Ottawa Attractions: A Guide to the Best Things to Do in Canada’s Capital

Ottawa Attractions: A Guide to the Best Things to Do in Canada’s Capital

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and one of the most beautiful and diverse destinations in the country. Whether you are looking for history, culture, nature, or entertainment, Ottawa has something for everyone. In this article, we will explore some of the best attractions and activities that Ottawa has to offer, and why you should visit them on your next trip.

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill is the heart of Canadian democracy and the most iconic landmark in Ottawa. It is home to the Parliament Buildings, where the House of Commons and the Senate meet, as well as the Peace Tower, which offers stunning views of the city and the Ottawa River. You can take a free guided tour of the Parliament Buildings and learn about the history and architecture of this impressive complex. You can also watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony in the summer, or the Sound and Light Show in the evening, which features a spectacular display of lights and music on the facade of the Centre Block.

ByWard Market

ByWard Market is one of the oldest and largest public markets in Canada and a vibrant hub of activity in downtown Ottawa. It is a great place to shop, eat, and drink, as it offers a variety of local and international products, from fresh produce and flowers to crafts and souvenirs. You can also find some of the best restaurants, cafes, and bars in the city, serving delicious cuisines from around the world. ByWard Market is also known for its nightlife, as it hosts live music, comedy, and festivals throughout the year.

Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a marvel of engineering and history. It is a 202-kilometre waterway that connects Ottawa to Kingston, and was built in the early 19th century as a defensive measure against a possible American invasion. Today, it is a popular recreational and scenic attraction, as you can cruise, kayak, or bike along its banks and enjoy the views of the city and the countryside. In the winter, the Rideau Canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink, as it freezes over and welcomes thousands of skaters every day.

Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History is the most visited museum in Canada and one of the most impressive cultural institutions in the country. It is located across the river from Parliament Hill, in Gatineau, Quebec, and showcases the rich and diverse history and heritage of Canada and its people. The museum features several permanent and temporary exhibitions, covering topics such as First Nations, Canadian identity, military history, and art. The museum also houses the Canadian Children’s Museum, the Canadian Postal Museum, and the Canadian Cinema, as well as a stunning Grand Hall, which displays the largest collection of totem poles in the world.

National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada is the premier art museum in Canada and one of the most renowned in the world. It is housed in a striking glass and granite building, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, and overlooks the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill. The museum boasts a collection of over 75,000 works of art, spanning from the Middle Ages to the present day, and featuring Canadian, European, American, Asian, and Indigenous artists. Some of the highlights include paintings by Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Warhol, as well as sculptures by Rodin, Moore, and Riopelle. The museum also hosts various exhibitions, events, and programs throughout the year, catering to all ages and interests.

Canadian War Museum

Canadian War Museum is the national museum of military history and one of the most moving and educational attractions in Ottawa. It is dedicated to honouring and remembering the sacrifices and achievements of Canadians who have served in wars and peacekeeping missions, from the colonial times to the present day. The museum displays a vast collection of artifacts, vehicles, weapons, uniforms, medals, and personal stories, as well as interactive exhibits, multimedia presentations, and art. The museum also features a Memorial Hall, which contains the headstone of Canada’s Unknown Soldier, and a Regeneration Hall, which offers a panoramic view of the Peace Tower and the Parliament Buildings.

Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park is a natural oasis and a recreational paradise, located just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa. It is a 361-square-kilometre park that encompasses forests, lakes, rivers, hills, and wildlife, and offers a range of outdoor activities for all seasons and skill levels. You can hike, bike, or horseback ride on the many trails, or enjoy swimming, boating, or fishing on the water. You can also camp, picnic, or birdwatch, or visit some of the historical and cultural sites, such as the Mackenzie King Estate, the former summer residence of Canada’s 10th prime minister. In the winter, you can ski, snowshoe, or skate on the frozen lakes, or admire the stunning fall colours in the autumn.

Canadian Museum of Nature

Canadian Museum of Nature is the national museum of natural history and natural sciences, and one of the most fun and family-friendly attractions in Ottawa. It is housed in a historic castle-like building, which was the original home of the Parliament of Canada, and features a modern glass tower, which adds a touch of contemporary flair. The museum showcases the diversity and beauty of nature, from dinosaurs and fossils to mammals and birds, from minerals and rocks to plants and fungi, from oceans and rivers to arctic and antarctic. The museum also has a live butterfly garden, a 3D theatre, and a Nature Boutique, where you can buy souvenirs and gifts.

Notre Dame Basilica

Notre Dame Basilica is the oldest and largest church in Ottawa and a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture. It was built between 1841 and 1885, and features two soaring spires, a richly decorated interior, and a magnificent organ. The church is also known for its beautiful stained glass windows, which depict scenes from the life of Jesus and the history of Ottawa. The church is open to the public for worship and tours, and also hosts concerts, weddings, and other events.

Diefenbunker Museum

Diefenbunker Museum is a unique and fascinating attraction that takes you back to the Cold War era. It is a four-storey underground bunker, built in 1959, that was designed to protect the Canadian government and military from a nuclear attack. It was named after John Diefenbaker, the prime minister at the time, and was kept secret until 1994, when it was decommissioned and turned into a museum. The museum offers guided and self-guided tours, where you can explore the bunker and learn about its history, purpose, and features. You can also experience what life was like in the bunker, by visiting the rooms, offices, and facilities, such as the cafeteria, the hospital, the vault, and the radio station.

Calypso Waterpark

Calypso Waterpark is the largest and most exciting waterpark in Canada, and a perfect destination for a fun-filled day with family and friends. It is located about 35 minutes from downtown Ottawa, and covers over 100 acres of land. It has more than 35 water slides, rides, and attractions, suitable for all ages and thrill levels. You can enjoy the adrenaline rush of the Summit Tower, the largest water slide tower in North America, or relax in the lazy river, the wave pool, or the whirlpools. You can also have fun in the pirate-themed Aquaplay area, the jungle-themed Kongo Expedition, or the interactive Zoo Lagoon. The waterpark also has restaurants, bars, shops, and cabanas, to make your visit more comfortable and enjoyable.

Ottawa Little Theatre

Ottawa Little Theatre is the oldest and longest-running community theatre in Canada, and a cultural gem in Ottawa. It was founded in 1913, and has been producing high-quality and entertaining plays ever since. It is located in a charming heritage building, which seats 462 people, and has a cozy and intimate atmosphere. The theatre presents a variety of genres, from comedy and drama to mystery and romance, and features local and amateur actors, directors, and crew. The theatre also offers workshops, classes, and camps, for aspiring and experienced theatre lovers.

Haunted Walk of Ottawa

Haunted Walk of Ottawa is a thrilling and spine-chilling attraction that takes you on a guided tour of the most haunted and mysterious places in Ottawa. You can choose from different routes and themes, such as the Original Haunted Walk, which explores the ghosts and legends of the Bytown Museum, the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, and the Ottawa Jail Hostel, or the Ghosts and the Gallows, which reveals the dark and gruesome history of the old Carleton County Jail. You can also try the Crime and Punishment Jail Tour, which gives you an exclusive access to the jail cells, the gallows, and the death row, or the Haunted Walk Experience at the Mackenzie King Estate, which takes you to the former prime minister’s secluded and spooky retreat in Gatineau Park.


Ottawa is a city that has something for everyone, from history and culture to nature and entertainment. It is a city that celebrates its past, present, and future, and welcomes visitors with open arms. Whether you are looking for a relaxing getaway, a fun adventure, or a learning experience, Ottawa has it all.

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