New Parliament House, Canberra

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  • Parliament House - Internal
    Parliament House - Internal "Fountain"
    by wabat
  • Parliament House - Out to Rooftop Flagpole
    Parliament House - Out to Rooftop...
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  • The Queen
    The Queen "in" Parliament
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    Parliament House (Interior)

    by wabat Updated Oct 14, 2013

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    Parliament House - Foyer
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    Once you have had a look around outside Parliament House (and I recommend you do that before going inside) go inside noting that you must go through airport style security so please, dear readers, no bombs, guns, nail files and the like☺).

    Once you have passed through security you will immediately be in the very grand entrance hall/foyer (picture 1) where you can pick up a free map/ brochure. Free guided tours leave from the information desk here so just ask when the next one leaves. I highly recommend you take one. After the 45mins tour (30 mins if Parliament is sitting) you can return to see things that have particularly taken your fancy.

    While 90% of materials used in the Parliament building are Australian sourced much of the marble you see in the foyer is from overseas – gifted by Belgium, Portugal and Italy. Look our for fossils in the marble.

    Anyone who has been out in the Australian bush or seen pictures of it will not fail to notice how the blue/green coloured marble columns resemble Australia’s native blue gum trees. Life your head and admire the wonderful inlaid woodwork right around the foyer.

    Prior to going upstairs to the main Parliament area, have a look in the Great Hall which is accessed from the back of the foyer. You can also look down into the Great Hall from the next level up. This hall is used for state banquets and indeed can be hired out by anyone – for a rather hefty fee. It was in this hall that Queen Elizabeth II opened this building on 9 May 1988. The most notable feature in the Great Hall is a quite remarkable tapestry covering most of the back wall (why it wasn’t extended to cover the back doors, beggars belief). See my separate review on the Great Wall Tapestry.

    When you go upstairs, taking the stairs behind the information desk, turn right at the top. Between here and the entrance to the house of Representatives ( equivalent to the British house of Commons and the lower house in other Parliaments) you will pass by various works of art, including that upon which the tapestry in the Great Hall, is based. This display in this area varies from time to time.

    At the end of this area and to the left you can enter the House of Representatives (picture 2), Australia’s lower house of Parliament and the one in which the Prime Minister (currently Tony Abbott) sits. If parliament is sitting you can watch from the visitors gallery (don’t come expecting a high quality of debate!) The layout, colour, and accouterments of this house will be familiar to anyone who has visited or seen pictures of the House of Commons in Westminster, London though I hasten to add the lighter green colour is not due to fading induced by the hot Australian sun. It, and the lighter red in the Senate (upper house), are however representative of a sunburnt Australia. You will also note that the chambers are also somewhat more roomy than the respective Chambers in Westminster.

    Having seen enough of the House of Representative you should at this point take the lift up to the roof. Up here you can have a stroll on the lawns that cover Parliament - as far as I know, a unique experience. Great views from here as well. If its cold and or windy bring a jacket!

    Having returned from your sojourn on the roof, across the lobby from the House of Representative is the Senate (picture 3), which I find a nicer looking chamber and well worth a visit. Having said that, apart from a few of our better-known senators, most of the senators (all elected, albeit by a most peculiar type of proportional representation) will be unknown to even most Australians.

    As you cross to the Senate do stop to have a look at the portraits in this area. Here you will find portraits of Queen Elizabeth II - Queen and Head of State of Australia; the Governor-General – the Queens representative in Australia (appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister); all of Australia’s past Prime Ministers though I did notice last week (mid September 2013) that recent Prime Ministers Gillard (Australia’s first and only female Prime Minister) and Rudd have not yet been added to the collection.

    In the centre of this area, if you look down to the lower level, you will see a water feature (picture 4). While this is reasonably aesthetically appealing that is not its purpose. Members of Parliament gather in this area and the purpose of the noisy water feature is to drown out their conversations from prying press members and nosy members of the public who would otherwise be able to listen in from above. Look up and through the glass roof you will see the rooftop flagpole (picture 5).

    Having visited the Senate, continuing on in a clockwise direction you will enter into a “parliamentary history” museum area. The most notable document you will find here is one of four surviving originals of the 1297 Inspeximus issue of Magna Carta. The other surviving originals can be found in the National Archives, London, in the Guild Hall of the City of London and in the National Archives in Washington DC. I have prepared a separate review on the Magna Carta.

    When you are finished here, do not be tempted to take the stairs down to the lower level exit but, rather, continue on this level to the front of the building for an amazing view towards Old Parliament House, Anzac Parade, the Australian War Memorial and Mt Ainslie (see picture on my Parliament House (Exterior) review. Next up you will come to the Queens Terrace - pop out on the Terrance to see a statue of Queen Elizabeth II (see separate tip on this statue). Here you will also find a reasonable café – the Queen’s Terrace Café’ if feeling peckish.

