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Unleash Your Inner Explorer: Things to Do in Ottawa

Ottawa, Canada's capital, has a rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes that give it a unique blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. From the grandeur of Parliament Hill to the bustling ByWard Marke, Ottawa has something for everyone. So, pack your bags, put on your explorer's hat, and get ready to discover the top things to do in Ottawa, ON.


01 Visit Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill is the heart of Canada's political life. Here, you can witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony, a spectacle that rivals its London counterpart. If you're lucky, you might even spot Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joining a yoga session on the lawn! Many Parliament buildings offer free tours, so pay them a visit. The Gothic Revival-style architecture is a sight to behold, and the panoramic view from the Peace Tower is simply breathtaking. Whether you're a political enthusiast or just a curious traveler, visiting Parliament Hill will give you a deeper understanding of Canada's political landscape.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa Pgiam / Getty Images

02 Explore ByWard Market

The ByWard Market is one of Canada's oldest public markets, dating back to 1826. This bustling marketplace is a foodie's paradise. You'll find a smorgasbord of fresh produce, artisan cheeses, and mouth-watering pastries. But it's not just about food; the market is also home to boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Don't forget to check out the vibrant Laval Street in Gatineau, a trendy spot filled with patios and a unique art installation of colorful umbrellas. The market's lively atmosphere is infectious, and the array of goods on offer is a testament to Ottawa's multicultural fabric. From locally made crafts to international delicacies, ByWard Market is a microcosm of Ottawa's diverse, vibrant culture.

byward market interior Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

03 Visit the Rideau Canal and Bytown Museum

The Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a marvel of 19th-century engineering. In the summer, you can explore the canal on a leisurely boat cruise. In winter, it transforms into the world's largest skating rink. Adjacent to the canal, the Bytown Museum offers a deep dive into Ottawa's history. The museum's exhibits showcase Ottawa's transformation from a humble lumber town into a bustling metropolis. You'll leave with a deeper understanding of and respect for Ottawa's culture.

Rideau Canal at Sunset ChristopheLedent / Getty Images

04 Take a tour of the Ottawa River

Do you prefer whitewater rafting or serene boat cruises? Ottawa River has both. Don't miss the chance to see the city from a different perspective as you glide along its waters. The river's natural beauty is a sight to behold, with lush greenery lining its banks and a variety of wildlife calling it home.

Ottawa River and the Supreme Court from Nepean Point ChristopheLedent / Getty Images

05 Check out the National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is a haven for art lovers. Outside, the giant spider sculpture, Maman, is a popular attraction and a great photo opportunity. Inside, the gallery's collection spans centuries, featuring works from renowned Canadian artists like Tom Thomson and Emily Carr. Whether you're an art aficionado or a casual observer, the National Gallery of Canada offers a visual feast that's sure to inspire and captivate.

National Gallery of Canada aimintang / Getty Images

06 Explore the city on a bike tour

Ottawa is a bike-friendly city with plenty of cycling trails and dedicated lanes. Rent a bike and explore the city at your own pace, taking in the capital's sights and sounds. Whether you're cycling along the Rideau Canal or through Gatineau Park, you'll enjoy this healthy and eco-friendly way to sightsee. Ottawa's bike paths wind through some of the city's most scenic areas, offering stunning views and a unique perspective on the city. Strap on your helmet, hop on a bike, and get ready to discover Ottawa on two wheels!

biking through ottawa reesolsky / Getty Images

07 Have a drink at Tavern on the Hill

Tavern on the Hill offers more than gourmet hot dogs and refreshing drinks. This popular spot boasts a stunning view of Rideau Falls, where the Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River. It's the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploration. The tavern's relaxed atmosphere and friendly service make it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

08 Visit the Canadian Museum of History

The Canadian Museum of History is a must-visit for history buffs. The museum offers a comprehensive look at the country's past, including First Nations and more recent Canadian personalities. The museum's architecture is a masterpiece in itself, with its curving lines and towering totem poles reflecting Canada's rich cultural heritage.

canadian museum of history Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

09 Visit the Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum is a tribute to Canada's military history. The museum's exhibits cover everything from the First World War to recent conflicts, offering a sobering look at the realities of war. The museum's architecture, with its concrete and copper exterior, is designed to reflect the themes of regeneration and hope. Inside, Regeneration Hall offers a stunning view of the Parliament buildings. It's a reminder of the peace the country's military fights to protect.

