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.

Parliament

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 wonderful snowy 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 iconic Centre Block is undergoing a decade-long rehabilitation, you can enjoy two new free guided tours of other interior spaces: The House of Commons in Parliament Hill’s West Block, and the Senate of Canada Building (Ottawa’s original train station). Parliament spaces are extra photogenic when decorated for the holiday season! Reserve your free tour tickets online or in person.

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 and on to Victoria Island 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 will lead you to 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: Pair a trip to Rideau Falls with a tour of Rideau Hall, another great Instagrammable place. Tours are upon request during the winter months.

For more photogenic wintry scenes but with more action, check out some of Ottawa’s wonderful winter activities!

Evidently, Ottawa is very Instagrammable, so share the love and tag your photos with #MyOttawa. Looking forward to see all your beautiful winter pictures!

Stay up to date

Stay up to date on upcoming events and ideas to plan your next trip to Ottawa with friends, family or on your own by signing up for the Ottawa Tourism Newsletter.