Ottawa Tourism

Ottawa Landmarks


Looking for those quintessential shots of Ottawa? Peruse the 85 free images available on our Image Gallery (no password required, simply click on the icon on the right of this page), or plan your visit to Ottawa to take your own. Use this as a guide.

Parliament Buildings

On Wellington Street, overlooking the Ottawa River. Walking distance from everywhere downtown.

NOTE: Photographs are permitted outdoors with no problems (as long as you’re not zooming into an office window!). If you want to take professional photographs of the interior, though, you’ll have to make arrangements with the federal government, which is usually very complicated and can take some time. Please contact Ottawa Tourism’s Communications Department for assistance.

Interesting angles:

  • Looking UP the Peace Tower from the base.
  • The Centennial Flame (lit in 1967 to commemorate our country’s centennial).
  • Great view of the Ottawa River from behind the buildings.
  • The Library of Parliament at the back of the building is gorgeous—having just undergone restoration. It is the only original part of the building to survive a 1916 fire.
  • Statues of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II, the Famous Five and others are on the Hill grounds.

24 Sussex Drive

Not really walking distance from downtown, but a very short drive. Across the street from Rideau Hall (below). On-street parking in the surrounding neighbourhood.

The Prime Minister’s home is NOT open to the public. You might be able to take a quick shot of the exterior but we don’t recommend spending too much time there—there are always Mounties on the lookout!

Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall is home to the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada. Across the street from 24 Sussex. On-street parking in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Interesting angles:

  • 79 acres of well-manicured lawns, open from 8:00 a.m. to one hour before sunset (may close for special functions).
  •  The rose garden is lovely; there’s an inukshuk (Arctic wayfinding sculpture of stones) on the grounds and there are dozens of trees planted by visiting dignitaries. Each tree has a little plaque explaining who planted it and when. There’s one from John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, etc.
  • On summer weekends, there’s a group that plays cricket. Very picturesque.

ByWard Market

The ByWard Market neighbourhood is bordered by Sussex Drive on the west, George Street on the south, Cumberland Street on the east and St. Patrick Street to the north. It is walking distance from all downtown hotels. If you drive, parking is on-street or in lots or garages.

The most vibrant neighbourhood in Ottawa. You can concentrate on the farmers’ market, or the nightlife, or the restaurants, or the buskers, or the horse-drawn carriages, or the rickshaws, or the shopping…

 Interesting angles:

  • The ByWard Market Building at 55 ByWard Market Square has a variety of restaurants, shops and artisans.
  • Outdoor vendors are concentrated on ByWard Market Square (mainly fruits and vegetables); George Street (mainly plants and flowers); and William Street and York Street (arts and crafts).
  • At the corner of George Street and William Street is the BeaverTails stand. BeaverTails are a hot pastry treat that was born in Ottawa in the ByWard Market. They’re also great while skating on the Rideau Canal in the winter.
  • Great busking (street performing) locations include the William Street Mall (a pedestrian-only block between George and Rideau Streets), the corner of George and ByWard, the middle of York Street at ByWard, etc. In fall, winter and spring, the best times to see them is on the weekends.
  • Lots of outdoor patios.
  • Don’t miss the historic courtyards behind the shops of Sussex Drive. The prettiest ones are between George and York Streets and between Clarence and Murray Streets. Both of these have great public art, and there’s a cute dancing polar bear sculpture (donated by the late ABC News anchor and former Ottawan Peter Jennings and his sister Sarah, a local property developer) in the courtyard between York and Clarence Streets.

Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization)

Walking distance from the ByWard Market neighbourhood on a good-weather day. If driving, take Sussex Drive from downtown. Stay in the left lane and take the Alexandra Bridge (also known as the Interprovincial Bridge) to Gatineau (formerly Hull), Québec. As you come over the bridge, you’ll make a left at the lights, then a left at the Museum entrance. Underground paid parking.

The Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s most-visited museum, designed by architect Douglas Cardinal, with great views of Parliament Hill, downtown Ottawa, the first 8 locks of the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River.

Interesting angles:

  • The curves of the museum itself. There are many visible fossils in the stone used in its construction.
  • The Ottawa River and the view of Ottawa.
  • Bike paths that run alongside the Ottawa River.
  • Inside: largest indoor collection of totem poles in the world; First People’s Hall; Canadian Children’s Museum; Canada Hall retelling 1000 years of Canadian history from the west to the east to the north; new Canadian Personalities Hall.

National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is located off Sussex Drive, just past the turnoff to the Alexandra Bridge. Walking distance, but they also have underground paid parking.

Designed by Moshe Safdie, a delight in glass and concrete. Outdoor photos are no problem. For interior shots, there are strict rules about what works of art can be photographed and which can’t. Contact Ottawa Tourism’s Communications Department for more details.

Interesting angles:

  • Outdoors, the view from Nepean Point located just behind the Gallery is incredible, especially at sunset (overlooking Major’s Hill Park, Fairmont Château Laurier, entrance to Rideau Canal, Parliament Hill, Ottawa River, Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization) and has a statue of French explorer Samuel de Champlain).
  • Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture Maman is a huge hit—a mammoth 9.25-metre bronze spider (complete with 26 marble eggs) located in the plaza.
  • The building itself is worth several shots.
  • Inside, the Great Hall is impressive, as is the reconstituted historic Rideau Chapel; the water gallery, etc.

