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Ottawa

Culture & history

Our most recommended Ottawa Culture & History

Ottawa: Sightseeing River Cruise

1. Ottawa: Sightseeing River Cruise

Discover the natural beauty of the region that captured the imagination of the first European explorer Samuel de Champlain. Climb aboard the 'Paula D' for a 1.5-hour sightseeing cruise on the Ottawa River. This must-do experience offers an entertaining glimpse of the region's rich history and leaves you with plenty of time to enjoy the rest of your stay. For your convenience, there are two departure docks, one located in Gatineau and another in Ottawa. Once boarded, sit back and relax as you cruise down the river. Enjoy spectacular views of the city and learn about the river's past life as a watery highway for transporting resources with your guide's engaging and informative commentary in both English and French. During your cruise, you'll have the opportunity to see the Parliament Buildings, the Rideau Canal Locks, and the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau from the river. You'll also be able to spot some sights that are only visible from the water or from Gatineau. While you're taking in the sights, savor a nice cold beverage (at your own expense) on the large open-air upper deck. Alternatively, escape the elements and visit the closed-in lower deck to take advantage of the on-board canteen with a bar.

Ottawa: Haunted Night Walking Tour

2. Ottawa: Haunted Night Walking Tour

Experience Ottawa like never before on a 75-minute Original Haunted Walk. Spend an evening with fascinating tour guides who are chosen from the best local storytellers and have a passion for sharing the unexpected side of Canada's capital city.  On the Original Haunted Walk, your expert cloaked guide will reveal to you their favorite ghost stories from the Downtown Ottawa area and lead you by lantern light to some of the city's most well-known haunted spots. Visit locations such as the Fairmont Château Laurier, Grant House, and Ottawa’s haunted high school. A favorite stop is the haunted Bytown Museum where many of the guides have had their own experiences to share. You’ll never look at the city and these buildings the same again.  After being led through the streets of Downtown Ottawa, your guide can walk you back to the start location or leave you to enjoy a (sleepless) night in the city.

Ottawa: 1-Hour Bilingual Guided Tour by Amphibious Bus

3. Ottawa: 1-Hour Bilingual Guided Tour by Amphibious Bus

Climb aboard a unique vehicle that can travel on land and water and discover the historical attractions of Ottawa and the Ottawa River from different perspectives. Spend 40 minutes on land and 20 minutes on the water. Admire landmark monuments and attractions such as Lake Dow, Landsdowne Park and Byward Market. Get a magnificent view of the city as you cruise along the river aboard the amphibious vehicle. See all the important sights of Ottawa and the city of Gatineau, located just across the water. Avail of an activity that is both fun and educational for the entire family, and ideal for those who are short of time but want to see it all.

Ottawa: Hop-On Hop-Off Guided City Tour Day Ticket

4. Ottawa: Hop-On Hop-Off Guided City Tour Day Ticket

All aboard for this popular hop-on hop-off city bus tour of Ottawa that’s filled with fun, facts, and history! Stay on the bus for the complete 1.5-hour round-trip tour or hop off and back on throughout the validity of your ticket. Explore Ottawa's main sights like the Canadian Parliament buildings, Byward Market, and more en route. See the sights of Ottawa from a classic open-top, double-decker bus. Sit on the lower deck and enjoy the inside comfort or ride on the top deck and enjoy the fantastic views as your knowledgeable, bilingual guide points out landmarks and shares the city's history with you. Hop off at sites you want to explore and hop back on to resume your city tour. Do this at your own pace, and visit as many of Ottawa’s top sites as you like. See museums, parks, galleries, the Byward Market, the Canadian Parliament buildings, and lots more. Explore, dine, and shop throughout the capital city!

Ottawa: Ottawa River Tour by Hawaiian Palapa Hut

5. Ottawa: Ottawa River Tour by Hawaiian Palapa Hut

Take a relaxing tour up and down the Ottawa River on a Hawaiian-style palapa hut in a boat trip like no other. Just head to one of the embarkment sites, climb aboard and get the party started. The activity provider's captains are all small vessel certified and licensed. Enjoy fancy drinks and snacks as the tiki bar takes you along the river, offering stunning views of the shoreline. Whether it’s just hanging out with friends for a fun time, spending some relaxing time with your family, taking a romantic cruise, or a group excursion, this tour is one of the most unique ways to get out on the water. Cruise the time away sipping drinks, and listening to or singing karaoke to your favorite tropical tunes.

Ottawa: Small Group Half-Day City Sightseeing Tour

6. Ottawa: Small Group Half-Day City Sightseeing Tour

Enjoy a half-day tour to visit some of Ottawa's most popular attractions including various Parliament buildings. After exploring these landmarks, take part in a canal cruise and catch a glimpse of must-see sites throughout the capital city. Start the day with pickup from your downtown Ottawa hotel. While heading to your first stop on the tour, which is Parliament Hill, your guide will give you your first introduction to the city. They are able to answer questions, provide you with fun facts and point out important landmarks and sites. On your tour of the Parliament headquarters, get a behind-the-scenes look at the state-of-the-art facilities. There will be plenty of free time available where you can explore the surrounding buildings, wander the grounds, and capture some amazing photos of the nearby sites.  Finish the day with a relaxing 1.5-hour river cruise that will have you leisurely floating down Rideau Canal (seasonal availability from mid-May to mid-October). After your memorable experience, your tour guide will take you back to your downtown Ottawa hotel.

