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Courtesy of Danielle Donders/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in Ottawa

If you have extra time, Parliament Hill is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Rideau Canal
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    #1 in Ottawa
    Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Snaking its way through the center of Ottawa, the Rideau Canal is one of the city's most historic attractions. This 125-mile waterway was originally constructed between 1826 and 1832 to create a secure supply and communications route between Montreal, Québec, and Kingston, Ontario roughly 120 miles southwest of the capital. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the city's most beloved features.

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  • #2
    ByWard Market
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    #2 in Ottawa
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sitting in the heart of downtown Ottawa, the beloved ByWard Market is one of the country's oldest and largest public markets. Throughout the year, you'll find local vendors selling everything from souvenir trinkets to maple sugar candy to handmade cold-weather necessities like hats and mittens. This is the ideal place for fresh produce or a cheap meal on-the-go; during the summer, outdoor stalls sell local favorites like poutine (french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy) and BeaverTails (fried dough covered in everything from chocolate to cheese). Surrounding the main market building home to the Moulin de Provence Bakery, a favorite snack stop of President Obama are numerous boutiques, restaurants and nightlife spots. Don't worry if you're visiting in the winter those same yummy stalls stay open, but they just move indoors.  

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  • #4
    Parliament Hill
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    #4 in Ottawa
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Acting as the anchor of downtown Ottawa, these three neo-Gothic structures are hard to miss. Like its mother country England Canada is governed by a parliamentary democracy, and it is here on the Hill that decisions are made on how to run the country. But just like the city itself, the Parliament buildings put tourists on a pedestal, catering to their whims with free guided tours, concerts, cultural exhibitions and even a seasonal after-hours sound and light show. Recent travelers said visiting Parliament Hill is an experience you can't miss, with many saying that walking around the palatial buildings felt like taking a step back in time. The knowledgeable guides were another point of praise for reviewers.

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  • #6
    Gatineau Park
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    #6 in Ottawa
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    When you need a break from the city, head to Gatineau Park. Located just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, this nearly 90,000-acre park offers a variety of year-round activities, including swimming, hiking, biking, camping, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, in addition to heritage sites and nature interpretation. Among the standout attractions is the Mackenzie King Estate, which was constructed in 1903 by Canada's 10th prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. You can explore the wooded paths surrounding the estate, peek into its restored cottages (which also feature interactive exhibits) or even stop into the Mackenzie King Tearoom for a spot of tea.

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  • #9
    Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
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    #9 in Ottawa
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Even if you're not an avid churchgoer, the silvery spires of Ottawa's Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica are sure to catch your eye. Sitting across the street from the National Gallery of Canada, this impressive church is the oldest in the city as well as a Canadian national historic site and the seat of Ottawa's Catholic archbishop. While it may seem a little daunting from the outside, recent visitors say that you shouldn't be deterred from going inside.

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