All of the museums in Ottawa with FREE admission

When it comes to the Nation’s capital, there is no shortage of places to visit and things to see. Whether it’s a walk or skate along the Rideau Canal or visiting the parliament buildings, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Museums are a natural draw, but can be pricy. That’s why knowing which free Ottawa museums are worth visiting is so important.

free museums in ottawa canada
An autumn view of the National Gallery of Canada from Major’s Hill Park. (Credit Ottawa Tourism)

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Free Ottawa Museums

Being a tourist can be expensive, but with all the free Ottawa museums, you won’t break the bank in this city. Every museum on this list offers free admission, whether it’s on a specific day or between certain times. If you plan it right, you can take in each of Canada’s national museums at no cost.

Don’t forget to check to see if there are guided tours to get the most out of your visit. And if you happen to be in Ottawa on Canada Day, every museum should be free! 

Canada's history museum
Cultural performances such as this Pow Wow are offered at the Canadian Museum of History. (Credit: Ottawa Tourism)

National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is Canada’s national art museum. It’s also one of the largest art museums in North America. This stunning building permanently holds over 93,000 works from across the world, including Canadian and Indigenous artists. 

The National Gallery hosts travelling exhibits and the Group of 7 graphic design art. For families, there’s creative opportunities to make crafts and art based off of the current exhibits. 

Inside the museum, you’ll find a cafeteria, tapas bar and coffee shop, allowing for all-day visiting. There is also a great gift shop with lots of specialty items that make for thoughtful gifts and memorable souvenirs. 

Paid underground parking or street parking is your best bet for visiting the museum. 

Free admission: Thursday nights from 5pm to 8pm.

museums with free admission in ottawa
The National Gallery of Canada is just as stunning outside as it is in! (Credit Ottawa Tourism)

Canadian Museum of Nature

Formerly called the National Museum of Natural Sciences, the Canadian Museum of Nature is housed in the Victoria Memorial Museum building. This castle-like structure is worth a view itself. The museum features four main collections; botany, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology. 

Once inside the museum, there’s seven permanent exhibits that compliment these main collections. These include Fossils, Water, Nature, Birds, Earth, Mammals and the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery. Don’t forget to check out one of the gripping movies in the 3D theatre (extra cost). 

Free admission: Thursday nights from 5pm to 8pm. And on every Earth Day, April 22.

free ottawa museums
Kids of all ages will love the Fossil Gallery at the Museum of Nature. (Credit Ottawa Tourism)

Canadian Museum of History

Formerly known as the Museum of Civilization, the Canadian Museum of History is one of the most comprehensive and beautiful museums in all of Ottawa. The purpose of this museum is to collect, study, present and preserve material objects that showcase Canada’s diverse history. Three attractive main galleries bring the past to life. Of all the free Ottawa museums to visit, this one ought to be top of your list.

The Grand Hall showcases the cultures and history of the First Peoples of Canada on the Pacific coast. The hall features six native houses tied together by a Pacific coast boardwalk and shoreline, totem poles and art. It also features the history and culture of the First Peoples of the Northwest Coast and reproductions of archeological discoveries from British Columbia. 

The First Peoples Hall showcases 2,000 historical and modern objects that document the traditions of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The hall displays European contact with Aboriginal peoples and the impact. 

The Canadian History Hall is split into 3 different galleries, each featuring a different time in Canadian History. Walk through Early, Colonial and Modern Canada and learn stories from each period in time. 

One of the most unique features of the Canadian History Museum is the Children’s Museum. Kids can travel throughout the world in this super interactive museum designed to captivate their minds. Dress up in authentic clothing, walk through houses from India, Mexico to name a few. It’s definitely worth a visit if you have kids. Prepare to spend hours here.

There are multiple restaurants onsite and a gift shop. On-site paid parking is the best way to get to the museum. An additional fee gets you in to see movies in the Cine+ theatre. 

