15 Awesome Ottawa Museums – What Not to Miss and Why

Written By: The Planet D

Ottawa is a city of Museums. Like the Smithsonian of Washington DC, Canada’s Capital houses many of the great museums of our nation.

We have visited Ottawa several times. So often, that it feels like a second home to us.

During our most recent visit, we finally ticked off the last of the Ottawa museums to see and we can finally write (with confidence) a guide to help you choose which museums to visit when you visit the Capital of Canada.

Ottawa is home to seven of Canada’s 9 national museums, but there are several other museums to visit as well.

Museums of Ottawa Canada

1. Diefenbunker

ottawa museums diefenbunker

It took us at least a half a dozen visits before visiting the Diefenbunker, boy we should have done this earlier.

But then again, if you’ve watched the series Chernybol on HBO, it might have more of an effect on you now than before.

The Diefenbunker is a nuclear bunker that was constructed during the Cold War, it was named after our Prime Minister of the time, John Diefenbaker.

Built in 1959 at the height of the nuclear crisis, it was built as a bunker for government employees that had an important skill.

Nobody was allowed to bring their family, not even the prime minister and they had to be prepared to live underground for the next 30 days not knowing what they would face once they came out after a nuclear war.

It is an eerie walk through time and totally reminded me of the sets used in Chernobyl with side paneling, old radios and computers, and stark meeting rooms.

I would not want to be stuck in there at all.

Details

Opening Hours: 10:30 – 4:00

Location: 20 minutes from downtown Ottawa

Cost: You can take Self Guided or Guided Tours. Take the guided tour, it is fascinating. Cost for either – $15.49

Parking – Free

Website: Diefenbunker

2. Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Ottawa museums | canadian aviation and space museum

Our favourite museum to visit in Ottawa is the Aviation and Space Museum. It’s probably our favourite because each time we go, we either book a helicopter flight or a biplane flight from there.

The museum is inside a huge hanger and it is where scenic flights leave to take you on a tour over Ottawa.

You can walk right to the back wall to book them.

But the museum itself is extremely interesting with planes on display from every era of Canadian aviation.

The update it with new aircrafts regularly. We just saw a new huge jet during our last visit.

Details

Opening Hours: 10:00 – 5:00 (closed on Tuesdays)

Location: 11 Aviation Parkway 

It is easiest to drive, but it is also located on the River Pathway, so a bicycle is a good option there are city bikes to rent all around town.

Transit: OC Transpo route 129

Cost: Adult $15 / Student $13 / Child $11

Parking: Paid metre parking

Website: Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

3. Canadian Museum of Nature

museums of ottawa | canadian museum of nature

This is another museum that took us a few visits to Ottawa before seeing and now we’ve been back twice!

The moment you walk into the Canadian Museum of Nature, you are in awe of the architecture.

This building was designed as the first building to house a national museum in Canada.

Built-in 1905 it was designed to mirror the Centre Blog of Parliament. When you enter, there is a massive facade that has revolving displays of art hanging from the ceiling.

This modern design is a beautiful complement to the historic castle-like stone structure and makes it one of the top places to visit in all of Ontario.

Everything you can imagine is housed in this museum from dinosaurs to butterflies and our personal favourite, the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery.

Details

Opening Hours: 9:00 – 5:00 / 9:00 – 8:00 Thursdays

Location: 240 McLeod Street

20 Minute walk from downtown or you can talk the bus, several routes stop nearby.

Check schedules here

Cost: $15 adult/ $13 students / $11 children

Parking: Paid metre parking on the street and parking lot.

Website: Canadian Museum of Nature

4. Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History Ottawa Gatineau

Located across the river in Gatineau, this building is truly a standout.

It is also the perfect place to get that postcard shot of the Parliament buildings.

When entering the building, the Grand Hall hits you with a huge display of totem poles and indigenous architecture from the West Coast of Canada.

The Canadian history hall is an interactive floor that takes you through the history of our great country and besides all the other displays, there are many Instagram worthy locations outside and within the building to capture its unique architecture and design.

Details

Opening Hours: 9:00 – 5:00 / 9:00 – 8:00 Thursdays

Location: On the river in Gatineau.

