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Exploring Ottawa: Top Things to Do in Canada’s Capital City

Exploring Ottawa Top Things to Do in Canada’s Capital City

Despite being the 7th coldest capital city in the world, Ottawa offers more than just snow angels, shoveling, and staying indoors. Beyond the chill, Canada’s capital surprises visitors with a variety of activities that don’t require constant bundling up.

It’s a vibrant city that offers a plethora of activities like ice skating down a frozen river, kayaking, strawberry picking, and more. If you don’t know where to start, here is a list of the top things to do in Ottawa!

Enjoy a picnic or ice skate on the Rideau Canal

Address: 1 Second Ave, Ottawa, ON K1S 2H2, Canada

Contact Details: +16132835170

Operating Hours: Open 24/7


The Rideau Canal is one of Ottawa’s historical gems. This 202-kilometer UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 1832 and served as a commercial shipping route for most of the 19th century and early 20th century. 

Today, the Rideau Canal serves as a prime destination for tourists and locals during the summers and winters. During the summer, people flock along the canal to host picnics or kayak down the stream. 

During the winter, however, the canal’s waters completely freeze, giving locals and tourists the opportunity to ice skate down its whole stretch! The Rideau Canal Skateway became a yearly attraction, welcoming visitors 24/7 when the canal is frozen!

The Rideau Canal has a walking route that takes you through seven other notable landmarks in Ottawa, namely the Ottawa Locks, Pretoria Bridge, Dows Lake, Parliament Hill, Hartwells Lockstation, and the Central Experimental Farm. 

There are signages that lead you through all these sites, starting from the base of Parliament Hill. 

Learn about Canada’s natural history at the Canadian Museum of Nature

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

Contact Details: +18002634433

Operating Hours: Monday, Wednesday to Sunday, 9:30 am to 4:00 pm


The Canadian Museum of Nature is located close to the Rideau Canal. The museum is wholly dedicated to Canada’s natural history, featuring the nation’s best examples of preserved and rare flora, fauna, and geology. 

Popular exhibits at the museum include the Fossil Gallery with dinosaur bones dating back millions of years, the Earth Gallery featuring displays of rocks and minerals, and the Bird Gallery, the largest collection of Canadian bird species in the country.

Moreover, there are special exhibitions that feature live animals such as marine life, insects, and owls. Most of them only run for a few weeks and change constantly, so stay tuned to the museum’s website for updates! 

The museum offers several facilities for visitors, including a nursing room for breastfeeding mothers on the ground floor, coin-operated lockers, and manual wheelchairs that are free to loan. 

Guests who are accompanying a person with a disability will be given one complimentary admission ticket on the day of their visit. They can receive the free ticket on the day of their visit or in advance (but this needs prior booking). 

Wine and dine to your heart’s content at ByWard Market

Address: 55 Byward Market Square, Ottawa, ON K1N 9C3, Canada

Contact Details: +16132444410

Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm


Foodies shouldn’t miss out on ByWard Market’s bustling stalls, selling artisanal goods and culinary treats. The public market is one of Ottawa’s most popular tourist destinations, welcoming over 50,000 people every weekend. 

ByWard Market is one of Canada’s oldest public markets, operating since 1827. There are over 600 vendors, poutine (fries, cheese, and gravy), Montreal-style smoked meat, Beavertails (sweet fried dough), and Beek on Weck (roast beef sandwich roll). 

Other popular goods you can find here are locally-grown produce, flowers, new and used books, spices, herbs, handmade jewelry, baked goods, souvenirs, and, of course, maple products! If you’re shopping for gifts, this is one place to do it! 

The best visiting months of ByWard Market are May to October. This is when the market opens its seasonal outdoor market where vendors take to the streets to sell seasonal goods and produce. 

Otherwise, the market is open indoors every day. There are limited seating areas for dining at the market, so we highly recommend dropping by as soon as they open at 10:00 am during regular market season and 9:00 am during outdoor season. 

Marvel at the architectural wonder of Parliament Hill

Address: Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A9, Canada

Contact Details: +16139924793

Operating Hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 6:00 pm


Parliament Hill is Canada’s main federal government seat where major decisions are made by Parliament members. Although people can’t exactly enter all of the building halls, many points of interest are open for tourists free of charge! 

Parliament Hill’s palatial buildings were built between 1859 and 1927, all built in the neo-Gothic style, resembling many Parliament buildings in England. Notable buildings include the East and West Blocks, the Centre Block, and the Peace Tower. 

Free tours are available every day, and they take you through popular sites inside such as the iconic Victorian-style library, the House of Commons, and the Senate. Touring all of Parliament Hill will take you roughly an hour or two to complete, so plan ahead!

