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Things to Do in Ottawa: Visit Ottawa’s Original Downtown

July 10, 2023

One of the best things about travelling to Ottawa is wandering around and being surprised by all the different things to do, including unique attractions, adventures, and flavours around every corner! Make the most of your visit to Ottawa’s Original Downtown by checking out these iconic places. 


Major's Hill Park, one of the most celebrated green spaces in Ottawa.
Image of Major’s Hill Park

Parliament Hill  

Start off with some site seeing and take a trip to Parliament Hill, an architectural marvel that houses the Parliament of Canada. Book a guided tour and explore more of the Senate, East Block and the House of Commons for the full experience. If you arrive on Parliament Hill early enough in the morning, you might even watch the cherished tradition of the Changing of the Guard ceremony! 

📍 Wellington Street

National War Memorial  

Located in the heart of the city, The National War Memorial stands as a poignant tribute to honor the individuals who so bravely served their country. A visit to the National War Memorial in Ottawa is a solemn and moving experience that fosters a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made and serves as a timeless reminder of the importance of honoring their memory.

📍 Wellington Street

⏰ Open 24 Hours

Rideau Locks 

These iconic locks situated along the historic rideau canal offer a fascinating glimpse into the engineering marvel that transformed the regions waterways. The Rideau Locks are the largest set of locks on the entire canal system and provide a unique opportunity to witness a blend of human ingenuity and historic marvel.  

📍 11 Colonel By Drive

⏰ Monday to Thursday: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM

⏰ Friday to Sunday: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM

📞 613-283-5170

Rideau Falls 

Located in between the Rideau River and the Ottawa River, these magnificent falls create a mesmerizing cascade of rushing water. The falls are an unforgettable sightseeing experience.  

📍 50 Sussex Drive

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica 

This stunning Gothic Revival masterpiece nestled in the heart of the city, captivates victors with its towering spires and intricate stone carvings. Admire the inspiring interior adorned with beautiful stained-glass windows, ornate woodwork and exquisite artwork. The Notre-Dame Cathedral is a must-visit destination that leaves a lasting impression.  

📍 385 Sussex Drive

⏰ Monday to Tuesday: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

⏰ Wednesday to Sunday: 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM

📞 613-241-7496

ByWard Market 

For a truly Ottawa experience, take a stroll through the bustling streets of ByWard Market. Here you’ll find streets lined with charming shops, artisanal boutiques and enticing food stalls.  

Ottawa Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour  

Climb aboard the comfortable double-decker bus and get ready to discover Ottawa’s top attractions! You can even customize your itinerary with the flexible hop on and off at various stops across the city. Enjoy an informative audio commentary providing insight into the city’s history, culture and landmarks, enhancing your sightseeing experience. Reserve your spot now!  

📍 44 Sparks Street – Meeting Point

⏰ Monday to Sunday: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

🎟️ Tickets

Ottawa City Tour by Land and Water Tours (Lady Dive Tours) 

Embarking on the Ottawa City Tour by land water with Lady Dive Tours is an unforgettable sightseeing experience that combines the best of both worlds. Marvel at iconic landmarks and cruise along the rideau canal while taking in views of the city’s skyline and natural landscapes. Discover Ottawa’s landmarks from both land and water! 

📍 44 Sparks Street

⏰ Monday to Sunday: 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM

📞 613-524-2221

📝 For more information

Boat Tours/Cruises 

Looking for an enchanting way to explore all that Ottawa has to offer? Choose a leisurely cruise along the rideau canal or an adventurous journey on the Ottawa river. The Ottawa Boat Cruise offers a unique perspective of the capital’s iconic landmarks. With options ranging from romantic sunset cruises to family-friendly sightseeing excursions there’s a boat tour to suit every preference.

📍 1 Elgin Street

📅 May to October

📞 819-246-3855

📝 For more information

Notre Dame Cathedral, a beautiful historic building in the heart of Ottawa.
Notre Dame Cathedral


Bike Rentals 

Get ready to explore the city on two wheels with RentaBike. Ottawa’s Original Downtown offers an extensive network of bike-friendly paths and trails allowing one to effortlessly navigate the city’s top attractions. So, grab your helmets and your friends and embark on a two-wheeled adventure!  

📍 2 Rideau Street

⏰ Monday to Sunday: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM

📞 613-241-4140

📝 For more information


Scooter rentals provide a fun and efficient way to navigate the bustling streets and vibrant original downtown. Glide through Byward Market, Parliament Hill, the rideau canal and other popular attractions. Explore Ottawa’s original downtown with Bird Scooters.  

📍 All Around Ottawa’s Original Downtown

📝 For more information

Major’s Hill Park 

Nestled near Parliament Hill, escape the hustle and bustle of the city and embrace the serenity of Major’s Hill Park in Ottawa, a perfect destination for those looking to unwind, catch up on their favourite book, or enjoy a picnic!  