    Again, carrying on in a clockwise direction and before going back down the stairs you ascended at the beginning of your tour you will come across a post office. Stamps on letters, post cards, etc posted from here will be cancelled with a Parliament House stamp – evidence to your friends that you were here or a nice cheap souvenir for yourself.

    Talking about souvenirs, having descended the stairs you can visit a small souvenir / gift shop just before you exit the building.

    While visitors have access to about 20% of Australia’s Parliament (much higher than most countries) if you are lucky enough to be in town when special openings are held you can see lots more and indeed access the Prime Minister’s office. If you miss out on the extended tour, as most people will, do pop down the road to Old Parliament House (which closed when this one opened in 1988). There you can visit the former Prime Minister’s Office, Cabinet Room and much, much, more. Highly recommended.

    Opening hours:

    9.00am – 5.00pm on non-sitting days 9:00am on Monday and Tuesday and from 8:30am on Wednesday and Thursday to House rise on sitting days.

    Check web site more details including access to Question Time.

    Entrance fee: free

    Getting there:

    By Car - Free, though timed, car-parking is available under the building – follow the signs. Don’t get lost on the roundabouts!
    By public transport – why not take the free tourist bus?
    On foot - a reasonably short walk from the lake and Old Parliament House.

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    The Great Hall Tapestry - Parliament House

    by wabat Written Oct 14, 2013

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    Great Hall - Tapestry
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    When you enter the Great Hall at Parliament House your eyes will be immediately drawn, hopefully not in the “Oh my god, what’s that sort of way” to the massive tapestry covering most of the back wall of the Hall.

    The tapestry measuring some 20m by 9m and thus one of the largest in the world is based on a painting by renowned Australian artist Arthur Boyd.

    Boyd’s painting (my picture 5) is on permanent display upstairs just before you come to the House of Representative entrance.

    Boyd’s painting and the resultant tapestry depicts a dense forest of eucalypts in the Shoalhaven River valley, in south-eastern New South Wales of the type which features in many of Boyd’s works.

    The architectural vision for the Great Hall is outlined on the Parliament house website as being:

    “that it would convey a sense of the Australian land, emphasising the importance of the physical environment in shaping Australian values. Boyd’s subject matter complements the native timbers used throughout the Hall. His design also emphasises the immensity of the landscape, with the horizon obscured and the trees continuing both above and below the canvas, and to each side. The tapestry surrounds the southern doorway of the Great Hall, giving people passing beneath a sense of moving through the landscape.”

    While I believe this vision has been captured and I understand the concept of passing through the landscape to the southern doorway I cannot help believing that it would have been much better to have covered the doors of the southern exit with tapestry too. Every time I look at the tapestry my eye is distracted and drawn to the “missing bit”.

    Notwithstanding my concern the Great Hall, also known as the room of the land, certainly conveys a sense of how the physical environment has shaped Australia.

    The Tapestry was woven in four pieces in Melbourne and took the equivalent of 14 full time weavers two years to complete. The likeness with the original painting is striking though there is one significant if not glaringly obvious difference. When the tapestry was being woven Haley’s comet was visible from Australia and if you look carefully you will see it has been depicted in the final tapestry. Can you spot the comet and the cockatoo amongst all the trees?

    Entry to Parliament House is free.

    Rather then repeat all the opening hours and other practical details associated with visiting Parliament House please refer to my separate tip where all this detail is provided. Alternatively visit the Parliament House website as provided below.

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    See the Magna Carta in Parliament House

    by wabat Written Oct 4, 2013

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    1297 Magna Carta
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    The most notable document you will find in Parliament House is from a time when Australia was unknown to the rest of the world. It is one of four surviving originals of the 1297 Inspeximus issue of Magna Carta. The other surviving originals can be found in the National Archives, London, in the Guild Hall of the City of London and in the National Archives in Washington DC.

    The original Magna Carta or Great Charter of 1215/16 was a message (albeit not entirely optional or of his own volition) from King John affirming that no one in society is above the law: not the King nor his subjects, not the government nor the governed.

    Via the Magna Carta King John accepted that authority was subject to law derived from the community and as such the Magna Carta became a foundation stone of constitutional and parliamentary government.

    John, as a feudal British king, held absolute power and occupiers of his vast estates, being tenants, held their land and this position in return for allegiance to the crown which, in turn, required them to provide military support, taxes, etc at the behest of the king.

