Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is the perfect blend of urban and rural beauty with year-round activities. Known best for being home to the Canadian government, the city is extremely diverse and offers services in both English and French. The fourth largest urban centre in Canada, Ottawa also boasts over one thousand green spaces. With the Parliament of Canada dominating the Ottawa scene it is hard to know what else there is to do, but there are a variety of attractions in different areas of the city to keep you busy.

Ottawa is the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation.

The Nation's Capital

Plenty to choose from in O-Town

Downtown & ByWard Market

More than just a gathering place for federal government representatives, Parliament Hill is also a great place to visit and celebrate. On July 1, Canada Day, there are day-long events and spectacular fireworks. Guided tours are available and free of charge, although visitors are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance.

Established in 1880, and now home to more than 75,000 works of art, the National Gallery of Canada has one of the finest collections of Indigenous and Canadian art in the world. With a mix of contemporary and historical artworks, the gallery is a great place to spend a few hours and is located near the ByWard Market.

Home to local farmer’s markets and artisans, as well as over 600 businesses, the ByWard Market is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. Established in 1826 by Lt-Col. John By, it is easily accessible by foot, transit, or car. Hours vary with the season and the market itself spans roughly four city blocks.

Located at the Ottawa locks on the Rideau Canal and housed in Ottawa’s oldest stone structure, the Bytown Museum explores the city’s history. The museum offers exhibitions, family activities, special events, and guided tours.

The best-preserved example of a slackwater canal in North America, the Rideau Canal is the only 19th-century canal that still operates along its original route, and with most of its original structures intact.

A pedestrian mall, since 1967, Sparks Street contains several restaurants, works of art, and hosts special events and festivals throughout the year. It is also home to some major attractions, such as the National War Memorial and the National Arts Centre.

With views of the Ottawa Locks of the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River, and the Parliament Buildings, Major’s Hill Park is a wonderful spot to take a walk on winding paths and relax. In the spring it is also a great place to see the tulips bloom. The first tulips were a gift from the Netherlands in thanks and recognition for Canada’s role in the liberation of the country. Every year since 1945 tulips are planted as a symbol of lasting friendship between the two countries.

Golden Triangle

Opened to the public in 1912, the Canadian Museum of Nature is an educational and scientific institution. The museum resides in the first building within Canada to be created with the intention to house a national museum. Explore everything from the dinosaurs to modern-day mammals.

LeBreton Flats and District de Hull

The Canadian War Museum serves both as an educational facility and a place of remembrance. Designed to emphasize the human experience of war, each gallery highlights defining moments in Canada’s military history and the ways it has shaped the nation. The outside of the building even has a unique design feature that emphasizes the museums purpose, spelling out through morse code “N’oublions jamais” and “Lest we forget”. You don’t have to be a military enthusiast to enjoy the museum, and with extensive permanent exhibitions, you can expand your knowledge of the conflicts that shaped Canada and the rest of the world.

Technically located in Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History is a national museum on anthropology, Canadian history, cultural studies, and ethnology. Formerly known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the goal of the museum is to showcase the events, experiences, people, and objects that have shaped Canada’s history and identity.

Built in the 1930s and located in the Hull sector of Gatineau along the Ottawa River on Laurier Street, Jacques-Cartier Park provides views of the river and Parliament Hill. This area was originally a place to stop and camp before portaging around Chaudière Falls. Today it is the perfect place for a picnic, or to rent a bicycle, kayak, or canoe at the marina.

If you would like any other suggestions on what to do on a free day in Ottawa please contact us at [email protected]

Tours Highlighting Ottawa

Ask us about adding one of these options to your Canada Rail Vacation