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Top 20 Must-Visit Museums in Ottawa

Top 20 Must-Visit Museums in Ottawa

Are you tired of the monotonous museum experience? Fear not—Ottawa’s dynamic and lively museum scene has something for everyone! 

Whether you’re a history buff, a science geek, or an art lover, this city has stunning collections you’ll enjoy. Check out our comprehensive guide that reveals Ottawa’s top 20 must-visit museums.

1. National Gallery of Canada


Address: 380 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4, Canada

Contact details: +1 613-990-1985

Operating hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The National Gallery of Canada is one of the largest art museums in North America by exhibition space, housing over 93,000 works from European, American, Asian, Canadian, and indigenous artists. 

Its permanent collection includes works by some of the world’s most famous artists, including Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso. It also has a strong collection of Canadian art, including works by Emily Carr, Cornelius Krieghoff, and David Milne.

Pro tip:
Be sure to see the “Canadian and Indigenous Galleries,” which showcase the parallel and interrelated stories of Indigenous and Canadian art in Canada. This is a great way to learn about Canada’s history and culture.

2. Canadian Museum of Nature


Address: 240 McLeod St, Ottawa, ON K2P 2R1, Canada

Contact details: +1 800-263-4433

Operating hours: Wednesday to Monday – 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM

The Canadian Museum of Nature is a great place to learn about all things natural, from dinosaurs and minerals to plants and animals. It is housed in the beautiful Victoria Memorial Museum Building, built in the early 1900s. 

Some of the highlights include the Dinosaur Gallery, which features dinosaur skeletons; the Water Gallery, which explores the importance of water in our lives; and the Canada Gallery, which showcases Canada’s natural history.

Pro tip:
Purchase your tickets online in advance to skip the lines. Tickets are timed, so arrive at the museum during your designated time slot.

3. Canada Science and Technology Museum


Address: Scientique, 1867 St. Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON K1G 5A3, Canada

Contact details: +1 613-235-7053

Operating hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The Canada Science and Technology Museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting Canada’s scientific and technological heritage. It’s a great place to learn about the country’s many innovations from its earliest days to the present.

Many exhibits throughout the museum allow visitors to experiment and explore scientific concepts for themselves. The museum has many artifacts, from early steam locomotives to the latest space technology.

Pro tip:
Be sure to check out the museum’s iconic Canada Exhibition Hall. This hall is home to several large-scale exhibits, including a replica of the Canadarm robotic arm and a giant Tesla coil.

4. Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum


Address: 3929 Carp Rd, Ottawa, ON K0A 1L0, Canada

Contact details: Wednesday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm

Operating hours: +1 613-839-0007

The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum is a massive four-story underground facility that functioned as the country’s central communication center during the Cold War, prepared for any event of a nuclear attack. 

You’ll see recreated government workspaces, living quarters, and cryptographic areas. These spaces are filled with vintage maps, old telephones, and early computers, giving you an authentic feel of the era.

Pro tip:
The Diefenbunker offers escape room experiences. These challenging and exciting adventures allow visitors to test their problem-solving skills in a Cold War-themed environment.

5. Canada Aviation and Space Museum


Address: 11 Aviation Pkwy, Ottawa, ON K1K 2X5, Canada

Contact details: +1 613-991-3044

Operating hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in aviation and space exploration. The museum boasts over 130 civil and military aircraft, including the largest surviving piece of the famous Avro Arrow supersonic jetfighter. 

The museum offers a variety of interactive exhibits that allow visitors to experience the thrill of flight firsthand. You can climb into the cockpit of a fighter jet, take a virtual reality tour of the International Space Station, and even pilot a simulated aircraft.

Pro tip:
Be sure to check out the museum’s signature IMAX theater, which shows a variety of films about aviation and space exploration.

6. Canadian War Museum


Address: 1 Vimy Pl, Ottawa, ON K1A 0M8, Canada

Contact details: +1 800-555-5621

Operating hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

The Canadian War Museum is a national museum dedicated to Canada’s military history. In 2005, it moved to a new, state-of-the-art building designed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects in a joint venture with Griffiths Rankin Cook Architects. 

The museum houses many artifacts, including military vehicles, weapons, uniforms, and medals. It also has several permanent exhibitions that explore Canada’s role in various wars and conflicts, from the War of 1812 to the Afghanistan War.

Pro tip:
Plan your visit to the museum’s four thematic galleries: Canada and War, War and Society, Technology and War, and Canada in the World. These galleries explore the social, political, and technological factors that have shaped Canada’s military history.

7. Canadian Museum of History


Address: 100 Laurier St, Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M8, Canada

Contact details: +1 819-776-7000

Operating hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

The Canadian Museum of History is a national museum focusing on anthropology, Canadian history, cultural studies, and ethnology. It boasts a collection of over three million artifacts, with some of Canada’s most valued national treasures on display.

