Tourism: Things to do in Ottawa and Gatineau
Fall is the perfect time to discover Ottawa and Gatineau. Between Parliament Hill, the Canadian War Museum and the splendid Rideau Canal, these cities offer a multitude of activities. Canada’s capital and its neighbor, the city of Gatineau, offer a multitude of things to do in the fall.
What to do in Ottawa
Parliament Hill : Take a free tour of Ottawa's Parliament and Canada's House of Commons
For an immersive experience in Canada’s political history, consider a free guided tour of Parliament. You’ll have the chance to explore the legislative chambers, learn about the history of the country’s governmental institutions, and see up close the remarkable neo-Gothic architecture of the government buildings, including the Peace Tower.
Depending on the date of your visit, you can even attend the debates of the Senate or the House of Commons when Parliament is in session.
Visit to the Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum has exhibitions that trace the key moments of war and peace. They show the Korean War, the Cold War and the Second World War.
Explore unique artifacts, fascinating moving stories and interactive exhibits that pay tribute to the country’s heroes and resilience. It’s an educational and emotional experience that tells the story of Canada’s military history.
Stroll along the Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking along this waterway, you’ll discover a series of fascinating outdoor exhibits.
There are seven specific locations that tell part of Canada’s story, highlighting canal engineering, aboriginal culture, bridges, Lansdowne Park and the adventures of early settlers. It’s an immersive and entertaining way to immerse yourself in the country’s rich past, while enjoying the natural charm of the Rideau Canal.
Every Sunday, head to Lansdowne Park for a farmer’s market, events and live entertainment. While you’re in the area, take a stroll through the green spaces and shops nearby.
National Gallery of Canada: a must-see
The National Gallery of Canada is an artistic treasure located in the heart of Ottawa. As you explore its vast galleries, you’ll discover an exceptional collection of works of art, ranging from classic masterpieces to contemporary creations.
The visit even begins outside, with the gentle”Maman“, the giant 10-metre-high spider sculpture at the museum entrance. Right now, the Jean Paul Riopelle exhibition is celebrating the centenary of the artist’s birth with rare photographs and works.
The museum houses international treasures as well as iconic Canadian works. It’s a place where art and culture come together to offer an enriching and inspiring experience for art lovers and curious visitors alike.
After your visit, the tradition is to stick your visit sticker on the traffic light post (at the corner of Promenade Sussex and Rue St-Patrick), along with the thousands of others that are there!
Other ideas for Museums in Ottawa and Gatineau
Other places to learn and discover, in case it rains during the visit:
- Canada Aviation and Space Museum
- Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, on the banks of the Ottawa River
- Royal Canadian Mint (reservation required)
- Canada Science and Technology Museum
Then, while you’re in the vicinity of the Canada Science and Technology Museum, grab some irresistible donuts at Suzie Q. Their donut flavors are simply delicious, but I’m particularly fond of the Maple Bacon and the D’OH!nut.
Discover Sparks Street Mall
Sparks Street Mall is located one block south of the Parliament of Canada. It’s a lively pedestrian street brimming with unique boutiques, original sculptures and charming restaurants. On this street is the excellent Riviera Ottawa bistro, one of Ottawa’s finest restaurants. Explore this picturesque shopping district to find treasures and discover the architecture of downtown Ottawa.
Shopping at the Byward Market
The ByWard Market is a true showcase of Ottawa life and a must-see destination for food and culture lovers. It’s a food hub where all tastes are represented. The streets in this area are lively and the atmosphere cheerful.
Nestled in the heart of downtown, it offers a mosaic of flavors, colors and local products. Farmers’ stalls, craft stores and eclectic restaurants attract a diverse crowd.
The Marché de Provence is always ready to sell its good cookies, especially the one that President Barack Obama bought during his popular visit to the ByWard Market in 2009.
If you happen to be in the Vanier neighborhood, stop by the wonderful Louis Pizza, an unpretentious restaurant that literally makes one of the best pizzas around. All topped with a coconut pie.
