There are a number of great museums in and around Ottawa. Whether you’re looking for history, nature or art, here we describe some of the most notable ones.
Museums are very interesting and enriching places to visit. Below you’ll find some of the top museums that Ottawa has to offer. This article includes descriptions about the city’s national museums as well as its more local facilities.
There are nine national museums in Canada, and Ottawa is home to seven of them! There’s really no place better in the country to learn about all these different fields. Below are Ottawa’s national museums in alphabetical order.
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
This site pulls double duty as both a museum and an active (to a certain extent) farm at 901 Prince of Wales Drive. Visiting this museum is a visual and sometimes interactive experience as you can learn about the history of farming in Canada while meeting some animals. You can also watch different demonstrations like butter churning or beekeeping.
For more information visit the Agriculture and Food Museum website.
Canada Aviation and Space Museum
With over 100 aircraft on display, this museum is the best place to learn about the history of flight and space travel in the country. Along with simulators and other interactive exhibits in the building, you can also take to the skies! Flights over downtown Ottawa in helicopters and vintage biplanes are available from the museum site at 11 Aviation Parkway.
To learn more see our article about the Aviation and Space Museum.
Canada Science and Technology Museum
Located at 1867 St. Laurent Boulevard, the Science and Technology Museum was completely revamped just a few years ago. It has a number of interactive exhibits. This includes a top-tier virtual reality simulator that puts you at the helm of an old steam train. Other exhibits focus on topics including medicine, the ocean and sound design.
For more information visit the Science and Technology Museum website.
Canadian Museum of History
The most popular museum in the country, its massive array of items includes the largest indoor collection of totem poles in the world. In addition to the multiple large galleries that cover Canadian history, this museum has the CINÉ+ (which is a movie theatre with a huge domed screen). Located at 100 Laurier Street in Gatineau, the museum also has around 100 exhibitions that can be viewed online.
For more information visit the Museum of History website.
Canadian Museum of Nature
It might not be a zoo, but the Museum of Nature at 240 McLeod Street does have a collection of live insects and other small critters that you can admire and learn about. As well, there are large displays of dinosaur fossils, birds and other mammals to go with exhibitions detailing the earth’s history. The building itself, the Victoria Memorial Museum Building, is also a National Historic Site of Canada.
For more information visit the Museum of Nature website.
Canadian War Museum
The War Museum separates Canada’s military history into four different time periods and includes a lot of life-size sections in its exhibits. With many moving artifacts and displays, it’s a great place to learn about this darker side of human affairs in creative and very informative ways. Located at 1 Vimy Place, the building also has an interesting “green roof” that makes it energy-efficient.
To learn more about the venue see our article about the War Museum.
National Gallery of Canada
With over 80,000 works of art in its collection at 380 Sussex Drive, the National Gallery is one of the biggest art museums on the continent. While the gallery hosts many international travelling exhibitions there is also a large focus on Indigenous and other Canadian artists. The gallery’s library archive contains hundreds of thousands of books and other documents, some of which date back centuries.
For more information see our article about the National Gallery.
There are plenty of other museums and historic sites worth visiting in Ottawa and the surrounding area. Below are some of them.
Bank of Canada Museum
Like the Science and Technology Museum, the Bank of Canada Museum had a large overhaul a few years ago. The museum is interactive and has one of the biggest touch screens in the country. With the screen you have to create your own virtual character in order to interact with many of the exhibits. Learn about the history of money, the global economy and how banks operate in its location at 30 Bank Street.
For more information visit the Bank of Canada Museum website.
Small compared to most of the other museums on this list, the Bytown Museum at 1 Canal Lane is housed in the oldest still-standing stone building in the city. Focusing on the history of Ottawa (originally called Bytown), the museum covers the earliest settlements in the area all the way up to the city being named Canada’s capital and beyond. Access to a free audio tour is included with admission.
For more information visit the Bytown Museum website.
Cumberland Heritage Village Museum
This site serves as a trip back in time to almost a century ago. It contains a bunch of either heritage or authentically-reproduced buildings to create a small antique neighbourhood. The museum serves as a very visual and interactive way to learn what the Ottawa area was like long ago (at least by Canadian standards). You can visit the place at 2940 Old Montreal Road.
To learn more visit the Cumberland Heritage Village website.
A National Historic Site of Canada, the museum’s building was originally a Cold War military bunker. Today, it serves as a public museum about the Cold War and Canada’s involvement in it. As a fun bonus, on weekends the museum turns into an escape room in the evening – the biggest one in the world at 25,000 square feet! This piece of Canadian history sits at 3929 Carp Road.
For more information visit the Diefenbunker website.
Similar to the Cumberland Heritage Village, the Goulbourn Museum at 2064 Huntley Road displays its history in a very interactive way. Its focus is on the soldiers who first settled the area. You can try on a costume at the general store, join a drop-in knitting session and see a number of artifacts that date back two centuries.
To learn more see the Goulbourn Museum website.
Ottawa Art Gallery
While not as large as the National Gallery, the Ottawa Art Gallery has a fine collection of artwork in its own right. The gallery has a local focus, showcasing a ton of pieces from Canadian artists. It also runs children’s summer camps and adult studio programs out of its location at 50 Mackenzie King Bridge.
For more information visit the Ottawa Art Gallery website.
If you would like to learn more about the national museum system you can visit the Government of Canada website.
Other articles that may be of interest include the following:
For lists of top museums in a number of other Canadian cities check out the following websites: