Although Ottawa may be the capital city of Canada, it is much less frequented by tourists than Montréal or Toronto. Home to a population of just under a million residents, this Ontario city boasts the Canadian Parliament, a downtown area filled with eateries, and a plethora of lush green spaces. And if you want to get an idea of the city’s layout for yourself, then you’ll likely want to discover some of the best panoramic views in town. Here’s your ultimate guide to finding the best view in Ottawa!
Hands down, one of the best ways to enjoy the sunset, or simply views onto the Ottawa, is atop of Parliament Hill. Home to a Gothic Revival Structure that’s reminiscent of the Houses of Parliament in London, local’s often fondly refer to this area of the city simply as ‘The Hill’.
There’s a large grassy expanse surrounding the Parliament Complex which is free to visit and wander around. From the top, you can see all the way across to the other side of the River and across to the Province of Quebec.
During the summer months, a myriad of activities are held on the Hill, making it one of the best photo spots in Ottawa. For those who love light shows, the nightly spectacle of projections onto the Parliament Buildings describes the history of Canada through illuminations. Find out more details here.
Major’s Hill Park
Situated in the downtown district of the city, not far from the Ottawa Basilica and close to the National Gallery of Canada (i.e. the art museum where the ‘Maman’ spider sculpture towers above the rest of the city), Major’s Hill Park is perfect for picnic parks and is set up high, offering spectacular scenes of the Canadian Capital.
As such, the green space is popular among tourists and locals alike, as well as being central to the Canada Day celebrations that occur on the 1st of July each year. Of particular note is the Chateau Laurier, which is now one of the most luxurious places to stay in Ottawa. Don’t believe me? Check out all the details here!
Situated alongside Rockcliffee Parke, one of the best places to see the sunset, the covered Rockcliffee Lookout is best reached on bicycle or foot via the beautifully appointed Ottawa River Pathway, a paved track which snakes its way alongside the path of the River Ottawa.
There is also limited parking on site for those arriving by car (though be mindful that space is short and the lookout point gets particularly popular at sunset). Providing views of Gatineau on the other side of the River, as well as the River Ottawa itself, interactive boards are available to give further information about the area and its rich history.
Best seen during the golden hour when the light is golden and candy colours dance across the sky, Rideau Falls is a man-made waterfall which follows the natural course of the Rideau River. The other part of the River has been diverted through downtown Ottawa in the form of Rideau Canal and allows for boats to go up and down the river.
Rideau Falls is actually two adjoined waterfalls pouring into the Ottawa River. Separated by a tiny island known as Green Island, the beautiful Ottawa attraction can be found close to the old Ottawa City Hall. The falls are free to visit and are named for their resemblance to a curtain; ‘Rideau’ is the French word for curtain. Nearby, there’s an outdoor terrace where you can sip on beers and soft drinks alongside the water.
One of the best views of Ottawa can be found on the bridge that spans between Parliament Hill and Major’s Hill Park. The Wellington Street bridge is the perfect place to not only enjoy views of the neo-Gothic Parliament buildings but also to see the locks which allow boats up into Downtown Ottawa to make their way up the canal.
During the summer months (or, indeed, in the fall when the leaves are at their prettiest and during the spring when you can photograph the cherry blossoms), it’s also possible to enjoy the best of Rideau Canal by cycling alongside the water or simply strolling along on foot.
Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Quebec
Perhaps rather unusually, one of the best views of Ottawa is not to be found in Ottawa itself, but rather right across the River in the adjacent province of Quebec. Formerly known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the terrace in front of the museum is free to visit and offers spectacular views of all of Ottawa’s most iconic monuments.
From the stepped terrace, which is set against the backdrop of the ever so modern architecture of the museum, it’s possible to see Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park, and the vintage steel The Royal Alexandra Interprovincial Bridge. Though you can visit the Museum of history via car or bus, you can also take the pretty stroll across the river on the pedestrian footpath. The walk takes around fifteen minutes and also offers spectacular views of Ottawa.