    King John, who for much of his reign was at war with France, abused and exploited his position with increasing demands for money and soldiers from his subjects. The barons started rebelling and by 1215 rebel barons outnumbered loyalists. The rebellious barons united, marched upon London, and captured the Tower of London on 17 May 1215.

    In June 1215, the barons and the king met at Runnymede, near Windsor and just outside London, and agreed to terms which were recorded as a Charter of liberties, later (1216) known as Magna Carta. The barons pledged fealty to the king, and the king swore that he and his heirs would abide by the conditions of the Charter, ‘in all things and places forever’.

    Within ten weeks of John broke his promises given in the Magna Carta and civil war resumed. Three amended (though broadly similar) versions of the Magna Carta were issued by John’s successors (John died in Oct 1216) in the 20 years following Runnymede.

    This copy of the Magna Carta here in Parliament House, issued by King Edward I in 1297, was sent to the Robert de Glamorgan, Sheriff of Surrey to be proclaimed in the country court. Edward also had it written into English law where to this day it remains, albeit in a much reduced form. John’s original Charter had not offered the protection of law to his subjects. Over time Magna Carta came to be seen as a law of laws, and a measure of the legality of all other laws.

    So fundamental are some of the provisions of the Magna Carta (e.g. Chapter 29, 1297 version, relating to personal freedom) that echoes thereof can be seen in the United States Constitution and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    At some point this copy of the Magna Carta came into the possession of King’s School in Burton, Somerset from which the Australian Government purchased it for GBP 12,500 in 1952, from which date it has remained the property of the Australian Parliament.

    For those interested in such things this copy of the Magna Carta was valued at A$15 million in 2006 – a A$25 million write-down on Sotheby's 2002 valuation of $A40 million. Bargain it may be, but I understand it is not for sale.

    On 12 October 1997 - the 700th anniversary of the sealing by King Edward I of the 1297 issue of Magna Carta the Magna Carta Monument was opened, adjacent to Old Parliament House, “as a commemoration of Freedom under the Law". This monument, while not stunning, is worth a visit – see my separate review - Magna Carta Place and Monument- which provides additional detail on the Magna Carta and its place in law.

    Apologies for the quality of the image of the Magna Carta attached – subdued lighting and the protective display cabinet do not make for easy or quality photography. The second image attached is of the Magna Carta Monument located in the vicinity of Old Parliament House.

    For details on entry to, opening hours etc of Parliament House see my seperate review - Parliament House (Interior)

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    The Queen in Parliament – well a sort of!

    by wabat Written Sep 25, 2013

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    The Queen
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    There are not many statues of Queen Elizabeth II around the world, if Wikipedia is to be believed - nine, and two of these are in Australia. One is in Brisbane and is rather unique in that it is the only statue in the world of the Queen holding a handbag. The other one is here in Parliament House or rather on a Terrace outside the main building (accessed from within the building).

    I have to say I actually find it a bit odd, even wrong, when I see statues of living people as I normally associate statues as memorials to the dead. I suspect most people hold this view and hence the lack of statues of the reigning Queen compared to those of her predecessors.

    Statue-wise, I like it and think it a rather fine piece of bronze work. It is the work of Australian Sculptor, John Dowie, and was unveiled by the Queen, herself, when she opened Parliament House on 9 May 1988.

    On the face of it, it seems rather peculiar that this statue is stuck out on a terrace beside the café and has not been given pride of place in the foyer or some other central location within Parliament. A stark contract to the placement of a statue of George V in Old Parliament House.

    Clearly, to me at least, this is a classic example of political correctness gone mad. Notwithstanding that the Queen is Head of State of Australia and a referendum a in 1999 confirmed the desire of Australians that she remain so her statue remains on the Terrace and as far as I can see it doesn’t even rate a mention on the Parliament House website.

    Such is the paucity of official information about this statue that fork-lore and urban myth has suggested that the sculpture is, in fact, a reject from a UK sculptor who dumped it on Canberra and then committed suicide when he realised he had, apparently, made it with the left foot / leg forward instead of the right – a big no no!

    The statue is located on the Queen's Terrace outside the café and is certainly worthy a look on your visit to Parliament House.

    Details on Parliament House opening hours and how to get there can be found on my Parliament House (Interior) review. As noted there, the entrance to Parliament House is free of charge.

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    New Parliament House (Exterior)

    by wabat Written Sep 19, 2013

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    New Parliament House
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    For me this is one of the most architecturally interesting and satisfying buildings not only in Australia but in the world and certainly a major contrast to the previous building – Old Parliament House - which was only ever intended to be a temporary home for the Australian Parliament, albeit a temporary home that lasted 61 years. It would be quite unfair to compare the two buildings.

