Ottawa‘s most prominent landmark and one of the top tourist attractions of the city is Parliament Hill; home to the Parliament of Canada, and host to about 3 million visitors every year.
Development of Parliament Hill started in 1859 when Ottawa was chosen to be the capital of the Province of Canada by Queen Victoria. The slightly elevated position of the hill, overlooking the Ottawa River, set the scene for this to be an impressive site, and they began building it in the popular (for the time) Gothic Revival architectural style. The original Centre Block was destroyed by fire in 1916 but this paved the way for construction of a new Centre Block and the focal point of the entire complex, the Peace Tower, which is today one of the most popular parts of a tour of the parliamentary buildings.
Visiting Parliament Hill
Anyone can visit the grounds of Parliament Hill as they are free and open to the public, so if nothing else, come and enjoy the architecture from the outside. However, a guided tour of the inside of the building is what many visitors come for, and the best thing is, they’re completely free of charge!
There are only a limited number of tour tickets handed out each day so you’re advised to get over to Parliament Hill earlier (starting from 9 am) so that you can get a ticket for the same day. You can only make reservations if you’re in a group of 10 or more, so all other tickets are given on a first come first serve basis.
What You’ll See
The duration of the tour can vary each day and it all depends on what’s going on inside Parliament on the day you visit. If there are no sessions in the Senate or House of Commons your tour may include these areas, and it could last anything from 20 to 60 minutes. You can check the Parliament of Canada website for daily updates on tours and sessions.
The Peace Tower
The Peace Tower isn’t actually part of the guided tour though many people choose to visit just after their tour has finished. Visiting the Peace Tower is self-guided and you usually have to wait in line for the elevator to go up, depending on how many people are up there already.
Ascending the lofty heights of the Peace Tower gives you fabulous views over parts of Ottawa so it’s a great way to end your visit to Parliament Hill. Inside the Peace Tower you can also visit the Memorial Chamber which serves to memorialise all of the wars that Canada has been involved in, and there are Books of Remembrance with the names of the men and women who have served and died in service.