Rideau Hall is the residence of the Governor General of Canada, and because of the country’s status as a member of the Commonwealth, is also where the monarch stays when visiting Ottawa. Rideau Hall was built in 1838 by the lumber baron Thomas MacKay and eventually became the official residence for the Canadian head of state in 1867. Most of the 175 rooms in the federal heritage building are used for state business, formal ceremonies and functions, with only a small space being dedicated to living quarters.
The grounds are just as historical as the stately mansion and represent Canada’s character and cultural diversity to the core. During the summer months the hourly changing of guard ceremony can be observed at the main gate. A characteristically colorful totem pole with a thunderbird gracing the top and a fisherman holding a salmon stands in the garden as a gift from the Kwakwaka´wakw people in the Pacific Northwest. The estate also houses an Inukshuk, an impressive Inuit stone marker originating in the Arctic, that is supposed to guide travellers and mark important spots. It is the work of Kananginak Pootoogook, a well-known Inuk sculptor from Nunavut, and was added in 1997. Among the beautiful gardens made up of flowerbeds, rose gardens and lawns, over 10,000 trees can be found, many of which have been planted by foreign dignitaries. Try to find the Red Oak planted by Jacqueline Kennedy, Nelson Mandela’s Sugar Maple or the Canadian Hemlock chosen by William and Kate to symbolize their love and marriage. If you visit in winter, make sure to not forget your skates, as an outdoor skating rink is accessible to the public on weekends.
Rideau Hall is located just outside of downtown Ottawa and if you plan to get there by public transport, take bus number 9 to Government House. If you are arriving by car, you will find parking available along the streets of the surrounding neighborhood. The state rooms can be visited on free 45 minute tours, some of which need reservations ahead of time. The grounds are open daily from 8am to one hour before sunset and the visitor center is staffed from May to October.