Parliament Tours Resume with New Locations as Centre Block Closes for Renovation
Photo credit: Kat Walcott
With the Parliament of Canada’s Centre Block about to undergo approximately 10 years of much-needed restoration and renovations, both the House of Commons and Senate of Canada have been moved to new, temporary locations. Missed the chance to tour these gorgeous spaces while they were in Centre Block, or just curious to see what they look like now? Well, as of this month, tours of the new locations are open to the public!
The House of Commons has been moved to the gorgeous West Block building, which until now was never open to the public. Guests enter through the new Visitor Welcome Centre, located between West Block and Centre Block. This is where you will go through security, before entering the sleek visitor’s lobby where the information desk is located, coat check, where you meet your tour guide, and where you can even pick up Canadian souvenirs in the cute little gift shop!
The House is located in the former indoor courtyard of the building, so quite a bit of structural work had to be done to transform the space. The formerly open courtyard is now enclosed by a architecturally impressive glass and iron ceiling.
The look of the House is an exact replica of the original – the signature green carpet remains and all the desks and chairs are the originals from Centre Block. The plans are to convert the space to committee and conference rooms once the Centre Block renovations are complete.
The Books of Remembrance, normally housed in the Peace Tower’s Memorial Chamber, have also been moved to the West Block temporarily. The Books are housed in a special room at the beginning of the visitors’ corridor that leads you back to the Welcome Centre at the end of the tour.
The Senate is temporarily housed in the old Union Station building, now Government Conference Centre, across the street from the Fairmont Château Laurier. So, touring this space not only gives you an opportunity to see where important government decisions are made, but also take in the gorgeous architecture of this historic building that dates back to 1912. Unlike the House of Commons, the temporary Senate chamber does differ from the original a bit, most noticeably with a maple-leaf patterned carpet instead of the classic solid red one.
The entire Parliament tour system has been streamlined with the opening of these new spaces – all tours must now be booked online through the Visit Canada’s Parliament site. Since the House and Senate are in two separate buildings, tours must be booked separately. The tours are completely free.
For more information about sights in Ottawa and other tourist resources, visit Ottawa Tourism.