Welcome to Ottawa! The capital; arguably the most captivating city of Canada. It’s one of the only best places to visit in Ottawa where you can find a perfect blend of natural beauty and rich history. Ottawa’s charm lies in its scenic parks and waterways that provide a peaceful escape from bustling city life. Beyond its breath-taking landscapes, Ottawa is a cultural hub that celebrates diversity and creativity. So, if you are impressed with the beauty of the city and planning to take a tour, then this article might come in handy. We have listed all the top Ottawa’s tourist attractions that you visit to absorb all the goodness of rich heritage and nature. Let’s take a walk in the piece and best places to visit in Ottawa. 

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill is an iconic and best places to visit in Ottawa that embodies the country’s political and cultural history. At the centre stand of the magnificent Parliament Buildings, you can see the awe-inspiring Centre Block with the Peace Tower. The tower has a 92.2-meter-high clock tower, which by the way is open to visitors, and offers breath-taking views of the city. Inside the Centre Block, you will also find the House of Commons and Senate chambers. It plays a crucial role in shaping Canada’s governance as it offices Members of Parliament. Guided tours inside the Centre Block are free and provide fascinating insights into the country’s political history, government system, and significant events that shaped Canada’s identity.

During the summer, you can see a bright and blooming front lawn. A display of precision and pageantry honouring Canada’s military aka the Guard ceremony is also conducted during this time. In the evenings, Parliament Hill comes alive with sound and light shows projecting onto the majestic façade. The whole show is a visual representation of Canada’s history and culture. Don’t worry if you miss the show! Throughout the year, the Hill hosts various public events and festivals, so if not this one, then definitely you can catch up on the next one. 

Not only Parliament Hill showcases the nation’s political power but also offers scenic views of the city and the river. 

The Diefenbunker Museum

The Diefenbunker Museum, also known as Canada’s Cold War Museum, is a fascinating historical Ottawa attraction situated in Carp, Ontario, near Ottawa. Named after Canada’s 13th Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, this building was designed to protect key government officials and military personnel from nuclear attacks. It was also used during the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s as a top-secret government facility. Since it was kept highly classified during its operational years, its existence was disclosed to the public by the Canadian government only in 1994, after the end of the Cold War.

The Diefenbaker is a four-story, underground structure equipped with state-of-the-art communication systems and emergency supplies. It covers an area of approximately 100,000 square feet with reinforced concrete walls up to 14 feet thick. Visiting the best places to visit in Ottawa like Diefenbaker Museum offers an authentic glimpse into Canada’s Cold War history. The museum provides a unique and immersive experience. Inside, you can explore a labyrinth of rooms, corridors, and command centres, each filled with artefacts, exhibits, and interactive displays.

The museum also showcases the mindset of that time. Visitors can gain insight into the experiences of the men and women who lived within the bunker during this tumultuous period. The exhibits reflect political and military strategies, the impact of the arms race, and the role Canada played as a member of NATO will be some of the things that you may come across during your visit. 

Canadian War Museum

Canadian War Museum

Like the previous Ottawa tourist attraction cold war museum, the Canadian War Museum reflects Canada’s involvement in various conflicts and wars throughout its history. Inside the museum, visitors are taken on an immersive journey through Canada’s military past. The exhibits showcase the country’s military contributions and experiences from the early colonial period to modern times. The museum features an impressive collection of artefacts, weaponry, uniforms, vehicles, and art that illustrate the realities of war and the sacrifices made by Canadians.

The key highlight of the Ottawa tourist attraction is the LeBreton Gallery. It carries an array of large military artefacts, including tanks, artillery, and aircrafts. Plus, the exhibit addresses challenging and sensitive topics, such as the experiences of Indigenous peoples and diverse communities who have served in the military throughout Canada’s history. Beyond weapons and artefacts, the museum also displays the uses of innovative technology via multimedia displays. It is installed to share stories and present personal accounts of those who served in the armed forces. In addition to its permanent collections, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions that explore specific themes related to military history. On top of everything, the museum also gives you a chance to absorb the beauty of the Ottawa River and the overall museum’s architecture.  

Canada Aviation & Space Museum

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is a sprawling Ottawa attraction known for its extensive collection of aircraft and artefacts. Established in 1964, the historic significance of this airfield in Canada’s aviation history is magnificent. Visitors can explore the evolution of flight and aerospace technology through carefully curated exhibits, featuring iconic aircraft like the “Silver Dart,” Avro CF-100 Canuck and more than 130 pieces. 

The museum dives into the depths of Canada’s contributions to the development of the Canadarm robotic system and the International Space Station program. Interactive displays and a restoration workshop further enhance the experience, making it a must-visit destination for aviation enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Not only the indoors, but the outdoors of this Ottawa’s tourist attraction also gives you a lot to see. The display area, featuring larger aircrafts and helicopters, can be seen up close. 

Like other museums in the city, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum also comes with special events, workshops, and educational programs. The IMAX theatre on-site provides an immersive cinematic experience through aviation and space-themed films. 