The most striking feature of the museum is the Grand Hall, which features a glass wall overlooking the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill. The Grand Hall is also home to the world’s most extensive indoor collection of totem poles. 

Pro tip:
If you plan to visit the Canadian Museum of History, check its website for current exhibitions and events. Also, remember to visit the Grand Hall and the Canadian Children’s Museum.

8. Ottawa Art Gallery


Address: 50 Mackenzie King Bridge, Ottawa, ON K1N 0C5, Canada 

Contact details: +16132338699

Operating hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

The Ottawa Art Gallery boasts a permanent collection of over 4,000 works of art, making it a treasure trove for art enthusiasts.  This collection is unique because it focuses on regional artists and art movements. 

Here, you’ll get a unique perspective on Ottawa’s artistic identity and evolution. The gallery also houses the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, owned by the City of Ottawa. 

Pro tip:
Take some time to interact with the pieces. Read the descriptions, discuss them with your companions, and consider how the art makes you feel. 

9. Royal Canadian Mint


Address: 320 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G8, Canada

Contact details: +16139930949

Operating hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The Royal Canadian Mint takes you on a tour and sees coins being produced right before your eyes. One of the tour highlights is the chance to hold a solid gold bar, a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with a precious piece of metal.

The Royal Canadian Mint holds the Guinness World Record for producing the world’s largest coin. This 100-kilogram coin is made of 99.999% pure gold and has a face value of $1 million, which you can see on the tour. 

Pro tip:
The Royal Canadian Mint gift shop is great for finding unique gifts and souvenirs, including collector coins, medals, and jewelry. They also have a variety of Canadian-themed items.

10. Canada Agriculture and Food Museum


Address: 901 Prince of Wales Dr, Ottawa, ON K2C 3K1, Canada

Contact details: +1 613-991-3044

Operating hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is home to over 150 farm animals, including dairy cows, beef cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry. It’s a fantastic opportunity, especially for children, to learn about farm animals and see them up close.

The museum offers a wealth of knowledge about Canada’s agricultural history and its connection to everyday life. You’ll delve into the science behind farming, food production, and food literacy through interactive exhibits and displays. 

Pro tip:
Be sure to save time to visit the demonstration farm. There, you can witness real farm activities and interact with the friendly staff, who can answer all your questions about farm life and the animals. 

11. Bank of Canada Museum


Address: 30 Bank St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G9, Canada

Contact details: +1 613-782-8914

Operating hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The Bank of Canada Museum is a great place to learn about the history of money and banking in Canada and the role of the Bank of Canada in the country’s economy.

It has high-tech interactive exhibits featuring economic artifacts—from shells once used as money to banknotes made from tree bark. It’s also home to the National Currency Collection, which contains over 100,000 currency-related artifacts worldwide. 

Pro tip:
Check out the “Money in 10 Questions: Kids Edition” exhibit. This play-based exhibit is an excellent way for kids to learn about the basics of money and personal finance. 

12. Bytown Museum


Address: 1 Canal Ln, Ottawa, ON K1P 5P6, Canada

Contact details: +1 613-234-4570

The Bytown Museum, housed in Ottawa’s oldest stone structure, the Commissariat Building,  tells the story of Ottawa’s fascinating journey from its humble beginnings as Bytown to its current status as Canada’s capital city.  

You’ll see tools for constructing the Rideau Canal, items from its lumberjack past, and Victorian-era timepieces. An exciting feature is the stone vault on the first floor, which stored money, supplies, and gunpowder during the canal’s construction.

Pro tip:
The Bytown Museum is conveniently located near Parliament Hill and the Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel, so you can easily combine your visit to the museum with some sightseeing in the heart of Ottawa.

13. Laurier House National Historic Site


Address: 335 Laurier Ave E, Ottawa, ON K1N 6R4, Canada

Contact details: +16139928142

The Laurier House National Historic Site was the home of Canada’s longest-serving Prime Ministers: Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King.  For over 50 years, this Second Empire-style mansion was at the heart of Canadian political life.

The house is furnished with many of Laurier and King’s original belongings, and visitors can see the rooms where they lived and worked. The home also has exhibits that tell the story of Laurier and King’s lives and careers.

Pro tip:
The guided tours are the best way to learn about the house’s history and residents, giving you a sense of what their lives were like.

14. Cumberland Heritage Village Museum


Address: 2940 Old Montreal Rd, Cumberland, ON K4C 1G3, Canada

Contact details: +16135802988

The Cumberland Heritage Village Museum is a living history museum that offers visitors a chance to step back and experience life in the 1920s and 1930s. The museum features heritage buildings and true-to-era reproductions. 

