The Only Definitive Guide You Will Need for Ottawa’s Peace Tower

The Only Definitive Guide You Will Need for Ottawa’s Peace Tower

Among Ottawa’s many attractions, the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill definitely stands out as one of its more prominent locations. 

When I visited this place, it felt like I had uncovered a massive time capsule. There were so many interesting relics and locations that have preserved Canada’s history that it felt like I had returned to the early 20th century. 

If you want to visit the tower, let me show you a few things that you should know first. This will help you better appreciate the landmark as you tour its grounds. 

An Overview of the Peace Tower

An Overview of the Peace Tower

The Peace Tower is a well-known symbol of Canada and is located in Ottawa, its capital city. It can be found on Parliament Hill, which is the center of the country’s politics and culture.

The landmark is a prominent part of the Centre Block building, which houses the Canadian Parliament. It is about 92 meters (302 feet) tall and has Neo Gothic-style architecture. 

The tower was finished in 1927 and was built to remember the sacrifices that Canadians made for their country during World War I.

At the top of the structure is an observation deck with a view of the whole city. The base of the tower is also home to the Memorial Chamber, a sacred place where Canadian soldiers who died in different wars are given tribute. 

Inside the room is a collection of “Books of Remembrance,” which have the names of the brave Canadian troops that fought for the country.

One of the things that makes the Peace Tower stand out is its carillon, which has 53 bells. These bells ring often, making melodic sounds that can be heard all over the city, and are frequently used in melodic concerts.

The Complete History of the Peace Tower

The history of Ottawa’s Peace Tower is very closely linked to the construction of the Centre Block building. Here’s a list of important events that transpired with regard to the structure:

  • 1859: The original Centre Block building is finished, complete with neoclassical-style architecture. The Canadian government called this building its home until a terrible fire on February 3, 1916, destroyed it.
  • 1916: After the fire, plans were made for the new Center Block, which included ideas for the Peace Tower. The architect John A. Pearson would design the tower, and Jean Omer Marchand would carve the intricate designs into the stone.
  • 1920: Work starts on the new Centre Block building alongside the Peace Tower.
  • 1927: The Peace Tower’s construction is finally finished. On July 1, Canada’s national day, the tower was to be opened to the public.
  • 1976: To mark Canada’s 100th anniversary as a country, the Centennial Flame is placed at the base of the Peace Tower.
  • 1980: Plenty of work is done on the Peace Tower to maintain its architectural integrity and structural stability. This is done repeatedly till the present day. 

Visiting Hours and Admission

Visiting Hours and Admission

The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill is open 24/7 and has free admission. 

Peace Tower Attractions and Exhibits

The Peace Tower in Ottawa offers several attractions and exhibits that provide you with a deeper understanding of Canadian history, government, and remembrance. Here are some notable attractions and exhibits.

Memorial Chamber

Memorial Chamber

The Memorial Chamber is a very important and solemn room at the base of the Peace Tower. It is a place where we honor and remember the Canadian soldiers who died in wars or other conflicts.

The chamber is a quiet place where you can learn about Canada’s military history and show our thanks for the bravery of the soldiers. 

In the middle of the Memorial Chamber is the Altar of Remembrance, a stone structure with intricate carvings. 

On the construct is a passage that’s become very well-known to us Canadians: 

“They won’t get old like the rest of us. Age won’t wear them out, and the years won’t judge them. We will think of them when the sun goes down and when the sun comes up.” 

This quote is from Laurence Binyon’s famous war poem, “For the Fallen,” which is often read to us on Remembrance Day.

Memorial Chamber

You can also find the Books of Remembrance, which are kept in the chamber alongside the altar. They list the names of the brave Canadian servicemen who died during service. 

The books are carefully made by hand, and every year, we see different names on display. There are a total of seven books, with each one referring to a specific war such as World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and other wars since 1947. 

Some well-trained staff members turn the pages every day, so we can see and honor all the brave men and women that have passed. Seeing the names of these troops helps me and other Canadians remember their sacrifice so we can live comfortable lives. 

You can also find plenty of artwork and symbols inside the Memorial Chamber. They do a great job of enhancing the atmosphere, all the better to help us respect the fallen troops. 

Soldiers, angels, wreaths, and other things related to war and peace are carved into stone in very detailed ways.

Observation Deck 

Observation Deck

At the top of the Peace Tower is the observation deck. Both Ottawans and tourists alike love this place since we can admire the breathtaking, panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.

You can reach this place by taking a guided tour of the Centre Block, either by elevator or stairs. When I feel like it, I’m willing to take the climb for some exercise, and the feeling of accomplishment when I reach the top just feels great. 

On a clear day, you get to see the Parliament Buildings, the Ottawa River, the historic ByWard Market district, the Gatineau Hills, and other iconic parts of the city. 

We Ottawans consider sunrise and sunset to be the best times to enjoy the beauty of the landscape.

Thanks to its gorgeous view, the deck gives me plenty of chances to take beautiful pictures of the cityscape.

Needless to say, this location is a photographer’s dream. Whether you want to take photos of the Parliament Buildings, the winding river, or the bright colors of the city, there’s no shortage of breathtaking sights from the deck’s vantage point.

