If you prefer exploring a destination at your own pace, or you’re not keen on joining groups of people, you’ll be happy to hear that the Ottawa region offers a large variety of self-guided experiences. Whether you’re into cycling, urban art, film locations or outdoor sites, you’ll love visiting Canada’s capital on your own, and often times, on a tight budget!
Did you know that the Ottawa region has been the filming location for many television and film productions? The Ottawa Film Office has created free self-guided Film Tours of several neighbourhoods where you can walk in the footsteps of entertainers like Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Keaton and Guy Fieri! Each tour has an online map that notes filming locations as well as points of interest along the way. And if you particularly love holiday flicks, check out our list of Christmas movie filming locations that you can visit in the Ottawa area.
The Ottawa region is a cyclist’s paradise with over 800 kilometres (497 miles) of beautiful recreational pathways. Ride through urban areas on the Capital Pathway network, or explore Ottawa’s charming countryside using self-guided rural bike routes. Bike rental and tour companies like Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals and RentABike suggest self-guided options on their websites, and they can create personalized routes for you.
Around every corner of Canada’s capital—especially in the urban core—you can find unique murals, sculptures, graffiti and other beautiful visuals. Check out our vibrant urban arts scene blog page for highlights listed by neighbourhood, and use this handy online map of Ottawa Murals created by House of Paint, a local organization that elevates Ottawa’s hip-hop and urban arts scene.
Plant lovers can explore over 75 garden experiences around the Ottawa region by following the Garden Promenade’s free self-guided garden tours. The different routes take you to beautiful sites like parks with iconic views, conservation areas with rare flora, historic grounds and even indoor vertical gardens.
One of the Promenade’s tour destinations, Rideau Hall, offers a downloadable brochure so you can take a more in-depth self-guided tour of the grounds. As the official residence and workplace of the governor general of Canada, this historic site features over 150 trees planted by famous figures, as well as art and culture installations.
Pre-organized self-guided tours
For unique, fully prepared, unguided tour options, consider A la Carte Tours. Solve puzzles on your smartphone to access cool mystery locations on their Neighbourhoods Unlocked tours, or bike your way to tasty locations on the Cycle and Savour Tour (the latter includes a convenient one-way shuttle from downtown Ottawa). All you have to do is follow instructions and have fun!
Wildlife and history
Stay in the comfort and safety of your own vehicle during a self-drive Canadian safari at Park Omega. This wilderness and nature park located 45 minutes from downtown Ottawa also features self-guided trails where you can learn about Canada’s First Nations as well as flora and fauna.
Within the city of Ottawa, you’ll find several protected natural areas including farms, forests and wetlands. The National Capital Greenbelt surrounding the city’s urban core features a few sites that are perfect for self-guided tours thanks to on-site interpretation panels and downloadable online brochures.