The museum’s collection includes thousands of historic objects, machinery, and equipment that showcase the social, cultural, technological, and economic changes during this fascinating historical period. 

Pro tip:
Take a ride on the miniature train. The museum’s miniature railway is a great way to see the entire site and is fun for people of all ages.

15. Billings Estate National Historic Site


Address: 2100 Cabot St, Ottawa, ON K1H 6K1, Canada

Contact details: +16135802088

Operating hours: Wednesday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The Billings Estate National Historic Site has the oldest surviving wood-framed house in Ottawa, built between 1827 and 1829. The house was home to four generations of the Billings family and is an example of Georgian architecture with classical detailing.

The Billings family played a pivotal role in shaping Ottawa’s early development. They were the first settlers in Gloucester Township and helped establish farms and churches.

Pro tip:
Take a tour of the Billings House. This is the best way to learn about Billings’ role in Ottawa’s development and understand what life was like back then.

16. Snow Goose Gallery


Address: 83 Sparks St., Ottawa, ON K1P 5A5, Canada

Contact details: +16132322213

Operating hours: Tuesday to Saturday – 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

The Snow Goose Gallery showcases the artistic heritage of Canada’s First Nations and Inuit communities. Established in 1963, it’s a family-owned business that has been a staple in the city’s art scene for over 60 years.

The Snow Goose Gallery is particularly renowned for its collection of Inuit art. It also features pieces from First Nations artists across Canada. Paintings, carvings, and textiles are some of the art forms you might encounter. 

Pro tip:
The Snow Goose Gallery website offers a sneak peek at some of the art they have for sale. This can help you plan your visit and target specific pieces you might be interested in seeing.

17. Museum of Classical Antiquities


Address: 55 Laurier Ave E, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N6, Canada

Contact details: +16135625800

Operating hours: Monday to Friday – 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

The Museum of Classical Antiquities is a hidden gem for those interested in the ancient Mediterranean world. Founded in 1975, it showcases a collection of artifacts from various regions, including Cyprus, Etruria, Rome, and North Africa.

Step inside the Desmarais Building, room 3104, and you’ll be greeted by display cases with pottery, everyday objects, and more.  One section features a collection of vases from different eras, offering a glimpse into these ancient civilizations’ artistic styles.

Pro tip:
Feel free to ask questions or request clarification from the museum staff. They are knowledgeable and passionate about the collection and can significantly enrich your experience.

18. Orange Art Gallery


Address: 290 City Centre Ave, Ottawa, ON K1R 7R7, Canada

Contact details: +16137611500

Operating hours: Wednesday to Sunday – 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM

The Orange Art Gallery showcases the works of over 25 local contemporary artists. Founded in 2010, this family-run business has become a cornerstone in Ottawa’s art scene, providing a platform for established and emerging talents.

You’ll find paintings, sculptures, photography, and mixed-media installations reflecting Ottawa’s artistic community here. The gallery also regularly hosts artist talks, providing opportunities for visitors to learn more about the artists behind the works.

Pro tip:
Explore the artist profiles and collections available on the Orange Art Gallery website. There, you can discover a variety of artistic styles and mediums and find a new favorite artist or piece that speaks to you. 

19. Goulbourn Museum


Address: 2064 Huntley Rd, Stittsville, ON K2S 1B8, Canada

Contact details: +16138312393

Operating hours: Friday to Saturday – 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

The Goulbourn Museum is a treasure trove of local history dedicated to preserving the Goulbourn Township area. Housed in the old Goulbourn Town Hall, built in 1872, the museum boasts a collection of over 10,000 artifacts and interactive exhibits that bring the region’s rich history to life.

From its military roots with the arrival of the 100th Regiment of Foot in 1818 to the experiences of its pioneering families, the museum offers a glimpse into the lives of those who shaped the area.

Pro tip:
Take advantage of the interactive exhibits! Whether you dress up like a shopkeeper at the Village General Store or explore the heritage garden, these exhibits allow you to experience Goulbourn Township’s history in a fun and engaging way.

20. Nepean Museum


Address: 16 Rowley Ave, Nepean, ON K2G 1L9, Canada

Contact details: +16135809638

Operating hours: Wednesday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The Nepean Museum is a community museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the former city of Nepean. It caters to families and children and offers a fun and interactive way to learn about the region’s past.

The museum’s centerpiece is the “Nepean: Rural Roots and City Streets” exhibition. This exhibit takes visitors on a journey through Nepean’s history, from its early days inhabited by Algonquin peoples to its amalgamation with Ottawa in the early 2000s.

Pro tip:
Take advantage of their guided tours or programs when visiting the Nepean Museum. These tours provide valuable insights into the exhibits and allow you to ask questions of the knowledgeable staff.