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Free Things To Do in Ottawa

If you have extra time, Parliament Hill is worthwhile.

#1

#1 in Ottawa

Free
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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Recreation Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Rideau Canal
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

#2 in Ottawa

Free
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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Shopping Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
ByWard Market
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.  
... more

#4

#4 in Ottawa

Free
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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Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Parliament Hill
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

#6 in Ottawa

Free
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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Parks and Gardens Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Gatineau Park
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

#9 in Ottawa

Free
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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Churches/Religious Sites Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
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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