Getting there: Take the water taxi or even walk across the bridge (20 minutes) from Ottawa.

Cost: Adult $20 / Student $18 / Child $12

Parking: Paid metre parking in underground parking lot.

Website: History Museum

5. Canadian War Museum

canadian war museum ottawa

This is as authentic as it gets. Do you know how I know this? It’s because soldiers were visiting the museum at the same time as us.

So you know it must be spot on!

There are fascinating exhibits detailing Canada’s war efforts with displays recalling Canada and the Cold War, WWI and WWII, and the early wars of Canada between Aboriginal People, the French and the English.

Memorial Hall though is a place for reflection and is where you can see the grave of the Unknown Soldier.

Details

Opening Hours: 9:30 – 5:00 Thursdays: 9:30 – 8:00 pm.

Location: 1 Vimy Place Ottawa

Cost: Adult $17 / Student $13 / Child $11 / Senior $15

Parking – Paid metre parking on street and parking lot.

WebsiteCanadian War Museum

6. National Gallery of Canada

national gallery of ottawa interior

I love the National Gallery. Every time we visit Ottawa, we stop to have a look at Maman.

Even if we aren’t going inside, the famous sculpture of a spider with eggs always catches our eye.

There are many rotating and permanent displays and our favourite is the Chapel of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

You feel as if you are in a cathedral complete with a choir bellowing from 20 speakers.

There is a beautiful glass ceiling in the foyer and it is worth strolling around the museum not only to look at the best exhibit of art in Canada, but to take in the stunning architecture.

Details

Opening Hours: 10:00 – 5:00 (closed Mondays)

Location: 380 Sussex Drive

Cost: Adults $16 / Students and Youth 24 and Under $8 / Seniors $14

Parking – Underground Parking paid. But it is easy to walk from anywhere in Ottawa too.

WebsiteNational Gallery

7. Bytown Museum

bytown museums ottawa

This little museum is often missed in Ottawa. Located directly on the canal, it is a lovely display of the history of Ottawa (formerly known as Bytown)

Take a walk through its three stories to view the making of the Ottawa Canal, the war efforts by the people of Ottawa and the indigenous history of the area.

Don’t forget to walk through the cafe to see the vault in the back.

Details

Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 5:00 pm (limited winter hours)

Location: 1 Canal Lane at the foot of the Rideau Canal

Cost: $2 (best deal in the city!)

Parking – Paid metre parking on street and parking lot.

Website Bytown Museum

8. Fairmont Chateau Laurier Historic Display

airmont museum in ottawa

Whether you visit during summer, winter, spring or fall, it is worth ducking into the Chateau Laurier to escape the heat or cold.

While you are in there, walk to the back of the hotel to view the photographs on display showcasing the history of Ottawa.

Learn of the Titanic connection with Ottawa and see how Winston Churchill spent his time in the city.

There are some great photographs from the turn of the 20th century.

Details

Opening Hours: anytime

Location: Inside Chateau Laurier Hotel

Cost: Free

Parking – valet parking at hotel. Best to park on the street and walk to the museum.

WebsiteChateau Laurier

9. Laurier House National Historic Site

laurier house museum ottawa

Laurier House is a National Historic Site that was home to not one but two Prime Ministers of Canada.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie lived here in the heart of Canadian politics from the late 1800s to the mid-1950s.

Visitors can tour the historic site to see how our prime ministers lived back in the day. Or you can do as we did, take a ghost tour of Laurier House.

Wilfrid Laurier was known to have seances in the house and many people died here. It is an eerie place to visit at night.

Details

Opening Hours: May – Sept 10am – 5pm (closed Tuesday and Wednesdays)

Location: 335 Laurier Ave East – 20 minute walk from downtown.

Cost: Adult $3.90 / Senior $3.40 / youth Free

Parking – Paid metre parking on street

WebsiteLaurier House

10. Rideau Hall

rideau hall ottawa museums

Details

Opening Hours: Tours booked by appointment 10am – 4pm

Grounds – 8 am to sunset year-round

Location: 1 Sussex Drive

Cost: Free

WebsiteRideau Hall

11. Canada Science and Technology Museum

canadian museum of scince and tech

This is a fun museum for the kids. Similar to the Science Centre in Toronto, this museum takes you for a walk through the history of Science and Technology.