📍 Mackenzie Avenue

⏰ Open 24 Hours

Confederation Park 

Confederation Park is a tranquil oasis boasting stunning flower beds, sparkling fountains and lively events throughout the year. Enjoy a nice stroll around the park and take in the sites and enjoy the outdoors. Plan a picnic or bring some outdoor games and spend a relaxing afternoon at Confederation Park. Be sure to check our events calendar to see if there is a festival taking place during your visit! to see if there is a festival taking place during your visit! 

📍 Mackenzie Avenue

⏰ Open 24 Hours

📞 613-239-5000


ByTown Museum 

A visit to the Bytown Museum is an absolute must. This charming museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the rich history and heritage of Ottawa. Explore the captivating exhibits showcasing the city’s evolution to Canada’s vibrant capital.   

📍1 Canal Lane

⏰ Monday to Tuesday: CLOSED

⏰ Wednesday to Sunday: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

📞 613-234-4570

UNESCO Heritage Site – Rideau Canal  

This UNESCO world heritage site hold tremendous historical significance as an engineering marvel of the 19th century. Originally built as a strategic military waterway the canal boasts a remarkable system of locks, dams and beautifully preserved heritage buildings. Visit the rideau canal and get a glimpse into Canadas’s past and a deeper appreciation for its rich history.

Bytown Museum, teaching people about the rich history of Ottawa.
Image by ByTown Museum


National Arts Centre 

The National Arts Centre (NAC) is a cultural gem that showcases a diverse range of performances, from ballet and theater to orchestral concerts and contemporary dance. Additionally, the NAC offers the under30 program which provides young art lovers to experience art at a lower cost. The NAC is a hub of artistic excellence and creativity, offering visitors and unforgettable experience. Checkout their performance line up here. 

📍 1 Elgin Street

📞 844-985-2787

📝 For more information

National Art Gallery 

The National Art Gallery of Canada houses an extensive collection of Canadian and international artworks, spanning various periods and mediums. For lovers of the Group of Seven, this gallery is a must-visit! Come in Thursday evenings for free general admission! Showcasing iconic works from the Group of Seven serving as a testament to Canada’s rich artists heritage.  

📍 380 Sussex Drive

⏰ Monday to Wednesday: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

⏰ Thursday: 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM

⏰ Friday to Sunday: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

📞 613-990-1985

Ottawa Art Gallery 

The Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) celebrates local and regional artist providing a space for their creations to be showcased and appreciated. From thought-provoking contemporary pieces to historical retrospectives, the OAG has so much to offer. With its everchanging exhibitions and free admission the gallery offers visitors a glimpse into the dynamic and diverse art scene of the city.  

📍 10 Daly Avenue

⏰ Monday: CLOSED

⏰ Tuesday to Wednesday: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

⏰ Thursday to Saturday: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM

⏰ Sunday: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

📞 613-233-8699

ByTowne Cinema 

Bytowne Cinema is a beloved independent movie theater in Ottawa that caters to film enthusiasts seeking a unique cinematic experience. This charming venue screens a curated selection of art-house, foreign and classical films. Check out their current showings and schedule your perfect movie night!  

📍 325 Rideau Street

📞 613-789-4600

📝 See What’s Playing 

Arts Court 

Arts Court is a dynamic cultural center that houses multiple arts organizations under one roof. From gallery exhibitions and performances to workshops and community events. Arts Court fosters artistic expression and engagement, enriching the cultural landscape of Ottawa. Checkout their tenant directory for more information and add the arts court to your Ottawa bucket list!  

📍 11 Colonel By Drive

⏰ Monday to Sunday: 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM

📞 613-564-7240

📝 For More Information

Ottawa Little Theatre 

Located in the historic neighbourhood of Sandy Hill, the Ottawa Little Theatre is a cherished institution. Founded in 1913, it stands as one of the oldest community theatres in Canada. From timeless classics to new age plays the Ottawa little theatre showcases the talents of local actors and artists. Check out their 2023 lineup and enjoy an impressive theatrical experience.  

📍 400 King Edward Avenue

📞 613-233-8948

📝 For More Information

National Gallery of Canada, showcasing some of the nation's finest works to audiences in Ottawa.
Image of the National Gallery of Canada


No visit to Ottawa is complete without indulging in two iconic Canadian Culinary delights: Beavertails and poutine. Start with a beavertail and add as many toppings as your heart desires. When it comes to poutine 3Brothers and Smokes Poutinerie are two locations to check out offering classic poutine and customized options as well. Immerse yourself in a true Canadian culinary experience!  

📍 69 George Street

⏰ Monday to Thursday: 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM

⏰ Friday to Saturday: 11:00 AM to 12:00 AM

⏰ Sunday: 11:00 AM to 11:00M

📞 613-241-1230

The ByWard Market's BeaverTails stand.
Image of Beavertails
Worried about where you are going to park? Click here for a handy tool to find all the parking options and rates in the downtown!
Check out our Events page for a complete list of events in Ottawa’s Original Downtown!