Top Ten Best Things to do in Ottawa-Gatineau, Ontario/Quebec

Why take a trip to just one city while you can explore two lively and vibrant cities. Ottawa-Gatineau are two bustling sister cities on the opposite banks of the Ottawa River, while Ottawa is on the southern bank of the Ottawa River, Gatineau is on the northern bank. Though, together both cities form the National Capital Region they are still very uniquely different. People on the Ottawa, Ontario side predominantly speak English while Gatineau, Quebec is a French-speaking province. Ottawa, the capital city of Canada is best known for its museums, international festivals, and its world-famous ice skating rink whereas Gatineau is famous for its greenery, beautiful parks, and the celebrated Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. Both the cities offer something distinct and special, so here are the ten things you can do when in Ottawa-Gatineau.


Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa, Ontario is an architectural landmark which is the political centre of Canada. People visiting the place can take a guided tour of the stunning gothic revival architectural style building dominating the downtown area and learn about the political history of Canada. Aside from the tour people can enjoy Ottawa’s Canada Day celebration which is held near the building along with all the light shows and festivals. As the building serves as a major political symbol in Canada, around three million people visit the building each year.


  1. National Gallery of Canada

This gallery is the national art museum of Canada in Ottawa. The museum was established in 1880, with a unique architecture that depicts a cathedral in contemporary art style. The interior of the building features a garden called the Taiga Garden which was modelled from the painting Terre Sauvage, which is included in the permanent collection of the national gallery. The museum is home to 93,000 artworks from Europe, America, Asia, Canadian, and indigenous Canadian artists.


Peace Tower

The Peace Tower is a bell and clock tower designed by Jean Omer Marchand. The structure is a Victorian high Gothic-style architecture that features stone cravings of 370 gargoyles, grotesque, and friezes. While visiting Peace Tower you can also go to the tower’s observation deck to get a 360-degree view of the city. This is one of the landmarks in Ottawa that is free of cost with a first-come-first-served basis.


ByWard Market

The ByWard Market is a historical retail and entertainment locale in downtown Ottawa. The bazaar was first set up in 1827 and still to this day is a buzzing marketplace. The market is known for its fresh produce and specialty food stalls selling Canadian cheese and maple-infused chocolate. The market also boasts of a vibrant street art scene with crafts and clothes by local designers, the market is also in demand for its eateries, the food especially famous there are the delicious shawarma and the sweet fried pastries.


Winterlude Festival

Winterlude Festival is a winter festival held annually in Ottawa and Gatineau. The festival draws up to 1.6 million people to its site with many attractions especially the Rideau Canal Skateway and the Snowflake Kingdom, while the former is located in Ottawa and is the largest skating rink in the world, the latter can be found in the Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau and is a snow park with ice sculptures and ice slides.


Canadian Museum of History

The national museum for human history of Canada is located in Gatineau, Quebec. Along with the galleries of the museum illustrating 20,000 years of human history of Canada, the museum is also focused on research and preservation. The staff there are experts in Canada’s archeology, folk music, and history so, feel free to quench your thirst for Canadian human history by asking professionals. The Canadian Museum of History is the most visited museum in Canada as well as the oldest cultural institution in North America so, don’t miss the chance to learn about the history of humans.


Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park is the biggest park in the region with a lot of recreational activities to do. This is the perfect place for you if you love the outdoors because the park is a little unconventional with how it looks more like a beautiful forest than a well-trimmed grassland that we now call a park. People visiting the park can go for a picnic, camping, and bicycling, as the park has beaches, campgrounds, picnic areas, trails and parkways. Tourists can visit the Mackenzie King Estate, which was the summer home of the tenth prime minister of Canada. The estate has a cafĂ© and tea room for the visitors to enjoy and experience an interactive exhibit about Mackenzie King’s era. So, leave the chaos of the city behind and relax at Gatineau Park.


Canadian Children’s Museum

The Canadian Children’s Museum is inside the Canadian Museum of History and is an interactive experience for kids. The most important exhibition in the museum is the exhibit ‘The Great Adventure’, which takes children through an interactive adventure through different countries around the world. Kids can experience the culture of India, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, and Nigeria by going to different sections in the museum, which may feel like travelling from one country to another.


Hot Air Balloon Festival

This festival is held in Gatineau each year over Labour Day weekend by a not-for-profit organization. At the festival, hot air balloons of various colours are launched towards the sky, the festival also hosts concerts, amusement rides, fireworks and food stalls.


Dow’s Lake

Dow’s Lake is a man-made lake situated in Ottawa’s Rideau Canal. The lake freezes over in winter which lets the people skate and the lake is also the site for Winterlude Festival. The surrounding park, the Commissioners Park hosts the infamous Canadian Tulip Festival in May, where 50 varieties of tulip flower blooms. There is a pavilion on the north end of the lake with three restaurants overlooking the lake, the pavilion also makes it possible to rent paddleboats, canoes, and kayaks.

Author: Sarah Campbell

Sarah Campbell is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship

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