Ottawa, the capital of Canada, with its immaculate outdoor areas among the buzz of city life and several attractions ridden with historical significance is a must-visit place. The city initially began to develop in the early 1800s, with a series of modern beginnings to emerge around the Rideau Canal, a divergent of the Ottawa River.
The central area of the city is divided by the Rideau Canal. The area to the North, the Lower Town, is an area with a rich cultural life and is home to the National Gallery of Canada. The south, on the other hand, boasts the feel of a busy business district.
Let’s dive a little deeper into this magnificent city, with the 15 best places to visit in Ottawa.
1. Rideau Canal
A cruise or even a walk along the Rideau Canal is one of the most unique ways to experience the city. Being 200 kilometers long, the Canal provides a novel view of downtown Ottawa. During the winter, the canal freezes over completely which makes it the perfect place for activities like ice skating.
2. Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
An exquisite Catholic Basilica known for its intricate carvings in mahogany and detailed sculptures, the Notre Dame Cathedral is a must-visit for those interested in art and architecture. The Cathedral is also home to 17 stained glass paintings picturing scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
3. Laurier House
The Laurier House, made initially as a residence for the Prime Minister of Canada, now a National Historic site is a museum that is open to the public for guided tours. The building exhibits elements of the Italianate and the Second Empire style.
4. Royal Canadian Mint
A tour of the Royal Canadian Mint, though no longer manufacturing Canada’s circulating coins, takes you on a journey to learn how coins are made and gives you the chance to shop for unique gifts and collectibles in this historical building. You also see one of three giant gold loonies (Canadian dollar coins) minted here and get to hold a real gold ingot.
5. Byward Market
In use since 1846 and located to the north of the Rideau Canal in the Lower Town, the Byward Market offers a diverse collection of food items as well as special handmade products local to the area.
6. Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill happens to be the home of Canada’s federal government. The Parliament buildings are placed on a hill that stands overlooking the Ottawa River and is quite an imposing sight in its Victorian Gothic splendor. A visit during the morning hours gives you chance to witness the Changing of the Guard.
7. National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery is an architectural masterpiece. Its splendid glass façade stands in contrast to some of the other medieval-looking architecture in the area. The gallery is host to several contemporary and historical artwork, paintings, sculptures, photographs, and others. It also has many temporary exhibitions
8. Peace Tower
Nearly 98 meters tall, the Peace Tower is one of the most prevailing aspects of the city. Located on Parliament Hill, the observation deck in the tower provides a breathtaking view of the grounds of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River. The tower has stone carvings of human and animal figures and ancient creatures adorning the outer walls of the Peace Tower.
9. The Library of Parliament
Considered one of the most beautiful rooms in Canada, this library is the main information repository and research resource for the Parliament of Canada. The Library’s wood paneling boasts more than 1,600 designs, featuring flowers, masks, and mythical beasts.
10. Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum is a particularly interesting place to visit as it depicts the history of various infamous events like the War of 1812 for example, from a Canadian perspective. The museum is both an academic facility on Canadian military history, as well as a place of remembrance.
11. Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum
This National Historic Site, a four-story bunker, was originally designed in the 1960s as a shelter for Canadian VIPs against nuclear attack during wartime. The Diefenbunker today presents a recreation of government workspaces, living quarters, and cryptographic areas, filled with vintage maps, old telephones, and early computers.
12. Hog’s Back Falls
The Hog’s Back Falls, though a set of artificial waterfalls are a must-visit place in Ottawa. They are located at the point where the Rideau Canal splits from the Rideau River. There’s a walking trail across and alongside both sides of the falls, a pavilion for snacks, and plenty of benches.
13. Humanics Sanctuary and Sculpture Park
This hidden gem is located just outside Cumberland Village in Ottawa and contains several sculptures strategically placed in a natural setting inthis nine-acre wooded ravine with walking trails and quaint bridges over a meandering creek.
14. Jacques-Cartier Park
This park is home to a series of unique flower installations and is a great place to relax and walk around. A popular annual event, Winterlude is held here annually and it also hosts a carnival on Canada Day.
15. Canadian Tulip Festival
For two weeks in May, the city of Ottawa is graced with breath-taking beds of tulips. Strolling through the Commissioners Park located along Dows Lake, the main site of the festival is one of the best ways to experience this city. You can also experience food trucks and various stalls with hand-crafted items.