One feature that I’m sure you will love are the different panels scattered around the observation deck. They serve to enhance your viewing experience, and they explain the landmarks and other important attractions that are visible to us. 

These give you interesting facts, historical background, and other information that will help you learn more about Ottawa and its significance to the country.

A personal favorite of mine is visiting the deck during different seasons. The different Canadian seasons cause incredible transformations in the surrounding landscape. 

Whether it’s the bright colors of fall foliage, the frozen landscapes of winter, or the blooming flowers of spring, each season brings its own beauty and charm to the view from the deck.

Carillon

Carillon

Do you love the sounds of vintage instruments playing in the background? Then you will love what I have to show you next.

In the Peace Tower is the magnificent carillon, an amazing instrument consisting of 53 bells that are played at regular intervals. 

For those who don’t know what a carillon is, let me give you a brief explanation. It’s a musical instrument made up of a set of bells. 

They are played by hitting the keys on a clavier, which is a keyboard designed specifically for the instrument. It’s a genius display of human creativity, don’t you think?

The 53 bells of the Peace Tower are hung in its belfry and are tuned to a different pitch. This is what makes it possible to play many different tones and melodies.

Carillon

These metal constructs come in different weights and sizes, with the biggest one weighing about 10,090 kilograms (22,244 pounds) and the smallest being about 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds). The size and weight of the bell dictate its pitch and tone. 

You can find a skilled carillonneur who plays the instrument by performing pieces of music that were specifically arranged for it. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing live performances in the past, and amazing wouldn’t even begin to describe them. 

The musician hits the keys on the clavier, which are connected to mechanical links that move hammers that hit the bells, making the desired musical notes. It’s simply amazing how each key produces a different note on this massive instrument. 

You can hear the ringing of the Peace Tower’s carillon during specific hours of the day. The chimes can be heard all around Parliament Hill, where they make a melodic, unique sound that adds to the feel of the place.

If you want to catch the instrument in action, stay updated on the latest upcoming concerts. The carillon is often used in live shows during special occasions and at events. 

As someone who’s been to these live events, trust me when I say that it’s absolutely worth it. 

Before I move on, one thing that you should keep in mind is that the carillon isn’t just a musical instrument; it’s also a sign of peace, unity, and cultural heritage. 

The instrument is now an important part of the Peace Tower’s identity and is known across Canada as a national treasure. And as an Ottawan local, I couldn’t be more proud to say that it’s in my hometown. 

Centre Block Tours

Centre Block Tours

While not directly part of the Peace Tower, guided tours of the Centre Block building provide you with an opportunity to explore the parliamentary precinct. This is where I and other Ottawans go if we want to learn more about Canada’s political system. 

Expert guides who are knowledgeable about the history, design, and operation of the Canadian Parliament lead the Centre Block Tours. 

As they show you through the different parts of the building, the guides talk about interesting facts about the building and its relics. They also answer questions that you might have about the area.

I’m honestly impressed at how much they know about the place like the back of their hand. Combine that with the passion they have when discussing the points of interest and it’s guaranteed to be a great experience. 

The Hall of Honour, the Senate Chamber, and the House of Commons Chamber are some of the most important parts of the Centre Block that the tour usually visits. 

These rooms have a lot of historical value and show off the building’s unique architectural features. Let me give you a quick rundown of each one of them.

First off, there is the Hall of Honour. It’s a large room with beautiful stained glass windows, statues, and historical artifacts that will tell you stories about Canada’s past. 

This is also the place where you can find the path between the Senate and the House of Commons. I consider it pretty convenient for getting around the place while appreciating some good old history

Next, you have the Senate Chamber, which acts as the meeting room for members of the Canadian Senate to talk about and debate laws. This is the place you can go to learn more about how the country’s government works. 

Besides learning about its functions, you can also take the time to admire the gorgeous red furniture and intricate woodwork in the room. I think it’s a very lovely touch that adds to its atmosphere and gives it a picturesque appearance.

Finally, you have the House of Commons Chamber, where Members of Parliament (MPs) meet to discuss and decide on important matters vital to the whole country. 

This is the place where we go to see where the Speaker sits and learn how Canada’s lower house of Parliament works. Pretty educational for us non-political people, eh?

Once you’re done with those three locations, we can then go to the Centre Block building. 

It is a structural masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture. As you tour the place, you can look at the building’s intricate stonework, beautiful ceilings, and other details that have important symbols for the Canadian government. 

There are also many historical artifacts and works of art on display. All of them show how Canada has changed over time and serve as reminders for us of eras long past.

 Sound and Light Show

Sound and Light Show

During the summer months, the Peace Tower and the rest of Parliament Hill come alive with the impressive Sound and Light show. 

These months are some of my favorites because the tower becomes the backdrop for an absolutely stunning multimedia presentation. 

You can see other visitors gathering on the lawns of Parliament Hill to watch this beautiful spectacle unfold. This is possible because the area’s expansive outdoor setting allows for a large audience capacity, accommodating both locals and tourists.

