Historic Sites • Government Buildings
Popular things to do
Military Museums • Points of Interest & Landmarks
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What travellers are saying
- I don’t know why, but “Parliament Hill and Buildings” seems like such a lazy TripAdvisor entry akin to “Vancouver Downtown” or “The Strip.” I guess it’s just because so much is encompassed in entries like these – it almost feels counterproductive to try and describe them in very few words exactly because you know your descriptions will be inadequate . . . like stones skipping across the water: Moving quickly, but leaving a lot out. Nevertheless, I’ll give “Parliament Hill and Buildings” the old college try.
“The Hill,” as it is colloquially known, was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1976. The major buildings that make up the site – East Block, Centre Block, West Block and Library – have been recognized as such because of their Gothic-Revival architectural style: The copper roofs, sandstone, symmetrical features, stained-glass work (Centre Block), and gargoyles all highlight a style that is at once common in Canadian government institutions (Provincial) yet unique (relationship of the buildings to the land that surrounds it). The architecture is second-to-none and is synonymous with the country, whether you’re into politics or not. In this regard, the Centre Block; or, Peace Tower, is often our focus. We see it on our old paper currency and, famously, on the Loonie. Indeed, the symbolism of government, of country, runs thick throughout The Hill.
As someone who’s spent many a year in university studying our Westminster system of government, it was almost surreal to finally amble about the grounds where our laws are made and our elected representatives sit. Okay, the external grounds. I did not actually enter any of the buildings, but it was still a rich experience: The Peace Tower is awe-inspiring (even with the ugly construction equipment surrounding it); the historic East Block looks impressive; and the West Block – home of the temporary House of Commons until 2030-31 – beckons and calls to those political science nerds like myself. No longer was Parliament Hill just pictures in a textbook – it was real.
While I didn’t walk through the hallowed halls on Parliament Hill, the periphery proved to be just as rich, if not more so. The 20+ monuments and statues that dot The Hill provide the keen observer with a fairly comprehensive political and social history lesson: The Victoria Tower Bell is a physical link to the original Parliament Building and the fire that brought it crumbling down (see my earlier review on this site); the statue of Queen Victoria pays homage to our first monarch and her role in assisting the fledgling country (again, see my earlier review); the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald needs no explanation, though I am surprised it’s still standing given recent retroactive outrage to some of his policies; and, the Centennial Flame celebrates Canada’s centennial year and beyond. There are, of course, a host of other monuments around the grounds – to other Prime Ministers and major events – but you get the picture. It’s easy for one to spend hours exploring the physical and symbolic heart of our Nation!
And, hey, if you want to protest, feel free! There were a few quiet protests about random things back in May and there are many protests ongoing due to current world events. Indeed, it is truly a wonderful thing to live in a free and democratic society.
Whether you’re just in it for the architecture, or you want to learn more about our government, Parliament Hill is a “must visit” site in Ottawa for a plethora of reasons! Enjoy!Written November 28, 2023This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
- Very good museum. Allow 2 to 3 hours to complete your visit. Underground parking on-site. Great exhibits. At times, it was a bit difficult to navigate. Too many children running around and too much noise.Written October 8, 2023This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
- The Rideau Canal has been a national historic site of Canada since 1925. It was constructed in the 1820s and is the best preserved canal still fully operational. It was built with military as well as social and economic functions in mind. It goes through more than 200 kilometres of bush, swamps, and lakes. It’s a monumental piece of work! Worth a visit!Written October 13, 2023This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
- The National Gallery of Canada has an amazing collection of art works. The origins of the Gallery go back to the 19th century. The present building is a lovely architectural achievement as well.Written October 15, 2023
- Very easy to navigate through the building. Well laid out and nicely organized. Plan to spend 2 or 3 hours at the museum. The building has elevators, a cafeteria and washrooms on every floor. Outdoor parking is available. My only complaint is children running around unsupervised.Written October 8, 2023
- Notre Dame Basilica represented the first major stop during our brief visit to Ottawa. When we arrived shortly after 1PM, it wasn’t too busy (a group of school children had just finished exiting as we came upon the main entrance . . . can’t say I was sad to see them go). As such, we were able to take our time exploring the Basilica: Its architecture and intricate interiors demand our attention. Between admiring the edifice, its beautiful design, and taking a moment to reflect, it’s easy to get “lost” in here for at least a couple of hours.
The current Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica was completed in 1847 (the original church was made of wood and built in 1832) and its design was heavily influenced by the French Gothic Revival-style in vogue in Europe at the time. As a result, the Basilica features two handsome twin spires that dominate the Ottawa skyline even today; the interiors are intricate and ornate, with high vaulted ceilings painted blue with gold glittering stars; “ribs” supported by faux marble columns (doubtless a Canadian touch); beautiful stained glass windows rife with Biblical figures and imagery; an impressive organ feature; and, a tin roof, which we’re told is a “distinctly” French-Canadian touch. The end result is a Basilica that, regardless of one’s religious background, we can gather in, admire, reflect and be at peace – even if just momentarily. In short, it is a beautiful reprieve from the hurly burly of city life and what, now, feels like an increasingly chaotic world.
