A concentrated cluster of grand government buildings overlooking the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill is the centerpiece of Downtown Ottawa. At the heart of the complex is Centre Block, a neo-Gothic riot of greening copper turrets, stone-carved gargoyles, and pointed arches built around a soaring central campanile (bell tower) known as the Peace Tower. Parliament Hill is not just a pretty sight; it’s also home to Canada’s most important democratic institutions, including the Library of Parliament and the chambers of the House of Commons and the Senate.
Parliament Hill is an essential sight for anyone interested in the history and politics of Canada. Visitors can see the complex via city bike tours, hop-on hop-off bus tours, and amphibus tours (over land and water), as well as on guided day trips from Montreal. Access to all Parliament buildings is ticketed, with same-day-only tickets issued on a first-come, first-served basis at the ticket office at 90 Wellington Street, across from Parliament Hill. Tours of Centre Block are offered year-round, while tours of East Block, the historic hub of the 19th-century Canadian government, run from July until early September. Visitors can also embark on a self-guided ascent up the Peace Tower or an independent visit to the Memorial Chamber.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Visitors can observe debates in the Senate and the Commons. Check ahead to make sure the chambers are sitting during your visit and be prepared for lengthy security checks.
- Centre Block tours last between 20 and 50 minutes, depending on parliamentary activity, while East Block tours are typically 30 to 40 minutes long.
- Visitors to Parliament can carry one small bag; other bags must be checked in at the ticket office.
- Tours and access points are wheelchair-accessible.
- State visits and other parliamentary activity can occasionally prevent public access.
How to Get There
As there is no parking on Parliament Hill, it’s best to use public transport. Buses 6, 7, 9, 11, and 12 stop nearby.
When to Get There
Arrive early in the morning and head straight to the ticket center of Wellington Street to ensure access. Tours regularly fill to capacity, particularly in summer.
Special Events at Parliament Hill
During summer, visit the front lawn at 10am to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony. On summer nights, Parliament Hill hosts the Northern Lights Sound and Light Show, which tells the story of Canada through images projected onto the Gothic exterior of Centre Block. From early December to January, Parliament Hill hosts a festive Christmas light spectacle. The complex is also a focal point for Canada Day celebrations on July 1.