“Ottawa, a sub-arctic lumber village coverted by royal decree into a political cockpit.” – Goldwin Smith

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Discover the best photo locations in this photographer’s guide to Ottawa-Gatineau and the surrounding National Capital Region (NCR). Nature and history compete for the photographer’s attention here and for the adventurer willing to travel a few minutes outside the city outskirts, the photographic opportunities are almost endless. Browse the photo map below and check out our picks for the best photography destinations in the NCR.

Top Ottawa Photo Locations

Parliament Buildings

Any guide to Ottawa photo locations must begin with the parliament buildings and surrounding public spaces. The Parliament buildings exemplify the ideals of gothic revival architecture. Standing prominently on a clifftop overlooking the Ottawa river, the nation’s capital building is majestic from almost any angle. The interior is stunning as well, featuring cathedral halls, a beautiful wood-panelled library, and vaulted halls of government. Wandering the grounds, the photographer will find stunning views of the uniquely styled Canadian Museum of History, the termination of the Rideau canal, and vast expanses of lawn.

As a commonwealth country, Canada also maintains several British customs, including a daily changing of the guard from June to August. Every day at 10:00 am soldiers in red scarlet tunics and bear fur hats march across the Parliamentary lawns in historic military pageantry. The photographic tapestry of soldiers in bright red uniform against the vivid green of the gardens and form perfect colour compliments.

Winter months also offer photography magic, as well. Starting in November, each evening on the lead up to Christmas holiday light projections, paint the castle-like buildings.

Chateau Laurier

The Chateau-Laurier opened its doors in 1912, and Sir Wilfred Laurier, Canada’s Prime Minister, was the first to sign the hotel’s register. Since opening, it has been a prominent feature of the Ottawa skyline with its soaring spires and buttresses. It is also remarkably well-positioned near Parliament, the Canadian War Memorial and the recently renovated Senate building (a former train station). Making it one of a triad of photogenic landmarks in the heart of the city.

For the photographer, there is also a remarkable history here. Renowned Canadian Portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh lived at the hotel for 18 years and operated his studio from the sixth floor of the hotel. There he photographed world-famous celebrities from the lavish comforts of his studio and suite, the latter still preserved in its almost original state. This Ottawa photo location is not to be missed.

National Gallery of Canada

A trip to Ottawa is not complete without shooting the modern architecture of the National Gallery of Canada and its iconic giant spider sculpture. Named Maman, this sculpture is one of seven similar sculptures found around the world. The Ottawa version is among the world’s largest at 30 ft high and 33 ft wide.

The Gallery itself is well worth a tour and the soaring interiors offer almost limitless architectural photography opportunities. The glass-enclosed concourse, in particular, begs to be photographed. The use of flash and tripods inside the exhibits is not permitted, and some do not allow any photography. But the art and photography in its galleries make the visit worth it.

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

Ottawa’s Basilica is a tapestry of vibrant colours and vaulted arch ceilings. The textures and colours combine to create an interior like no other. This historic landmark was built in 1846 and is Ottawa’s oldest and largest church.

Photography should be no problem within its walls, but appropriate and respectful shooting is a must.

Gatineau Park

Once you tire of the bustling tourism and crowds of people in the city, photographers must take a few days at Gatineau Park. While technically not an Ottawa photo location, the park is only about twenty minutes from the city, and it is enormous. There are so many natural wonders to behold hidden within its forested hills. We recommend spending several days hiking its trails and discovering its many gems such as the Wilson Carbide Mill Ruins, the MacKenzie King estate, and numerous waterfalls. Luskville Falls are particularly spectacular in the springtime but will necessitate a special trip.

L'Arc at MacKenzie King Estate - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

Add Your Own Ottawa Photo Location

We hope that you found this guide to Ottawa photo locations useful. Both Ottawa and Gatineau offer tremendous photographic opportunities to the visiting photographer. Don’t forget, if you have a great Ottawa photo location that isn’t on our map, you can share it with us and have a chance to win monthly and yearly prizes in the PIXEO Photo Challenge. All images uplaoded remain the copyright of the submitter and we always attribute our photographers. Full terms and conditions can be found here.