Exterior of Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG)
The Ottawa Art Gallery is steps away from University of Ottawa campus. Bardia Boomer/Fulcrum
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Arts, culture, and history

Living in the National Capital Region gives University of Ottawa students a little-known benefit: access to lots of cultural and artistic spaces around the city that are largely funded by the government. This allows many galleries and museums to offer free admission, and most of them are only a quick walk away.

Ottawa Art Gallery

Located just steps away from the University of Ottawa campus on Mackenzie King Bridge, the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) has more than a thousand permanent pieces and is dedicated to local Ottawa and Canadian artists. A large donation from the Firestone family in the early 1970s has allowed the gallery to conduct community learning sessions.

Hours: Closed Monday and Tuesday. Open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Open on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Ottawa Free Tours

Ottawa Free Tours is a free tour service that takes participants on three different tours around Ottawa: the Capital City Tour, the Historical Tavern Tour, and the Ottawa After Dark Tour. The tours are offered more frequently during the summer but will continue into early fall.

Hours: The Capital City Tour runs every Saturday until Oct. 8. 


National Arts Centre

The National Arts Centre is a performance and exhibition space at the top of Elgin Street, beside the Rideau Canal. The space puts on occasional orchestra performances, art installations, and live talks both in person and live-streamed online.

Hours: Vary depending on which events are happening.



Âjagemô is an art space located at and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts that “features performances, events and exhibitions of contemporary Canadian art.” Their current exhibition, titled Looking the World in the Face, showcases work by an array of BIPOC artists and has a little under 40 pieces.

Hours: Daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m..


Bank of Canada Museum

If you’ve ever walked down Wellington Street, you’ve probably noticed the Bank of Canada Museum. Located in the glass pyramid structure on the corner of Bank Street, the museum teaches visitors about the economy at individual and global levels. It mostly displays money-related artifacts from Canadian history.

Hours: Thursday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 


Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall is the official residence and workplace of the Governor General of Canada. The property is open to the public for visits and tours, and visitors can admire decades’ worth of trees planted (or more accurately, dedicated) by a number of influential figures.

Hours: Daily from 8 a.m. until one hour before sunset.


Canadian Museum of History

The Canadian Museum of History seeks to give a place for Canadians to learn and appreciate Canadian history. There are exhibitions about events, people, and objects from all parts of Canada, and even from around the world. It is located in Gatineau, just across the Alexandra Bridge.

Hours: Free on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Ticket reservation is required.


Canadian War Museum

Home to over three million artifacts related to war and the history of armed conflict, the Canadian War Museum sees almost 500,000 visitors annually. The website states that its “exhibition galleries and public programs have been designed to emphasize the human experience of war.”

Hours: Free on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Ticket reservation is required.


Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature is dedicated to the history of the natural world. It has exhibits and artifacts from every era and continent of our world. It is currently displaying two special exhibitions: Qilalukkat! focuses on beluga whales and their relationship with the Inuit peoples of the Western Arctic, while Planet Ice explores the animals of the Ice Age through fossils and artifacts.

Hours: Free on Thursday nights. Open from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. until Oct. 13. Ticket reservation is required.


National Gallery of Canada

Housed in a bright, glass building, the National Gallery of Canada displays works in many different mediums, including photography, painting, sculpture, and installations. The featured artists range from Canadian locals to global artists, including a number of Indigenous artists.

Hours: Free on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. No ticket is required.


Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Located on an old military air base, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum houses artifacts and exhibitions about Canada’s aviation history and the industry’s achievements over the years.

Hours: Free entry between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.


Some of these spaces are always free for visitors, while others offer free admission at certain hours. You can check out the special exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Nature, get a glimpse into our government at Rideau Hall, or see a free performance at the National Arts Centre. When it comes to arts and culture in Ottawa, there’s something for everyone.