Things to Do in Ottawa
Steeped in history and culture but with a fun and quirky twist, Canada’s capital is one of the coolest cities in the country. Whatever your interests, there are many great things to do in Ottawa, including visiting world-class museums and galleries, watching a light show projected onto Parliament Hill, skating on the UNESCO-listed Rideau Canal and shopping/eating your way through the funky ByWard Market and Wellington West districts.
Located in Canada’s southeastern corner, on the border between Ontario and Quebec and not too far from the US border, Ottawa is widely considered one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities, famed for its gorgeous architecture, beautiful parks, and multicultural community.
It’s easy to spend a day, a weekend, or longer exploring this exciting city and its surrounding countryside. For more information, you can check out Ottawa Tourism’s official website, plan your trip with the Ottawa Visitor Guide, or keep scrolling to discover more of our favourite things to do in Ottawa.
Food and drink
Home to an amazing dining scene, it’s easy to see why folks in Ottawa are seriously passionate about their food and drink. Whether you fancy a 5* meal with all the bells and whistles, a cafe lunch or a street-side snack, you’re sure to never be disappointed. Struggling to choose? Food tours are a great way to discover the best of the best.
One of Canada’s most diverse cities, Ottawa has always held its own on the world stage, with Chinatown and Little Italy offering more than just Italian and Chinese cuisine that’s just as good as the stuff you’d find on the streets of Beijing and Rome. You can also find Turkish, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Vietnamese and anything else your heart might desire.
If you feel like something super farm-fresh, you don’t even have to head far out of the city to get it. Of course, you could always just swing by the farmers’ market to pick it up, but rural suburbs like Manotick are also famous for their produce—even hosting a food festival every August.
Ottawa’s nightlife is also pretty great, with plenty of hip and inspired bars, restaurants and clubs, especially around the ByWard Market area.
Outdoor and recreation
For a capital city, Ottawa has a surprisingly large amount of outdoor adventures just a stone’s throw away. In the heart of the city itself, you can go walking through big green parks and the city streets, explore the 140 kilometres of cycling trails in and around the capital and check out the Rideau Canal, which transforms into the world’s biggest skating rink in the winter.
From spring to summer, you can also explore the city via the water, with boat cruises, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding on offer.
A little further out of the city, thrillseekers can go whitewater rafting, bungee jumping and ziplining. In the winter, you can spend time in Ottawa’s countryside to ski and snowboard, or go on a day trip to Petrie Island or further east to Rockland to enjoy ice fishing.
Museums and heritage sites
Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region, which also includes Gatineau, has no end of attractions, from world-class museums like Canada War Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, the Canada Agricultural Museum and the Byford Museum, to the ByWard Market, Little Italy’s murals,, and the independent and arty Glebe. Close to the National Gallery, Nepean Point is also a great sunset spot with vistas over the Ottawa River and Alexandra Bridge
Parliament Hill has several of its own attractions—especially during the summer—when it hosts the Changing of the Guard Ceremony every morning, the nightly Sound and Light Show and a free weekly yoga class that has been known to attract over a thousand participants. Other government buildings of note include the Art-Deco style Supreme Court and the castle-like Royal Canadian Mint.
A little way out of the city, you can visit heritage villages, supposedly haunted mills, historic houses, farms and other areas of interest, including Merrickville, which is said to be Canada’s prettiest village and is just 45 minutes away from Ottawa. A uniquely Canadian activity, in the spring you can also head out to a sugar shack to taste maple syrup right from the source.
Arts and cultural experiences
You can’t mention Ottawa without also talking about festivals and events, as it is home to some of Canada’s biggest celebrations, including Winterlude, the world’s biggest Canada Day celebrations, the world’s largest tulip festival (in partnership with the Netherlands), Capital Pride, Bluesfest, Ottawa International Jazz festival, Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, Ottawa Fringe Festival and many more.
Ottawa is jam-packed with fun things to do. Keep scrolling to find out more about why Ottawa is one of Canada’s favourite cities.