Ottawa: Canadian War Museum Admission

7. Ottawa: Canadian War Museum Admission

The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. Designed by Japanese–Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama, the Museum’s structure and surrounding grounds reflect the concept of regeneration. From windows spelling out “Lest We Forget / N’oublions jamais” in Morse code, to uneven floors and rough concrete walls, the building acknowledges the price of conflict, while also showing hope for a more peaceful future. The Museum brings Canada’s military history to life for visitors of all ages through thousands of personal stories, objects, works of art, photographs, interactive presentations, and immersive environments. In addition to a series of galleries exploring Canadian military history from early wars in Canada to contemporary conflicts, the Museum features an impressive collection of large artillery and military vehicles in the LeBreton Gallery, as well as thought-provoking temporary exhibitions on everything from the First and Second World Wars to art produced by women in conflict zones. Memorial Hall and several additional spaces in the Museum encourage quiet reflection on the cost of war. To stand in the presence of the headstone of Canada’s Unknown Soldier in Memorial Hall is a powerful and moving experience, as is experiencing the Moriyama Regeneration Hall and visiting the Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour. The Canadian War Museum’s collections are among the finest military holdings in the world, comprising rare vehicles, artillery, uniforms, medals, small arms, and rare books and archives, as well as the outstanding Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. In addition to showcasing exhibitions from around the world, the Museum hosts vehicle demonstrations, scholarly lectures, engaging family programming, and a wide range of special events.

Gatineau: Canadian Museum of History Admission

8. Gatineau: Canadian Museum of History Admission

The Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s national museum of human history. Located in Gatineau, Quebec, along the scenic riverfront across from Parliament Hill, the Museum is housed in an iconic building designed by Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal. The Museum is one of Canada’s most popular cultural institutions, with a collection of more than 4 million items — including archaeological material, cultural objects, works of art, documents, and audiovisual material. In collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, the Museum shares the stories of the resilience and diversity of Indigenous cultures and histories across Canada. The Museum has the world’s largest indoor display of monumental poles, six traditional Native house fronts arranged in the shape of a 19th-century Northwest Coast village, contemporary works of Indigenous art, and a gallery dedicated to the achievements and traditions of Indigenous Peoples. The Museum is also home to the popular Canadian History Hall — a stunning showcase that provides access to 15,000 years of social history through personal stories and 1,500 authentic artifacts, many of which are national treasures. The Museum’s exhibitions examine the events, personalities and cultures that have shaped Canada. Sharing stories through multiple perspectives and voices, the Museum celebrates Canadian achievements while also exploring some of the country’s darker chapters. The Museum is also a destination of choice for major international exhibitions, which are often produced in partnership with the world’s most renowned institutions. In addition, you can explore the world through play with your children at the Canadian Children’s Museum and watch an inspiring, larger-than-life documentary films at Ciné+.

Ottawa Private Tour with a Local

9. Ottawa Private Tour with a Local

Explore the city with a friendly local who is passionate about the city and eager to share all the information that will help you make the most of your trip. Get to know Ottawa through the eyes of a local on a 2, 3 or 4 hour private tour. Meet at your accommodation and head out on the tour to get familiar with the neighborhood. Learn about the best places to eat and buy groceries, the easiest ways to get around, and the top things to see and do. By the end of the tour, you'll feel more comfortable navigating the city and confident that you have all the information you need to make the most of your stay.

Ottawa: 2 or 3.5-Hour Sightseeing Bike Tour

10. Ottawa: 2 or 3.5-Hour Sightseeing Bike Tour

Get on a bicycle for a 2 or 3.5-hour guided tour to discover many of downtown Ottawa’s major attractions, must-see spots, and hidden gems. Choose your own adventure from two tour options and the option of a French, German, Spanish or Dutch speaking guide. 2-Hour Express Tour A fun and short sightseeing tour ideal for newer or easy-going bicyclists, who want to learn about Ottawa’s downtown and beyond. All ages will enjoy the leisurely 8.5-mile ride, stopping at major attractions for sightseeing and photos. Highlights include Parliament Hill, War Memorial, Rideau Canal Pathway, Rideau Hall, Rideau Falls, Quebec province, the National Art Gallery, the Museum of History, the Rideau Locks and Bytown Museum. 3.5-Hour Highlights Tour Discover more of Ottawa’s must-see spots and hidden gems on a slight longer 3 to 3.5-hour tour, with 95% of the route on bicycle paths. This 12-mile bike tour includes short stops along the way for sightseeing and photos plus a power bar snack. Highlights include Rideau Canal, War Memorial, Love Lock Bridge, Rideau Canal Locks, the Glebe, Lansdowne Park, Arboretum, Dow’s Lake, Little Italy, Ottawa River, province of Quebec, Museum of History, Rideau Hall, Rideau Falls,  National Gallery of Canada, Byward Market, and Parliament Hill.

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What people are saying about Ottawa

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 265 reviews

The City Tour was on September 9 noon was fantastic. The bus went on a smooth and steady ride and stops at various museums. The route was concise from Elgin to Lansdowne, Dow's Lake to Byward Market, Sussex to Rockcliffe area, before turning around at the Aviation Museum. We went across to the Quebec side on Alexander Bridge, came back on Portage, and came back on Wellington. The Parliament Buildings were right in front of us due to road closure with exception to our bus!

the guide was excellent and very knowledgeable. Although the narration was sometimes hard to hear if you ventured out on the deck, the guide circulated easily and talked to the passengers. The Captain was professional and quite adept at getting us close to the falls! A most enjoyable experience and one that I will continue to bring visitors to.

I rarely write reviews but this was really cool! My husband and I tried this and we enjoyed it! It was a very interesting experience with this Hawaiian style boat, very relaxing! Captain Cris and his assistant Bobby are very nice and friendly. We would not hesitate to encourage our friends to try this cool adventure.

We enjoyed the morning tour as it was a great start to our day!

Professional, well maintained, fun,; money well spent