Downtown Ottawa Self Guided Walking Tour

Ottawa River Pathway and Trans Canada Trail

I recently went for a social distance photo walk with a friend downtown and I realized there are so many great spots to take photos or enjoy the view in such a small area of Ottawa! There are tons of places to visit in Ottawa and with a total walking time of about an hour, you can see so many of Ottawa’s top attractions. Read through the rest of this post for a few suggestions for things to do along the way.

It’s a total walking distance of about 5 km or 1 hour and you could definitely stretch it for an afternoon/evening for an Ottawa staycation.

Start at City Hall and walk along the Rideau Canal

Parking at City Hall is about $2 on evenings and weekends and almost always has capacity so it’s the perfect place to start. To get to City Hall you can: drive and park underground; take the bus and hop off at Confederation Park; or bike to lock up your bike outside. Walk across the street to Confederation Park and head east to the multi-use trail.

View of Chateau Fairmont Laurier from the Rideau Canal Pathway looking under the bridge to Alexandra Bridge

Head north to the Rideau Canal Locks/Bytown Museum

Keep following the multi-use path to the Rideau Locks. This is a great spot to stop at the Bytown Museum or bring a picnic and sit by the locks to watch boats pass through. You can also grab a drink at La Terrasse but I recommend waiting until the end for an amazing sunset view.

Follow the multi-use trail around the Ottawa River

By following the trail, you’ll catch a glimpse of some of Ottawa’s iconic views including: the Alexandra Bridge, the Museum of History (in Gatineau), the National Art Gallery and Nepean Point. There are a few benches for rest stops or stop along the river bank to enjoy the sounds of nature. Suggestion: This trail is also a beautiful bike ride in the warmer months. Be careful of flooding in the spring!

Walk up the stairs and look back at the Ottawa River

I both wanted to look back for the view and needed to look back for a break. As part of the rehabilitation of the hill, the 298 stairs up from Parliament were recently (2019) reconstructed. I was very impressed at both the people walking and running up those stairs!

Walk behind Parliament for some stunning views and a gazebo

The views from behind Parliament across the Ottawa River are majestic. The gazebo is a perfect setting for a picnic, to watch the sunset or to take a leisurely stroll.

Walk around Parliament Hill

Take a stroll around Parliament Hill (but note that Centre Block is under construction for the next 10-15 years). You can still see the Peace Tower (for now) and the newly renovated West Block. If you’re still feeling adventurous, grab a free tour ticket across the street to see West Block. The Centennial Flame is still lit.

Walk down Sparks Street

There are tons or bars and restaurants to visit along Sparks Street and if you’re lucky you might happen upon Poutinefest, Ribfest, Winterlude, or another type of festival. Check out the Ottawa sign for a photo op (the first T is missing: become a part of Ottawa and everything it has to offer!)

Walk to the War Memorial

Walk down Elgin Street to see the NAC and War Memorial. You can stop for a bite to eat at 1 Elgin Restaurant (currently open) or Equator Coffee. The Chamber’s Building is also an iconic historic downtown building.

War Memorial on Elgin Street in Ottawa

Walk to Major’s Hill Park for a drink at La Terrasse, to hangout in the park or bite to eat at Tavern on the Hill

This was the best sunset I’ve seen in a while and you might be lucky enough to be out when the sky is on fire! The shot below was taken from Chateau Laurier which leads to Major’s Hill Park.

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