At Canada’s House of Commons in Ottawa, you can see for yourself where Parliament’s legislative process takes place. Featuring an incredible heritage collection located in several historic government buildings, right atop Parliament Hill, the House of Commons has several areas that are open to the public or which are open for guided tours offered by the Public Information Office. Art, architecture, artifacts, and more can be seen, making this a destination Canadians and visitors to the country alike should visit.
Highlights of a Visit to the House of Commons
Some of the most beautiful areas to see include the Peace Tower and the Memorial Chamber, both of which are areas visitors may access freely; most people walk through after touring Centre Block. Tickets are not required, but there is normally a line to enter so come early to shorten your wait.
Between July and September, the East Block is open for tours. This historic area provided offices for many key figures, and during the 1980s, three special rooms were restored to reflect the way they looked and functioned in 1872. These include the Office of the Governor General, the Privy Council Chamber, and the Office of Sir John A. MacDonald.
When the House of Commons and/or the Senate are sitting, visitors may watch from the public galleries, where an audio guide provides information not only about the art and architecture of each chamber, but also about the daily order of business. While groups of 10 or more individuals may reserve seats for the Question Period through a Parliament member’s office, reservations are not required for debates outside Question Periods. If you want to sit in Member’s Galleries, facing your Parliament Member, you can make arrangements through that member’s office; remaining seats are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are a number of things to see and do outside on the grounds, as well. For example, there are often concerts, and there is a fantastic self-guided tour available, which is augmented by the use of a free booklet you can pick up at the visitors center. In the booklet, you’ll find information about many of the sculptures and other artistic aspects of the House of Commons grounds. See the changing of the guard, which takes place between 10 and 10:30 a.m. daily, and each day, pause between 11 a.m. and noon to hear carillon concerts and other daily music features; check the House of Commons schedule for times and performance information.
Security at the House of Commons
There are a number of items which may not be brought into the galleries, including cameras, binoculars, electronic devices, briefcases, bags, and parcels; everyone entering galleries is scanned and handbags and purses are thoroughly examined to ensure no forbidden items are brought in. Visitors must follow a series of rules of decorum; breaking the rules is cause for ejection. Don’t worry – the rules are easy to follow and staff will go over them with you when you visit.