A highlight is the slanted kitchen. Kits flock to that to feel the pull of gravity and we loved the display of old computers and TVs.

It’s interactive and there is even a big train area. Who doesn’t love trains?

Details

Opening Hours: 9am – 5 pm daily (closed Mondays in off season)

Location: 1867 St Laurent BLVD

Cost: Adult $17 / Senior $13 / Studen $11

Parking – Paid metre in parking lot.

WebsiteMuseum of Science and Technology

12. Women of Canada History

women of history display ottawa

Okay, so it might not be a proper museum, but this is a must visit. Located directly outside the senage across from the Chateau Laurier is a wonderful display of Canadian women through history.

This display celebrates women who broke barriers, made a difference and have historical significance.

From our first (and so far only) female Prime Minister Kim Campbell to Viola Desmond, an activist who now graces our $10 bill.

Details

Opening Hours: anytime

Location: in front of The Senate across from Chateau Laurier

Cost: free

Parking – Paid metre parking on street.

13. Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum

canadian agricultural museum ottawa canada

Growing up in rural Ontario I have seen a lot of farms and livestock.

But for people who want to learn of how our food is grown, raised and produced, this is an interesting museum.

I think that foreign visitors would really like this exhibit. It’s the world’s only working farm in a capital city.

I grew up in the heart of the Dairy Capital of Ontario and saw a lot of Holstein cows. This museum has many of the main cattle breeds of Canada plus other farm animals like horses, goats, al pacas, and chickens.

Kids will love watching the sheep sheering and seeing how honey bees are collected.

Details

Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm daily (closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

Location: 901 Princes of Wales Drive

Cost: Adult $12 / Senior, student and youth $10

Parking – Paid metre parking in parking lot.

WebsiteCanadian Agriculture and Food Museum

14. Upper Canada Village

upper canada village ottawa museums list

It’s a little bit of a drive outside of Ottawa, but this is an excellent way to get to know the history and culture of how Canada was built.

Walk through the display of buildings dating back to 1860 to see how people lived in Upper Canada.

There are traditional displays and demonstrations. There are more than 40 buildings that were moved from the Saint Lawrence before the development of the Saint Lawrence Seaway project and are protected on this site that sits on the War of 1812 Battle of Crysler Farm site

Details

Opening Hours: 9:30am – 5pm (Autumn season has limited hours)

Location: 11km east of Morrisburg. Visit the Website for directions.

Cost: Adult $22 / Student $16 / Youth $13

Parking – Free

WebsiteUpper Canada Village

15. Mackenzie King Estate

mackenzie king estate and museum ottawa canada

Mackenzie King Estate is a museum and outdoor experience all at once. Located in Gatineau Park, this estate was the rural retreat to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie.

He left the beautiful 231 hectare estate to Canada to enjoy the great outdoors and to tour the cottage which have been turned into museums.

Our favourite part of this visit was strolling through the Abbey Ruins and the beautiful gardens complete with pillars and an Arch du Triomphe.

Details

Opening Hours: Weekdays – 10am – 5pm Weekends 11am – 6pm

Closed Tuesdays

Location: Gatineau Park

Cost: Free

Parking – Paid metre parking in parking lot.

Website Mackenzie King Estate

And there you have it. Our favourite museums to visit in Ottawa. Have you been to Ottawa? What do you think are the best things to do.

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canadian museum of scince and tech

Our trip to Ottawa is in partnership with Tourism Ottawa. All opinions are our own. Visit their website for more information on travel to Ottawa.

Read More about Ottawa to Help Plan Your Trip:

Things to do in Ottawa

Ottawa Winterlude Tips

Ottawa Winter attractions

Ottawa White Water Rafting

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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1 thought on “15 Awesome Ottawa Museums – What Not to Miss and Why”

  1. As mentioned its Awesome almost every museum is there, i would love to visit space and aviation museum and get a ride.
    how much it cost for Ride?

    Reply