Visiting Parliament Hill and the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa is to visit and to walk the history of Canada’s parliamentary system.
Parliament Has Many Buildings
The Parliament Buildings themselves are comprised of a number of buildings, construction of which began around 1860.
When you visit, see the restored office of Canada’s first Prime Minister – Sir John. A. Macdonald, and take the opportunity to interact with costumed persons presenting historical characters from centuries past.
The West Block, which contains the actual working offices of Canada’s Prime Minister and the members of parliament, and is not open to the public.
The Centre Block contains the Library of Parliament, which in 2005, underwent total restoration. The Center Block contains the House of Commons and the Senate, and depending on the time of year and the day, visitors can see parliament in action, as well as touring the building.
The most famous feature of the center block is Canada’s Peace Tower, a free standing bell tower of about 91 meters (300 ft.) tall, named to honour Canadian’s killed in World War I. The Peace Tower now reflects Canada’s commitment to world peace.
The Peace Tower contains the Memorial Chamber, a place of remembrance for all Canadians killed defending the country. Visitors are able to tour the tower, and during visiting hours, can access the outlook near the very top which offers spectacular views of the Ottawa area, her rivers, and across the border and into the Province of Quebec.
Throughout the downtown core, the wonderful and dignified chiming of the Peace Tower Carillon can be heard regularly. It is a Grand Carillon since its 53 bells span more than 4 octaves of notes. The Parliament Hill carillon t is one of about only 600 Grand Carillons in the world.
Carillon concerts are held periodically on the Hill. The bells mark the hours, ringing to note each 15 minutes, half hour and on the hour. The huge, majestic “bourdon” bell of 10,160 kg (22,400 lb.) weight, is the one you’ll hear marking the hour, every hour.
Getting To Parliament
The Parliament buildings are located in North central Ottawa along the shore of the Ottawa River. The Ottawa River is the boundary separating the Province of Ontario from the Province of Quebec.
It is about a 17 km (11 mile) drive from the Ottawa International Airport to Parliament Hill, and will take 20-35 minutes depending on the traffic conditions and weather and road construction.
You Cannot Drive On The Hill
At one time it was permissible to drive right through the historical gates and right up to the Center Block.
You cannot drive onto the grounds of Parliament Hill unless you have a permit. Parking is available throughout the area, but it might be more convenient to take a taxi, public transit, or walk, as parking rates continue to climb.
Within a walking distance of 2 km (1.25 miles) of the Parliament Buildings there are about 65 hotels and motels, so if you choose to stay right downtown Ottawa, you will be able to walk to the Parliament Buildings quite comfortably.
About 62+ Places To Eat
Within that same 2 km (1.25 miles) distance there are, at last count, 62 restaurants comprising of steak houses, Chinese and Asian foods, Italian food, and seafood. There are dozens of additional sources for a meal including street vendors, chip trucks, cafeterias etc.
Setting aside a few hours, or spending the whole day wandering the grounds, will be time enjoyably spent.
Parliament Hill Is A Focal Point
Located as they are right in down-town Ottawa, the Parliament Buildings can be your focal point for visiting many of the sites located within easy walking distance of the Peace Tower.
There are 30 or so landmarks located within 2 km (1.25 miles) of the Parliament Buildings. Some must-see sites include:
- Canada’s War Museum
- National War Memorial
- Rideau Canal (site of the world’s longest skating rink!)
- The Rideau Centre (shop ’til you drop)
- Supreme Court of Canada
- The Byward Market
… there are many, many more.
Guided Tours Are Free
Guided tours of the Parliament Buildings are free to visitors, the costs presently being underwritten by the taxpayers of Canada.
Reservations are required for groups of 10 persons or more. Smaller groups need not reserve. You do want to check and see if guided tours are being offered on the day you wish to visit.
All visitors to the Parliament Buildings are required to undergo security screening at the entrance, much like the security screening at airports. Any items in your possession deemed “dangerous” will be confiscated – to be returned when you exit the buildings – provided they are not illegal.
The Parliament Buildings in downtown Ottawa are a national and absolute treasure to visit. If you would care to get more information on their construction, historical data on the materials and artistry etc., have a look at the official site by visiting: www.parl.gc.ca .