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Ottawa Famous Museums Walking Tour (Self Guided), Ottawa

Being the cultural heart of Canada, Ottawa is home to a wealth of museums and heritage structures. Ottawa's museums are part of the Confederation Boulevard ceremonial route and cover a broad range of art-focused, family-friendly and historical exhibits. We invite you to take a walking tour through Ottawa's most famous museums
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Ottawa Famous Museums Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Ottawa Famous Museums Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Ottawa (See other walking tours in Ottawa)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.2 Km or 4.5 Miles
Author: helenp
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Bytown Museum
  • Canadian Children's Museum
  • Canadian Museum of History
  • Canadian War Museum
  • Canadian Museum of Nature
Bytown Museum

1) Bytown Museum (must see)

Located just below the Parliament Hill, the Bytown Museum is a small museum in Ottawa. Accommodated in the city's oldest stone building, it contains more than 7,000 artifacts. The museum collections narrate the story of the Canadian capital and its citizens, from ancient Bytown to present day Ottawa, with a special emphasis on the construction of the Rideau Canal.

The Bytown Museum is dedicated to hosting programs designed to help local and foreign visitors to learn more about the rich culture and history of Ottawa. Pursuant to this objective, the museum gathers, stores, studies and maintains artifacts representative of the culture and heritage of the city.

In order to enable a foreign visitor to fully appreciate the history of Canada, audio tours of the museum have been made available in 6 different languages: English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin and German.

Why You Should Visit:
Does a great job of explaining the construction of the Rideau Canal and the establishment of the settlement of Ottawa.
Is located just below the locks and has a small area selling sandwiches/drinks so if you wish you can have lunch sitting outside and watching the locks being operated – very pleasant.

Take advantage of the audio tour included in the admission price – it's definitely worth it.

Operation Hours:
Winter (Oct-May): Tue-Sun: 11am-4pm; closed on Mondays;
Summer (May-Oct): Daily: 10am-5pm; Thursdays until 8 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Canadian Children's Museum

2) Canadian Children's Museum (must see)

Opened on June 29, 1989, the Canadian Children’s Museum (CCM) is devoted exclusively to the development of children. It forms part of the Canadian Museum of Civilization whose main focus is laid upon cultural and traditional activities of people around the world. While designing the building for the new Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1982, a decision was made that a separate museum should be built specially for children, who traditionally form a substantial part of the museum audience. As a result, a rich collection of modern and classical material of children’s culture, such as artworks, books, toys, clothing, games, and many other items, have been gathered here in order to help develop kids' cognitive abilities.

There are more than 30 spaces in the museum holding permanent exhibitions, using which the children can learn in a contextual environment and accentuated process rather than acquire book knowledge.

The opening of the CCM's second phase in 1994 resulted in further expansion of its services. In 1995, the parks outside the museum were expanded with a view to accommodating outdoor exhibitions. Today, the Canadian Children’s Museum covers a total area of 8036.19m2 (86,501.55 ft2), both inside and outside.

Since its inauguration, the attendance and community interest in the Canadian Children’s Museum has risen considerably, to the average of 500,000 visitors per annum. Since 1989, the museum has served over eight million children and their families and the number is growing day by day.

Why You Should Visit:
Nice & safe place for kids to learn about different cultures and have fun while doing so.
You can spend up to 3 hrs in one space (Children's Museum); parents can also roam around the great hall and other floors as well, or relax in the cafeteria.

Opening Hours:
Fri-Wed: 9:30am-5pm; Thu: 9:30am-8pm
Canadian Museum of History

3) Canadian Museum of History (must see)

The Canadian Museum of History, formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization, is the country's most popular and most visited museum. Located in the Hull sector of Gatineau, it is devoted entirely to collecting, studying, preserving, and displaying material objects that highlight the human history of Canada, as well as the cultural multeity of its people.

The Museum of Civilization is particularly famous for its permanent galleries reflecting 20,000 years of the history of mankind. The architecture and spectacular riverside setting of the museum also add to its appeal. There are special exhibitions on Canadian and other cultures and civilizations, both extinct and present. The museum is also a major research institution and one of North America's oldest cultural establishments with roots stretching as far back as 1856.

The Museum's permanent exposition comprises four galleries, such as the Grand Hall, the First Peoples Hall, the Canada Hall and Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall. The Grand Hall is the Museum's architectural centerpiece and has a wall with a view of the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill. Opposite to it, on another wall, is a color photograph depicting a woods scene, considered to be the largest color photo in the world. The Museum's top floor is taken by the newest Face To Face exhibition. Opened on 29 June 2007, it celebrates personalities whose vision and deeds have made a noteworthy impact on Canada and its people. Among them are authors, artists, businesspeople, explorers, activists, military commanders and politicians.

In order to span 20,000 years of human history, the museum's space has been divided into three major zones, namely: "An Aboriginal Presence", "An Ancient Bond with the Land" and "Arrival of Strangers - The Last 500 Years". The latter zone examines the aboriginal history of Canada from the time of the first European encounter through today. Also presented here is the Quilt of Belongings, the world's largest piece of textile art, dedicated to Canada.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization is by far one of the main tourist destinations in Ottawa, receiving more than one million visitors per year. Culture has never been so fascinating!

Why You Should Visit:
One of Canada's best museums! The building's architecture & artifacts inside are amazing, and the views across the river are not to be missed.

If you want to take a break and a breath of fresh air, a hand stamp will allow access throughout the whole day.

