Ottawa Attractions: 20 Best Things to Do in Ottawa

by Jane Sophia
Ottawa Attractions

I am planning to visit Ottawa next year. Prior to my visit, I wanted to find out all the Ottawa Attractions to see in Ottawa and things to do in Ottawa. Through this Ottawa travel article, I am sharing my research findings about Ottawa Attractions and travel tips to visit the Canadian capital city and its neighborhoods.

Overview of Ottawa:

Ottawa is the capital of Canada and is part of the Ontario province. It has a population of about one million people. Ottawa River flows through the city of Ottawa.

I browsed through a few videos of Ottawa and what caught my attention was the Victorian architecture; its finest example is the Parliament Hill..

Montreal, another big city in Canada is 200 km away from Ottawa.

Let us now get on to the numerous Ottawa Attractions to see.

20 Best Ottawa Attractions You Must Visit

  1. Ottawa Attractions: Visit Byward Market Squre

Ottawa Attractions Byward Market

Byward Market is listed in various travel blogs as a ‘must-see Ottawa Attractions’ but it was not ranked at the top of ‘places to see in Ottawa list.

I liked it very much and I thought it deserves to be placed at the top of the tourist attractions of Ottawa. After all, more than seeing museums and parks, shopping is more exciting for all of us, right?

What to buy in Byward Market?

Byward Market Fruits

You name it and you get it in Byward Market such as:

  • Sandwiches
  • Seafood
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Trendy apparels
  • Chocolate with maple syrup (I am looking forward to finding the aroma and the taste of Maple syrup)
  • Exotic fruits juice
  • Fried pastries
  • Pizza and tea
  • Local beer
  • Authentic Canadian cheese

And many more.

Stroll along York Street, George Street, and William Street to fully explore the Byward Market in Ottawa. You need a minimum of two hours to enjoy the Byward Market. Snacks and drinks times are extra.

  1. Things to Do at Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa

Things to Do at Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa

If you are planning to be in Ottawa during May (I will be there in May 2020), you will witness the most beautiful event of your life.

It is when the annual Tulip Festival will be held and it is the world’s largest tulip festival.

Do you have any idea as to how many tulips can be seen in Ottawa during the tulip festival?

You can see as many as one million tulip flowers. Can you imagine the impression that will be embedded in your mind? Colors and colors as far as you can see will be a spectacular sight, buddy!

Ottawa Attractions will be crowded during the tulip season as more than 6 million people are expected to witness the 2020 tulip festival in Ottawa.

You can see tulips of myriad colors as you stroll along the Rideau Canal, Dow’s Lake and Commissioners Park.

  1. Most Popular Ottawa Attractions: Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

Ottawa Attractions Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

You cannot compare the churches in any part of the world with that of Italy. Nonetheless, I have seen some extraordinary cathedrals in Goa and in Chennai.

The Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ottawa is majestic and imposing. The exterior will pull any casual onlooker inside the cathedral. This is a very popular Ottawa Attractions to visit.

  1. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Similar to the Notre Dame Cathedral of Ottawa, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is a very prominent tourist landmark. It is a museum of grand space to exhibit the immaculate works of artists hailing from Canada, Asia, the United States, and Europe.

Not only the pink granite and glass walls of the exterior will be captivating but the colorful interior will also make you gasp audibly.

National Gallery of Canada

It is one of the popular places to see in Ottawa.

  1. Ottawa Attractions: Rideau Canal

Ottawa Attractions

After spending nearly two hours in Byward Market, tourists to Ottawa will then proceed to spend the rest of their day at the Rideau Canal that carries water nearly 200 km and end up meeting the ocean-like Lake Ontario.

On its way, the Rideau Canal meets the St.Lawrence River in Kingston.

Boating in the Rideau Canal is a favorite pastime. Not many people outside Canada are aware that the Rideau Waterway is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As it is a navigable waterway, several residential areas have come up along its route up to Kingston.

A cruise ship takes you from Ottawa to Lake Ontario. I read the cruise will last three days. You will come across a few more minor rivers and a few waterfalls too en route.

  1. Skateway, Ottawa

Yes, you guessed it right. The Rideau Canal freezes during the harsh winter season of Canada. The residents of Ottawa and Kinston would be too eager for the arrival of winter which otherwise is not welcome to them.

A stretch of approximately 8km of the Rideau Waterway freezes and the resultant ice floor is transformed into a skating rink.

skateway-Ottawa Attractions

One of the Ottawa Attractions ‘the skateway’ is what you saw in the video above. It is the world’s longest natural skating rink. From downtown Ottawa, you can skate up to Dows Lake but not without a rest.

In between, you need to stop to catch your breath, warm yourself near bonfire pits, sip coffee or tea in canal-side kiosks and proceed to complete your skating destination.

It is a pleasing sight to watch hundreds of skaters wearing colorful dresses and sweaters.

  1. Rideau waterfalls Day Trip in Ottawa

Rideau waterfalls

The Rideau Falls are actually twins. The two waterfalls are located at the junction of the Ottawa River. The water from the ‘Rideau Falls’ falls in the Ottawa River.

In between the two Rideau Falls, an island has formed naturally and it is called “Green Island” which is one of the must see Ottawa Attractions.

  1. Must See Hog’s Back Falls

The Hog’s Back (what an odd name) Falls attract tourists throughout the year except during the winter. The Hog’s Back Falls carries another better sounding name, ‘ Prince of Wales Falls’.

  1. Enjoy a stint of Standup Paddle boating

There is an ocean-like pool in Ottawa and is aptly called “Urban Ocean” which is nothing but the Ottawa River.

As you can see, eager tourists merrily get up on a boat and move down the river by using paddles while standing on the canoe.