Exploring Ottawa's Historic Charm George Rose / Getty Images

10 See the National War Memorial

The National War Memorial is a powerful symbol of the sacrifices made by Canada's military members. The monument, which features a granite arch and bronze figures, is a place to reflect and remember. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located at the base of the memorial, serves as a poignant reminder of the soldiers who gave their lives for their country.

Canadian Remembrance Day Ceremony Held At War Memorial In Ottawa Mike Carroccetto / Stringer / Getty Images

11 Relax in Confederation Park

Confederation Park is a green oasis in the heart of the city. Come to relax, enjoy a picnic, or simply watch the world go by. The park is home to several monuments and hosts various festivals throughout the year. Whether you're enjoying a leisurely stroll, reading a book under a shady tree, or taking part in a festival, Confederation Park is a breath of fresh air.

Fountain in park MikeyGen73 / Getty Images

12 Discover the Fairmont Château Laurier

The Fairmont Château Laurier is more than just a hotel; it's a piece of Canada's history. This grand edifice has welcomed royalty, celebrities, and world leaders since 1912. Even if you can't spend a night, visit for its historic display and stunning views of the Rideau Canal. The hotel's ornate woodwork and grand chandeliers will transport you back to a bygone era of luxury and refinement.

Ottawa, World War I Memorial Cenotaph peterspiro / Getty Images

13 Shop along Sparks Street

Sparks Street is a pedestrian mall full of shops, restaurants, and boutiques. It's also home to the Riviera Restaurant, voted one of the best restaurants in Canada by enRoute Magazine. The street's lively atmosphere makes it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Whether you're shopping for unique souvenirs or enjoying a meal, Sparks Street is a vibrant, dynamic part of Ottawa's downtown core.

Old fashioned shop frontage and street Design Pics / Getty Images

14 Go on the Haunted Walk of Ottawa

Join the Haunted Walk of Ottawa for something a little different. The guided tour takes you through the city's most haunted spots, sharing chilling tales of ghost sightings and unexplained phenomena. Knowledgeable guides dress in cloaks and carry lanterns to create an eerie atmosphere. Come explore the city's darker side.

15 Cross the Corktown Footbridge

The Corktown Footbridge is a pedestrian bridge that offers stunning views of the city that are especially beautiful at sunset. It's not surprising that the bridge is a favorite spot for photographers. Corktown Footbridge is a testament to Ottawa's commitment to pedestrian-friendly urban design. Once you experience it, you'll wonder why more cities don't invest in walkable infrastructures.

footbridge NicolasMcComber / Getty Images

16 Explore the Canadian Science and Technology Museum

The Canadian Science and Technology Museum is a fun, educational experience for all ages. The museum's interactive exhibits cover topics like space exploration and the history of technology. The museum's hands-on approach to learning makes it a hit with kids.

17 Check out the Library and Archives of Canada

The Library and Archives of Canada is a treasure trove of information. Whether you're researching your family history or simply interested in Canada's past, this is a must-visit. The library's collection includes books, maps, and photographs. It's a testament to Canada's rich history.

library Mike Steinhauer / Getty Images

18 Watch a game at the Canadian Tire Centre

If you're a sports fan, don't miss the chance to watch a game at the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators. The atmosphere is electric, and it's a great way to experience Canadian culture. The arena's state-of-the-art facilities and passionate fans make it a premier destination for hockey. If you don't think you love hockey, visit the Canadian Tire Centre to have your mind changed.

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators Mike Steinhauer / Getty Images

19 Visit Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

The Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture. Its stained glass windows and ornate interior are sure to leave you in awe. Whether you're attending a service, exploring the cathedral's rich history, or simply admiring its beauty, you must visit the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica.

Ottawa Notre Dame Basilica rabbit75_ist / Getty Images

20 Check Out the Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature is essential for nature lovers. Its exhibits cover everything from dinosaurs to minerals, offering a fascinating look at the natural world. The museum's interactive exhibits, live animal displays, and stunning dioramas bring nature to life.


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