Canada North America

Discovering the Political Hub of Ottawa – Parliament Hill

By Neha Kulshrestha  

The capital of Canada, Ottawa is as charming as its Victorian architecture. The most prominent structure or should I say the heart of Ottawa city is the Parliament Hill.

Parliament Hill

The political hub of the city is a gorgeous structure sitting on the top of a hill on banks of river Ottawa. Three magnificent structures adorned around the sides of a huge lawn. The heart of the parliament is the Center block while the arms on two sides are the East and West block.

There are free bilingual tours in English and French available for the Center and the East block. Since we visited in summer which is the peak tourist season, we had to go in an hour early of opening to get tickets for desired time slots.

If you are awed by the magnificence of the outdoor then wait to see the grandeur of indoor.

East Block

Parliament Hill

We began our tour from the East block, office of the parliamentarians. After a strenuous screening, we entered the building into a grand staircase. Climbing up our way we were eagerly waiting to explore the 150-year-old history. It was impressive to see that rooms of famous personalities from the 19th century like first Prime minister, Governor-general, have been restored with some original furniture to give a glimpse into their opulence.

Senate Parliament Hill

It was fascinating to hear the stories of these icons and their offices. The more powerful the personality, bigger would be his office space and luxurious the upholstery. While, not only the space and furniture would show the prominence, but the design and detailed work on the ceiling or the placement of the fireplace as well. Isn’t that amazing???

Council Chamber Parliament Hill

Council chamber at East block

Center Block

Continuing our quest, we made our way to the Center block – the heart of the Parliament. A two-level security check is required to go in. The center block houses the Senate, the House of Commons (Members of parliament) and the beautiful library.

Parliament Hill Center Block

  • House of Commons

Beginning the tour, we entered a big hall with marble interiors, intricate carvings on the pillars and beautiful stained-glass window. The hall leads to the House of Commons, whose members are democratically elected and called Members of Parliament. The chamber is decorated in green color. The governing party sits on one side of the speaker with Prime Minister in the front row while the opposition on other. The interiors are decorated with stained-glass windows on both sides depicting flora and fauna of the states.

House of Commons Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

  • Senate

The interiors of the Senate are red in color to represent the British monarchy. There are many symbols in the Senate chamber and at its entrance representing the monarchy. In fact, there are chairs for the monarch and their consort behind the speaker’s chair. Interestingly, the ceiling at the entrance has stained glass depicting many royal symbols.

Senate Parliament Hill

There are paintings of monarchs in the foyer and the guide told us that the painting of Queen Victoria was partially burned in a fire and the burnt portion was cut and framed back.

Paintings Parliament Hill

  • Library

The most exquisite room in the Center block is the library which welcomes you with a huge white marble statue of Queen Victoria. The most striking feature of the library is the extensive use of wood with ornate carvings. The circular room with huge dome-shaped ceiling and intricate woodwork is an architectural marvel. We were awed by its beauty and wondered if we could sit and read there.

Library Parliament Hill

Walking in the arched hallways, admiring the detailed carvings and artwork, reminiscing the told and untold stories, we felt lucky to have witnessed the 150-year-old historical marvel up and close.

Another way to explore the Parliament and history is the Light and Sound show during summer nights. We visited when Canada was celebrating 150 years and witnessed a spectacular show depicting the journey of Canada. The spectacular visuals with bold narration and impressive background music leave you spellbound. The timing of the show varies from every month from July to September. I would highly recommend it but do take blankets and chairs to sit and enjoy the adventure.

P.S. The Center block will get closed in 2018 for about 10 years as a part of the rehabilitation project.

