Ottawa / Gatineau

As far as capital cities go, Ottawa is reasonably walkable. Whether you’re exploring its many heritage sites, browsing its galleries, or taking scenic strolls along the river, you can do it all with a good pair of shoes or a trusty bicycle.


Day One


DAY 1 – 9:00 AM: START YOUR MORNING IN HISTORIC NEW EDINBURGH

New Edinburgh is an upscale neighbourhood by the Rideau River. Once an industrial centre, many of the area’s early residents were mill workers. Locals are eager to share their neighbourhood’s charm with visitors and have put together a self-guided walking tour that sheds light on its storied streets.

This neighbourhood is home to multiple embassies and Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General. This stately building used to be the home of Thomas McKay, a stonemason and entrepreneur who founded New Edinburgh back in 1832 and helped build the Rideau Canal. The grounds of Rideau Hall are a horticulturalist’s dream—carefully landscaped rose gardens, greenhouses, and lawns blur the line between order and the wilderness. If you visit in the colder months, try skating at the winter pavilion.

DAY 1

EXPLORE NEW EDINBURGH – 9:00 AM

DAY 1

TOUR THE BYWARD MARKET – 12:00 PM

DAY 1 – 12:00 PM: GO ON A TOUR AT THE BYWARD MARKET 

If you’ve ever been to Ottawa, you’ve probably visited the ByWard Market. It’s easy to love the pedestrian-friendly area filled with boutiques, cafes, art galleries, cultural sites, and restaurants. Wander on your own or join one of the many tours on offer, each with its own unique focus and format. Depending on the day of the week, you might stumble across one of the outdoor markets, which is full of produce, baked goods, and much more.

Anyone looking for a spooky take on Ottawa’s historic spaces should sign up for a Haunted Walk to learn about the alleged hauntings at the Bytown Museum, the Chateau Laurier, and the old Carlton County Jail.

DAY 1 – 3:00 PM: THIS GALLERY’S ARCHITECTURE IS SIMPLICITY DONE WELL

The Ottawa Art Gallery’s new building has an almost ethereal quality to it; the perforated metal mesh of its facade creates soft transitions from the sharp lines of the cube toward the sky. Originally established by local collectors O.J. and Isobel Firestone, the gallery’s Firestone collection focuses on 20th-century Canadian art. It has a significant number of works from the Group of Seven, especially A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris.

DAY 1

VISIT THE OTTAWA ART GALLERY – 3:00 PM

DAY 1

THE NATIONAL GALLERY– 4:00 PM

Day 1 – 4:00 PM: Meet Maman at the National Gallery of Canada

There’s another gallery not too far away from the Ottawa Art Gallery, and it’s right near the place to take in one of the best views in the city. Keep an eye out for the giant, metallic arachnid, Maman, by Louise Bourgeois, who greets everyone who walks up to the National Gallery of Canada. The gallery has one of the most substantial collections of Canadian and Indigenous artwork and also hosts a significant collection of works representing artistic traditions from all over the world.

A short walk from the gallery is the Alexandra Bridge Lookout, which gives a sweeping view of the Ottawa River and the city of Gatineau on the opposite shore.

Food tip: For a filling snack nearby, try The Tavern on the Hill. If you are crossing over to Gatineau, there’s an assortment of French, Italian, and Thai restaurants just a stone’s throw from the bridge.


Day Two


DAY 2 – 9:00 AM: START THE DAY WITH A LEISURELY STROLL THROUGH CONFEDERATION PARK & OTTAWA’S CIVIC CENTRE

Opened in 1967 to mark Canada’s centennial anniversary, Confederation Park boasts several public art pieces and monuments, including the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument by Noel Loyd Pinay.

Take a short walk to Ottawa’s city centre to admire the geometry of the courthouse, check out the modern City Hall designed by Canada’s Raymond Moriyama, and explore a few museums along the way. Learn about Canadian military history at the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa Regimental Museum. You may also pass by the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights, by sculptor Melvin Charney, which stands at the corner of Lisgar and Elgin.

The National Arts Centre is on the other side of Confederation Park. The brutalist building recently opened its new wing, courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects. The most striking addition to the centre is the Kipnes Lantern, a hexagonal tower wrapped in transparent LEDs. At night the tower comes alive with intense, colourful displays by Canada’s leading artists.

DAY 2

STROLL THROUGH OTTAWA’S CIVIC CENTRE – 9:00 AM

DAY 2

VISIT PARLIAMENT HILL – 11:30 AM

DAY 2 – 11:30 AM: EXPLORE CANADA’S PARLIAMENTARY PRECINCT

Start at the bronze statue of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and walk past the buildings of the East Block. This imposing structure, done in the Gothic-Revival style, once held the offices of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier. Now, it houses the offices of the Senate.

Next up, you’ll arrive at the Centennial Flame. This fountain, and its not-quite-eternal flame, started out as a temporary monument to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday. Prime Minister Lester P. Pearson lit the flame on New Year’s Eve in 1966; the monument was so beloved by the public that it became a permanent fixture.

The Parliament of Canada, with its iconic Peace Tower rising skyward, is just up the way. Its style is typical of 19th-century Gothic Revival, featuring medieval embellishments like pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and gargoyles. Further along is the Confederation Building, which currently houses the offices of several serving MPs.  Opened in 1931, it’s a more recent addition to the Parliamentary Precinct.

You’ll soon arrive at the Supreme Court of Canada, where two allegorical “Truth” and “Justice” sculptures stand beside the main steps leading into the Grand Entrance Hall. The Canadian War Museum is just up the road from here. Military history buffs should consider this one a must-see; it has a massive collection of military vehicles.

DAY 2 – 3:00 PM: CROSS OVER TO GATINEAU

Crossing the Ottawa River into Quebec is a simple affair, with two bridges nearby and a water taxi available in the warmer months. On the way to your destination, you’ll pass by the Palais de Justice de Gatineau and the Maison due Citoyen.

The Canadian Museum of History sits at the opposite shore of the Ottawa River across from Parliament Hill. Learn about 15,000 years of history, beginning with the earliest human settlements in North America all the way to the present day. The building, designed by Douglas Cardinal, is an architectural gem, defined by the undulating forms of its two main wings, which emulate the winding riverbank below.

Wrap up the day with a stroll through Jacques Cartier Park, enjoying its sculpture, gardens, and historic structures, or just wander about and see what the streets of Gatineau have to offer.

DAY 2

CROSS OVER TO QUEBEC – 3:00 PM

Need a Map?


Events in the Area


Related Articles


Art Challenge, 2021: Food Photography Activity by Kanika Gupta & Amit Kehar

2021 Creatives in Residence, Kanika Gupta and Amit Kehar, invite you to slow down and take a second look at every day discarded food scraps. What hidden treasures can you find when you do a double take?

Food as Craft: Kanika Gupta and Amit Kehar

The Creative in Residence duo, multimedia artist Kanika Gupta and cinematographer Amit Kehar, discuss resilience, approaching work from different perspectives, and their upcoming project as part of the Ontario Culture Days 2021 Festival.

6 Ways to get Crafty for the Holiday Season

Although it's only November we are already looking ahead to the sparkling holiday lights, lovely winter scenes and giving gifts to our loved ones; and nothing says “I love you”  like a handmade gift. We have put together a selection of workshops, tutorials and classes so that you can become a master crafter just in time for the holidays.

This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the area. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.

Ottawa Tourism provided information and assistance for the creation of this guide. All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. This guide was written by Esther Lee.