    New Parliament House was opened on 9 May 1988 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and is located “atop” Capital Hill. The building axis runs from North to East and South to West, and is situated perfectly in line with Old Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial and Mt. Ainslie on Burley Griffin’s imaginary line between Mount Ainslie and Mount Bimberi in the distant Brindabellas. I strongly recommend that you go up to the top of Mt Ainslie take in this quite stunning alignment though you also get a good view towards Mt Ainlslie from within Parliament House - see my last photo attached.

    To say Parliament House is located “atop” Capital Hill is not quite true. It is more accurate to say it is located within Capital Hill.

    Australia’s ensemble of politicians in the 1970s and 1980s were a much more modest collection than the current self-serving, opinionated, grandstanding suite of mediocrity (and I’m being kind). I say this because it was decided that as Parliament was elected to serve to people and not the other way round, it would send the wrong message by building a parliament on top of this hill lauding over the rest of Canberra. Consequentially the hill was removed, Parliament built and the hill replaced back on top of it. Being very conscious of VT's policy regarding political comment I hasten to add that my descriptions of politicians above apply equally to all sides of politics in both eras. One can imagine if the same building was constructed today the hill would be raised prior to commencement of work!

    The building was designed by New York based architects Mitchell/Giurgola who won a design competition which attracted 329 entries from 28 countries.

    Before going into the building and while admiring the outside of the building, which from above is in the shape of two boomerangs, do pay special attention to the following:

    The Forecourt Mosaic – Picture 2 - located about 50 metres back from the main entrance. This mosaic represents a Possum and Wallaby Dreaming and is made up of around 90,000 hand-cut granite tiles of seven different colours. It is based on a Central Desert dot-style painting by Nelson Jagamara, a leading Aboriginal artist from the Papunya community of the Northern Territory. While it is perfectly acceptable to walk on the mosaic it is not acceptable to rest your camera tripod there-on!

    The roof – Access to the roof is now (for security reasons) only via a lift inside the building. As I indicated earlier Parliament is built into the hill and as a result has a grass roof with rather nicely manicured lawns. While you are welcome to walk on the grass your dogs are not. Recalling that you can walk over both houses of parliament imagine the indignity (and your amusement) if your dog were to lift its leg, or worse, as the honourable members debated directly below!

    The Flagpole and Flag - when you access the roof you can get up close to the 81-metre high stainless steel flagpole and its 12.8 x 6.4 metres flag (equates to a double decker bus). Do have a look up before you visit the roof – you can see it from lots of locations in Canberra.

    Australian Coat of Arms - Picture 3 - Above the main entrance door.

    The building is one of Canberra most visited attractions with about 1 million visits each year. Despite this, I have been there numerous times and never had a feeling that the place was overcrowded.

    Opening hours-

    Outside of building - 24hrs Daily though you can only access the roof during building opening hours

    9.00am – 5.00pm on non-sitting days 9:00am on Monday and Tuesday and from 8:30am on Wednesday and Thursday to House rise on sitting days.

    Check web site more details including access to Question Time.

    Entrance Fee- Free

    Getting there -

    By Car - Free, though timed, carparking is available under the building – follow the signs. Don’t get lost on the roundabouts!
    By public transport – why not take the free tourist bus?
    On foot - a reasonably short walk from the lake and Old Parliament House.

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    VISIT THE NEW PARLIAMENT HOUSE

    by DennyP Written Oct 29, 2011

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    ABOVE THE ENTRANCE  THE NATIONS COAT OF ARMS
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    I am sure it would be impossible when visiting Canberra not to visit the new Parliament House..Located not far from the old Parliament House this new building is in a really dominant postion.The new Building looks down upon Anzac Avenue and across Lake Burley Griffin up to the sacred AustralianWar Memorial. Having worked for the Construction Company that built the New Parliament House I was particularly interested in visiting inside the building..Also having a friend working in Parliament House I was met and shown a real VIP tour around this amazing building..
    Entry is free and be prepared for the customary security scans..Once inside one is taken by the size and oppulence ..I guess it has to be, being such an Australian iconic building. There are many wonderful paintings to see along with various indigenous crafts and many historic Australian items and documents on display. A visit into the different assemblies here is possible and after another security check and having to have my camera left in a cloak room ,I was able to enter the chamber and witness "Question time" while the government holding office was having a fiery debate with its opposition..

    I posted a postcard at the post office located upstairs and has the official Parliament house"post mark" stamped.. There is a cafeteria that sells various food items and also a coffee shop..

