Although you can easily walk between many of Ottawa’s main sights in the downtown core, you can also take advantage of the city’s bike-friendly and accessible Light Rail Transit (LRT) system (also known as the O-Train). The 12.5-kilometre O-Train Confederation Line is a quick and safe way to travel between attractions, hotels, shopping centres and neighbourhoods. As you travel, you can also check out the unique public art created by Canadian artists at each of the 13 O-Train stations! Follow the big red “O”s to the following select stations to explore Canada’s capital by train.
Tunney’s Pasture: Link to trendy neighbourhoods and outdoors
Tunney’s Pasture station is a two-minute walk from the popular Wellington West corridor, which includes the trendy neighbourhoods of Wellington Village and Hintonburg. The station is also within a few blocks of the Ottawa River and its multi-use pathways, including the Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail, and scenic sites such as Remic Rapids. From Tunney’s, it’s a quick bus trip (or leisurely bike ride or walk) west to the chic Westboro Village neighbourhood.
Feast your eyes on the large, multi-coloured mosaic murals and skylight. Inspired by the phenomenon of light refraction, artist Derek Root imagined passengers as particles of light travelling through the glass station.
Bayview: Catch a southbound train
Bayview station connects the new Confederation Line (which runs west-east between Tunney’s Pasture and Blair stations) with the existing Trillium Line (which runs north-south between Bayview and Greenboro stations). Destinations along the Trillium Line include Dows Lake—a section of the Rideau Canal that’s popular with paddlers, cyclists and strollers—and Carleton University.
On the upper platform, check out the distinctive barrier between the tracks. The shaped steel lines created by Adrian Göllner evoke silhouettes of local features, such as the Gatineau Hills, rooflines of nearby neighbourhoods, the Canadian War Museum and the Supreme Court of Canada.
In the greenspace around the station, you’ll find two laser-cut, blue aluminum structures shaped like giant water drops. Artist Pierre Poussin was inspired by nearby Chaudière Falls, one of Canada’s earliest sites of human occupation and a site of great significance to Indigenous Peoples. The artworks’ curved lines soften the station’s modern architecture. Feeling tired? Stop for a rest on the seats integrated into the bottom of each piece.
Pimisi: Connection to the past (and Gatineau)
The station is very handy for cyclists, pedestrians and others, as the lower level opens directly onto the multi-use pathway along the Ottawa River. In addition, the nearby Booth Street Bridge provides easy bus connections between Ottawa and Gatineau.
The name of Pimisi station celebrates Algonquin culture: Pimisi, which means “big river eel,” was an essential resource for the Algonquin People. All of the station’s artworks – created by Algonquin artists Nadia Myre and Simon Brascoupé among others – pay homage to their culture’s relationship with the land. Here’s what you’ll find:
- an eight-metre-tall chrome eel sculpture in the aqueduct next to the station
- a three-metre-wide split-ash woven basket near the north entrance of the plaza
- windscreens made of glazed panels tinted with the outlines of birch trees, located along the train platform
- 100 hand-painted canoe paddles arranged in the shape of a canoe, hanging in the concourse
- a bright red whimsical sculpture of a moose at the west end of the plaza
- window decals inspired by the ancient art of Algonquin birch bark biting
Lyon: Downtown west and main Gatineau connection
The most westerly station in Ottawa’s downtown core is beneath the intersection of Queen and Lyon streets, close to pedestrian Sparks Street, several hotels, the Supreme Court of Canada, and Library and Archives Canada. The station also serves as the main transfer point for bus passengers heading to Gatineau.
Large human figures and graphic elements by artist Geoff McFetridge decorate some of the walls. They’re meant to promote the ideas of unity and collaboration.
On the concourse level, read a few of the 5,000 words laser-cut into a curving, stainless-steel installation (English on one side, French on the other). The text, which recounts life in Bytown before it became Ottawa, was written in 1954 by a member of the Women’s Canadian Historical Society, Ottawa Chapter. This unique piece was created by a collaborate practice named PLANT.
Parliament: Capital access
Parliament Station is less than two blocks from Parliament Hill, a must-see historic site that is the home of Canada’s federal government.
The underground station also provides convenient access to the Bank of Canada Museum (free), parts of pedestrian Sparks Street, as well as many hotels and businesses in the downtown core, such as the Queen Street Fare dining hall. If you’re heading to an event at Lansdowne in the Glebe neighbourhood, bus connections are just steps away on Bank Street.
Look up for a surprise by artist Douglas Coupland! Large, colourful geometric panels on the station’s ceiling form a cubist reinterpretation of The Jack Pine, a beloved painting by the Group of Seven’s Tom Thomson.
Downstairs, the barrier between the tracks features Jennifer Stead’s laser-cut steel images of plants, painted bright green. Follow the panels from the west end of the platform to the east and you’ll see flora native to various parts of Canada, from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast.
Rideau: Shopping, arts and culture hub
What’s nearby (and inside)
Rideau Station is located between the historic ByWard Market and Downtown Rideau. Both bustling areas are home to numerous restaurants and shops, including those in the CF Rideau Centre. The station also provides easy access to other major sites, such as the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel, the Shaw Centre, the Government Conference Centre (currently the temporary home of the Senate of Canada), the the National War Memorial, the National Arts Centre, the Ottawa Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada and more.
Fun fact: At 26.5 metres, Rideau is the deepest of Ottawa’s underground stations (the tunnel passes underneath the Rideau Canal). Plus, it has the longest escalator in a Canadian transit system! While in the elevated area, look down to see the trains travelling below.
This station’s gallery theme reflects the site’s proximity to arts institutions, galleries and performance venues.
A shimmering, rippled glass sheet— artist Geneviève Cadieux’s homage to Canada’s plentiful water sources—covers one concourse wall. Other walls feature sections of black tiles with geometric outlines made of polished stainless-steel rods, Jim Verburg’s nod to the large white tiles used throughout the station.
Don’t miss the Underground Art Space, a 25-metre-long corridor showcasing exhibits managed by the City of Ottawa Public Art Program.
Tremblay: Train travel and baseball
People travelling by intercity train through Ottawa’s VIA Rail station can transfer downtown in just a few minutes by hopping onto the O-Train at Tremblay Station.
Baseball fans can also use this station to access RCGT Park, home of the Can-Am League’s Ottawa Champions. Love to shop? Walk over to the Train Yards shopping area, home to a wide range of big-box stores.
Artist Jyhling Lee added a touch of whimsy to the covered outdoor walkway between the VIA Rail and O-Train stations. Her piece features cut-out shapes of Canadian flowers that hang from mirrored stainless-steel panels.
St. Laurent: Mall and museum
Formerly a bus station, the only underground station outside Ottawa’s downtown core provides direct access to the St. Laurent Shopping Centre, as well as bus connections to east-end sites such as the Canada Museum of Science and Technology.
Andrew Morrow created three murals on the station’s platforms. Combining painting and large-scale digital prints of archival images, he re-imagined Canadian history by showing figures at work and at rest.
Don’t know where to start exploring? Consult our list of 5 must-sees when visiting Ottawa.