Ottawa, Canada’s charming capital city, is an urban, sophisticated destination that is home to seven National Museums, thriving gourmet culinary and high-end shopping scenes as well as a strong performing arts community. If arts and culture are what you’re after, Ottawa has no shortage of that. And the best part? Most of Ottawa’s greatest attractions are located within a short, 20-minute walk from most downtown area hotels.
Also, though Ottawa is a cosmopolitan city, its landscape is characterized by beautiful green spaces and rolling hills, which are home to more than 600 kilometres (373 miles) of scenic bike paths. When visiting Ottawa – depending on what attractions you’d like to see – it’s entirely possible to park your car and walk or cycle anywhere.
If the idea of walking or cycling around Ottawa appeals to you, why not take a tour that will highlight the sights as you go along? Discover some of Ottawa’s interesting walking and cycling tour options:
Ottawa Walking Tours (OWT): This local tour company offers bilingual, two-hour walking tours of Ottawa with a historical, architectural and/or political focus. The most popular tour offered by OWT is the Historical Highlights Walking Tour, which visits important Ottawa sites such as Parliament Hill, the National War Memorial, the Rideau Canal – Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the Prime Minister’s Offices, among others. Tours of Ottawa’s lovely Sussex Drive and of downtown public art pieces are also available. All tours depart from the Terry Fox statue, located on Wellington Street just across from Parliament Hill.
The Haunted Walk of Ottawa: These evening tours are a favourite amongst Ottawa locals and visitors alike! Opt for the Original Haunted Walk and learn about ghosts that haunt well-known Ottawa locations such as the Bytown Museum, the iconic Fairmont Château Laurier and more. Or if you’re a bit more of a thrill-seeker, go on the Haunted Walk’s Ghosts and the Gallows tour, which visits the Old Carleton County Jail –now the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel. See death row and learn about what a prisoner’s daily life was like. The old jail is said to be one of the most haunted buildings in North America! These tours last 90 minutes and leave from the Haunted Walk of Ottawa office at the corner of Sparks Street and Elgin Street. The tours are available in English and French. Follow your black-cloaked guide and see the city by lantern light!
Brew Donkey –Bytown Brewers Walking Tour: This brand new four-hour walking tour launched in May 2015 and showcases some of downtown Ottawa’s best craft breweries. Follow your Brew Donkey guide through the city’s downtown core as you learn about how craft beer is made. Stops on this tour include the Clocktower Brew Pub, Lowertown Brewery, Waller St. Brewing and Brothers Beer Bistro. And the best part? Delicious craft beer samples and snacks are provided all along the way! This tour leaves from the corner of Sparks Street and Elgin Street, in front of the standing bear statue.
Ottawa (de)tours: This local company offers 1.5-hour “walking seminars” of Ottawa on topics such as Feminism, Food, Money and more. These alternative tours highlight important Ottawa locations and statues etc., while also examining a particular topic’s social and economic impacts. The tours’ departure locations vary. Please check the Ottawa (de)tours website.
Indigenous Walks: Launched in May 2014, these guided tours provide a glimpse of Ottawa’s art, culture, history and landscape from an Indigenous perspective. Running in the spring, summer and fall, the tours are given by Jaime Koebel, an Apeetagosan/Nehiyaw (Métis/Cree) woman living in Ottawa. Four different walking tours are available including the Introductory Tour, the Parliament Hill Tour, the Indigenous Women Tour and the Very Scary Tour.
Ottawa Free Tour: Each Saturday, from early May to early September, you can participate in a free two-hour walking tour of Ottawa that looks at Ottawa’s rowdy past Prime Ministers, the construction of the Rideau Canal and more! This free weekly tour leaves from the National War Memorial at 2:00 p.m. Just show up and head out to learn about Ottawa’s colourful lumber town past!
Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals: This local company offers guided bicycle tours to all major attractions in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. Whether you are looking for a leisurely ride or a more challenging one, Escape will have a tour and a customized route for you, as it offers circuits ranging between 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) and 40 kilometres (25 miles) per day. Two-hour Ottawa Express, half-day, full-day circuits are available as well as packages such as bike and spa, bike and walk, and bike and boat. The tours also come with anything you might need; a bicycle, a helmet, a water bottle and a local guide.
RentABike: RentABike is a good option if you’d like to head out and explore Ottawa on your own. Located just across the street from the Fairmont Château Laurier, RentABike offers bike rentals for the day, the weekend or even the whole week. Choose from a selection of more than 200 bikes that come complete with a helmet and bike lock.
And if you’re looking for a more VIP-style touring experience, you might want to give Tours Expédition Ottawa a call. This company specializes in tours of the scenic Gatineau Park for small groups of one to four people. Operating year-round, Tours Expédition can coordinate hiking tours, cycling tours, canoeing tours or cross-country skiing tours during the winter months. These tours are bilingual and come with all the gear you need, including a gourmet picnic lunch. Also, as these tours are for small groups, every detail can be customized. Simply determine how long you want to be out, what you want to see and talk to your friendly guide.