8 Famous Locations To Visit In Downtown Ottawa


Canada’s capital has seemingly no shortage of famous locations to visit. From the iconic Parliament building to the hidden gems of the Byward Market, these 8 must-see destinations in downtown Ottawa are always ready to entrance, educate, and entertain.

1. Parliament Hill

Of course. One of the most popular destinations in Canada’s capital (second only to the BeaverTail hut in the Byward Market), Parliament Hill offers impressive entertainment, political significance, and iconic architecture. Tours are a regular attraction, and visitors are also able to sit in on Senate debates in the House of Commons. As it plays host to the extravagant Canada Day celebration every year, Parliament Hill is no stranger to live entertainment. Those near the Hill at noon on weekdays will hear the Peace Tower play traditional songs on over fifty bells. On summer nights, the Parliament Buildings come alive with Northern Lights, a free light show that tells Canada’s history with colourful and captivating storytelling. If you’re more interested in finding some zen, the grounds are also frequently open to the public. With sprawling lawns, historic statues, a great view of the Ottawa River, plus its occasional free yoga sessions, it makes for a great place to both relax and explore.

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2.National Gallery of Canada

Heaven for art and architecture enthusiasts alike, the National Gallery has a huge collection Canadian and international art housed under lofty glass ceilings. With thousands of works ranging from Renaissance paintings to modern sculptures, this gallery demands at least few hours from its visitors. The Gallery is also a great place to escape the clamor of downtown, offering a number of tranquil gardens, seating areas, sunlit hallways, and meditative wings. Plus, the gallery is free every Thursday from 5 to 8 pm, making it a great spot for those seeking attractions on a budget.

3. The Rideau Canal

Stretching over two hundred kilometers and all the way into the heart of downtown Ottawa, the Rideau Canal is the perfect place for recreation and relaxation. Boat tours offer regular cruises and the lawns offer the perfect spot to pause without missing any of the action of downtown Ottawa. In the wintertime, the canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink. Vendors line the ice for thousands of visitors who can choose to conquer the seven kilometre skate-way either on skates or by foot. Those who visit later at night will also get great views of the festive lights that decorate the trees on either side of the ice, as well as picture-perfect views of the towers of Parliament Hill and the Chateau Laurier capped with snow. No matter the season, the Rideau Canal is always prepared to offer a wide range of activities.

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4. The Byward Market

The Byward Market should be the first stop for those seeking an expanse of dining options and unique shops. Whether it’s the lure of the wide range of restaurants, the farmer’s market, or the coveted BeaverTail stand, the Market is always sure to be a lively destination for Ottawa residents and tourists alike. At night, it glows with string lights and bright restaurant signs, beckoning pedestrians into the various bars, clubs, or after-hours restaurants to grab a late dinner. The market is also where visitors will find the ever-Instagrammable OTTAWA sign (or, AWATTO, depending on what side you’re standing on.)

5. Château Laurier

Nestled between the Parliament building and the Rideau shopping center, the Château Laurier serves as an impressive retreat to vast amounts of guests per year. Visitors are welcomed by grandiose architecture complete with decorated ceilings, intricate stained glass windows, and lavish touches. The Château also boasts plush sitting rooms and ballrooms that conjure memories of bygone eras. Visitors don’t have to stay here to experience the Château’s attractions, with fine dining options open to the public and endless photo opportunities around the property . For those seeking some thrills, the Château is also rumored to be haunted, with multiple guests noting some strange happenings around the hotel…

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6. National War Memorial

The setting for National Remembrance Day Ceremony broadcasted across Canada every year, the National War Memorial was built in 1939 and honors Canadians killed in battle. Standing at over twenty meters and crowned with a bronze victory goddess, the structure features statues of men and horses that offer a lifelike glimpse of wartime struggle. The memorial is also the home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial of sacrifice that gets donned in poppies by passersby every November. Seated just before Parliament and only steps from the bustle of Sparks street, the memorial makes for a striking site for pause and reflection in the midst of the city bustle.

7. The Canadian Museum of Nature

Another location that boasts both impressive exhibits and architectural prowess, the Canadian Museum of Nature offers up-close glimpses into the world around us. Visitors can stand alongside life-size dinosaurs, see live insects, and explore exhibits with ancient marine life skeletons swimming above them. Just as the museum exhibits both prehistoric and modern natural history, the building itself blends traditional and modern architecture, featuring a large glass tower in the midst of an otherwise historic-looking castle. On some special nights outside usual hours, the museum also hosts Nature Nocturne, themed events that transform galleries into dance floors, mingling spaces, and performance areas.

8. Rideau Hall

The picturesque home of the governor general sits just outside the heart of downtown Ottawa, and regularly receives flurries of tour groups. As if its lavish décor isn’t enough to dazzle guests, Rideau Hall also houses a number of famous artworks, including a roughly 10 foot portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. Tours wind through a series of intricate wings and lush grounds that convey Rideau Hall’s importance to Canadian politics and history – and they’re totally free year-round.

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