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10 Free Things to do in Ottawa

The capital city of Canada, Ottawa lies in the Ontario Province. It is the fourth largest city in Canada and is also the seat of the government. The city of Ottawa is home to numerous attractions, especially government buildings, historical monuments and interesting museums. While it is an interesting place to spend your summer holidays, Ottawa attains a unique charm during the winters too. As the capital of the country, spending your holiday in Ottawa can be a bit expensive. However, there are several things that you can do for free in Ottawa. Here are the top 10 free things to do in Ottawa that would make your holiday here budget-friendly.

1.Visit the Museums

There is no dearth of museums in Ottawa and you can learn about the history of Ottawa, Canada and even the world at some of them. While entry to most museums is not free, some of them offer free entry during particular days of the week. The National Gallery of Canada is home to art works of Michelangelo, da Vinci and Picasso and can be visited for free on Thursdays between 5 PM and 8 PM. Those interested in nature and the evolution of our planet should make a visit to the Canadian Museum of Nature, which can also be visited for free on Thursday evenings, between 5 and 8.
Few other museums that you should visit in Ottawa are Canadian War Museum (no entry fee on Thursday between 4 PM to 8 PM), Bytown Museum (no entry fee on Thursday between 5 PM and 9 PM), and Canada Aviation and Space Museum as well as Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum (no entry fee between 4 PM and 5 PM everyday).

2.Explore the Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill Ottawa
The Parliament Hill is where the government offices reside, including the Supreme Court of the country. Most of the areas of building are open to public, and the tour is surely interesting and engaging. During the tour, you would be able to check out the neo-Gothic style structures. At the Centre Block, you can head up to the observation deck on the Peace Tower to get a panoramic view of the city. The East Block is also open to the public, and you can check out the Governor General’s Office, the Privy Council Chamber and several other historical rooms. The West Block cannot be accessed by the public. However, it is possible to tour the Supreme Court.
Most of the tours of the Parliament Hill are free, although the tickets are available first-cum-first-serve-basis. It is also possible to go on self-guided tours. Apart from this, cultural exhibitions, concerts, Changing of the Guard Ceremony, etc. are some of the things to check out here. The sound and light show that happens in the evenings, during summer, is a must-see. If you are in Ottawa during May, do try to join the yoga on the Parliament Hill, every Wednesday, for free.

3.Have Fun at the Beaches

ottawa beaches
Although Ottawa is not a proud owner of pristine beaches, they are great places to relax and enjoy with family and friends, especially during summers. Play volleyball, enjoy a swim, have a picnic, lounge on the sand or just have an ice cream while trying to get a tan. There may not be too many things to do on the beaches of Ottawa, but you surely would be able to enjoy the sunshine here. Some of the best beaches in the city include Britannia Beach, O’Brien Beach, Westboro Beach, etc.

4.Spend Time at the Rideau Canal

rideau canal
The Rideau Canal was constructed between 1826 and 1832, making it one of the historic locations in the city. Located in the centre of the city, the Rideau Canal is a 125-mile waterway. While you can go on a boat tour that would take you some of the most important attractions along the canal, it would cost you money. However, walking along the canal can be done absolutely free. Apart from walking, the area welcomes people who want to bike, run or even rollerblade. During winter, the canal becomes the largest skating rink, with an area corresponding to 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks.

Also read – Favourite Things to do in Ottawa 

5.Wander around the ByWard Market

ByWard Market ottawa
The ByWard Market is one of the oldest markets in Canada, dating back to as early as 1826. One of the oldest public markets in the country, you would find vendors and farmers selling a variety of things including fresh produce, maple syrup, handmade goods, souvenir trinkets, etc. You would also find several stalls selling the local favourite dishes like poutine, BeaverTails, etc. Although you would have to pay money if you want to shop for stuff, there is no charge to roam around the market. While you are at it, do check out the boutiques, restaurants and nightlife places around the main market area. Most days, you would be able to participate in free events.

6.Enjoy the Beauty of Gatineau Park

gatineau park ottawa
When you want to take a break from the city life of Ottawa and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, take yourself to Gatineau Park. Just 15 minutes away from downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park is a haven for people who love nature. Spread around an area of 9000 acres, the park has several natural attractions as well as heritage sites. The Mackenzie King Estate, complete with restored cottages, interactive exhibits, tearoom, etc. is an interesting place to visit. Moreover, the park is a great place to indulge in exciting outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, camping, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, etc.

7.Check Out the Central Experimental Farm

central experimental farm
The Central Experimental Farm is a more than hundred acres of land dedicated to agricultural research. The laboratories here conduct experiments and research on everything from food crops to insects. The farm is also home to an Arboretum, which houses more than 2000 varieties of trees, plants and shrubs. The farm also has two amazing gardens, one of them is a greenhouse named the Fletcher Wildlife Garden and the other is the Ornamental Gardens. The Experimental Farm is open to visitors all year round and does not charge an entry fee.

8.Tour the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

notre-dame cathedral basilica ottawa
Opposite the National Gallery of Canada sits one of the oldest Catholic churches of Canada, the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Its impressive architecture with silvery spires and stained-glass windows attract both locals and tourists alike here. Tours are available for those who book early and pay a small fee, although you would find several volunteers who offer free guided tours during the summer months. Also, you do not have to pay any entry fee if you want to tour the church on your own or want to attend mass.

9.Let Your Hair Down and Dance Away at City Hall

City Hall ottawa
If you have always wanted to learn salsa but never got the chance, head to the City Hall for some free salsa classes. Every year from July to August, professional salsa instructors conduct free salsa dance lessons from 7 PM to 11 PM. Everyone is welcome here, with or without partners. The dance moves are basic and can be learnt by beginners easily. Apart from the dancing lessons, there are social dancing sessions, live music and dance shows to be enjoyed here.

10.Attend a Festival or Event

Ottawa hosts a myriad of events or festivals throughout the year. So, whichever month you visit, there would be some interesting event or festival for you to attend. Winterlude, which happens during three weekends of February, offers lot of outdoor activities. Music lovers would have a great time at TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival, RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest, etc. Some other popular festivals include Canadian Tulip Festival, Christmas Lights Across Canada, Ottawa International Animation Festival, WESTfest, etc. Most of these festivals can be attended free of cost.

With so many free things to do in Ottawa, Canada, you do not have to worry about being overboard with your budget or getting bored. So, do not wait anymore. Rather, pack your bags and head for a memorable holiday to Ottawa in Canada.

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