Canada’s Capital city is Ottawa. Formed out of the small town of Bytown in 1855 it is now home to over 1 million Canadians in the city limits alone. Unlike Vancouver, which can be expensive to visit as a tourist, Ottawa is extremely budget friendly. There is something for everyone, from outdoor activities to museums to great food, Ottawa has it! With the Rideau Canal at its centre surrounded by the beautiful Parliament Buildings Ottawa is most certainly worth a visit.
Here are my top ten FREE things to do in the city:
Tour the Parliament Buildings
I was super excited to learn you can go on a free tour of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. Parliament Hill is home to the Senate, House of Commons and Library of Parliament so there is a lot going on. Depending on what parliamentary activity is being conducted for the day will determine how long your tour will be.
The website claims they are between 20- 50 mins in length. When Matt and I attended we had a shorter tour as Parliament in session so could not view the Senate or House of Commons. However, the tour was still interesting. The library gave me flash backs to Belle in Beauty and the Beast, it was such a gorgeous room.
You have to rise early for this one as tickets are only available on the day. From 9am tickets are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis. Matt and I scooped the last two spots on an English tour for the day and we arrived at 10.30ish, so be out of bed early!
You can also get tickets to the Peace Tower (Big Ben inspired clock) and go up and have views of the city. However, the elevator was closed on the day we went so no visit for us. Within the Peace Tower however you can see the Book of Remembrance which lists the names of Canadians for have fought and died in service.
Its worth a visit if you have time after your tour. Each day they turn the pages to show different names, I was lucky enough that on that day, it was open on my last name.
Tour the Supreme Court
Just down the road from Parliament Hill is the Supreme Court. Here you can learn about the Canadian judicial system from informative law students. In addition, tours give you an insight into the beautiful art deco architecture. If you are lucky and court is in session you can sit in on a hearing.
Tours for this place are easier to come by as well. English tours start on the hour and French on the half-hour with each lasting around 30 minutes. Don’t be afraid to take photos, photography is allowed!
Both the Supreme Court and Parliament Hill require you to go through security, lockers are provided for tours of Parliament Hill at the ticket office.
Walk the Rideau Canal
The Canal runs through the heart of Ottawa and was built in the 1800’s in case of war with the US. Stretching 202km the canal connects rivers and lakes along its way. Operated by Parks Canada and is opened from mid May to Mid-October each year. During the winter it becomes the worlds largest and second longest skating rink where you can pick up a Beaver Tail pastry as you glide down the canal.
Chow down at ByWard Market
You can also get a Beaver Tail at Byward Market. The eclectic neighbourhood boasts quirky boutiques, bustling streets and trendy restaurants. In the centre is a beautiful outdoor market selling fresh vegetables, flower and maples syrup by local artisans.
Matt and I not only enjoyed a Beaver Tail but a great curry, rice and naan inside the colourful market.
Learn about the formation of Ottawa at the Bytown Museum
Inside Ottawa’s oldest stone building you can learn all about the formation of Ottawa and the building of the Rideau Canal. The Museums collections take you from the early days of the city’s life when it was known as Bytown and residents were mostly canal construction workers.
Check out their free admission days here.
Window shop at the Rideau Centre
If its raining and your want to spend a bit of time inside without having to pay entrance fees, then this is your place. Browse over 180 stores including fashion, home, books, toys and much more. You just have to make sure you don’t get tempted to keep it budget friendly!
Top tip: the centre has free WIFI
Get views for miles at Nepean Point
Take a walk to the top of this hill to get stunning panoramic views of Parliament, the Ottawa River, downtown Ottawa and much more. At the top you’ll be greeted by the statue of Samuel de Champlain, who explored the Ottawa River in 1613. Located just behind the National Gallery of Canada its also super accessible.
Take a Picture with the huge spider Maman
While you are in that area you can also grab a selfie with Maman the huge spider outside the National Gallery of Canada. The bronze sculpture was made by artist Louise Bourgeois in 1999 as is one of six in the world. Standing at 30ft tall it’s a pretty interesting sight.
If you are there on a Thursday, you can also visit the gallery for free between 5-8pm
Visit the Canadian War Museum
Another museum that is free on a Thursday evening is the Canadian War Museum. Even if you can’t make it on a free evening, its well worth paying the admission fee. We spent over three hours here exploring the collections that cover all aspects of Canadian military history. They also have an impressive collection of military vehicles such as tanks on the lower levels.
Before you head home walk across the road and see the National Holocaust Memorial. The monument titled Landscape of Loss, Memory and Survival presents images and facts about the Holocaust inside walls of varying heights that form the points of a Star if David.
Hike in Gatineau Park
If you want a day outside the downtown core to stretch the legs head over to Gatineau Park just fifteen minutes away. Covering 361 km² the park has a rich ecosystem that can be explored via its well-groomed trails. If you head to the visitor centre in Chelsea, you can also visit a wonderful ice-cream shop called La Cigale for a sweet treat after your hike.
Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels, if you’ve liked this weeks installment please give it a like, comment or share it! Next week will be P for Poutine. Happy Travels 🙂