Ottawa Tourism Mini-Guide

Ottawa Tourism Mini-Guide gives you a quick overview of things to do in Ottawa including Ottawa museums, entertainment, neighbourhoods and tours. You’ll also find practical advice about flights to Ottawa, accommodation and money-saving tips.

ottawa parliament

Things to Do in Ottawa

As the country's capital, Ottawa is full of world-class national museums, art galleries,  heritage attractions, lively dining and nightlife, boating and other sporting activities keep visitors hopping.

If you're a history and heritage lover, the Canadian Parliament Buildings are one of the city’s star attractions. Here you can take a guided tour of the national halls of power, which are lovingly decorated inside with paintings and sculpture. Be sure to tour the grounds as well, where you'll find numerous monuments to important Canadian figures from the past. For pictures of Parliament, see my article Ottawa Photo Gallery.

Still on Parliament Hill, one of the most spectacular (and FREE!) shows in town, Mosaika Sound and Light Show at night, using the Parliament buildings themselves as a giant "movie screen". The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Changing of the Guard is a (day-time) crowd favourite.

Changing of the guard, ottawa

As Canada's capital city, Ottawa boasts some major national museums and art galleries, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum and the Museum of Nature. Check this page for more information: Ottawa museums.

For more information see Things to Do in Ottawa.

Ottawa Entertainment

Are you an arts lover? The National Arts Centre hosts concerts year-round as well as local and international theatre and dance performances.

For more casual entertainment, check out some of the bars and clubs or just relax on the outdoor patios in the busy ByWard Market neighbourhood.

Ottawa Festivals and Events

In Ottawa. tourism peaks in the summer months especially around Canada Day in July which is a huge event where the nation celebrates Confederation.

Other festivals that draw big crowds include the gorgeous Ottawa Tulip Festival, Winterlude, Ottawa Bluesfest, and The Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Ottawa Neighourhoods

The three neighbourhoods that tourists will encounter most often Ottawa are: Downtown, ByWard Market, and Sandy Hill.

Downtown is west of the Rideau Canal and its major Ottawa tourism attractions are Parliament Hill and the Sparks Street Mall (a pedestrian-only shopping street).

The ByWard Market neighbourhood, which is east of the Rideau Canal, buzzes with cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, stores and of course the farmers’ market.The area has managed to keep many of its heritage buildings, so it's a pleasure just to walk around and take photographs.

Sandy Hill is south of the Byward Market and includes the Rideau Centre (a large shopping mall) and the sprawling University of Ottawa.

Ottawa Shopping

Shopping in central Ottawa is spread out over several areas: the Sparks Street Mall (very touristy… plenty of souvenirs), the Rideau Centre (fairly typical big-city mall), and ByWard Market (also very touristy). The National Art Gallery also has a pretty cool shop for those artsy types among you.

Ottawa Tours

Ottawa is a walkable city, and often the simplest way to get to major tourist attractions like the National Art Gallery or Parliament Buildings is on foot. It is also a good way to take in many of the monuments scattered around the city. You can also take a bus tour, or boat tour.

I favour the boat tours for their spectacular perspective on the city, and, if you take the evening tour, the sunsets:

Sunset from boat tour

Check out this page for more information about Ottawa Tours.

Need help planning your trip?

Where is Ottawa?

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Arriving in Ottawa

Are you flying into Ottawa? You’ll be arriving at The Ottawa International Airport which is about 14 km from Downtown Ottawa (accessible by taxi or city bus). Some of the airlines that fly into Ottawa are: Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, Porter, and Westjet (for a complete list see the airport's web site .

Ottawa is also served by train through Canada's national service VIA Rail, as well as by intercity bus lines like Greyhound.

Getting Around

Are you bringing your car or planning to rent a car in Ottawa? If you’re arriving by plane you should arrange to pick up your car at the airport; currently 5 different companies are available. If you prefer not to rent a car, Ottawa has plenty of taxis. If you’re staying in the central Downtown area, it is fairly easy to get around with just walking and public transit. The local bus system, OC Transpo, has a fleet of 1,000 buses and 3 trains serving the Greater Ottawa area. When I visit Ottawa, I don’t even bother with the buses; I just walk and take the occasional taxi.

Ottawa Hotels and Lodging

Ottawa has a wide variety of accommodation options from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Some of the most interesting places to stay are historic Ottawa hotels like the Chateau Laurier.

Instead of staying in a hotel, you might also want to consider a Bed and Breakfast or a Hostel .

If you like saving money, the University of Ottawa Residence opens its dorms to travellers during the summer session. It’s central and costs about $100 a night for a small two-bedroom apartment.

What to pack?

The weather in Ottawa is fairly similar to that of Toronto so this page will help foreign tourists prepare for the visit: Toronto Weather.

Ontario Travel Secrets   > Ontario Cities > Ottawa