Ottawa Tourism

The centrepiece of Ottawa’s downtown landscape, Parliament Hill is the political and cultural heart of the city. The Parliament Buildings sit atop the Hill, the gorgeous Gothic-style structures overlooking the Ottawa River, as the politicians within debate the present and future issues of the country. Free guided tours are available daily, including a chance to head up to the Peace Tower for an incredible view of the city. During the year, the Hill is the focal point for a number of the biggest celebrations in the country: Canada Day (July 1) sees about a hundred thousand people descend upon the landmark for entertainment and a thrilling fireworks show, the summertime Sound and Light show is a nightly marvel, and Christmas Lights Across Canada illuminates the Hill like no other spot in the nation.

Fast Facts

  • The Parliament Buildings are set on a dramatic hill overlooking the Ottawa River.
  • The original structure burned to the ground in a tragic fire in 1916 – except for the Library, which was saved by a quick-thinking employee who closed the Library’s massive steel doors.
  • Free guided tours are available daily, and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Schedule varies.
  • There are hundreds of individual gargoyles, grotesques, reliefs and bosses carved into the stonework of the buildings, including four looking out from high on each corner of the Peace Tower.
  • The 53-bell carillon in the Peace Tower marks each quarter hour; the Dominion Carilloneur performs daily free concerts.
  • Each morning during summer months, the front lawn of Parliament Hill is the setting of the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony; each evening the public is invited to gather again to witness the awe-inspiring Sound and Light show – spectacular lighting effects and stunning giant images projected on the Parliament Buildings set to words and music. Both events are free.
  • Parliament Hill is the focal point for Canada Day celebrations each July 1, with hundreds of thousands gathering for great entertainment and the massive fireworks finale.
  • The grounds of Parliament Hill are dotted with numerous sculptures of important Canadians.
  • In December, the Hill is bathed in the colours of thousands of lights as one of the premier sites of the Christmas Lights Across Canada.