Ottawa, also known as Bytown, is Canada’s capital city. It is the country’s fourth-largest city, boasting a rich history, diverse cultural traditions, stunning architecture, and many famous attractions.
It is, in fact, home to 29 museums that each has a significant part in the past, culture and liberal arts of Canada (and the world too). So, whether you have the weekend to spare and want to visit Ottawa, this 2 Day Itinerary for Ottawa will be helpful for your trip.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Ottawa is the Fairmont Château Laurier. This historic hotel, located near Parliament Hill, symbolises elegance and luxury. Even if you’re not staying there, taking a stroll around the hotel and admiring its stunning architecture is a must.
Other famous landmarks in the city that will allow you to immerse in Ottawa’s culture, tradition and history are Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, the Peace Tower, Parliament buildings and much more.
Meanwhile, the city centre is a must-visit since it is where most of Canada’s critical cultural attractions are. Here you can enjoy a tour inside the National Arts Centre, which showcases diverse performances, including music, dance, and theatre.
The Ottawa Byward Market is also situated in the city centre. This bustling market is filled with fresh produce, artisanal crafts, and various restaurants and cafes.
As you explore the city of Ottawa, you will immerse yourself in parks and pleasant green spaces. But if you are visiting during the winter, no worries because the city’s main waterway is turned into the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s longest skating rink.
So, when it comes to choosing the best time to visit Ottawa, it largely depends on your preferences. The city is known for hosting vibrant festivals and events throughout the year.
If you are someone who enjoys seeing ice sculptures, then winter is your best best. But if you want to celebrate significant festivities and participate in outdoor activities, you should definitely come during fall or summer.
Another thing you should consider is a place to stay. For first-timers (and not), visiting in Ottawa’s city centre is highly recommended. As mentioned, this area has plenty of tourist attractions, making it much easier for you to go around, especially since you only stay for 48 hours in Ottawa.
Ultimately, 2 days in Ottawa is enough to visit famous and essential landmarks in the city. Proper planning means you don’t have to worry about your trip to Ottawa already. Keep reading for details and information; we’ll hand you a well-guided Ottawa Itinerary.
If you’re wondering how many days in Ottawa is ideal or how many days do you need in Ottawa? Well it all depends on what your plans are? You could easily spend 2 weeks in Ottawa or 2 months and still not see or do everything.
Below is a great guide on what to do in Ottawa for 2 days because sometimes 2 days in Ottawa is all you have, especially if you’re spending a weekend in Ottawa or you’re travelling to Ottawa on short stop over trip and want to be able to tour some of the main areas within Ottawa.
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Overview of 2 Days in Ottawa Itinerary
Here’s a glance at what you’ll see and do in two days in Ottawa:
Day 1 in Ottawa
- Explore Fairmont Chateau Laurier
- Brunch at Byward Market
- Pass by the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica
- Check out the Royal Canadian Mint
- Get an Aperitif at Mill Street Brew Pub
- Visit the National Arts Centre
- Walk by the Rideau Canal
- Get some cocktails at Andaz Ottawa
Day 2 in Ottawa
- Visit the Parliament Hill and Parliament Buildings
- Go up the Peace Tower
- Have Lunch at The King Eddy
- Discover art at the National Gallery of Canada
- Explore the Canadian War Museum
- Check out the National War Memorial
- Dinner at Riviera Ottawa
Day 1 in Ottawa
Explore Fairmont Chateau Laurier
During your first morning in the city, it would be nice to start slow and just take in the beauty Ottawa has to offer.
As mentioned earlier, Fairmont Chateau Laurier is one of Ottawa’s most iconic landmarks. This grandeur and historical hotel is situated near Parliament Hill and is a sight to behold with its breathtaking architecture.
Here at Fairmont Chateau Laurier, stroll through its elegant halls adorned with classic decor and charming details. Admire the opulent chandeliers, intricate woodwork, and luxurious furnishings that exude a sense of timeless beauty.
Aside from the extravagant interior of the hotel, remember to step outside and appreciate the hotel’s stunning exterior. It offers a picturesque view of the city and the nearby Ottawa River, making it a great photo backdrop.
Brunch at Byward Market
Byward Market is significant in Ottawa’s gastronomical scene and local business status. This bustling market has many cafes and restaurants offering delectable brunch options to satisfy your taste.
This is why having your first meal of the day in Ottawa should be done at Byward Market.
From hearty breakfast platters to mouthwatering pastries and freshly brewed coffee, you’ll find an array of culinary delights to start your day.
While it may seem that locals are in a rush inside the market, you can always take your time to explore the market’s various stalls. The lively atmosphere, filled with locals and tourists alike, adds to the charm of the experience.
Pass by the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica
After filling up your energy with some good food, it’s time to resume your first-day tour around the city. The next stop will be the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, a prominent landmark in Ottawa.
