Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

#9 in Best Things To Do in Ottawa
Naeem Jaffer/Getty Images

Key Info

375 Sussex Drive

Price & Hours



Free, Churches/Religious Sites Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend


  • 5.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 4.5Atmosphere

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.

Past travelers gushed about the architecture and stained-glass windows inside the cathedral, and highly recommended planning a short visit, especially if you're already planning to stop by the National Gallery of Canada.

Bear in mind that Notre-Dame is still an active place of worship, so you should check the Mass schedule online before visiting. If you'd like to take a guided tour, which are offered from the middle of May to the middle of October, you'll have to book in advance and pay a small fee. Tours, which generally last between 30 and 45 minutes, are typically held on weekday mornings at 9 a.m. and afternoons at 1 or 3 p.m. During the summer months, you'll find volunteers greeting tourists, answering questions and providing informal tours. The basilica is open to visitors daily with hours varying depending on the day and time of year. You don't have to pay to tour or to attend a service.

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#1 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.

During the summer, you'll find the Rideau Canal filled with boats (both private and commercial) and the paved pathways surrounding it crowded with walkers, runners and bicyclists. If you'd like to tour the canal by boat, consider signing up for a trip with Rideau Canal Cruises. Cruises, which take visitors from Chateau Laurier to Dow's Lake (round trip), typically last 90 minutes and take visitors past nearly 30 sights along the canal. You can also borrow a bike from RentABike for CA$10 (around $8) an hour. As the temperatures begin to drop, the canal transforms into the world's largest skating rink, spanning 4.8 miles and featuring a surface area equivalent to 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks. It's also lined with stands selling hot chocolate and soup, as well as heated huts in case you need a break from the cold.

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