Parliament Hill’s main building is currently closed for renovation, but the West Block, East Block, House of Commons, and the Senate are open for visits. You can reserve your tickets in advance here

Note that there are separate ticket entries per site, so make sure you reserve all tickets for every site you want to visit during the day. 

Surround yourself in luxury at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier

Address: 1 Rideau St, Ottawa, ON K1N 8S7, Canada

Contact Details: +16132411414

Operating Hours: Open 24/7


The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is one of Canada’s most luxurious hotels, but it’s also a prime tourist spot for people who want to dip their feet in Canadian glitz and glam (even if it’s just for a picture). 

Looking for a cheeky staycation or a cozy getaway in Auckland? Check out our curated list of charming bed and breakfast spots for the perfect intimate retreat!

The hotel is also a National Historic Site of Canada with a history of welcoming celebrities, royalty, and world leaders. It first opened in 1912 and was built in French Gothic Revival architecture, with much of its original structure preserved to this day. 

You don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars to spend a few hours here, however. You can take a short tour inside and marvel at the beautiful interiors and tasteful art works spread across the building. 

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is situated right by the Rideau Canal and a 5-minute walk from the ByWard Market and Parliament Hill. 

We recommend visiting the hotel after taking a stroll along the Canal and before making your way to either the market or Parliament Hill. 

Stroll around the grounds of the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

Address: 385 Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 1J9, Canada

Contact Details: +16132417496

Operating Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm


The Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, or the Notre Dame of Ottawa, is a national Historic Site of Canada and the oldest church in the city. Built in 1841, the cathedral boasts a Neoclassical-Gothic Revival design. 

The cathedral itself is an architectural marvel that tourists shouldn’t miss out on when visiting downtown Ottawa. It sits right by the Byward Market and Parliament Hill, with its two towering spires making it hard to miss when you’re strolling around the area. 

The cathedral is an important landmark in Ottawa, hosting important baptisms, weddings, and religious events year-round. Guests are free to visit the grounds and inside to marvel at the architecture or to participate in both French and English masses. 

The Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica houses a cafe where visitors can buy refreshments like coffee, tea, juice, and small snacks. 

Guided tours can also be booked via the website. Tours are usually available from May to October and must be booked in advance to make sure that they won’t disrupt any major masses or events. 

Go on a food tour around Hintonburg, Ottawa

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The Hintonburg neighborhood of Ottawa is best known for its rich food and art scene, particularly the cafes and restaurants lining the streets. Lots of tourists flock to this area to try out both hearty Canadian comfort food and luxurious fine-dining establishments. 

It is also the home of Ottawa’s “Arts Districts”, an association that highlights Hintonburg’s cultural and artistic significance in the city. Aside from food, there are a number of art galleries in the area, namely Kitchen Wall Gallery and Orange Art Gallery. 

A few popular stops for foodies here are The Hintonburg Public House, a casual eatery for craft beer and comfort food, Bar Laurel for Spanish fare, Tennessy Willems for wood oven-baked pizza, and the Happy Goat Coffee Company for a caffeine fix!

Due to Hintonburg’s popularity as a foodie destination, there are numerous organizations that host food tours around the neighborhood. You can find a list of ongoing and upcoming tours here.

You can choose either a self-guided tour or a trip around Hintonburg with a tour guide. Walking or biking tours are also available! 

Explore Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada

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

Contact Details: +16139901985

Operating Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Thursday, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm


Make sure to check out the National Gallery of Canada for an impressive array of Canadian art. The gallery was founded in 1880 and continues to house one of the world’s most prestigious collections of Indigenous and Canadian art in the world. 

One of the most striking features of the gallery is its architecture. The structure is made of glass and granite, and was designed by famous architect Moshe Safdie (if you’re an architecture buff, this is a place you can geek out about!).

A must-visit exhibition is the Indigenous and Canadian Art Gallery, housing over 800 paintings, prints, silverware, artifacts, and sculptures dating over 5,000 years ago. 

There are also some iconic artworks from esteemed artists like Emily Carr and A.Y. Jackson.

The national gallery offers free admission to gallery members, children, and First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples. Tourists and non-member locals are charged $20 for entry. 

Each ticket gives you access to all exhibitions and art galleries inside. However, if you visit on a Thursday, the gallery offers free admission to ALL visitors from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm only. 

You’ll need to book your slot here in advance or drop by the gallery at those specified hours and get your tickets before they run out! 

Surround yourself in lush greenery at the Central Experimental Farm

Address: 960 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON K1A 0C6, Canada

Contact Details: +16137591982

Operating Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm


If you’re looking to escape Ottawa’s cityscape for a moment without leaving the actual city, head on over to the Central Experimental Farm for a stroll around lush greenery and gardens. The complex is a National Historic Site of Canada, so you’re in for a treat!