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  • Reply
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate
    December 8, 2017 at 7:03 am

    It was a big year for Canada, huh (or should I say, “ay?” 😉 ) I’ve never actually been to Ottawa but wrote some advertorials for the city for the big 150 and now my interest is piqued!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      Oh yes, and it was amazing the way they celebrated it with such grandeur. The light and sound show played the history of Canada and it was amazing. What an impressive video and sounds.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2017 at 7:16 am

    Wow! Your photographs are incredible! It looks like you had a fabulous time. The buildings really remind me of some of the architecture here in the U.K., having not been to Canada I hadn’t realised how similar they might be! Canada definitely on my list – such a shame this will be shut by the time I get there, I would have loved to have seen it in the flesh

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks a lot. Yes we had a wonderful time exploring Ottawa and other places in Canada. In fact there is a major influence from UK because of the monarchy. It was clear when we toured and the guide even told that they had taken influences from the British Parliament while construction. So many symbols of British monarchy were visible.
      Yes it would be disappointing for tourists to not able to see the grandeur up close for a few years. But there is much more to see and enjoy in Ottawa. Will have a post on that soon.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Stunning architecture, I would like to experience light and sound show. 🙂

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      Yes indeed very beautiful. The light and sound show was the highlight, but its only in summer for 3 months. So you must check the timings before you plan.

  • Reply
    Diana Chen
    December 8, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    I remember taking a tour of the Parliament building in Ottawa when I was 13 or 14 years old and being awed by the grandeur of the place. I can’t even imagine coming to work here every day. So glad to have come across your post as I’d forgotten about a lot of the history already and loved having the refresher.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Oh yes we were even awed by the place and amazed to hear some interesting stories regarding the personalities and their rooms. I am glad it helped you refresh your wonderful memories.

  • Reply
    Nana - PatagoniaDreaming
    December 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    It is not easy to take photos indoors, but I think you did a very good job! Impressive to think all this was made by humans at that time when technology wasnt that developed! Just read – its going to be closed for 10 years ???

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 8:45 pm

      Thanks a lot for those kind words. Ture, the architecture of old times is so impressive with such fine details.
      Yes, the buildings in Parliament precinct are getting renovated in phases, the centre block gets closed in 2018 for estimated 10 years. very sad indeed. 🙁

  • Reply
    Farah Al Zadjaly
    December 8, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    This is beautifully put together. It reminds of my England 🙂 I definitely to check it out next year. Keep up the great work.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. I am humbled. Sure you should visit, let me know in case you need any help.

  • Reply
    Janine Good
    December 8, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    I have been to Ottawa many times being a Torontonian! My favourite is the library. Such a gorgeous place that is so lucky to be still standing. You have captured the Capital beautifully.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      Oh wow a Torontonian, you must have explored all ins and outs. But isn’t there’s such a huge difference between the two cities- one so modern and other dipped in history.
      I second you on the library, we were just so awestruck looking at it. great it was saved during the fire. Thanks for the appreciation. 🙂

  • Reply
    Aimee Horgan
    December 8, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Such a cool building, I love how it looks all lot up in that first photo!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 8, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      Yes very beautiful. The light and sound show was the highlight of this tour. Just spectacular and impressive.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    I’m so impressed by Ottawa’s architecture – it looks just beautiful. Great photos to accompany this story, I usually am not interested in visiting historical buildings but this would make me change my mind!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 10, 2017 at 4:43 am

      Indeed true, the architecture in Ottawa and Montreal is very impressive.
      Great to hear that the post intrigued an interest in you. Hope you visit and admire it yourself.

  • Reply
    December 9, 2017 at 2:36 am

    I think we have the same style, you’ve got great style 😉

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 10, 2017 at 4:46 am

      That’s true. 🙂 Thanks. So now we can appreciate each other’s work more often. 😉

  • Reply
    Agness of Fit Travelling
    December 11, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    This building is so outstanding and remarkable, Neha. I love both the interior and the exterior. How long did it take you to explore the building?

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 16, 2017 at 3:38 am

      Yes indeed Agness. We were awestruck by the beauty. Each tour to East block and Center block lasted about an hour to 1 1/2 hour including the security check. But you will have to take different time slots for both tours. So typically we spent half a day there.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    The pictures look beautiful! That’s a stunning piece of architecture!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      December 16, 2017 at 3:41 am

      Thanks a lot, Raksha. Yes, it’s a marvel to explore.

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