Opening Hours:
Fri-Wed: 9:30am-5pm; Thu: 9:30am-8pm
Canadian War Museum

4) Canadian War Museum (must see)

The Canadian War Museum is a national museum that documents Canada’s military history and its influence on the nation. The museum's exceptional exhibitions tell about Canada’s rich military past, spanning a period from centuries ago to the present day. Among other exhibits presented here are personal accounts of people who took part in action as well as those who waited for them back home, outlining Canada’s engagement in various wars, peacekeeping missions and other military conflicts. 

Originated in 1880, the museum houses a collection of military artifacts in the possession of the Canadian federal government. The Canadian War Museum was officially established in 1942. It has its own modern conservation laboratories and storage facilities to preserve, repair and store the items of historical importance.

The Canadian War Museum has a vast permanent exhibition comprising several galleries and a number of smaller display spaces. Its four main exhibitions include “Battleground” which covers the pre-Confederation period covering military confrontation with Natives, the conflicts between the British and the French, and those between the British and the Americans; “For Crown and Country” deals with Canada’s early days wars up until 1931; “Forged in Fire” is dedicated to the Second World War and Canadian involvement therein; and “A Violent Peace” which covers the post World War Two period, including the Korean War, the Cold War, and recent peacekeeping operations.

For those interested in arms, LeBreton Gallery is a definite must-see, featuring a Voodoo jet, tanks, artillery, and a wide range of military vehicles. The Canadian War Museum also includes over 13,000 works of art from World War I to the present day. There is a boutique at the Museum which offers a variety of souvenirs and gift items for all tastes and budgets.

The museum also houses a Memorial Hall that contains the headstone of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War. On Remembrance Day, which falls on 11th November each year, the headstone is directly lit by the sun at 11 a.m.

In 2005, the museum was moved to its current location. Acknowledged for its modern architectural design, the building has won several awards. The Canadian War Museum is a completely new attraction and the one you must not skip on your trip to Ottawa.

Why You Should Visit:
Full of personal accounts and descriptions of various wars and battles. Overall, a more adult-oriented museum, but if you do have kids, you can walk through with them and have them try the more interactive and "reconstruction"-type sites to keep them amused.

If you're not sure this is for you try visiting for free from 5-8 pm on a Thursday, but it won't be enough time!
The museum has a very good cafeteria-style restaurant and in good weather, you can picnic outside on the beautiful grounds that overlook the Ottawa river.
And if the weather is decent, be sure to make the trek to the lookout on the green roof.

Operating Hours:
Fri-Wed: 9:30am-5pm; Thu: 9:30am-8pm
Canadian Museum of Nature

5) Canadian Museum of Nature (must see)

The Canadian Museum of Nature is a natural history museum in Ottawa. Built between 1905 and 1911, the museum is housed in a beautiful building that looks like a castle. Its collections highlight all aspects of the intersection between human society and nature, from gardening to gene-splicing.

Officially known as the Victoria Memorial Museum Building, the Canadian Museum of Nature stands on McLeod Street in Ottawa, and represents both a national monument and a landmark.

Throughout its history, the Museum's building has been a residing place of several notable tenants. In 1916, it served as an emergency headquarters for the Canadian government when the Parliament Buildings were destroyed by a great fire. From 1916 to 1919, the affairs of the government were run from this site until the new Parliament building was completed in 1922. In 1919, after the death of the former prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, his body was laid in the auditorium.

Three major museums stemmed from this castle. However, since 1988, it has been exclusively accommodating the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Designed by architect David Ewart, this enormous castle-like stone edifice represents a marvelous example of early 20th-century architecture in Ottawa. David Ewart created several similar buildings in the city. Three hundred skilled stonemasons were brought from Scotland specially for this project, the architectural style of which is sometimes described as Scottish baronial. Ewart, who went to Britain to study the architecture of Hampton Court and Windsor Castle, had incorporated their designs in this castle.

Unfortunately, the tall tower sited in front of the building had to be taken down in 1915 due to a concern that its foundation could not support the weight. A major renovation of the building commenced in 2004 and lasted until 2010. A lightweight glass "lantern" took the place of the heavy tower, removed in 1915. The entire building was closed on 26 April 2010 for final changes; the newly renovated museum re-opened its doors on 22 May 2010.

There are roughly ten million specimens of animals, plants and minerals displayed in the Museum of Nature, which are stored there not only for exhibition purposes but also as a sort of scientific yardstick against which all the country's biological and mineralogical research is measured.

In 1841, Queen Victoria issued a grant of £1500 for the "creation of the Geological and Natural History Survey of the Province of Canada." Since then, the institution has garnered a wide range of specimens on virtually every aspect of Canada's natural sciences.

The museum boasts a rich fossil gallery, featuring fossils of the early animals. Its main emphasis is laid upon the extinction of dinosaurs and the ensued emergence of mammals. There are a number of complete skeletons of dinosaurs on display.

Most galleries are fitted with small theatres that demonstrate short, 5 to 10 minute, films about the gallery so as to give visitors an idea what's inside.

Why You Should Visit:
Enjoyable and entertaining for all ages – there is something to stimulate every sense and keep everyone engaged.
A restaurant, cloakroom, gift shop, parking and picnic areas are also available.

If you would prefer to only visit the special exhibition and not pay to see the permanent galleries, consider visiting on a Thursday evening.
General admission is free on Thursdays from 5-8 pm (the fee for the special exhibition would still apply).

Operating hours:
Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 9am-5pm; Thu: 9am-8pm

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