Most Popular Tourist Activities in Ottawa

There are many interesting activities and monumental places to visit in Canada’s capital as a tourist but since you may not have adequate insider information, you may miss out on some of the most popular tourist activities in Ottawa.

Visiting Ottawa? We’ve got you covered. Here are the most popular tourist activities to explore and indulge in.

Parliament Hill

At downtown, overlooking the Ottawa River, you will find the iconic Parliament Hill which represents the ‘political and cultural heart’ of the city. The Gothic-style architecture receives a large number of visiting tourists daily. There are free guided tours which are available daily on a first-come, first served basis. On the grounds of the Parliament Hill, you will also find many historical sculptures of important Canadian personalities.

Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard was a tradition which started in 1959 and has since become an annual event. If you visit the Parliament Hill during the summer months, you will be opportune to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony which presents impressive lighting effects and projects strikingly enormous images on the wall of the Parliament buildings. It is an interesting activity that involves a flurry of colours and music provided by the regimental band and pipers as the Governor General’s Footguards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards perform the march. Performances are watched free.

Sound and Light show

The Sound and Light show is hosted at the Parliament Hill to reflect Canada’s rich history through light and sound. To mark the country’s 150th anniversary, Northern Lights which is the new replacement on the Sound and Light show is set to hold a remarkable 30-minute show. It will show important milestones that the country has gone through over the span of 150 years. The previous Sound and Light show was popular with tourists has it as seen by more than a million people. The Northern Lights will continue for five summers from the year 2015 to 2019.

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Peace Tower

Your tour of the capital city, Ottawa is not complete till you take the elevator up Parliament’s Hill most remarkable feature. The Peace Tower is a memorial for those who lost their lives in wars. So, it is a strong emblem of Canadian history. From your vantage point, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Centre Block, the Parliament Hill surroundings, and the Ottawa River. You will also get a view of the Peace Tower Clock with four faces, though the original has stopped working and has been replaced, visitors can still view the original at the Tower’s observation deck.

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Notre Dame Basilica

This is one of Canada’s oldest religious art with the historical building dating back to 1847. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Ottawa. Irrespective of your religious affiliation, you will feel a sense of awe visiting this cathedral. The outside may not look too attractive but upon entrance, you will be awed by the interior décor presenting the green marbled pillars, stained glass, arched ceiling and the impressive altar. There are guided tours for a fee.

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National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is home to Canada’s indigenous art which comprises over 40,000 First Nation, Metis and Inuit artworks. They have a nice package for tourists which include their greeter Maman, which allows tourists through webcam to wave back at their families at home. There is also the stunning architecture on the grounds to discover including the high-class ceilings, wide galleries, and tranquil courtyards. Their bookstore has a wide selection of souvenirs to purchase on your visit.

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Canadian War Museum

Located on the western side of downtown Ottawa beside the river, the magnificent design of the War Museum is the initial attraction that will capture your attention. Opened in 2005, Canadian War Museum soon became a popular tourist centre putting over 330 works of art on display. There are also amazing exhibitions that show Canada’s historical involvement in conflict showing artillery, tanks, combat gear and art. This draws a form of realism to Canada’s war history.

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ByWard Market

In downtown, situated close to Parliament Hill, ByWard Market is a busy hub for several interesting activities apart from the regular market buying. It is the site for several cafes, restaurants, and pubs and a great spot to enjoy a great nightlife. You can also explore the small private courtyards and a bustling outdoor market to get fresh products. There are popular yearly events including the Tastes of ByWard and the Winterlude Stew Cook-Off. You can even find horse stables in the ByWard neighbourhood where you can get horse-drawn carriage rides.

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UNESCO Rideau Canal

The UNESCO Rideau Canal is Canada’s only World UNESCO Heritage Site. The canal is popular as a tourist site throughout all seasons for a scenic walk or a guided boat cruise. The canal was originally built as a military protection to create a link between Montreal, Quebec, and Kingston during the unpopular war of 1812. Therefore, the site boasts historical facts that you’ll find interesting. When the Rideau Canal freezes in winter, it becomes a skating rink stretching 4.8 miles and attracting people far and wide.

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National Arts Centre

Situated between the Rideau Canal and Elgin Street, the National Arts Centre is a hub for the performing arts. If you are a music buff, the music centre has over 150 events covering Classical, Pop, Chamber, Opera, Jazz/Blues, Folk/Country among other performances. There are also theatrical events including comedy, Musicals, Family Drama, Classics and New Works. Dance and Broadway shows are also big parts of the attractions at the National Arts Centre.

Ottawa Little Theatre

This is the longest running community theatre in Canada, founded in 1913 and previously known as the Ottawa Drama League. Through September to May, they present a series of eight plays in a year. You can subscribe for a full season or watch just your selected choices. The Ottawa Little Theatre will be hosting the annual Theatre Ontario Festival in May 2017 which showcases exceptional community theatre productions and celebrates distinction in community theatre. Hence, this is one event, tourists should find engaging if visiting during the period.

Royal Canadian Mint

If you have a penchant for coin collection, Royal Canadian Mint will be a delight for you as a tourist. They represent through the coins minting, the rich history and national achievements of Canada using themes from 1908 to more modern times. Opened all year and daily for visitors, The Royal Canadian Mint destination is an amazing tourist attraction in Canada. Here, you’ll learn through a tour of the facility and discover the art that goes into the craft of coin-minting. In addition, the Mint on-site boutique features some amazing prized souvenirs you can purchase for your friends and family.

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Rideau Hall

The Rideau Hall, home to the Governor General of Canada is open to the public and tourists. This is an amazing opportunity for you to explore this magnificent mansion. In the Heritage Gardens with over 10,000 trees spreading across the expanse of land, you can discover nature anew as you bask in their shades. During summer, fun activities to engage in includes art tours, residence tours, garden tours and free outdoor concerts. In winter, the outdoor becomes a skating rink which is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays.

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