Parliament Hill in Winter

Top outdoor places to photograph in Ottawa this winter

Bring your camera to take advantage of the magical snowy weather in and around Canada’s capital. Explore some of the best local Instagram spots outdoors this winter in the Ottawa region!

Gatineau Park

Ottawa’s downtown core is only a short 20-minute drive away from the winter wonderland that is Gatineau Park in Quebec. With over 200 km of cross-country skiing trails and opportunities to snowshoe, hike, snow bike or winter camp, the Instagram opportunities are endless! 

Tip: Spending the night in the wilderness is the best way to get the full winter experience. Gatineau Park has four-season winter tents, yurts and wood cabins available for rent all year-long.


No trip to Ottawa is complete without a photo of Canada’s Parliament. The city’s most Instagrammed building is popular year-round, including in the winter season. On cold clear days, the architectural scenes contrast with the sharp blue skies. And the Centennial Flame is a great centerpiece to the iconic Parliament shot (plus it provides an opportunity to warm up).

Tip: Although the Centre Block is undergoing a decade-long rehabilitation, the building’s exterior is still visible, including the tall Peace Tower.

Ottawa River

Looking for a perfect view of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa skyline? Then head to the Gatineau side of the Ottawa river, down to the Voyageurs Pathway. Winter provides a unique view with ice and snow flowing freely down the river (depending on weather conditions). One day you’ll find the river covered in snow, while the next, you might be able to capture a great Parliament reflection shot. On very cold days you may even be able to catch a glimpse of fog coming off the river – this happens when the air temperature is colder than the river.

Tip: Walk across the Alexandra Bridge for a great view from both the Ottawa and Gatineau sides, or head a bit further west to the Portage Bridge for another great vantage point.

Rideau Canal Skateway

This bucket list must-do is the largest naturally frozen outdoor skating rink in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and very uniquely Ottawa. No winter visit is complete without a shot from the Rideau Canal Skateway, day or night. However, keep your eye on the temperature, as the canal is only open for skating when the mercury dips low enough to allow it to freeze solid.

Tip: There are many great vantage points from the Skateway. For a unique, off-the-beaten-path spot, check out Patterson Creek where a pretty stone-arched bridge leads you to a quaint offshoot of the Canal.  

Fairmont Château Laurier

It’s our very own winter castle and a great place to snap an iconic winter picture. The Fairmont Château Laurier stands tall beside the famous Rideau Canal Locks and is just steps away from Parliament Hill and the ByWard Market area. With its historic architecture and fairy tale allure, this hotel is the perfect spot for that quintessential winter photograph.

Tip: Head down to the nearby Bytown Museum for a unique view from the bottom of the Locks, or to the Mackenzie King Bridge beside the Shaw Centre for a postcard perfect view.

Rideau Falls

A short walk from Rideau Hall, the official home to Canada’s Governor General, the Rideau Falls are where the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers meet. In the heart of winter, the falls can often completely freeze over creating an amazing sight. However, when the falls are still flowing, the surrounding area is blanketed in a beautiful white frozen glaze – definitely double tap worthy.

Tip: While in the area, explore the expansive grounds of Rideau Hall with their handy self-guided tour brochure.

Share your beautiful winter pictures with us by using the #MyOttawa hashtag on social media!

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