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Navigating the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa

Navigating the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa

The National Gallery of Canada is one of my favorite hideouts in Ottawa. For me, it’s not just a building; it’s a living, breathing testament to Canada’s vibrant artistic soul. 

I’ve had countless moments here where I’ve stood in front of a painting, totally mesmerized. It’s like time stands still, and all that exists is me and the artwork, sharing this intimate moment of connection.

And I want you to experience it too, be it virtually or in person. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking inspiration, come along with me as we explore this iconic place together. 

Let’s lose ourselves in the beauty of the brushstroke, the intricacy of the sculpture, and the magic of artistic expression!

About the National Gallery of Canada 

Address380 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4, Canada
Phone613 990 1985
Operating hoursTuesday, Wednesday, Friday to Sunday: 10 – 5 pm 
Thursday: 10 – 8 pm 
Admission feesAdult: $20 
Senior (65+): $18
Students: $10
Children (11 and under):
Free Members: Free 

With its expansive premises spanning 46,621 square meters, including a generous 12,400 square meters dedicated to the exhibition of art, the National Gallery of Canada proudly holds its place among the most spacious art institutions across North America.

As soon as you step inside, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world brimming with over 93,000 works of art, each one a testament to the boundless creativity and cultural richness that defines the collective human experience. 

From the stirring masterpieces of Europe to the soul-stirring creations of Indigenous artists, every brushstroke and sculpture resonates with stories and perspectives waiting to be discovered.

What truly sets this gallery apart is its unwavering commitment to celebrating the unique voices and visions of Canadian and Indigenous artists. 

Here, their stories come to life, weaving a tapestry of identity and heritage that speaks directly to the soul of our nation.

Best Time to Visit the National Gallery of Canada 

The best time to visit the National Gallery of Canada depends on what you’re looking for. For a quieter experience, go on a weekday morning (Tuesday to Friday between 5 – 8 p.m.). 

But if you’re aiming for free admission, Thursdays from 5 – 8 p.m. is the best choice. 

What You’ll See at the National Gallery of Canada 

1. Canadian and Indigenous Art 

The National Gallery of Canada isn’t just your typical museum filled with dusty old paintings. This place bursts with the stories of Canada, from the super ancient carvings by Inuit artists to the landscapes that made the Group of Seven famous.

It’s like a walk-through time, but way cooler because you get to see these incredible works of art up close. 

Plus, they have the world’s biggest collection of Indigenous and Canadian art, so you’re basically getting a crash course in Canadian history through the eyes of amazing artists!

2. European Art 

Aside from Canadian art, they’ve also got a whole wing dedicated to European masters, and let me tell you, it’s like stepping into an art history book.

Imagine walking through a room and coming face-to-face with paintings by Rubens, the guy who’s preeminent for those dramatic, larger-than-life scenes. 

And then, right around the corner, you’ve got a Monet bathed in light and color, just like those dreamy landscapes he did.

3. Contemporary Art 

One thing for sure that this gallery promises to all its visitors is that they won’t get stuck in a time warp. They do not dwell too much on the past.

They’ve got a whole section dedicated to contemporary art, and it’s anything but boring. We’re talking about paintings that make you think, sculptures that challenge your perception, and video installations that pull you right into the action. 

It’s like stepping into a giant, mind-bending experiment where artists are pushing the boundaries of what art can be. You might walk out seeing the world in a whole new light!

4. The Rideau Street Convent Chapel 

The Rideau Street Convent Chapel was literally rescued from being torn down! They took this architectural marvel apart, piece by piece, and then brought it back to life right inside the gallery.

The craftsmanship is insane; with these intricate vaulted ceilings and delicate columns, it feels airy and elegant at the same time. 

Plus, it’s a real testament to the power of saving historical treasures. They didn’t just let this beauty disappear; they found a new way for everyone to appreciate it.

Where to Eat Near the National Gallery of Canada 

1. Play Food & Wine

Address1 York St, Ottawa, ON K1N 5S7, Canada
Phone613 667 9207 
Operating hoursSunday to Tuesday: 5 – 9 pm 
Wednesday to Saturday: 11:30 – 2 pm, 5 – 10 pm 
Must-order Artisanal Cheese Plate 
Charcuterie Plate 
Smoked Pork Ribs 
Price range $$ – average 

Play Food & Wine is a modern, vibrant spot where small plates reign supreme. As soon as you step in, you’re hit with the aromas of market-driven cuisine being crafted right before your eyes in their open-concept kitchen.

When it comes to their crown jewel (that people are raving about), you have to try their Smoked Pork Ribs. It’s tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs smothered in a tantalizing jalapeño and haskap glaze.

They’re also served with scape gribiche, melon kimchi, crispy potato salad, and roasted acorn squash.


Address18b York St, Ottawa, ON K1N 5T5, Canada
Phone613 562 9331 
Operating hoursMonday to Thursday: 4:30 – 10:30 pm 
Friday and Saturday: 4:30 – 11 pm 
Must-order Spicy Braised Beef Chuck 
Green Papaya Salad 
Shrimp & Pork Wonton Dumplings 
Price range $ – $$  cheap – average 

If you’re craving some Southeast Asian food, SIDEDOOR is the perfect choice for you!

Their Shrimp & Pork Wonton Dumplings are really a claim to fame — and for a reason. It features delicate dumplings swimming in a ginger-scallion broth, with a kick of chili and sesame to keep things interesting.

