On my third attempt I was able to visit the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. My first attempt was stopped by a scheduled protest on Parliament Hill in the afternoon. My second attempt I arrived too near closing time but I did receive some useful information from the staff. I was instructed to arrive 10 minutes or so before opening time at 9:00 am in order to have the best chance of being first in line. I inquired about the need for a ticket and was told that no ticket is required to visit the Peace Tower.
A tour of the Parliament Buildings does require a ticket – which is free for the asking on a first-come first-served basis. From September 2 to May 12 the tickets are available at the base of the Peace Tower. From May 13 to September 1 the tickets are distributed from the tourist information center at 90 Wellington West – directly across the street from Parliament Hill. For more information check the Visitor Information section of the Parliament of Canada website.
The Gothic style Peace Tower was dedicated on July 1, 1927 and replaced the Victoria Tower – completed in 1878 but destroyed in a fire in February 1916 which destroyed Center Block of the Parliament Buildings except for the Library of Parliament. Heavy iron safety doors were closed by staff member thus saving the Library.
The Peace Tower was created as a memorial to the men and women who died serving their country. There are seven books of remembrance listing the names of every Canadian who died during military service to their country. For more details of the Memorial Chamber visit the Parliament of Canada website.
The bells of Peace Tower Carillon were cast at the Gillett and Johnston foundry in Croydon England. The Carillon consists of 53 bronze bells weighing in at 66 tonnes in total. The bells cover 4 1/2 octaves and during July and August the carillon plays from 11 am to noon on weekdays. From September to June the Peace Tower Carillon plays from noon to 12:15 pm on weekdays. More information and photos of the Peace Tower Carillon are available at the Parliament of Canada website.
I arrived at 8:45 on a Saturday and I was first in line to visit the Peace Tower. It was beautiful summer day in Ottawa and I chatted with the staff and other people in line while we waited for the 9:00 am opening time. There is a security check point at the entrance and afterwards an elevator to the observation deck which is located just below the clock face of the Peace Tower.
The clock was modeled after the clock tower known as Big Ben at the British Parliament in London England. The chime for the clock is played on 5 out of the 53 bells of the carillon. The largest bell – known as the bourbon – strikes the hour.
I enjoyed wonderful views from the Peace Tower observation deck. I could even see the giant spider sculpture Maman in front of the National Gallery of Canada.
I also enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of the construction site for the restoration of West Block Parliament Building – scheduled to be completed in 2017. No rush when the government is involved.
The observation deck of the Peace Tower is off-limits during the Changing of the Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill so I took the elevator back down around 9:45 in order to view the Memorial Chamber. Afterwards I attended the Changing of the Guard ceremony for the second time. Standing on the steps of the Peace Tower offered a better view than trying to see through the crowd of people. For the best view arrive early – the ceremony begins at 10:00 am during late June through late August.
It worked out well for me visiting the Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber at 9:00 am, followed by the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Parliament Hill at 10:00 am. I was wandering around ByWard Market by 11:00 and enjoyed some brunch before visiting the National Gallery of Canada to view the contemporary art collection.
Address: 111 Wellington St
Phone Number: +1-(613)-992-4793
Hours: Open daily. Summer hours: 9AM – 4:30PM
Admission Cost: Free; first-come, first-served basis. Tickets available at 90 Wellington St, across from Parliament Hill.
Tours: Guided tours and self-guided options. More info available here.
How to Get There: Bus #1 or #7