Free entrance: Thursday nights from 5pm-8pm. Tickets are available as of 5 pm starting on Sunday of the week you’d like to visit.

canada's childrens museum
The fountains outside of the Canadian Museum of History overlook Parliament Hill. (Credit Ottawa Tourism)

Canadian War Museum

Canada’s national museum of military history, the Canadian War Museum dives into Canada’s military past. The major permanent exhibits include wars on Canadian soil, the Cold War, Canadian peace operations and remembrance of military tragedy.  

The museum is also home to many large artifacts, including guns, tanks, aircraft and artillery. It prides itself on having hands-on activities and amazing audio/visual displays. 

There’s an on-site café and gift shop. The museum is accessible by foot, bicycle, public transit or car (paid on-site parking). 

Free admission: Thursday nights from 5pm-8pm, but a timed ticket is required. You can book your tickets online as early as 5 pm on the Sunday of the week you’re planning to visit.

Canada's war museum
Canada’s War Museum is a must visit site even if you’re not a history buff. (Credit: Ottawa Tourism)

Bank of Canada Museum

Formerly Canada’s Currency Museum, the Bank of Canada Museum was once located inside the Bank of Canada building. However, it has since reopened in its own building, connected to the main bank by a conference centre. 

The goal of this museum is to help Canadians to understand how banks work, their affiliations to the government of Canada as well as Canada’s money heritage. It also provides access to the National Currency Collection.

From September to May, the museum is open Thursday to Monday from 10am-5pm. From May until Labour Day in September it’s open 7 days a week, with the same hours. You can access the museum by public transit or car. 

Free admission: Always!

canada money museum
The Bank of Canada Museum is a surprising hit that’s way more interesting than expected. (Credit: FlickR)

Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum

The Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum is actually a real working farm in the middle of the city. The farm is always testing out the most modern and experimental technological advances for farming. It also displays the advances in farming throughout Canadian history. 

Located on a National Heritage Site designated by the National Capital Commission,  this farm is home to tons of animals, exhibits, special events and live demonstrations. With plenty of park space, you may want to consider packing a picnic. Don’t forget to check out the outdoor discovery park, filled with new technology that helps to advance farming. It’s super interactive. 

The best way to get to the museum is by car, and there’s paid on-site parking.  

Free admission: Every day from 4pm to 5pm.

canada agriculture museum
The bonus of this museum are all the critters you can visit. (Credit: Ottawa Tourism)

Canada Science and Technology Museum

The Canada Science and Technology museum prides itself on helping the public to understand the tech and scientific history of Canada. It also focusses on the relationship between science, technology and Canadian society. 

With 11 permanent exhibits (including the Children’s Innovation Zone), there’s a lot to see. Some of the coolest exhibits in the museum include the Crazy Kitchen exhibit and Artifact Alley. Feel your life turned upside down in the Crazy Kitchen before viewing over 700 artifacts from distinct time periods in Canadian history.

The museum is accessible by public transit (recommended due to its busy parking lot) or by car (paid parking on-site). 

Free admission: Every day from 4pm to 5pm.

Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

The Canadian Aviation and Space Museum is Canada’s national aviation museum. It houses a variety of civilian and military aircrafts and is even home to its own Squadron of Royal Canadian Air Cadets. 

This former military base has over 130 aircraft and artifacts. The most popular exhibit is of the famous Avro Arrow and it includes the largest surviving pieces of the aircraft. 

After expanding to include space travel, the museum also holds the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Canadarm, the robotic arm that was used on the space shuttle. Don’t forget to check out the Reserve Hanger for even more aircraft memorabilia. There’s also a flight simulation, helicopter flights and biplane rides available, dependent on hours and at an extra cost. 

Access to the museum is available by bike, transit, car (on-site paid parking) and even airplane! Helicopter rides, family sightseeing rides and even taking to the air in a vintage biplane are all possible. The museum has a café and gift shop boutique. 

Free admission: Every day from 4pm to 5pm.

canada space museum
Vintage biplane rides are available from May until November. (Credit: Tourism Ottawa)

Do you have a favourite museum to visit in Ottawa? We’d love to hear more about it. Please share your experiences in the comment section.


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