There are many Ottawa museums to visit in this historic city. After its early start as a rough and tumble lumber town in the early 1800s, the city grew rapidly following the construction of the Rideau Canal, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Nearly two hundred years later, Ottawa is a modern capital with many museums filled with our national treasures. The routes of our bike tours pass several of these important buildings, many with their own historic tales. Many of them are landmarks in their own right too. Here are four museums you don’t want to miss.
Ottawa’s oldest stone building now houses the Bytown Museum. Built in 1827 as a storehouse for supplies (explosives!) during the construction of the canal, this well-preserved and restored structure now contains an eclectic collection of early tools and materials that describe Ottawa’s first century of modern times. Modern times, because people have been in the area for thousands of years. Did you know that we have to thank the Women’s Canadian Historical Society for saving the building from collapse?
Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals tour guides will tell you about this historic stone building and the story of Ottawa’s growth from the lumber capital of the world. It is hard to believe today that this green and laid back city once had a reputation as one of the most dangerous places to live in North America.
The Museum of Nature is a castle-like building constructed in the early 1900s, each stone carved by hand from a local quarry. While on your tour, look for carved moose heads, beavers and other Canadian emblems of nature in the stonework of the building. An interesting bit of the history of this building is that it actually functioned as the Parliament buildings for a number of years after the buildings on Parliament Hill burned down in 1916.
Don’t forget to stop for that Instagram moment at the woolly mammoth when you take our award winning Bikes & Bites guided bicycle tour that passes by this architectural gem.
The next in the series of Ottawa Museums is the Museum of History. Contrasting with the medieval style of the Museum of Nature, the modern Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, pays homage to Canada’s diverse environment and culture with the turtle-head entrance, swooping cantilevered curved natural stone walls depicting the Canadian Shield and giant symbolic overturned canoes on the roof.
One of the best views of the city is from the panoramic riverside terrace overlooking the Ottawa River and the Parliament buildings. Yet another stop where you want to take a photo. Make sure you get that steel train bridge in the picture, as it is nearly 120 years old and is slated to be replaced.
Not even that long ago, the whole area in front of you was log-jammed (literally) with logs coming down the mighty Ottawa River. They were waiting for transport to Montreal’s sawmills and later to Ottawa’s own sawmills of lumber barons Booth, Eddy and McKay.
The National War Museum is the newest museum in the capital region, with a structure that depicts the harsh reality of war, yet faces the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in a symbolic expression of hope for the future. The exhibits tell the tales of Canada’s wars from the colonial days in the 1800s through to the Cold War in the mid-1900s and present times. Artifacts on display include medals, weapons and vehicles from each era.
Several of our tours pass by the museum. You may visit this museum and get the “ten cents tour” – see tanks, jeeps and even a warplane by peering through the large glass windows from the outside! The roof of the museum is covered in native self-seeding grasses and is one of the largest “green” roofs in North America.
These are but a few of Ottawa’s museums that Escape Bike Tours & Rentals guests will see up close while visiting our city. The tour guides can tell you about the other museums that you can later visit after your bike tour. Getting ready to roll? Book a tour or a rental bike with us now and see Ottawa from the seat of a bike.