The sprawling complex covers 400 hectares with gardens, historic buildings, research facilities, and a museum. Highlights include the Arboretum, a 26-hectare tree-filled area, and the 3.2-hectare Ornamental Gardens, known for their irises and lilacs.

There is also a Tropical Greenhouse built in 1928, which is wholly dedicated to tropical flora found all over the world. To learn more about Canada’s agriculture, head on over to the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum located inside a large barn. 

All the garden attractions inside the Central Experimental Farm are free of charge. If you want to visit the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, ticket rates start at $13.50 for adults and $11.25 for students and elderly. 

Free admission, however, is offered to ALL visitors every day between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm, so we highly recommend dropping by just before these hours to secure a free slot inside! 

Get the best views on top of the Andaz Hotel

Address: 325 Dalhousie St, Ottawa, ON K1N 7G1, Canada

Contact Details: +16133211234

Operating Hours: Tuesday to Thursday, 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Friday to Saturday, 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm


The Andaz Hotel, located near the ByWard Market, is a top choice for tourists seeking comfortable lodging close to Ottawa’s main attractions. Locals also enjoy its rooftop for stunning city views. 

The best way to enjoy the views from the top of Andaz Hotel is to book reservations at the hotel’s rooftop bar, Copper Spirits & Sights. The bar serves cocktails, spirits, and local craft beer, as well as small bites to keep you company while you enjoy the views. 

The bar has both indoor and outdoor seating, but we highly recommend booking the al fresco tables for better views of the city. Don’t worry about the cold, there are fire pits located at every table to keep you warm and cozy while you wine and dine! 

The Copper Spirits & Sights bar hosts a brunch buffet every Sunday with a live DJ playing soulful and upbeat music. Walk-ins are allowed, but reservations are highly recommended, as tables and seats run out pretty quickly. 

Note that the bar is only open from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm during its regular operating days (except for Sundays). 

Go whitewater rafting at Ottawa City Rafting

Address: 102 Greenview Ave, Ottawa, ON K2B 5Z6, Canada

Contact Details: +18446887238

Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9”00 am to 6:00 pm


Canada’s capital city is no stranger to adrenaline junkies. If you’re hungry for adventure, but don’t want to leave the city, try whitewater rafting at Ottawa City Rafting for a change. 

The Ottawa City Rafting conducts whitewater rafting excursions along the Ottawa River. Whitewater rafting is essentially riding an inflatable raft through rough areas of the river, giving riders an exhilarating ride right next to the city center. 

You, your friends, or your family can navigate your way through the Ottawa River with the Parliament buildings and the cityscape in your line of sight. It’s a different kind of experience in the heart of the city but definitely an Ottawan one! 

Ottawa City Rafting requires a minimum of 6 people and a maximum of 11 people on board the raft. Riders must be at least 50 pounds in weight and 5 years of age. 

Children are allowed to join in on the activity, but young riders are highly recommended to take introductory rafting lessons from Ottawa City Rafting first. 

Trip seasons last from May to September. For more updates on available trip schedules, check out this page

Pick your own fresh strawberries at Shouldice Berry Farm

Address: 2110 Merivale Rd, Nepean, ON K2G 3N4, Canada

Contact Details: +16138382129

Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm


Just a short drive from the Ottawa city center is Shouldice Berry Farm, which allows you to pick fresh strawberries starting at $10 for 2 liters. There’s no fee to enter the farm, as they charge you for how many you pick!

Picking all the strawberries yourself may be a little exhausting, but the activity is a fun way to support local farms and the community. Plus, you get to munch on fresh strawberries or buy organic jams from the farm’s market. 

Turning your hand-picked strawberries into jams is one way you can create thoughtful gifts for your family and friends back home. There’s more to Canada’s capital city than maple syrup, so don’t miss out on Shouldice Berry Farm before your trip ends! 

The farm opens its strawberry picking services during strawberry season, which usually lasts from June to July. However, you can also pick raspberries and other local produce starting the spring season (March to May). 

Due to the nature of the activity, pets are strictly forbidden from entering. The farm may close during bad weather (such as rain, snow, and hail), so plan your trip ahead when the weather forecast says sunny! 

Geek out about airplanes at Ottawa Aviation Adventures

Address: 11 Aviation Pkwy, Ottawa, ON K1K 4Y5, Canada

Contact Details: +16133167229

Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm


Sightseeing around Ottawa on foot is fantastic, but what about on air? Ottawa Aviation Adventure lets you take your city exploration to whole new heights, figuratively and literally. 

The Ottawa Aviation Adventure offers airplane tours using 1930s biplanes and four-seat aircrafts, piloted by Greg Reynolds. There are four tour types available: River, Parliament, Gatineau, and Eco.