But here’s the best part: It’s all served family-style, so you can bond with your loved ones over shared plates and lively conversation!

3. Fiazza Fresh Fired Byward Market 

Address86 Murray St, Ottawa, ON K1N 5M6, Canada
Phone613 562 2000 
Operating hoursSunday to Thursday: 11 – 9 pm
Friday and Saturday: 11 – 10 pm 
Must-order Pepperoni 
Magik Mushroom 
Price range $ – cheap 

If it’s a quick bite you’re after, go to Fiazza Fresh Fired in Byward Market!

The dish that’s got everyone talking is their Magik Mushroom. It’s a canvas of Fiazza’s signature red sauce, generously topped with their special cheese blend and a sprinkle of parmesan. 

Then come the stars of the show: organic local oyster mushrooms generously sprinkled on top, with a drizzle of truffle oil that takes it to a whole new level of gourmet goodness.

4. Bistro Ristoro 

Address17 Clarence St., Ottawa, ON K1N 5P4, Canada
Phone343 988 7997 
Operating hoursTuesday and Wednesday: 5:30 – 10 pm 
Thursday: 11 – 2 pm, 5:30 – 10 pm 
Friday: 11 – 2 pm, 5:30 – 11 pm 
Saturday: 11 – 2:30 pm, 5:30 – 11 pm 
Sunday: 11 – 4 pm 
Must-order Champinones con Chorizo 
Kofta Kebab 
Price range $$ – average 

It’s worth coming to Bistro Ristoro just for their Champinones con Chorizo alone. This dish features brick oven-baked champignons stuffed with an in-house cheese blend and chorizo.

One bite and you’ll be transported to the cobblestone streets of Madrid!

But if you’re in the mood for something with a bit more of an Eastern Mediterranean flair, their Kofta Kebab is where it’s at. 

Imagine a grilled minced veal kebab that’s served up with all the fixings: a bed of arugula, a dollop of tzatziki, and a cheeky little lemon wedge on the side. How mouthwatering, isn’t it?

Where to Stay Near the National Gallery of Canada

1. The Westin Ottawa 

Address11 Colonel By Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 9H4, Canada
Phone613 560 7000 
Operating hoursCheck-in time: 3 pm 
Check-out time: 12 pm 

This place is seriously swanky. It’s right in the heart of downtown, so you can walk everywhere, but trust me, you might not want to leave the hotel itself.

They’ve got this amazing saltwater pool that’s perfect for unwinding after a day of exploring. Plus, there’s a killer gym and even squash courts if you’re feeling energetic (which, let’s be real, is vacation mode for some, but not all of us!).

But above all, the real highlight here at The Westin Ottawa is their rooms. All are spacious and have comfy beds with breathtaking views for days. 

I’m talking about cityscapes that would make your Instagram followers jealous!

2. Andaz Ottawa Byward Market

Address325 Dalhousie St, Ottawa, ON K1N 7G1, Canada
Phone613 321 1234 
Operating hoursCheck-in time: 3 pm 
Check-out time: 12 pm 

This hotel isn’t just some stuffy old place to crash for the night. It’s a full-on experience in a super stylish Canadian lodge that somehow got dropped right in the heart of Ottawa’s coolest neighborhood, Byward Market.

Imagine 200 rooms, each one designed with a local touch by this award-winning firm, Mason Studio. We’re talking comfy beds, floor-to-ceiling windows with killer views of Parliament Hill, and even some luxurious suites for those fancy stays.

But the real star of the show here is their rooftop bar, Copper Spirits and Sights. 

Perched way up on the 16th floor, this spot boasts panoramic views of the city that’ll knock your socks off. Plus, they have some seriously top-notch craft cocktails and small plates that are like tiny explosions of flavor in your mouth.

3. Sheraton Ottawa Hotel 

Address150 Albert St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5G2, Canada
Phone613 238 1500
Operating hoursCheck-in time: 3 pm 
Check-out time: 12 pm 

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Ottawa that’s got that “wow” factor, the Sheraton Ottawa Hotel totally delivers! It’s got a super chill vibe, with comfy rooms that feel more like an apartment than a boring box. 

Plus, who can resist an indoor saltwater pool? Imagine melting away your stress after a day of sightseeing, floating in warm, soothing water. Sounds pretty amazing, right?

And let’s not forget about those updated rooms! 

They’ve got everything you need to unwind: a big-screen TV for movie marathons, a mini-fridge to stock with your favorite drinks, and even a spacious work desk and free Wi-Fi if you absolutely have to catch up on some emails.

Tips When You Visit the National Gallery of Canada

1. Plan your visit. 

The gallery is large, so it’s a good idea to plan your visit in advance. Decide how much time you want to spend at the gallery and what you’re most interested in seeing. 

The website has suggested itineraries for different interests, or you can create your own based on the collection map.

2. Rent an audio guide.

Audio guides are available for rent at the gallery. These can be a great way to learn more about the art on display.

3. Take a tour. 

The National Gallery of Canada offers a variety of tours, including docent-led tours, self-guided tours, and tours for families.

4. Consider getting a membership. 

If you live in the Ottawa area or plan on visiting the gallery frequently, a membership may be a good option for you. Members get free admission to the gallery as well as discounts on special exhibitions and events.

5. Relax and have fun! 

The National Gallery of Canada is a great place to learn about art and culture. Take some time to relax and enjoy the experience.