Ottawa, which was once a little timber village, became Canada’s capital in 1857 after being controversially selected by Queen Victoria.
There are now innumerable world-class museums, tourist sites, and fascinating National Historic Sites to visit there as the city has expanded to become the fourth largest in the country.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Ottawa
Located in southeastern Canada, close to the Quebec border, it is at the confluence of the Ottawa, Rideau, and Gatineau rivers.
Tourist attractions in Ottawa include the Canadian Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as the city’s many historic and modern architectural gems. The spectacular Rideau Canal, which cuts through the centre of the capital, also makes for a terrific destination for scenic boat tours and other outdoor pursuits.
1. Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill, the city’s biggest attraction, is conveniently located in downtown and next to the Ottawa River. The Parliament of Canada, the country’s governing body, is located amid a stunning complex of Gothic Revival-style buildings perched atop a rocky outcrop.
The Parliament Buildings, which were constructed between 1859 and 1927, are an architectural marvel, especially the towering Peace Tower that overlooks the Central Block.
Tours of the House of Commons and its grounds, which are filled with monuments and memorials, are available in addition to soaking in breathtaking views of the capital from its observation deck. The daily summer Changing of the Guard ritual is also a popular attraction.
2. Rideau Canal
The amazing Rideau Canal, which stretches for around 200 kilometres from Ottawa to Lake Ontario, runs directly through the heart of the city. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, it features lovely pathways perfect for a stroll, jog, or bike ride, as well as boat tours and, when the weather cools down, ice skating.
Built between 1826 and 1832 to safeguard supply and communications channels in case of war with the United States, the picturesque canal is now largely utilised for recreational boating. The National Historic Site is filled with beautiful parks, lakes, and cities, and it also features the breathtaking Ottawa Locks.
3. National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada, situated on the banks of the Ottawa River opposite Parliament Hill, is one of the largest art museums in North America. In addition to its fascinating collections, the museum’s stunning glass structure, styled after a Gothic cathedral, is a sight to behold in itself.
The galleries inside the architectural marvel are just as amazing, showcasing fantastic works of art by Canadian and foreign artists. Beautiful works by indigenous Canadians can be found alongside those by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Picasso. The amazing spider sculpture Maman is right outside the door and is one of its most recognised pieces.
4. Canadian War Museum
Located on the banks of the Ottawa River in close proximity to the city centre, the Canadian War Museum is a memorial and museum dedicated to the country’s military history.
The museum is housed in a remarkably modern building and features a wide variety of good exhibits that educate visitors about Canada’s role in World Wars I and II and other conflicts.
The museum first opened its doors in 1942 and houses over three million artefacts, including uniforms, guns, vehicles, planes, and even a reproduction of a World War I trench.
They are accompanied with educational posters, still images, and video snippets. The museum also features a Regeneration Hall, which appropriately overlooks Peace Tower, and a moving Memorial Hall.
5. Canadian Museum of Nature
The Canadian Museum of Nature has more than fifteen million specimens, making it one of the largest natural history collections in the world. Located a short distance south of the hub, this fascinating museum features relics and displays that span the past four billion years of Earth’s history.
The vast museum, which has been open since its 1856 Montreal inception, is housed in a beautiful Tudor-Gothic Revival structure that is itself a National Historic Monument.
There are entire skeletons of blue whales and dinosaurs on show, as well as mammal and mineral displays and dioramas. The museum displays natural history-themed artwork and films in addition to its extensive geology galleries and displays on Canadian landscapes and fauna.
6. Canada Aviation and Space Museum
The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is about a fifteen-minute drive northeast of downtown and houses an extensive collection of artefacts and planes. The museum’s vast displays detail Canada’s contributions to aviation and space exploration throughout the country’s history.
The museum, which opened its doors in 1964 at what was then a military airfield, now houses more than 130 planes of all types. There are many bushplanes from the 1920s and 1940s on display, in addition to seaplanes and the Canadarm from the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Throughout the summer, guests can arrange a sightseeing flight over Ottawa in addition to seeing the museum’s interactive exhibits and flight simulator.
7. Notre Dame Basilica
Built in 1841, Notre Dame Basilica is the oldest and largest church in Ottawa. Its twin spires are visible from both downtown and Parliament Hill. Its neoclassical façade may be imposing, but within you’ll find ornate carvings and beautiful stained glass windows at every turn.
The choir’s intricate carvings of biblical and religious characters are among the many reasons the cathedral deserves its status as a National Historic Landmark.
A massive pipe organ is on display, and the multicoloured ceiling is studded with brilliant stars. Tours of the basilica, highlighting its many treasures and fascinating history, are offered throughout the summer.
8. Ottawa Locks
There are 47 locks spread out along the Rideau Canal, but the ones at the canal’s northern terminus stand out for their steepness and stair-like appearance. The flight of eight locks, known as the Ottawa Locks, can be seen between Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill and makes for stunning photographs.
Connecting the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River 24 metres below, this modest line of locks was completed in 1831 and is truly an astounding engineering achievement. The Ottawa Locks are located in a peaceful area in the city’s centre, among parks, hills, and old buildings. Several visitors come to take strolls and snap pictures of the boats passing through the locks.
9. National War Memorial
The National War Memorial stands as the focal point of Confederation Square, a short distance from Parliament Hill and other major attractions in the capital city.
The moving memorial, which was originally built in 1939 to honour Canadians who had perished in World War I, has now been rededicated to all Canadians who have died in conflicts, both past and future.
The 21-meter-tall granite arch features striking sculptures depicting different branches of the Canadian armed forces. The bronze statues symbolise a transition from battle to peace and freedom as they emerge from the arch. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard ceremony are located at its base.
10. Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is conveniently located near the heart of Ottawa, perched atop a hill overlooking the Ottawa River. The Supreme Court Building was constructed from 1939 to 1945, with Queen Elizabeth II personally laying the cornerstone.
The court is a famous tourist destination due to its stunning Art Deco design and convenient location near Parliament Hill. While the Grand Entrance Hall is the most famous part of the building, visitors will also enjoy seeing where trials take place and learning about the structure’s background.
Magnificent sculptures honouring Canadian greats may be found outside, and the court and its turreted structure make for a picturesque backdrop for photographs.