Where Québec meets Ontario and the Rideau Canal meets the Ottawa River lies the picturesque center of Downtown Ottawa. Explore the city’s ceremonial sites and memorials, engage with art and history or simply indulge in riverside relaxation.
Begin with a walk through Confederation Park, viewing its fountain and gardens as well as the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument. Depending on the season, you might also join in public celebrations such as Winterlude, Canada Day or the Ottawa Jazz Festival.
Continue on to nearby Confederation Square, where the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier pay tribute to the sacrifice of Canadians in war. Check the schedule for the adjacent National Arts Centre, a prestigious bilingual hub for ballet, theater and classical music. Stroll the grounds at Parliament Hill and climb the iconic Peace Tower for gorgeous views.
Heading north, cross the narrow Rideau Canal and appreciate this vital waterway. Follow its path by tour boat, bike in warmer months or join locals to celebrate wintertime with seasonal treats and ice-skating. Visit neighboring Bytown Museum, which tells Ottawa’s story since its humble origins as a lumber town and military depot. Shop at the modern CF Rideau Centre or purchase local foodstuffs at the historic, sprawling ByWard Market.
Stop at the Notre-Dame Cathedral to admire its spires and interior. Services are conducted in English, French or a combination. Tour the Royal Canadian Mint to appreciate its historic riverside premises and learn the technical process involved in making coins.
Finally, travel to the National Gallery of Canada, an elegant glass-and-granite structure whose large windows offer lovely outlooks onto Parliament Hill and the water. Explore collections of Canadian and international art, including significant works by First Peoples. Complete your visit with a trip to the gift shop and a meal at one of the gallery’s in-house cafés.
Downtown Ottawa can be explored on foot or by bus. Travel from the airport by car in about 20 minutes.