Canadian War Museum

A longish walk west of downtown, along the Ottawa River. On-site parking is available.

The Canadian War Museum, the newest federal museum (opened May 2005), is architecturally very interesting—floors and walls are on slight angles, leading to a feeling of discomfort. The headstone of the Unknown Soldier (from World War I) is mounted in the Hall of Remembrance, at the average height of a World War I soldier; a skylight lets in sunlight on November 11 at 11:00 a.m. to exactly frame the stone. Copper from the roof of the Library of Parliament (replaced during the recent restoration) is mounted on some of the walls inside.

Interesting angles:

  • Outside, check out the roof of the museum (you can walk across it). You’ll see that most of it is grass, very environmentally friendly. There’s also a great view of the Peace Tower.
  • Nice shots along the Ottawa River, recreational pathways, etc.

Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal snakes downtown from the Ottawa River to Dows Lake and beyond. Walking distance from everywhere downtown. There’s no real designated parking for the Canal (except at Dows Lake), just on-street or downtown lots.

Interesting angles:

  •  From the Mackenzie King Bridge behind the CF Rideau Centre shopping mall looking north you’ll see the Canal, with boats on it and the National Arts Centre / Parliament Hill in the background.
  • At the Ottawa River, you’ll see the first 8 locks, the Bytown Museum (with exhibits on the building of the Canal), a Celtic cross commemorating the (mostly Irish) workers who lost their lives building the Canal, and a brand new plaque commemorating its recent selection as Ontario’s first (and Canada’s 14th) UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • There’s a statue of the builder of the Rideau Canal, Lt. Colonel John By, overlooking the locks, in nearby Major’s Hill Park.

Major’s Hill Park

Behind the Fairmont Château Laurier, along Mackenzie Avenue. Easily accessible on foot.

This park is a major site for the Canadian Tulip Festival each May, Canada Day on July 1 and sometimes for Winterlude (first three weekends in February) as well. Beautiful views.

Interesting angles:

  • Look west at Parliament Hill, the Library of Parliament, down to the Rideau Canal, along the Ottawa River, over to the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization) / Gatineau Hills, or across the street to the National Gallery of Canada, Notre Dame Basilica, U.S. Embassy and more!
  • See the foundations of the house of Colonel By (builder of the Rideau Canal) in the park, as well as his statue overlooking the locks.

Dows Lake

Where Queen Elizabeth Drive meets Preston Street (Ottawa’s Little Italy). A great place to cycle to, there’s also a parking lot across the street from the Dows Lake Pavilion.

Interesting angles:

  • From the on-site restaurants, you can get nice shots of the lake.
  • Just west of the site is the Arboretum (with many different types of trees) and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum (a working dairy farm, with plenty of other farm animals on display, popular with kids).

Recreational Pathways

Ottawa is a big cycling city and there are recreational paths everywhere: both sides of the Rideau Canal, both sides of the Ottawa River in both directions from downtown, along the Rideau River, etc., etc.

Interesting angles:

  • A good location is the Ottawa River Parkway which runs west of downtown along the Ottawa River. There are parking lots along the way for people to use. Check out the rock sculptures created by John Ceprano every year (he just piles them on top of one another and they wash away over the winter). Very cool.

Supreme Court

Just west of Parliament Hill, walking distance.

A unique Art Deco-style symmetrical building with a great lawn in front that is often used by Ultimate frisbee or soccer players or people playing catch.

Bank Street & the Glebe

Runs south from Wellington Street for several miles. On-street parking.

The most photogenic part of Bank Street is in the neighbourhood known as the Glebe, south of the Queensway (Highway 417) to the Bank Street Bridge over the Rideau Canal. Known for its coffee shops, eclectic shopping and diverse neighbours.

Interesting angles:

  • Leafy boulevards off Bank Street in the residential neighbourhood. Quirky pubs / cafés / shops along Bank Street.
  • The Aberdeen Pavilion (known as the Cattle Castle because it’s used for agricultural exhibits during the Central Canada Exhibition in late August) is a beautiful building at Lansdowne Park, which is also home to a former football stadium and hockey arena.
  • The Ottawa Farmers’ Market runs Sundays from May through October.

Sparks Street

One block south of the Parliament Buildings.

Sparks Street (Ottawa’s linear “Town Square” and Open Air Mall) is Canada’s first pedestrian mall. The best time to take photos is during weekday lunch breaks, given the number of downtown workers that flock there.

Interesting angles:

  • At the east end, you can see the National War Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just across Elgin Street.
  • There’s a great Irish pub there, too: D’Arcy McGee’s, named after a Father of Confederation who was Canada’s first (of only two) political assassination (he was shot outside his Sparks Street rooming house in 1868).
  • Nice architectural features along the street.

Hog’s Back

Along the Rideau Canal, where it meets the Rideau River just past Carleton University.

A lot of water flows quickly over impressive rocks. Park at Vincent Massey Park or Mooney’s Bay Beach and walk over.