As you approach the cathedral, its stunning Gothic Revival architecture will captivate your attention.
This basilica has been an essential part of the local’s spiritual and religious traditions, making it not just a famous landmark for tourists to visit.
Once you enter the Cathedral, you will discover a sanctuary adorned with intricate stained glass windows, ornate woodwork, and a stunning altar.
The tranquil ambience of the basilica invites you to reflect and appreciate Ottawa’s architectural and spiritual heritage.
Check out the Royal Canadian Mint
Just a few steps away from the Cathedral of Notre Dame is the Royal Canadian Mint (Monnaie Royale Canadienne).
While the facility no longer manufactures Canada’s coin money, bigs still play a part in creating crafted medals, commemorative coins and grand awards (like Olympic medals).
Fortunately, the Royal Canadian Mint is open to the public to visit. You will need to join a guided tour to enter it, but it would be worthwhile since you will see how the craftspeople work on their art.
Get an Aperitif at Mill Street Brew Pub
It might be too early to grab dinner by this time, so we suggest you get an aperitif first to have a quick break from walking around the city.
Mill Street Brew Pub is a popular spot in Ottawa for craft beer enthusiasts (locals and tourists). Here you can sample a wide selection of locally brewed beers with distinct flavours and styles.
But if you think it’s too early, you can always go with delicious pub fares, such as gourmet burgers, artisanal pizzas, or flavorful appetisers.
This place is what we have suggested since it’s near your tour destinations, and the atmosphere on their terrace is relaxed and friendly, providing the perfect setting to unwind and savour the unique flavours of Ottawa’s gastronomic scene.
Visit the National Arts Centre
The National Arts Centre is a famous performing arts theatre not only in the city of Ottawa but in the whole of Canada.
This is downtown and hosts diverse performances throughout the year, including music, dance, theatre, and more.
It would be great to catch a ballet show or orchestra playing here during your weekend in Ottawa. So, it’s recommended that you check the schedule beforehand to see if there are any live performances or concerts during the date of your visit.
If you still need to, you can always pass by the theatre and admire its architecture before you end your first day in Ottawa.
Walk by the Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal is just a few minutes from the National Arts Centre and is a must-see in Ottawa.
The Rideau Canal is a 200-kilometre-long and 1.6-meter-deep Canal that connects the city of Ottawa with Kingston on Lake Ontario.
To some locals, it is also called Rideau Waterway since it was initially intended to serve as a strategic route the military needed during the war with the USA in 1812.
While you can take a boat tour or cruise in the canal, you can also take a leisurely walk from its sidewalk and admire it from there. As you walk by the canal, admire the serene beauty of the surrounding scenery, including charming bridges, lush greenery, and historic buildings.
The pathway is perfect for a leisurely walk or a bike ride, allowing you to soak in the tranquil atmosphere and appreciate Ottawa’s natural beauty.
Fun fact – the Rideau Canal becomes a recreational area for festivals and skating as soon as it freezes over during the winter. It is the same place as the famous Rideau Canal Skateway considered one of the longest in the world.
Get some cocktails at Andaz Ottawa
After a packed first day in Ottawa, it’s time to wrap up with some good drinks that could help you get a good night’s sleep (and more energy for the second day)! Indulge in a sophisticated and stylish experience by visiting Andaz Ottawa’s rooftop bar.
This is located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, offering breathtaking panoramic cityscape views. Andaz is among the best restaurant bars that serve excellently crafted cocktails.
Plus, the bar’s sleek and modern design and stunning vistas create a chic and inviting ambience that will help you relax, unwind, and toast a memorable visit to Ottawa.
Day 2 in Ottawa
Visit the Parliament Hill and Parliament Buildings
For your second day in Ottawa, you’ll mostly be visiting the historical and cultural landmarks in the city. The first stop is at Parliament Hill and Parliament Buildings, an essential part of Canada’s political history.
The Parliament Buildings were first built in Ottawa in 1866, having a splendour of Victorian Gothic sandstone. It stands atop the 50-meter-high Parliament Hill, giving you a great view of the Ottawa River from its highest point.
When visiting, it is recommended to take a guided tour to learn about the country’s democratic system and discover the rich heritage housed within these historic structures. Once you enter the building, you will be taken to ornate chambers, such as the House of Commons and the Senate.
Guides will share information about these areas and even let you into Canada’s governance and legislative processes. But of course, remember to take a moment to appreciate the scenic beauty surrounding Parliament Hill, including the stunning views of the Ottawa River and the city skyline.
Go up the Peace Tower
Just a few minutes from Parliament Hill is Canada’s Peace Tower. This has the highest point and observation deck in Ottawa, giving you a great view of the entire city and other neighbourhoods.
As you climb up the 302-foot tower in an elevator, you’ll also pass the Memorial Chamber, a sombre space dedicated to honouring Canada’s fallen soldiers.
