Parliament Hill#4 in Best Things To Do in Ottawa
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Acting as the anchor of downtown Ottawa, these three neo-Gothic structures are hard to miss. Like its mother country – England – Canada is governed by a parliamentary democracy, and it is here on the Hill that decisions are made on how to run the country. But just like the city itself, the Parliament buildings put tourists on a pedestal, catering to their whims with free guided tours, concerts, cultural exhibitions and even a seasonal after-hours sound and light show. Recent travelers said visiting Parliament Hill is an experience you can't miss, with many saying that walking around the palatial buildings felt like taking a step back in time. The knowledgeable guides were another point of praise for reviewers.
Several areas are open to the public, the most notable being the Centre Block. From here, you can head upward to the observation deck of the Peace Tower for a bird's-eye view of the city (the highlight for many recent visitors), or pay tribute to Canadians killed during military service in the Memorial Chamber (tours of these areas are self-guided). On the central lawn, you can observe the vibrant Changing of the Guard ceremony, which occurs every day in summer (June through August) at 10 a.m. To the north is the octagonal Library of Parliament, with ornate galleries and colorful windows that shelter hundreds of priceless books. Recent visitors agreed that the Centre Block and the Library of Parliament are well worth a visit.
But wait, there's more. Flanking either side of the Centre Block are the East and West blocks. Although the West Block isn't open to the public, the East Block is – and it's home to the Privy Council Chamber, the Governor General's office and several other historic rooms. You can also tour the Supreme Court of Canada, which flanks the western edge of Parliament Hill. You're welcome to tour the East Block between early July and early September.
Bordering both the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal, the Parliament Buildings welcome visitors year-round, although tour times are subject to change depending on the month. Free guided tours last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Tickets for guided tours and the Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, check out the Parliament Hill website and the Supreme Court website.
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#1 Rideau Canal
Snaking its way through the center of Ottawa, the Rideau Canal is one of the city's most historic attractions. This 125-mile waterway was originally constructed between 1826 and 1832 to create a secure supply and communications route between Montreal, Québec, and Kingston, Ontario – roughly 120 miles southwest of the capital. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the city's most beloved features.
During the summer, you'll find the Rideau Canal filled with boats (both private and commercial) and the paved pathways surrounding it crowded with walkers, runners and bicyclists. If you'd like to tour the canal by boat, consider signing up for a trip with Rideau Canal Cruises. Cruises, which take visitors from Chateau Laurier to Dow's Lake (round trip), typically last 90 minutes and take visitors past nearly 30 sights along the canal. You can also borrow a bike from RentABike for CA$10 (around $8) an hour. As the temperatures begin to drop, the canal transforms into the world's largest skating rink, spanning 4.8 miles and featuring a surface area equivalent to 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks. It's also lined with stands selling hot chocolate and soup, as well as heated huts in case you need a break from the cold.
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