The right time to enjoy a few water sports in Ottawa starts in May. I am glad I will be in Ottawa during that time and I really am looking forward to going canoeing in the Urban Ocean.

As you surge forward on the water, you will be able to witness some of the famous Ottawa Attractions and tourist landmarks of Ottawa that include:

  • Parliament Hill
  • Fairmont Château Laurier
  • The Ottawa Locks
  1. Ottawa Attractions: Britannia RiverSide Beach

I am referring to a riverside beach, folks. There are a few such scenic river side beaches on the shores of the Ottawa River in Ottawa city. Westboro Beach is another place to visit in Ottawa.

  1. Gatineau Park, Ottawa

From downtown Ottawa, the beautiful wilderness of Gatineau Park is only a short driving distance away.

If you feel like escaping to a place of nature and silence when you are touring Ottawa, then, the Gatineau Park is your destination.

Ottawa Attractions Pink Lake

Beautiful! I think the picture must have been taken just before the ‘fall’ season.

The water body you see in the picture is “Pink Lake”.

Walk down pre-trodden hiking trails.

Gatineau Park, Ottawa

During the summer season, you can take a dip in one of the lakes that surround the Outaouais region, a part of Quebec Province.

There are three lakes namely:

  • Meech Lake
  • Lac Phillipe
  • La Pêche Lake.

The Gatineau Park transforms into a nice skiing mountain with the onset of snow season.

Cyclists throng the Outaouais region and indulge in several hours of cycling.

They are not satisfied with one day of cycling. They stay overnight in a tent pitched on a campground and test their endurance level the next day also.

The scenic settings, meadows, lakes, and trees provide excellent habitat for birds of rare species such as:

  • Common Loon

Common Loon

What a beautiful bird!

  • Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

I think I would not miss out the Ottawa Attraction the lovely Gatineau Park when I land in Ottawa next March.

From Ottawa city, the Gatineau Park wilderness is only 9 km away.

  1. River Rafting, Ottawa

Of course, I am not going to ride on a raft in a gushing Ottawa river but I sure would like to watch a live white water river rafting. The screams and cries of the rafters as their inflatable is thrown up and down along the gushing river would cheer the casual onlookers like me.

  1. Ottawa Attractions: Parliament Hill, Crown Land

Ottawa Attractions Parliament Hill

Whether you are an admirer of monuments or not, you have to see at least a few very important government buildings in any city you tour.

This is the seat of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, Canada.

Once you stand in front of the imposing Gothic-style building, you will be glad you made it. A selfie would certainly result.

Similar to the change of guards in London, you can witness a spectacular event in front of the Parliament building’s east side lawn.

However, this is not an event that happens every day of the year but only during June, July, and August.

Be sure to reach the Parliament Hill by 9.30 am. The guard changing event will begin at 9.50 am sharp.


The changing of guards will not happen on all days of June, July, August. You have to inquire about the dates before arranging your trip from where you stay in Ottawa.

If you happen to be in Ottawa from June to August, don’t miss witnessing this spectacular show which is one of the best Ottawa Attractions.

  1. Aviation Museum, Ottawa

If you are a museum buff ( I am not), please visit the Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. I believe there is a short helicopter tour is offered to the visitors. Of course, it is not free.

  1. Fairmont Chateau Laurier, One of the Best Ottawa Attractions

Ottawa Attractions Fairmont Chateau Laurier

This is an important tourist landmark in Ottawa. The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is a high-end luxury hotel that you should see only when the lights are on after dusk.

Please be aware that this hotel is more than a century old. It used to host only celebrities, members of royal families and world political leaders.

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is certainly a must-see place in Ottawa.

  1. Ottawa Attractions: John Ceprano Rock Art

Ottawa Attractions John Ceprano Rock Art

They are not naturally occurring rocks but created by an artist. I would say he is a sculptor though the stones have not been exposed to chisels.

I read they can be seen on the edge of the Ottawa River but could learn nothing more about the exact location in Ottawa.

  1. Most Beautiful Ottawa Attractions: Jacques Cartier Park

You should take time off to go to the Jacques Cartier Park, when you are visiting the Gatineau Park, near Ottawa. I will tell you why in a second.

Look at the image below:

Jacques Cartier Park

Well, you have just seen a sample of the hundreds of mosaiculture in Jacques Cartier Park near Ottawa.

If this sample mosaiculture did not entice you, may be the video below would.

Of all the mosaiculture in the park, a giant woman’s bust is the most attractive one.

Now, do you understand what a mosaiculture is?

It is a form of horticulture art.

  1. China Town, Ottawa

China Town, Ottawa

Of course, a China Town must be in every major city in the world. Ottawa is no exception.

If you had been to any China City in countries such as Singapore, you will understand what you can do in a China City.

It is an area where you can drink all evening and late into the night on open roadside restaurants and eat food from various countries, Chinese cuisine is predominant.

In Ottawa’s Summerset street, you will find China Town.

You can also buy myriad things in the shops in China Town such as belts, hats, perfumes, etc.

  1. Manotick Village, Ottawa

If you want to see a bit of Canadian rural side, head to Manotick village that is located 25 km from Ottawa’s downtown.

Just scroll through the calm country roads, drink a pint of beer and enjoy an open-air lunch and get back to Ottawa.

  1. Fulton’s Pancake House & Sugar Bush, Ottawa

I am going to like this place when I visit Ottawa. This special gourmet place is located an hour’s drive away from Ottawa.

Fulton's Pancake House & Sugar Bush

I said I am going to like it because it is where I can taste the pure maple syrup and its allied products. In addition, as the name indicates, I can expect a couple of pancakes imbibed with maple syrup.

You need to visit Pakenham and it is 60 km away from Ottawa for this experience.

So, how did you like the Ottawa Attractions and travel information read thus far? Do you know more places to see in Ottawa? If so, please share through comments.

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