Ottawa Things to Do
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and among the largest cities in the entire country. Here are the top attractions and best things to do in Ottawa when you’re visiting the heart of the country’s political landscape.
Parliament Hill overlooks the Ottawa River. From the banks of the river, you can see the Gothic spires of Parliament Tower or watch the lazy waters of the Rideau Canal as boats pass by. Visitors to Parliament Hill often amble down to the Centre Block, whose architecture further reflects the Gothic Revival style. Restoration efforts took place following a fire in 1916, and today visitors can regularly walk the Rotunda. Coats of Arms can be seen decorating the area, each reflecting the provinces of Canada.
Visitors can also make their way to the Centennial Flame, which commemorates Canada’s first 100 years. Constructed in 1967, the flame is surrounded by a fountain decorated by the 10 Canadian Coats of Arms. Tourists and citizens alike toss change into the pool, which is later collected and used to fund projects helping the disabled. Overlooking it all is the Peace Tower, which is covered in 370 gargoyles, grotesques, and friezes. Its sandstone walls surround a memorial chamber that acts as a tribute to the victims of WWII.
Byward Market is one of Canada’s oldest and largest markets. Notably, it also the oldest surviving part of Ottawa. Restaurants and cafes dot the area, with the market boasting vegetable and fruit stands, flower stalls, and merchants selling jewelry and clothing. Whether you’re hoping to pick up food for later, find something to wear, or have a casual afternoon lunch, Byward Market offers plenty for visitors.
However, the market also hides a surprise: 14 bronze statues of alley cats. Eagle-eyed visitors will notice the various cats decorating the market place, and spotting them can make for an interesting easter egg hunt. Artwork is not uncommon in the market, and the inner courtyards are home to statues and cast iron angels that cast a peaceful presence over all who visit.
The architecture of Ottawa is further celebrated in the magnificent Parliament Library, which may be among the most beautiful of all the Parliament buildings. It is the only part of Parliament to survive the 1916 fire, and continues in the Gothic Revival style that typifies the other buildings. The Library preserves the legislative documents of the Canadian government, offering direct access for members of Parliament. Visitors can take guided tours, though photos are not allowed.
Editor’s note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about Ottawa things to do.