A stroll around Parliament Hill is one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
I don’t think that I have ever visited the Canadian capital without going for a stroll around Parliament Hill – it’s definitely one of my favourite things to do in Ottawa. On our recent weekend in the city, the first thing that Emma and I did after checking into our hotel and dropping our luggage was walk over to see the beautiful buildings and statues and enjoy the impressive views.
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Parliament Hill, or simply “The Hill”, is the area along the bank of the Ottawa River that is home to the Parliament of Canada. There are three Gothic-style parliamentary buildings that surround the centre lawn – the East Block and the West Block which are primarily parliamentary office space and the Centre Block which is home to the Senate Chambers and the House of Commons. The Peace Tower is the dominant feature of the front of Centre Block and the Library of Parliament is at the rear of the building. The Parliament buildings and the grounds of Parliament Hill were each designated as National Historic Sites of Canada in 1976.
The Centennial Flame is located near the Queen’s Gates entrance to Parliament Hill in front of the stairs to the Peace Tower. It was constructed to commemorate 100 years of Canadian confederation in 1967 and was intended to be a temporary monument but was kept in place due to its popularity. The flame is surrounded by the shields of the 10 provinces and 2 territories that were in existence in 1967 and a fountain flows over the shields.
The Peace Tower is a bell and clock tower that was built after fire had destroyed the parliamentary buildings in 1916 and has become an important Canadian symbol. The flagpole of the Peace Tower is the national flagpole and the flag atop it will be flown at half-mast when a period of national mourning has been declared. The Peace Tower has an Observation Deck that visitors can ascend to for views over Ottawa. Emma and I very much wanted to tour Centre Block and the Peace Tower, however, there were no tickets available when we attempted to do so on the Sunday afternoon of our visit. This will be a priority for us the next time that we are in Ottawa.
The Library of Parliament opened in 1876 and survived the fire of 1916 that destroyed most of the Centre Block. The iron doors of the Library saved it from being engulfed by flames.
Behind the Library of Parliament sits the Victoria Tower Bell which was salvaged from the wreckage of Centre Block after the 1916 fire. It is said that the bell continued to toll even as the blaze raged through the parliamentary buildings until it finally fell from the tower.
There are numerous statues on Parliament Hill (and throughout the city of Ottawa) which I enjoy seeing. The statues on the Hill are either royalty or politicians with the exception of the monument to The Famous Five. Including the Victoria Tower Bell, there have been 15 statues and a Police Memorium erected on Parliament Hill.
Statue of Queen Victoria who officially chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada.
Statue of Queen Elizabeth II, our current monarch.
Statue of Lester B. Pearson, former Prime Minister, Canadian stateman and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Former Canadian Prime Minister, John G. Diefenbaker who introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights and extended the vote to include Native peoples.
Our favourite monument on the Hill is this one which honours five Canadian women, known as The Famous Five, who fought to have women legally declared persons. The Famous Five monument is the first sculpture of Canadian women to grace Parliament Hill.
The hilltop location means that visitors walking around the grounds are afforded beautiful views over the rest of the city and it is easy to pick out some of the better known landmarks while walking around.
Notre Dame Basilica viewed from Parliament Hill.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization across the Ottawa River in Hull, Québec (viewed from Parliament Hill).
The National Gallery of Canada (viewed from The Hill with the help of a zoom lens).
The Supreme Court of Canada (viewed from Parliament Hill).
Parliament Hill is home to Canada’s federal legislature and is an iconic symbol of our country. More than 1.5 million visitors are welcomed to The Hill each year, many of them there for large celebrations like those held for Canada Day on July 1st. For first-time or repeat visitors to the city, I would recommend a stroll on Parliament Hill as one of the best things to do in Ottawa.
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The Canadian Museum of Civilization
That’s a great post, thanks for sharing the stories behind the monuments too! I like the one of the famous five. I was once in Ottawa but only for a few hours, driving through on a road trip. I wish I could have stayed a bit longer and explored Parliament Hill!
A long time ago my hubby and I drove across Canada and Ottawa was one of my favorite stops. Your pictures brought back so many memories:)
Oh how I miss this kind of architecture. Everything is so new in Seattle. One reason I can’t wait to get back to Europe this fall, and now I’ll have to head to Ottawa to get my architecture fix!
I had no idea Ottawa had such a European flair! Marvelous Gothic buildings – would love to see them sometime. I knew Quebec was Euro, but Ottawa looks very interesting, too.
Here’s another reason to book my next trip to Canada!! Great post – love the pics as always!
Thanks for sharing!
I definitely want to check out Ottawa’s Parliament Hill someday! Can you believe women had to fight to be declared persons? Crazy!
The Famous Five has always been our favourite – we always make a point of stopping by because I want my daughters to understand how recently the battle for equality was fought. You should definitely return to Ottawa – it merits a longer visit!
Ottawa is one of my favourite Canadian cities as well – we don’t go back often enough. Perhaps it’s time for you and your husband to return with the kids – Ottawa is a very family-friendly city!
You would love Ottawa – definitely add it to your list of places to visit!
Québec and Montreal are the most European of our cities but you will find quite a bit of European influence throughout the provinces of Ontario and Québec (which used to be Upper Canada and Lower Canada). Much of the exploration by the French and English took place in these areas starting in the early 17th century.
It’s definitely time for a trip to Canada, Becca!
Tonya @ The Traveling Praters
I love the architecture of the buildings…beautiful. Would love to see this for myself one day.
Great shots. I especially love those famous five statues. The only time I had the chance to visit Ottawa was when there was lot a snow and I was freezing so didn’t get to explore nearly as much of the city…will have to return 🙂
A lot of people love Ottawa in the winter with the Winterlude Festival and skating on the Rideau. Personally though, I would rather go in the summer – I don’t enjoy being cold! You should definitely return when the weather is nice – it’s a great city for walking.
You should plan a road trip, Tonya – you would love Ottawa!
You should have stopped in Ottawa when you were visiting the Outaouais, Colleen – you were practically there! It is unbelievable to my daughters that women’s rights were ever an issue – and that is why we always make a point of visiting the Famous Five sculpture – I want them to feel thankful to the women of the 20th century who fought so hard for the rights that my daughters are able to take for granted today.
The architecture in Ottawa is beautiful. I had no idea!
It is beautiful – you will have to visit with your family some time!
WoW that would be spectular to see! Imagine having no rights (as women!) and being acknowledge as changing history so that women were treated as equals!
The statues look amazing. Love the famous five 🙂
Juliann | Browsing the Atlas
I was glad to stumble upon your blog. We’re getting ready to visit Ottawa in July. I can’t wait to see all of this for myself.
Thanks so much for this! We’ve travelled all over the world, but still haven’t made it to Ottawa (yet).
It’s an important part of Canadian history and it’s definitely nice to have their role recognized in such a way.
I think your family will love Ottawa – it’s a wonderful city for walking around and there’s no shortage of things to do with kids.
You definitely need to add Ottawa to your list, Micki! We have the same bad habit of sometimes foregoing Canadian destinations in favour of more distant spots but we are trying to make an effort to have our kids see all the Canadian provinces.
Fabulous photos! And I really like how they decided to keep the flame going, definitely adds a unique touch to the experience!
Thanks, Jess – the flame is beautiful and it’s a very popular photo spot! Not sure when one would have to walk by to get a photo without a crowd of people in it.