National Arts Centre

National Arts Centre

The National Arts Centre has a catch phrase: performance, creation, and learning.

The National Arts Centre forms a close link with the Ottawa community and with Ottawa-area schools. Many of the performers are professors at the local universities and colleges, or offer their talents to local youth orchestras, drama schools, workshops and concert series developed specifically for young people.

In my university days, I had the privilege of performing at the NAC Opera as part of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, attending musicals (Phantom of the Opera) and performances there (including Karen Kain’s last performance before she retired!), seeing award-winning variety performances like Forever Plaid, and watching English theatre as part of high-school field trips.

The NAC hosts performances from many international artists, but is still a venue for established and emerging Canadian talent. It is home to the internationally acclaimed National Arts Centre Orchestra.

The National Arts Centre in Ottawa

The National Arts Centre, in Ottawa, is the centre
for the Performing Arts

Photo by Taxiarchos228 from


  • Rush seats. For certain performances, the box office is open for same day half-price tickets from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Patrons are limited to two half-price tickets, and these can only be purchased in person from the NAC Box Office. You can call “What’s on line” at 613.947.7000 ext. 565 to find out which rush seats are available for that day.
  • Where to sit? Enjoying a classical music performance in the NAC Opera? Believe it or not, the best seats to enjoy the orchestra are not the expensive floor tickets (which is a good place to get a look at their feet). Instead, buy the amphitheatre or balcony tickets–the acoustics in the hall concentrate the sound up top–the best place to hear the whole sound! If you are seeing a musical, the best seats (in my opinion) are in the first row of seats in the mezzanine, or about halfway back in the orchestra section–you get a great overall view of the stage and the performers
  • Want tickets to see a huge Broadway smash hit? Beat the rush and buy subscription tickets to guarantee getting a seat. The subscription packages are a good deal–their exchange policy is extremely reasonable. For further information, just check their website.
  • When watching a classical music performance, the audience should not applaud in between movements. Take a glance at the program, count the number of movements and make sure you take note of the pauses between movements. If in doubt, wait for others to clap and then join in!
  • No cameras or recording equipment are allowed inside the hall without prior written permission from the NAC
  • Latecomers are only allowed to go to their seats during a suitable pause in the programme.
  • The NAC is provides full service and assistance for the hearing or mobility impaired.

Contemporary sculpture of cascading glass in National Arts Center
The NAC has a beautiful collection of contemporary art scattered throughout the building.

Photo by jpctalbot from


The National Arts Centre (NAC) was created by Parliament as a Centennial project during the 1960s. With its opening in 1969, the NAC became Canada’s foremost showcase for the performing arts: including classical music, English theatre, French theatre, dance, variety and community programming. Involved in youth and educational activities through programmes for young artists, young audiences and producing resources and study materials for teachers.

Half of the NAC’s revenues come from ticket sales, parking, food, performance hall rentals and fundraising. The balance is received from the federal government to help with operation and maintenance of the Centre.

The building was designed by Fred Lebensold in the shape of a hexagon. The building is widely recognized as a twentieth century architectural landmark. In an effort to incorporate visual arts into the building, the NAC has become home to a beautiful permanent art collection of international and Canadian contemporary art.

The building is 1.158 million square feet, one of the largest performing arts facilities in the world. It contains a 950-car parking garage, and Le Cafe (a restaurant). Four performance spaces are found at the NAC: Southam Hall / the Opera (2,323 seats), Theatre (897 seats), Studio (300 seats) and Fourth Stage (150 seats). The NAC is the only bilingual, multi-discipline performing arts centre in North America.


613.947.7000 or 1.866.850.ARTS

Street Address
53 Elgin Street, at Confederation Square

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 1534, Stn B
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5W1


Guided tours of the National Arts Centre are free. The bilingual tours take 45 minutes and depart from the Main Lobby. Call in advance if you wish to arrange a group tour (12 or more people). Call the NAC to see which days and times the tours are offered.


The cafe is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.  It closes as 11:00 p.m. when there are performances in Southam Hall.  Chef John Morris offers up Canadian Contemporary Cuisine.  Complimentary parking is offered for Sunday brunch, and Monday through Friday for lunch.  If you bring your parking voucher with you, the hostess will validate your parking. For reservations: 613.594.5127

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