I’ve said it in other reviews, but it merits repeating here: I am definitely not the religious type, but I certainly appreciate and respect houses of worship. Stepping in here with my partner I couldn’t help but immediately feel at peace – like an awesome wave washed over me. The beautiful synthesis of religion, culture, and society mix and become one. And if you ask him, Saint Joseph will offer a further moment of clarity as you light a candle and silently pray.
Whether you come for the architecture, or to experience the Good, True and the Beautiful, Ottawa’s Notre Dame Basilica definitely should be on your itinerary. As the oldest church in the city, and a National Historic Site of Canada (since 1990), it has much to teach us if we have but the eyes to see and the ears to listen.Written November 26, 2023
- Great museum with a very wide array of aircraft on display. Nicely laid out in large hanger-like hall. Need at least 2 hours to get through.
All staff friendly and helpful. Museum a bit out of the way, so used the Hop On Hop Off Bus to get there.Written October 13, 2023
- The Peace Tower is a bautifful building on Parliament Hill. It was originall built as a memorial to those who died in World War I. It is currently undergoing quite extensive renovations and is unfortunately closed to the public. However it's worth visiting and having a look from the outside, as it is an architectural marvel.Written October 15, 2023
- We did the booked tour at a reasonable cost of $10. The tour consists of a guide describing each step of the process of minting commemorative coins (circulatory coins elsewhere) at a series of windows looking down at each process. Our guide was enthusiastic and informative. We were especially interested in the large gold coins produced. Whilst waiting for your tour you can view the shop selling coins. No photos are allowed on the tour.Written December 2, 2023
- Located in Confederation Square, and unveiled in 1939 by King George VI, this beautiful monument made of bronze and granite was originally built to honour all those soldiers who lost their lives during the so-called Great War (World War I); however, with the passage of time, Canada’s National War Memorial – also called “The Response” – has come to symbolize and honour ALL Canadians who’ve served in conflicts since 1939 and, indeed, those who will serve in times of war in the years to come. In this regard, the National War Memorial is “timeless.” This timelessness forms the essence of the annual Remembrance Day celebrations, which are held each year on November 11: The Royal Canadian Legion, RCMP, Governor General, Prime Minister, Service Women and Men, and the public come together to pay their respects to those who’ve fallen in past and current wars.
As I mentioned in my earlier review of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I’m usually not big on war memorials, but this one just gets to me. It is, ironically, a solemn spot in the middle of bustling Ottawa for remembrance and reflection; and this is all beautifully captured by the National War Memorial, inclusive of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
When visiting Ottawa, make sure to patronize this site. It is at once beautiful, sad and powerful.Written November 20, 2023
- The eight Ottawa locks, which are the largest single set of locks on the entire Rideau system, connect the channel of the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River.
They are designed to raise and lower boats from one water level to another. They were built, along with a series of dams, to bypass rapids and waterfalls.
It takes at least one and a half hours to go through the locks.
On one side of the locks are Canada’s Parliament buildings and on the other is the architecturally magnificent building of the Chateau Laurier hotel. Not to be missed!Written October 14, 2023
- We walked from the city centre on a lovely sunny day, unfortunately the hall was closed as president Zelenskyy was in town,but you can book a free tour on line.
The hall is set in a lovely are with beautiful gardens and it was great to find trees planted by our late Queen and her mother.
The park was very quiet with hardly anyone around ,easily to do on your own as opposed to a paid tour/visit.
We caught the bus back into town ,a frequent service.Written October 1, 2023
- Always lush in the summer and well-kept in the winter, a beautiful place to gather surrounded by the Chateau Laurier, the Peace Tower, the National Art Gallery, the Basilica. People are walking or reading, picnics, playing games, walking the dog.Written October 16, 2023
- This is a free museum that is great for children to learn about all aspects of finances and currency. Many of the exhibits are interactive and the museum is larger than I was expecting. Overall well worth a visit.Written December 2, 2023
- A wonderful place to walk and the falls are amazing. A large park suitable for big picnics and family gatherings.Written August 5, 2023
Frequently Asked Questions about Ottawa
- The best day trips from Ottawa according to Tripadvisor travellers are:
- Ottawa City & Cruise VIP Day Tour
- Private 8-hour Tour to Ottawa from Montreal - Hotel pick up and drop off
- Canadian Tulip Festival-Ottawa May 12-22nd '23 private day tour from Montreal
Ottawa Attractions Information
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