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 city 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.

Museums of Ottawa Canada

Ottawa is home to seven of Canada’s 9 national museums, but there are several other museums to visit as well. These are the best museums in Ottawa that you cannot miss!

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.

  • 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
  • Timed Entry Tickets can be booked in Advance.
  • 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 hangar 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 to Canada’s contribution to space exploration. The Canadarm that was used on the Endeavor Mission is on display here. They update it with new aircraft regularly. We just saw a new huge jet during our last visit.

  • 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 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 favorite, the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery which showcases the Canadian Arctic.

However, there are several galleries to explore. There is the Water Gallery that has the skeleton of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling, the dinosaurs of the Fossil Gallery that kids will love and mammals, insects, minerals, flora, and fauna throughout.

  • 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
  • General Admission: $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, The Canadian Museum of History is a natural history museum of Canada that is truly a standout. It is also the perfect place to get that postcard shot of the Parliament buildings. Overlooking Parliament Hill from across the Ottawa River, the Canadian Museum of History is the most visited museum in Canada for good reason!

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.

  • 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 meter parking in the 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!

At the Canadian War Museum, you’ll be able to view displays about Canada’s military history. There are fascinating exhibits detailing Canada’s war efforts with displays recalling Canada and the Cold War, WWI, and WWII.

Visitors will see full size tanks, artillery, and planes. Uniforms throughout the eras, and you will learn abou tthe early wars in 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.

  • Opening Hours: 9:30 – 5:00 Thursdays: 9:30 – 8:00 pm.
  • Location: 1 Vimy Place Ottawa
  • Free Admission to Military Personell
  • General Admission: Adult $17 / Student $13 / Child $11 / Senior $15
  • Parking – Paid metre parking on street and parking lot.
  • WebsiteCanadian War Museum
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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

Rideau Hall is a national historic site that is home to one of the most important figures in the Canadian Government. The Governor-General. Group and private tours are offered daily to explore the quarters of our Governor-General. The Governor-General of Canada does the same duties that the Queen of England does.

Our current Governor-General resides there but visitors have a chance to tour a portion of this residence and the official halls used for ceremonies and meetings. This is definitely one of the most interesting things to see in Ottawa. Check out how to book a tour at the Rideau Hall Website

  • 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 and families alike. Similar to the Science Centre in Toronto, this museum takes you for a walk through the history of Science and Technology and Canadian innovation.

A highlight is the Crazy Kitchen, aslanted kitchen. Kids flock to that to feel the pull of gravity as they walk through the optical illusions that feel as if you are losing balance. We loved the display of old computers and TVs bringing back memories of a time not too long ago. It’s interactive and there is even a big train area. Who doesn’t love trains?

  • 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.

  • Opening Hours: anytime
  • Location: in front of The Senate across from Chateau Laurier
  • Cost: free
  • Parking – Paid metre parking on street.

13. Canada 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Opening Hours: Weekdays – 10am – 5pm Weekends 11am – 6pm
  • Closed Tuesdays
  • Location: Gatineau Park
  • Cost: Free
  • Parking – Paid meter parking in the parking lot.
  • Website Mackenzie King Estate

16. Royal Canadian Mint

A visit to the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa is for anyone interested in the art and craftsmanship of coin-making or the economic history of Canada. The Mint’s Ottawa facility is responsible for producing Canada’s circulation coins, as well as various commemorative coins and medals.

When you arrive, you can explore the historical building, which exudes a sense of grandeur and tradition. . The guided tours offered are both informative and engaging, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the minting process.

During the tour, you’ll learn about the precision and artistry involved in coin design and production. You’ll see the meticulous steps of transforming strips of metal into shiny coins, and you may even have the opportunity to hold a solid gold bar, with its surprising weight and value. You’ll also discover the evolution of currency through various displays and exhibits that detail the history and significance of different coins.

  • Opening Hours: Weekdays – 10am – 5pm Weekends 11am – 6pm
  • Closed Tuesdays
  • Location: Gatineau Park
  • Cost: Free
  • Parking – Paid meter parking in the parking lot.
  • Website Mackenzie King Estate

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.

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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?