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Top 15 Best Things to do in Ottawa, Canada

Top Tourist Spots in Ottawa, Ontario

Rideau Canal Skateway photo via FB Page

Bucket List: 15 Best Places to Visit in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Just outside the U.S. border, Ottawa serves as the capital of Canada. This is where business meets fun, where museums and parks are abundant, and the largest urban skating rink can be found. From museum tours to sightseeing tours, if you’re wondering whether Ottawa’s worth a visit, check out the list below, and maybe you’ll find something you’d like.

Rideau Canal Skateway

Rideau Canal Skateway photo via FB Page
Rideau Canal Skateway photo via FB Page

Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was used as a military defense system back in 1832. Now, the symbolic canal system is used for recreational activities. And from January to early March, this heritage site becomes the world’s largest urban skating rink. Locals and tourists get to skate the 7.8 kilometers of ice or shuffle along the edges for non-skaters.


Greenbelt Ottawa by P199 via Wikimedia cc
Greenbelt Ottawa By P199 – Own work, CC BY 2.5, cc

The 20,000 hectares of protected green space in Greenbelt comprise wetlands, forests, and sand dunes. These natural areas are crucial for human and ecological health within the region. It is the largest publicly owned greenbelt divided into six main sectors. Greenbelt is a popular site for winter activities, with designated trails and hills for families and friends. The protected area has 150 kilometers of trails for cross-country skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing, and snowy toboggan hills. Visitors can also see the farms in the Greenbelt, a symbol of Canada’s rural traditions.

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill Complex in Ottawa by Louie Luo via Wikimedia cc
Parliament Hill Complex in Ottawa By Louie Luo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, cc

Locally called “The Hill,” Parliament Hill is the home of the Parliament of Canada and a significant architectural landmark. Locals and tourists can take guided tours within the complex and visit the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada Building. Visitors can learn about neo-Gothic Parliament Buildings, functions, art, and architecture in these tours.

Dominion Arboretum

Dominion Arboretum along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa by Ben Whitney via Wikimedia cc
Dominion Arboretum along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa By Ben Whitney – Photo taken by me (Benito78) cc

Located at the Central Experimental Farm, the Dominion Arboretum has an incredible collection of 2,000 varieties of trees and shrubs adapted to the region. The rolling hills of the botanical garden were established to test the hardiness of woody plants in the Canadian climate. The 35-kilometer arboretum has plants dating back to 1889 and an oak tree over 100 years old.

Royal Canadian Mint

Royal Canadian Mint by RealGrouchy via Wikimedia cc
Royal Canadian Mint By RealGrouchy – Own work, Sussex Drive

The Royal Canadian Mint produces the circulation and collector’s coins of Canada, including gold and silver bullion and medals and medallions to honor those who have served the country. Visitors can join virtual tours or guided tours within its headquarters to see the Royal Canadian Mint’s gold refining technology on the production floor and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games medals.

National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa by Tullia via Wikimedia cc
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa By Tullia – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, cc

The capital of Canada has seven national museums, and the National Gallery of Canada is one of them. Filled with more than 40,000 contemporary and historical paintings, sculptures, and installations, the landmark tells the story of Canada through its art collections, including ancient Indigenous artifacts, Inuit sculptures, and religious pieces from New France. The gallery also exhibits a comprehensive collection of European and Asian artworks.

Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum

Diefenbunker: Canada's Cold War Museum by P199 via Wikimedia cc
Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum By P199 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, cc

Commissioned in 1959 by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, the bunker was used to house key government and military members in the event of a nuclear attack on Canada in response to the escalating tensions in the Cold War. The museum offers guided tours, exhibitions, educational programs, and summer camps. Apart from guided tours, the museum has also partnered with Escape Manor to turn the bunker into an escape room, Escape the Diefenbunker.