This is because the Peace Tower stands not only as an observation deck for tourists but also as a symbol of peace and remembrance for the residents of Canada.
Have Lunch at The King Eddy
After walking around the city centre and famous landmarks in Ottawa, fuel up with good food at one of the city’s renowned restaurants.
Since this will be your last day, treat yourself to a delectable lunch experience at King Eddy, a famous eatery in the city.
Located in the vibrant ByWard Market, this trendy restaurant offers a diverse menu featuring culinary creations made with locally sourced ingredients.
You can indulge in dishes that range from hearty Canadian classics to globally inspired flavours, all prepared with creativity and skill.
Moreover, its lively ambience and friendly service make it the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a delicious meal in Ottawa.
Discover art at the National Gallery of Canada
As we’ve mentioned, Ottawa is home to 29 museums (minor and major) with an important place in Canada’s heritage. One of the most famous galleries that is also a must-visit for anyone visiting is the National Gallery of Canada.
This prestigious institution houses an extensive collection of Canadian and international artworks. When visiting, you can explore the gallery’s vast exhibitions, which span various periods and artistic styles, from classic to contemporary.
In addition to classic period displays, you will also see renowned masterpieces, including works by Canadian artists such as the Group of Seven and iconic international artists like Van Gogh and Monet.
So, take your time to appreciate the diverse range of artistic expressions and better understand Canada’s cultural heritage and global creative contributions.
Explore the Canadian War Museum and National War Memorial
Aside from the National Gallery of Canada, you should also visit the Canadian War Museum and National War Memorial.
The Canadian War Museum offers a comprehensive and immersive experience, chronicling the country’s involvement in conflicts and honouring the sacrifices of its servicemen and women.
The museum’s thought-provoking exhibits encourage reflection and foster a deeper understanding of the human experience during conflict.
On the other hand, the National War Memorial was built to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers of Canada.
This is located in downtown Ottawa and is a solemn and poignant landmark commemorating all the sacrifices made by the armed forces of Canada during the various conflicts in the past.
Dinner at Riviera Ottawa
After making all your stops for the second day, it’s time to satisfy your taste buds with some delectable cuisine at one of the city’s renowned restaurants.
Riviera Ottawa offers a sophisticated and elegant atmosphere, perfect for a memorable dinner, and a great spot to cap off your Ottawa trip.
The restaurant’s menu combines classic and contemporary Canadian dishes, from perfectly seared steaks to seafood delicacies and vegetarian options. Many returning diners praise the restaurant’s service, good food and excellent ambience.
Since the restaurant is famous among locals and visitors, you must make a reservation beforehand to get good seats. This also helps you from waiting in line.
Tours in Ottawa
One tour you can enjoy while in Ottawa is a boat cruise along the famous Rideau Canal. Rideau Canal is a renowned waterway that links Ottawa to Lake Ontario. While it spans almost 200 kilometres, you will still traverse the canal.
During this boat cruise, you will cruise along the UNESCO World Heritage-listed waterway and pass by top attractions in Ottawa. Some places you can see from your boat cruise are the Canadian Museum of Nature, Chateau Laurier, Dow’s Lake and the National Arts Centre.
You will also be accompanied by a professional tour guide commenting on each landmark and sharing essential information. This tour is best enjoyed early morning or right before the sun sets.
Bus Sightseeing Tour
Moving from one area to another can be quite a hassle, especially if you are pressed with time. In this Bus Sightseeing Tour, you will get on a double-decker bus using your 1-day pass, which will take you to several stops to see famous Ottawa landmarks.
You can hop on and hop off throughout the day and even see over 75 spots in the city from the open double-deck area of the bus.
Some areas included in the stops are Sparks Street Mall, Canadian Museum of Nature, Lansdowne Park, Dow’s Lake, Byward Market, Rideau National heritage site, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and much more!
This tour is perfect for those travelling in groups or with their family and children.
2-Day Itinerary for Ottawa Wrap-up
This wraps up your complete and detailed two-day itinerary for Ottawa! We have shared with you things to do, places to visit, where to eat and even tours you can book during your trip, so all you have left to do is the basics – ready your documents, pack your bags, and you’re all set. Ottawa is waiting for you!
Recommended tours in Ottawa
- 2-Hour Ottawa Express City Bike Tour
- Original Haunted Walk of Ottawa
- Canadian War Museum Admission
- Oh Canada Eh?! Dinner Musical
- Best of Ottawa Small Group Tour with River Cruise
- Ottawa Boat Cruise – Rideau Canal Cruise
- City Beers: Bus Tour of Ottawa Breweries
- Ottawa City Tour by Land and Water
- Floating Tiki Bar (Boat Tour) on the Ottawa River
- ByWard Market Lunch Tasting Experience
- Outaouais Craft Beer Tour – From Ottawa & Gatineau
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