Why is the Byward Market so popular?
Thanks to the famous Queues de Castor ! You have to follow the sweet, fried smell and eat this soft, beaver-tail-shaped pastry, topped with various flavors like cinnamon sugar or chocolate.
Just a few minutes’ walk away, you can enjoy this tasty treat by taking a photo next to the “Ottawa” sign on the corner of York and Sussex.
One World Bazaar
Until November 20, the One World Bazaar market unearths treasures created by artisans from around the world in an authentic barn located a half-hour’s drive from downtown Ottawa, at Manotick Station. Admission is free.
In Kanata, attending an Ottawa Senators field hockey game is a must for sports fans. The Canadian Tire Centre vibrates with excitement at every game. You’ll be immersed in the electric atmosphere of the fans, the applause and the thrill of the action on the ice.
What to do in Gatineau
The Canadian Museum of Nature
The Canadian Museum of Nature is a treasure trove of discoveries for nature lovers. It’s not just for kids, but also for adults who love to explore and learn!
It boasts an incredible variety of botanical, zoological, geological and paleontological specimens. You’ll marvel at the interactive exhibits, the 30 dinosaur skeletons and fossils, and the displays on Canadian biodiversity.
Until January 7, 2024, the exhibition Under the Canopy: Animals of the Rainforests examines the living creatures that inhabit this part of the forest.
Gatineau Park is a huge playground and the most wonderful outdoor destination. It’s a natural gem near Ottawa, for visitors of all ages. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking to see the colors of autumn.
Hike easy trails along peaceful lakes or take more challenging excursions, leading to spectacular views of the region. Cycling is also popular, with trails to suit all levels.
A visit is a must:
For an evening of entertainment, the Casino du Lac Leamy is the perfect place. Nestled along the shores of Lac Leamy in Gatineau, this elegant complex offers a first-class gaming experience with a variety of gaming tables, slot machines and live entertainment.
Where to stay in Ottawa and Gatineau
There are plenty of options to suit all budgets:
- The Westin Ottawa
- Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel
- Four Points by Sheraton Hotel & Conference Centre Gatineau-Ottawa
- Hilton Lac-Leamy, Gatineau
- Courtyard Ottawa Downtown
- Delta Hotels Ottawa City center
Do you have Marriott Bonvoy points on an American Express®* Marriott Bonvoy® Card byany chance? You could get a free night to make your stay in Gatineau and Ottawa less expensive.
What’s more, it gives a free night certificate every year. The above hotels are good places to use this certificate, to make the cost of a night at the hotel zero!
Or, if you have points from your favorite loyalty program, check to see if you can take points to redeem your getaway.
The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card is the best credit card for free hotel nights.
With this welcome offer, you can earn 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
It’s a Card we recommend keeping because each year at renewal, you get an Annual Free Night Award (for up to 35,000 points at hotels worldwide) and 15 Elite Night Credits per year, counting towards your Marriott Bonvoy Elite status.
With this Card, you earn 5 points per dollar on all purchases at Marriott Bonvoy properties and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases.
Finally, this Card comes with comprehensive insurance: baggage delay, lost or stolen baggage, $500,000 travel accident, flight delay, hotel or motel burglary, rental car theft and damage, Purchase Security, Purchase Protection.
Like all American Express Canada Cards, there is no minimum income requirement.
If this is your first visit, these Viator activities are a great way to learn about the city:
Photo credits: Ottawa Tourism and Camp Fortune
Weekend in Ottawa: what to see and do in 1 or 2 days?
You can start by exploring the many internationally renowned museums and art galleries, such as the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History. If you prefer the great outdoors, take advantage of the magnificent Gatineau Park, hiking trails and bike paths along the Ottawa River.
And of course, don’t miss a visit to the majestic Parliament Hill to learn more about the country’s political history. After strolling and eating at the ByWard Market, go shopping at the Rideau Centre shopping mall.