Canadian War Museum

Canadian War Museum by Bob Linsdell via Wikimedia cc
Canadian War Museum By Bob Linsdell, CC BY 3.0, cc

As one of Ottawa’s national museums, the Canadian War Museum represents the history of the war in Canada with its large collection of tanks, artillery, and jet fighters, together with personal effects, photographs, and artworks. Some of these include a teddy bear sent by a young girl to her soldier father during the First World War and the dress coat of Sir Isaac Brock when he was killed at the battle of Queenston Heights. The symbolic landmark reflects the conflicts that transformed the country, its citizens, and the rest of the world.

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum photo via FB Page
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum photo via FB Page

Another national museum in Ottawa, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, is a working farm where visitors can meet farm animals and witness how milk is collected and how butter is made. Located in the heart of the city, the museum offers visitors a great opportunity to learn about the food they eat through museum demonstrations, guided tours, programs, and exhibitions. These events are also the museum’s way of showcasing Canada’s rich agricultural heritage.

Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History by Michel Rathwell via Wikimedia cc
Canadian Museum of History By Michel Rathwell from Cornwall, Canada – The Canadian Museum of Civilization, CC BY 2.0, cc

One of Canada’s most visited museums, the Canadian Museum of History has an extensive indoor collection of totem poles, a significant exhibition on the traditions and achievements of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, and one of the most comprehensive exhibitions about the history of Canada. The Canadian Children’s Museum is within the complex, where interactive installations and immersive games await children who want to explore other cultures.

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Ottawa by Jeangagnon via Wikimedia cc
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Ottawa By Jeangagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, cc

Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990, the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Ottawa is the oldest and largest church in Ottawa and the seat of the city’s Roman Catholic archbishop. What draws visitors to the Basilica is often its architecture and interior. The Gothic ornamentation, stained glass windows that date back to 1879, the side altars built in 1879 and 1885, and the large collection of sacred artifacts and artworks of European origin on display is a sight to behold.

Mer Bleue Bog

Mer Bleue Bog by P199 via Wikimedia cc
Mer Bleue Bog By P199 – Own work, CC BY 2.5, cc

Located within the Greenbelt, Mer Bleue Bog is a popular hiking destination with more than 20 kilometers of trails. The habitat is occupied by diverse wildlife and rare plants and plays a crucial role in stabilizing the climate. As the largest bog and natural area in Ottawa, researchers have studied the amount of carbon dioxide and methane released in Mer Bleue Bog. These hiking trails are used for winter snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and fat biking. Some points of interest include Trail 51, Trail 53, Dewberry Trail, and Mer Bleue Bog Trail.

Major’s Hill Park

Major's Hill Park via Wikimedia cc
Major’s Hill Park CC BY-SA 3.0, 

With some of the best lookouts in Ottawa, the quiet escape of Major’s Hill Park makes it an exceptional location for relaxation. The park has been used since 1826, when Rideau Canal began construction, and was formally established as a park in 1875. Today’s historic park is most visited during Ottawa’s Canada Day celebrations and when the tulips bloom in spring.

Byward Market

Ottawa Byward Market by Trappy via Wikipedia cc
Ottawa Byward Market By Trappy at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, cc

Located close to Major’s Hill Park, the lively Byward Market is a people gathering location that has been open since 1826 by Lieutenant-Colonel John By. As time passed, the market transformed from a small commercial section for the builders of the Rideau Canal into a cultural melting pot and destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. The Byward Market today comprises a farmer’s market, independently-run galleries, and vibrant clubs and bars.

Room Escape Ottawa

Room Escape Ottawa is Ottawa’s largest and most immersive escape room, with 6 themed escape rooms and 1 virtual escape room. The beginner-friendly escape rooms allow 7-year-old guests and above to save the world from evil or escape from an alien planet. After finishing the escape rooms, try visiting other tourist attractions in the same buildings, like combat archery at Archery Games and dine and play at Playback Ottawa.

How to get there

With many museums, expansive protected areas, and escape rooms, Ottawa uses its status as a capital well. The city is where it all happens, where the seat of the government is, and where significant landmarks are. With several options to travel and to get there, be it by train, car, or plane, Ottawa makes it easier to attract visitors from outside its city.

Our Top Hotel Picks for Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa Travel and Tour Packages

Check out our list of cheap Ottawa Canada hotels and resorts via Agoda, Booking, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

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