Many people will be heading north this year to visit the nation’s capital, Ottawa, to explore and celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.  With so many sites to see while in Ottawa the capital has done a great job of making sure many of them are free! Travelling while not breaking the bank is often a priority on many peoples list and Ottawa has done a fantastic job catering to that.

Here is a list of 15 free things to do in Ottawa!

Explore the Byward Market

Visit the historic Byward Market, established in 1826, this market remains one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets in the country.  You will be treated to local vendors selling anything from baked goods, homemade items and much more.

Visit Inspiration Village 

Inspiration Village is one of Ottawa’s newest areas for entertainment.  Located on York Street just around the corner from the Byward Market, this village is home to special exhibits, performing art events, and exhibits for each of the provinces.  The village is only temporary and is open daily noon to 8PM until September 4, 2017.  The village is free to visit and fun for all ages.

Take a Photo in the Big Ottawa Sign

For Canada 150/Ottawa 150, Ottawa has installed a large “Ottawa” sign in the heart of Inspiration Village. Make sure to head over and take your picture in one of the letters to commemorate your time in this amazing city.

Take a Tour of the Parliament Buildings

Ottawa is the nation’s capital and home to the beautiful parliament buildings which are free to explore!  Take a guided tour of Centre Block, explore the Peace Tower, Memorial Chamber, or stroll through on your own to discover the monuments that are found all across the grounds.

Try Yoga on Parliament Hill

Starting in May, join Lululemon on Parliament Hill every Wednesday at 12:00pm for yoga.  Admission is free all you have to do is bring a mat and show up early as it gets full quickly.  This is the perfect way to relax, practice some yoga and spend some time on Parliament Hill.

Photo from Ottawa Tourism
Tour The Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada offers free tours by law students.  They’ll guide you through how the Supreme Court deals with legal issues, the Canadian judicial system and more.  Visitors are also welcome to sit in on appeal hearings while the court is in session.

Explore the Outdoor Exhibits at National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada has several permanent structures at both the front and back of the building.  The most famous and expensive structure is Louise Bourgeois’ ‘Maman’ – the gigantic spider sculpture that stands over 10 metres tall that welcomes visitors to the gallery.  If you head around back of the building you will find several other unique pieces of art.

Walk, Bike or Run the City Paths

Ottawa has so many great paved paths for walking, jogging or biking, some that cut through the heart of the city and others that follow the water.  This is a perfect way to get out and see the city on foot, stay active and enjoy the nice weather the Spring, Summer and Fall have to offer in Ottawa.  From Victoria Day to Labour Day on Sundays, Ottawa and Gatineau close many of the parkways to cars, reserving them for everyone walking, running, biking, roller-blading and more.

Enjoy The View From Nepean Point

This hill located at the back of the National Gallery of Canada that provides breathtaking views of the Ottawa River, Parliament, Canadian Museum of History and downtown Ottawa & Gatineau.  At the top of the hill a statue of Samuel de Champlain sits welcoming visitors.

Visit The Canadian War Memorial & The Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

This tall, granite memorial arch dramatically sits in front of the Parliament buildings across the road.  Built to commemorate the Canadians who died in World War One, Two, Korean War, Second Boer War and War in Afghanistan, as well as those who have been killed in all conflicts past and future.  The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sits in front of the memorial and symbolizes the sacrifices made by all Canadians who died.

Watch the Light Show on Parliament 

Every July and August the National Capital Commission presents the Sound and Light Show.  This multimedia show tells the tale of Canadas history, cultural landscapes and more using Parliament Hill as its backdrop.

Explore Ottawa’s Historic Castle

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier has been a landmark in Ottawa since it was built as a Grand Trunk Railway hotel in 1912.  The hotel is filled with history and luxury at every turn from their spiral staircases, grand entrance way, to their terrace that overlooks the Rideau Canal.  If you don’t have time to stay overnight in the hotel, be sure to explore the property and take in the stunning property that is the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.

Experience the Changing of the Guard

The changing of the guard ceremony takes place on Parliament hill every summer day from late June to late August at 10:00am. Make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early to get a good spot to see the band and guard march onto Parliament hill in all their pomp and circumstance.

Photo from Canadian Insider
Visit the Rideau Canal National Historic Site

Make sure to visit the Rideau Canal National Historic Site that is situated between Parliament and Fairmont Chateau Laurier.  These 19th century hand-operated locks link the Rideau Canal to a string of lakes and rivers.  You can walk back and forth on each of the locks and get an incredible view of the lock system.  If you are lucky you can watch a boat go through the series of locks as they rise and fall to get the boats onto their next destination.

Visit the Home of Sir Wilfred Laurier & Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King

For 2017, the Laurier House National Historic Site is free to all visitors.  Take a step back in time to visit the former resident of two of Canada’s most important Prime Ministers.  This Second Empire mansion in downtown Ottawa was the heart of Canada’s political life where both Sir Wilfred Laurier and Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King were able to call home.


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