I and other locals and tourists can’t help but be awed as we watch a combination of music, lights, and projections that showcase Canada’s history and cultural heritage.

At its core, the show aims to entertain, educate, and inspire us by highlighting significant events, people, and themes that have shaped the nation.

You can expect to find various multimedia elements being combined together to create an immersive experience that we locals enjoy every summer. 

These include vibrant lights, carefully synchronized projections, a powerful sound system, and a narrated storyline. Advanced technology and creative expertise come together to deliver a display that you will simply find breathtaking and memorable. 

One thing I like about the projections and lights is their careful and precise designs. While watching, it really becomes apparent just how stunning the architectural features of the Centre Block building are as the lights illuminate them. 

Of course, the lights aren’t just the only thing worth mentioning here. The show takes us on a narrative journey through Canada’s history. 

Though I’ve seen it plenty of times, it never ceases to amaze me how many things the show covers. You can expect to see key events, iconic figures, cultural milestones, and the diverse regions and landscapes of the country. 

The storytelling approach aims to engage us and foster a deeper appreciation for Canada’s heritage. As you watch this show, you will discover why I and the rest of my countrymen are proud to be Canadians. 

Of course, the Sound and Light Show is not only a historical journey. It’s also a celebration of Canada’s cultural diversity and artistic achievements. 

As someone who appreciates Indigenous culture, I love how the show incorporates elements of their culture, music, and contemporary art forms into its display. This showcases the vibrant tapestry of Canadian identity that I’m positive you will enjoy.

If you want to catch this show, make sure you come to Ottawa and Parliament Hill during the summer months. It has multiple showtimes to accommodate different audiences. 

The part is, the event is free to attend, making it accessible to all of us! Don’t forget to bring blankets or chairs so you stay comfortable while watching this awesome display.

Commemorative Events

Commemorative Events

The Peace Tower in Ottawa is the site of various commemorative events throughout the year that I and other Canadians participate in. These events are held to honor and remember significant moments and individuals in Canadian history.

Remembrance Day, observed on November 11th each year, is a solemn occasion where we honor the sacrifices of Canadian military personnel. These are the brave men and women who have served and lost their lives in conflicts. 

We watch a ceremony that takes place at the National War Memorial, located near the Peace Tower. It often includes a moment of silence, wreath-laying, and the playing of “The Last Post” as we pay our respects to our fallen brethren. 

On July 1st, this is where we prepare for one of the country’s biggest celebrations: Canada Day. It marks the anniversary of Confederation and the birth of our beloved country. 

Some of the festivities that you can enjoy on Parliament Hill include live music, performances, cultural displays, and a fireworks display. 

The Peace Tower stands as a symbol of national unity and is often illuminated with special lighting effects during these celebrations. 

National Indigenous Peoples Day, celebrated on June 21st, is where we recognize and honor the diverse cultures, heritage, and contributions of Indigenous peoples in Canada. 

These events take place on Parliament Hill, and the Peace Tower serves as a prominent backdrop for cultural performances, ceremonies, and displays. You can enjoy the highlights of Indigenous traditions and accomplishments.

On the 28th of April, we have what we call Canada’s National Day of Mourning. This time, we take the time to remember workers who have lost their lives or have gotten injured while on active duty. 

During this period, a ceremony is held on Parliament Hill, and the Peace Tower becomes a powerful symbol. This is the brief period where we spend time in remembrance and reflection.

Lastly, the Peace Tower and Parliament Hill are often the locations for state ceremonies. These include the swearing-in of a new Governor General, the arrival of visiting heads of state, and other significant national events. 

Tips When Visiting Peace Tower in Ottawa

Being prepared for a trip to the Peace Tower can give you a significantly better experience. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your tour of the landmark. 

Plan Ahead

Check the official website or call the visitor information center for the most up-to-date information on operating hours, tour schedules, and any special events or closures. 

Plan your trip ahead of time to make sure everything goes smoothly and you have a good time.

Security measures are in place because the Peace Tower is part of the Parliament Buildings. Be ready for security checks that are similar to those at airports. 

Get there early to give yourself enough time to go through these checkpoints.

Take Guided Tours

If you want to see the Peace Tower, Senate Chamber, and House of Commons Chamber, you could join a guided tour of the Centre Block. Guided tours are a great way to learn about the Canadian Parliament’s history, architecture, and how it works.

Dress Appropriately

The Peace Tower is a place of national importance, so you will be asked to dress accordingly. If you plan to climb the tower or go on a guided tour, it’s especially best to wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

Act with Respect 

As you tour the place, keep your voice down and act respectfully, especially when going into the Memorial Chamber or to a memorial event. Follow any instructions that staff or guides give you to make sure your experience is peaceful and meaningful.

Services for Visitors

Use the services for visitors on Parliament Hill, like the information centers, gift shops, and places to eat. These services can help make your trip better by giving you more information, souvenirs, and drinks.

Look Around

When you go to the Peace Tower, you should take the chance to look around the area to make the most of your trip. 

Parliament Hill has beautiful grounds, beautiful views of the Ottawa River, and is close to other attractions like the Rideau Canal and the ByWard Market district. 

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