably West Coast, nestled between wide lowlands, a lush temperate rain forest, and an uncompromising mountain range. Learn more at Tourist Guide to Must Visit Places in Vancouver.

Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park

Walking routes abound in the 365 square kilometre (139 square mile) conservation park known as Gatineau Park. The distance from Downtown Ottawa to one entrance is only 4 kilometres. Gatineau features 90 km of mountain biking routes and 165 km of hiking trails. A lot of road cyclists were also present when we were in the park. The 231 hectare (acre) William Lyon Mackenzie Estate, home to Canada's 10th prime minister, is seen. Beaches, canoeing, and camping are all available.

Hike to the Carbide Wilson Ruins

It's simple to find the trailhead for this 30-minute hike, which is a lovely stroll through the forest and among lakes. It comes to an end at Thomas Wilson's laboratory and summer home, where he created the commercial chemical calcium carbide. 

He constructed an estate and a dam in the middle of the forest so he could work alone out of fear that people would steal his other ideas. One of the top Instagram locations in the Ottawa Region is the house and damn, which are still standing and situated in a gorgeous landscape.

Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater rafting on the Ottawa River is regarded as some of the best in the world. Professional kayakers and rafters are drawn to run its class 5 rapids. Three rafting businesses that will take guests on the rafting trips of your choice are just an hour outside of downtown Ottawa. There are even more family-friendly quick journeys that are even smaller.

Whitewater Rafting Companies:

On the Ottawa River, there are three rafting businesses. RiverRun, Wilderness Adventures, and Owl Rafting. We used OWL Rafting and spent two days rafting there while staying at their all-inclusive resort.

Day one was spent in a huge group raft, with our guide navigating The Giant Rapids alled the Staircase with two enormous paddles.

Day two is spent aboard a tiny, four-person sport raft.

The resorts include breakfast, lunch, and supper buffets along with a rustic and relaxed atmosphere.

Changing of the Guard

Like England, Canada also conducts a changing of the guard ceremony. In the city, you can catch two different kinds. At the WW1 Memorial, there is a daily changing of the guard. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has a piper and two guards who alternate between their tasks; it's small yet interesting. The grand spectacle of parliament is a must, when from June to August a grandiose ceremony is held every day at 9:50 am on Parliament Hill.

Yoga on Parliament Hill

Every Wednesday from May through August, thousands congregate on Parliament Hill for a mass yoga practise. The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has been known to stop by. Lululemon Athletica, a yoga clothing company owned by Canadians, is sponsoring the free class.

Fairmont Chateau Laurier Historic Display

On the main floor of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, there is a free exhibit called the Fairmont Historic Display. Enter the magnificent hall of the renowned Chateau Laurier, go past the shops, and then enter a room filled with pictures depicting the development of the building and the neighbourhood. Winston Churchill frequently visited the Chateau Laurier, and there are numerous photos of him taking advantage of all that Ottawa has to offer.

Even the Titanic is connected to it. The Canadian railway extension was overseen by Charles Melville Hays, who also played a role in selecting the hotel's architects. The Chateau Laurier was the first of many hotels that would be constructed next to the railroad line.

Nordik Spa-Nature

Consider spending a day at the tranquil sanctuary of the Nordik Spa-Nature while you are in Ottawa. The greatest attraction near Ottawa is Nordik Spa, which is in Gatineau, Quebec, 20 minutes from Ottawa. It provides a distinctive spa experience in a natural setting.

Our favourite experience was the Källa Treatment (Saltwater Pool), where we floated in tranquilly for 40 minutes while experiencing the weight of zero gravity. It's the same as getting a lot of sleep!

As there are so many activities and experiences at Nordik Spa-Nature, we would suggest spending the entire day here:

  • 10 baths
  • 9 saunas
  • Single Infinity Pool
  • 1 Kalla Treatment Salt Water Floating Pool
  • Indoor and outdoor lounges, 3 restaurants
  • Many treatment rooms

Where to Stay at Luxury Hotels in Ottawa for Sightseeing:
Luxury lodging:

One of the best upscale hotels in the city is Le Germain Hotel Ottawa. The chic guest rooms and suites feature wall-length paintings, hardwood floors, and luxuries like Nespresso coffee makers and rainfall showerheads. The hotel also accepts pets, and children stay free of charge. A restaurant, fitness centre, and courtesy cars that visitors can book for short trips are available as amenities.

The Andaz Ottawa is a modern hotel with a focus on design located in the famed ByWard Market district. The rooms and apartments are roomy and comfortable, and they feature great city views. Dogs are permitted in this area. A restaurant, a fitness centre, valet parking, and a rooftop terrace with breathtaking views are available as amenities.

Midrange lodging:

The National War Memorial and Parliament Hall are just a short stroll from the downtown location of the Alt Hotel Ottawa. The stylish 3-star hotel offers roomy accommodations, including alternatives for families with youngsters staying free. A café, billiards room, and little gym are available as amenities. The motel welcomes canines.

The Residence Inn Ottawa Airport is another well-liked mid-range choice. Modern rooms and suites have kitchenettes and accent walls painted in vibrant colours. On-site amenities include a free breakfast buffet, an indoor pool, a hot tub, and a fitness centre. Here, kids are also free to remain.

Budget lodging:

A good low-cost option is the Rideau Heights Inn. It is a short drive from the city centre and features simple but cosy rooms. A free breakfast is provided, along with a picnic space and a vending machine. The hotel welcomes dogs if you're travelling with one.

Adam's Airport Inn is a family-friendly hotel close to the airport and another affordable choice. The motel offers tidy, cosy rooms with desks and refrigerators. There is a vending machine on site, parking is free, and breakfast is provided.

British Columbia is one of the most well-liked travel destinations in Canada thanks to its mountains, lakes, islands, and rainforests, as well as its scenic cities, charming towns, and world-class skiing. Learn more at Complete Travel Guide to British Columbia.

Check your eligibility for Online Canada Visa and apply for eTA Canada Visa 3 days in advance of your flight. British citizens, Italian citizens, Spanish citizens, French citizens, Israeli citizens, South Korean citizens, Portuguese citizens, and Chilean citizens can apply online for eTA Canada Visa. Should you need any help or require any clarifications you should contact our helpdesk for support and guidance.