Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting the Rideau Hall

Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting the Rideau Hall

I was so excited to visit Rideau Hall, the home and office of the Governor General. I learned so much from the guided tour, not only about the beautiful architecture and design but also about how this place has shaped the history of Canada.

It was an experience that made me appreciate our history even more. In this article, I created a guide for those who are planning to visit. 

Can you visit Rideau Hall?

Rideau Hall is open for free to the public. Guided tours that last 45 minutes take guests to view the landscaped grounds, take a peek at the collection of Canadian art, and watch the relief of the Ceremonial Guard sentries. 

To join the guided tours, it is best to check the Rideau Hall website for the schedule of tours.

Aside from the attractions mentioned, the skating rink is also popular among guests. It is open to the public on weekends during winter. 

Rideau Hall’s History

Rideau Hall was built in 1838 by Thomas McKay, a stonemason and contractor. We locals call the structure McKay’s castle. 

The area is awe-inspiring with 27 stunningly-designed buildings around the grounds. These buildings are also huge with the main building alone consisting of approximately 175 rooms. 

The government first moved to this building in 1864 through a lease from McKay. It was made the temporary residence of the viceroy while the proper government house was constructed. 

Due to the additional function of the house after it was leased, more structures were built, but these new constructions blended seamlessly with the original buildings. Eventually, in 1865 the first Governor-General of Canada officially moved to Rideau Hall.

This place saw history unfold. During World War II, Rideau Hall served as a home for royals from Europe who were displaced by the invasions, and even Winston Churchill stayed at Rideau Hall in 1941. 

After the war, Rideau Hall has undergone several renovations and reconstructions, but it remained the official residence of the Governor General of Canada. Having housed important people in history, in 1977 it was named a National Historic Site of Canada.

Rideau Hall Architecture 

Rideau Hall Architecture

The Rideau Hall architecture was inspired by the Regency era. A mix of Norman and Florentine styles was added due to the many renovations that the buildings have gone through. 

One of the interesting architectural features of Rideau Hall is the main entrance located on the west side of the building, which is topped by a porte-cochere. Carved on top of it is the coat of Arms of Canada. 

The interior decorations have also changed because of the preference of its many residents. What remains are the collections of Canadian art and cabinetry. 

What are the highlights of the Rideau Hall tour? 

Tours at the Rideau Hall and its grounds cover the historic staterooms, impeccable collection of Canadian art, and beautiful gardens. You can experience the splendor of this historic building on a tour or at your own pace.

Here are some of the attractions at Rideau Hall:

Staterooms 

Some of the popular attractions are the staterooms where the governor general receives dignitaries including ambassadors and heads of state. Awarding of Canada’s highest honors also takes place in this section. 

The Tent Room 

The Tent room is also another interesting area. It is a large ballroom that the third governor-general of Canada created to host parties but it also doubles as a tennis court. 

Garden and Grounds 

Guests also love taking pictures at the manicured grounds of Rideau Hall. The 32-hectare park consists of a huge lawn, a rose garden, and more than 10,000 trees—some planted by famous visitors.

How to Get To Rideau Hall

There are many ways to get to Rideau Hall and it is accessible to most of the areas in Ottawa. You can get there by driving, biking, or walking on foot to the Sussex Drive entrance. 

There are other entrances to Rideau Hall, the Thomas Gate, and McKay Street. I prefer the main entrance at Sussex Drive because the first thing I get to see is the Queen Elizabeth II Equestrian Monument.

Guests can take the 3.5-kilometer road from Parliament Hill on foot or by bike. If you are bringing a car, you will need to find parking in the nearby areas and enter on foot from any of the entrances available.

Tour buses are allowed to drop off visitors on Princess Avenue near the main entrance gate. This is the easiest way to get to Rideau Hall. 

Important Reminders When Visiting Rideau Hall

It is important to note that Rideau Hall is a government building and that there are rules in place for visitors. 

Here are some of the reminders that you need to note before your visit: 

  • There is a detailed map on the site that you can use during the tour. The same map is also available on the Governor General’s website under the Visit Us section. 
  • Pets are not allowed on the grounds
  • Washrooms for guests are located at the Visitor Center.
  • For guests with special needs, it is best to call ahead for assistance. 

Cafes and Restaurants Nearby

It is always nice to cap off a tour of a historic place with some wine and dining. After visiting Rideau Hall, you can grab some food and drinks at nearby cafes and restaurants. 

Here are some of the top-rated places near Rideau Hall: 

The Albion Rooms

The Albion Rooms

Address: 33 Nicholas St, Ottawa
Website: thealbionrooms.com
Operation Hours: 

  • Monday – Friday (Kitchen): 11:30 AM -10:00 PM
  • Monday – Friday (Bar): 11:30 AM – Late 
  • Saturday –  Sunday (Kitchen): 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday –  Sunday (Bar): 11”00 AM – Late

Must-order menu items: Chef Choice Charcuterie, AR Burger, Veggie Bowl, Chimichurri Mushrooms
Price range: $$ (Average)

The Albion Rooms is a local favorite because of its proximity to Rideau Canal. It has the best cocktail hour drawing different kinds of crowds, from students to young professionals. 

The restaurant is known for its dishes inspired by traditional European and Canadian cuisine. The delicious dishes range from $8 – $34.

My personal favorite is the Chef Choice Charcuterie board which is a perfect indulgence for only $32. But if you’re stopping by for drinks, you can choose from a variety of cocktails for $10 – $19.

Union Street Kitchen Cafe

Union Street Kitchen Cafe

Address: 42 Crichton St. (at Union), Ottawa
Website: http://onunionstreet.ca/
Operation Hours: 

  • Monday: 8:30 AM  – 1:00 PM
  • Tuesday to Friday: 8:30 AM – 3:00 PM
  • Saturday to Sunday: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Must-order menu items: Mocha, Cappuccino, Lavender Fog Tea, Ginger Molasses Whoopees
Price range: $ (Cheap)

Union Street Kitchen Cafe is a quaint cafe bakery nestled between Crichton and Union. The more popular selection includes sandwiches, frittata, and salads but you can also order sweets like biscuits, muffins, and croissants.

Aside from the delicious food and cozy atmosphere, this cafe has the best-tasting mocha and cappuccino in this area. 

Fraser

Fraser

Address: 7 Springfield Road, Ottawa 
Website: fraserrestaurant.ca
Operation Hours:  

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 5:00 PM –9:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:30 AM–2:00 PM, 5:00 –9:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:30 AM–2:00 PM, 5:00 –9:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:30 AM–2:00 PM, 5:00–10:00 PM
  • Saturday:10: AM–2:00 PM, 5:00–10:00 PM
  • Sunday: 10:00 AM–2:00 PM, 5:00–9:00 PM

Must-order menu items: Cheeseburger, Fresh Paccheri Pasta, Tomato Strawberry Burrata
Price range: $$ (Average)

If you need to grab a quick bite after touring Rideau Hall, Fraser Cafe offers takeaway meals with a selection of wine. The restaurant prides itself on serving delicious dishes prepared using local ingredients. 

I love spending time in this cafe because everything on the brunch menu is delicious. It also offers the most mouthwatering fries at only $8.  


Whether you are interested in history or just want to experience a beautiful place, Rideau Hall is a great place to visit. Here, you can learn about culture, tour the gardens, and even enjoy the nearby restaurants and cafes.