Notre Dame Basilica

Notre Dame Basilica is a stunning Gothic Revival Ottawa tourist attraction. Its intricate soaring ceilings, elegant columns, and majestic altar make it an educational yet delightful sight to behold. Also, a collection of biblical stories will also be there next to the artefacts to educate you about their two-century-long religious importance. In the evenings, visitors can enjoy a captivating sound and light show, narrating the basilica’s history and showcasing its architectural beauty.

The ByWard Market

The ByWard Market

The ByWard Market is one of the most vibrant historic and best places to visit in Ottawa. Established in 1826, it is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. The market is renowned for its outdoor many stalls selling canopies, fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, and artisanal products. ByWard Market also offers an array of eateries, boutiques, shops, and galleries like old-school restaurants, cafes,  boutiques, shops, and galleries that present an extensive range to satisfy every palate. 

As the sun sets, the ByWard Market gives you a vibrant nightlife with various bars, pubs, and clubs. Visitors can also experience the colours of events and festivals, including the famous Canadian Tulip Festival. This Ottawa’s attraction is easily accessible on foot and well-connected by public transit, making it a convenient and must-visit destination in Ottawa.

The Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal, a UNESCO-affiliated World Heritage Site, is a best places to visit in Ottawa. Built-in the early 19th century, it was used as a strategic military waterway to provide an alternative route for military transport to Lake Ontario in case of war with the United States. The canal’s historical significance is evident in its remarkable engineering feat. With a series of locks, dams, and reservoirs regulating water levels, this canal ensures smooth navigation along its 202-kilometre (125-mile) length. Throughout the canal’s route, visitors can explore historic lock stations dating back to the 1830s, offering insight into the region’s rich history and heritage.

Today, it is a tourist spot that offers boating, kayaking, paddleboarding and other forms of water activities in summer. As the temperature goes down, the Rideau Canal transforms into the world’s longest skating rink, known as the Rideau Canal Skateway. The area stretches over 7.8 km (4.8 miles). Surrounded by lush parks and green spaces, the canal also provides an ideal setting for picnics, leisurely walks, and opportunities to immerse oneself in the beauty of nature. The Rideau Canal is also a hub for cultural events and festivals throughout the year. 

Canadian Museum of Nature

Canadian Museum of Nature

This Ottawa’s attraction is a renowned institution housed in the stunning Victoria Memorial Museum Building. Constructed in 1905, the museum boasts a vast collection of Canada’s rich biodiversity and natural history. It exhibits insights into concepts like geology, evolution, ecosystems, and environmental challenges faced by the world. Notable highlights include the Fossil Gallery, the Mammal Gallery, Arctic Gallery, the bird gallery, the water gallery, and the seasonal “Butterflies in Flight” exhibit. The museum also hosts educational programs and events to inspire a love for nature.

Watson’s Mill

Located in Manotick, Watson’s Mill is a historic gristmill standing as a significant landmark. Constructed in 1860 by Moss Kent Dickinson, the mill serves as a testament to Canada’s agricultural and industrial heritage. The architecture includes a striking limestone exterior, red roof, and wooden water wheel that creates a picturesque scene that we all know. Notably, this Ottawa’s tourist attraction remains operational to this day, continuing to grind grain using the original milling equipment, providing visitors with an opportunity to witness traditional milling processes and learn about the vital role mills played in the region’s history. The mill also serves as a cultural hub in Manotick, hosting various public events and festivals throughout the year like Heritage Day and Christmas. Watson’s Mill is not only an architectural beauty but also a place of education, providing programs for schools and youth groups.

Mer Bleue Conservation Area

Mer Bleue Conservation near Ottawa is a unique and ecologically significant natural treasure. Known for its expansive bog ecosystem, it is managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC). This protected area features an extensive network of boardwalk trails including sphagnum mosses and tamarack trees. The educational interpretive centre offers valuable insights into the bog’s ecology and conservation efforts. The conservation area’s allure changes with each season. Conservation efforts focus on maintaining the delicate ecological balance and protecting this exceptional natural area.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Ottawa a good tourist destination?

Ottawa is a good tourist destination with its historic landmarks like Parliament Hill, national museums, Rideau Canal, vibrant ByWard Market, festivals, Gatineau Park, and multicultural offerings.

How to spend 3 days in Ottawa?

Here is an itinerary for a 3-day trip to Ottawa. The following will cover locations or activities you can do in the city. Day 1: Parliament Hill (guided tour) Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau) ByWard Market (shopping, dining) Day 2: National Gallery of Canada Rideau Canal Canadian Museum of Nature Cultural event Day 3: Canadian War Museum Gatineau Park (hiking, nature) ByWard Market (final shopping, dining)

Where is the best tourist area to stay in Ottawa?

You will see plenty of accommodations on the Ottawa River banks. You can find all kinds of hotels in Centretown, LeBreton Flats, Westboro, Sandy Hill and Vanier.

Why do people want to visit Ottawa?

People want to visit Ottawa because it's Canada's capital with cool historic stuff, awesome museums, fun festivals, beautiful river views, yummy food from around the world, and a chill vibe!