Parliament Buildings

Ottawa Parliament Buildings - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

Any guide to Ottawa photography 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.

National War Menorial and Chateau Laurier

National War Memorial Ottawa Photography Location - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

Once you finish taking photos of the Parliament buildings, you should head to the National War Memorial a few blocks away. The Canadian National War Memorial is a fantastic photography spot. With the Chateau Laurier nearby, the two can combine to make quite a compelling scene. We recommend shooting these Ottawa photography locations at night when the tourists are away, and the ambient light of the city is on full display.
The War Memorial was erected in 1939 to commemorate the Canadians who fought in the first world war for Canada. The site is also home to the Canadian unknown soldier, and at certain times of the year, you can photograph the honour guard protecting the site and conducting drill manoeuvres.
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

National Gallery of Canada with Maman Spider Sculpture - Photo by Pascal Bernardon

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. You can find the open hours and more informaiton on their website at: https://www.gallery.ca/

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

Notre Dame Cathedral-Basilica Altar - Photo by Dan Fleury

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 no problem within its walls, but appropriate and respectful shooting of this Ottawa Photography location is a must. More info can be found on thier website here: https://notredameottawa.com/

Gatineau Park

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

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.

Eagles Nest Lookout

A stunning clifftop location offering expansive views of the surrounding Ontario forests.

The Eagle’s Nest lookout is the perfect Ottawa photography location if you’re looking for all the raw and natural beauty that Canada has to offer. About an hour and a half west of the city, this clifftop offers a beautiful scenic expanse of the surrounding area. It can be found along a 2.7 km trail loop with two routes depending on the fitness levels of the hiker. (Greater Madawaska, Ontario, Canada)

St Raphael's Ruins

St Raphael's Ruins - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

Another Ottawa Photography location that is about an hour and a half outside the city is St Raphael’s ruins. The Church of St. Raphael burned to the ground in 1970, leaving the exposed stone shell of the church. After its destruction, the parishioners chose to build a more modern church nearby and preserve the ruins. The ruins now give a sense of the scale of the church and include the disfigured and partially melted bell from the clock tower. The whole site is quite moving and a pleasure to photograph. As well, across the street can be found what remains of the College of Iona, a former seminary that itself is an excellent abandoned photography location.

Click to Explore This Spot on the Map

Other Ottawa Photography Locations

Finally, here are a few more of our favorite Ottawa Photography locations. Don’t forget to explore the photo map to see what other locations have been added in the Capital Region and beyond!

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 uploaded remain the copyright of the submitter and we always attribute our photographers. Full terms and conditions can be found here.