River tours fly over the Ottawa River, Parliament tours fly over Parliament Hill, Gatineau tours fly over Gatineau Park and River, then the Eco tour flies over all the other aforementioned areas. Overall, a step up from the usual tours you’ll find around the city!

Family tours are available for two and three passengers, but rates are higher per person the fewer passengers there are. Flight tours require a minimum of two passengers. 

Biplane flights using the 1930s planes are only available from May to October, but family tours are available all year-round on weekends. 

Bounce and play around Cosmic Adventures’ indoor playground

Address: 1373 Ogilvie Rd, Gloucester, ON K1J 7P5, Canada

Contact Details: +16137428989

Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 9:00 am to 8:30 pm


Who says playgrounds are only for children? If you have a bit more energy burn, take your adrenaline for a spin at Cosmic Adventures and bounce around the 20,000-square-foot multi-level indoor playground! 

The indoor playground features undulating tunnels, mazes, slides, and obstacles courses fit for people of all ages. Even toddlers can take part in the fun, so long as they’re accompanied by an adult! 

Moreover, all sections of the playground are padded with foam, so there’s little to worry about hitting your head when you fall. Toddlers can either play in the bigger arena or stay within the designated toddler areas within the playground. 

Tip: Children below the age of 11 months are free of charge, while adults are charged $12.99. Guests between the ages of 13 and 17 years must be accompanied by an adult, however. 

Shop for tulips at the Tulip Market or the Canadian Tulip Festival

Address: Queen Elizabeth Driveway, Ottawa, ON K1S 5K7, Canada

Contact Details: +18006688547

Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm


Did you know that after the events of World War II, Canada received tulips as royal gifts from the Netherlands? If you didn’t, then you should probably also know that Canada hosts a Canadian Tulip Festival every year to commemorate the nations’ friendship. 

The Canadian Tulip Festival runs yearly every May at Commissioners Park. During the festival, visitors from all over the world flock to the park to participate in activities like candle making, metalworking, painting, and flower arranging. 

There are also events that host live music concerts, movie screenings, and a month-long Tulip Market where people can purchase as many tulips as they want. The Canadian Tulip Festival is a must-visit when you’re in Ottawa during May! 

If the main Tulip Market is packed with people, you can also visit their satellite market at ByWard Market. The stall sells Tulip Festival merchandise, bouquets, and other goodies you can bring home as souvenirs! 

Every festival season, there is a shuttle service called the Cobblestone Tulip Shuttles that travels to the main festival site from 22 York Street. You’ll need to book shuttle tickets in advance to secure seats, though! 

Hop on a canoe ride at the Rideau Canoe Club

Address: 804 Hog’s Back Rd, Ottawa, ON K2C 0B1, Canada

Contact Details: +16132255546

Operating Hours: Monday to Friday, 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm


Another water-centric activity you can do at Ottawa is to ride a canoe. The Rideau Canoe Club is the main sports center for avid sprint canoe kayakers, but the club also opens its doors and waters to tourists who want to canoe for fun. 

The club offers paddling programs ranging from sea kayak lessons to stand up paddleboarding lessons for beginners and intermediate-level paddlers. Here, you’ll learn the basics of riding a canoe or sea kayak and get to participate in friendly races. 

Paddlers will paddle their canoes along the Rideau River, with a guide and teacher in tow to help you out with the paddling. 

You’ll get riverside views of the city from your boat, which makes the activity a must-do for tourists if you’ve got some energy to spend! 

The Sprint Canoe Kayak program is only open to members of the Rideau Canoe Club, so if you’re only visiting for a while, we highly recommend signing up for the recreational paddling programs on the website. 

The Rideau Canoe Club also welcomes persons with disabilities and mobility issues and will provide the necessary equipment to ensure that every guest of all backgrounds and ages can learn! 

Learn more about Canada’s capital city at the Bytown Museum

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

Contact Details: +16132344570

Operating Hours: Friday to Sunday, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm


If it’s your first time visiting Ottawa, then a visit to the Bytown Museum is a must, especially if you love learning about history. The Bytown Museum is located right next to the Rideau Canal too! 

The museum is located inside Ottawa’s oldest stone building and dedicates its exhibitions to the complete history and rise of Canada’s capital city. The museum is fairly small, but you’ll find a treasure trove for history buffs. 

Here, you’ll find the permanent gallery featuring artifacts, prints, and sculptures preserved and collected from the 19th century and beyond. All of them showcase the stories of notable people who helped shape the city into what it is today. 

The museum offers audio-guided tours for free as long as you come in groups of 10 or more. Tours are given in English, French, German, Mandarin, Japanese, and Spanish 

If you’re feeling parched, there’s a small cafe located inside the museum, selling coffee, tea, juices, and small bites to keep your tummies full for the tour or for the rest of your day. They sometimes give away free hot drinks during the winter season too!