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    Parliament House

    by cal6060 Updated Jul 7, 2011
    Parliament House, Canberra
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    This is not a museum. This is a real Parliament House Of Australia. The building is not as big as I thought, cause Australia is a big country. But the architectural of the building and landscaping are impressive. It made me felt like I was in the center of Australia, surrounding by other national buildings.

    They allow you to visit the real meeting hall while a decision is being implemented by senates, or etc. You will go through a security check before you are allowed to enter the hall.

    I managed to see reporters interviewed politicians for comments and etc. Interesting to see.. cause it is real...

    Open daily 9am-5pm.

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    More points of interest -New Parliament House

    by balhannah Updated Nov 20, 2009

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    Magna Carta Display
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    There is more than "Just Parliament" in new parliament house. On the walls, there are paintings of the Prime Ministers, there is information about the different parties.
    We saw a lovely clock, which was a gift from the Netherlands, and other gifts from countries around the world.
    The famous Magna Carta was also on display.

    Make sure you take the lift to the roof, and go for a walk on the lawn. The views are pretty good!

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    NEW PARLIAMENT HOUSE

    by balhannah Written Nov 20, 2009

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    Australian coat of arms on new parliament house
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    You would have to be blind not to see the 81-metre high flagmast, which is one of the world's largest stainless steel structures, sitting on top of New parliament house.

    From above, the design of new parliament house is in the shape of two boomerangs enclosed within a circle. Much of the building is buried beneath Capital Hill, but the meeting chambers and accommodation for parliamentarians are free-standing within the boomerang-shaped arms.

    New parliament house was opened on 9th May, 1988 [by her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 11], so it is not that "new" anymore, but is called such as there is still an "old Parliament House."
    It is the home of Australia's Federal Parliament and one of the world's most acclaimed buildings.

    A competition was held for the design of the building, and after perusing 329 entries from 28 countries, this was the design chosen, the winner was the New York-based architectural firm of Mitchell/Giurgol.

    The interior design is made up of various timbers from Australia and hosts numerous pieces of Australian art and craft.
    "The Great Hall tapestry" is one of the largest in the world

    After a security check, like at airports, and relinquishing my camera, {No photo's allowed} we went and sat in the public gallery and viewed the proceedings in the Senate and the House of Representives. I must say it was rather boring, and the Senators looked bored too except for the speaker and the senator talking. We left each after about 10mins, so glad that we were not stuck in a tour timetable.

    OPEN...................
    on sitting days - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, from 8.30am till 5.00pm
    all other days - from 9.00am to 5.00pm every day except Christmas Day when Parliament House is closed

    ADMISSION IS FREE
    Tours are available

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    FORECOURT MOSIAC

    by balhannah Written Nov 19, 2009

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    Looking to the forecourt mosaic

    Located infront of New parliament house, is a large mosaic.

    It is based on a Central Desert dot-style painting done by a leading Aboriginal artist from the Papunya community of the Northern Territory.
    The mosaic is made up of approximately 90,000 hand-guillotined granite pieces in seven different colours and represents a Possum and Wallaby Dreaming.
    Shallow running water complements the scene.

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    New Parliament Building

    by leffe3 Written Jun 3, 2009

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    The third Parliament building of Australia (Melbourne 1901-27, 'Old Parliament' House, Canberra 1927-88) was designed by an American firm (Mitchell/Giurgola) with an Italian (Giurgola) lead architect. It was chosen from 329 entries from 28 countries following Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser's decision in 1978 to commission a new building.

    Most of the building is buried under Capital Hill, but the front facade 'echoed deliberate designs of Old Parliament House' just down the hill towards Lake Burley Griffin.

    Begun in 1981, it was originally intended to be completed by Australia Day (26 January) 1988, the 200th anniversary of European settlement. It just missed - Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the new building on 9 May (a dual anniversary of the first opening of Australia's parliament in Melbourne in 1901 and the first Canberra parliament in 1927).

    With so much under ground, it's hard to realise the enormity of the building and the fact that from above it is designed in the shape of two boomerangs enclosed within a circle. There are 4,700 rooms, with both Senate (pink) and House of Representatives (green) surprisingly modest chambers.

    It is designed in such a way that when looking from the shores of the lake, the new building appears to sit atop the Old Parliament, with the 81 metre flagpole embracing both buildings.

    The building is open to the public every day except Christmas Day - free entry.

    On Parliament 'sitting days' (Tuesday-Thursday) 8.30am - 5pm
    All other days, 9am - 5pm

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    Strolling through the legislature!

    by vpas Written Dec 7, 2008

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    The new Parliament house is a modern building which is vast.The auditorium/hall at the ground floor is huge and is used to conduct functions such as convocations etc..The corridors are full of potraits and other memorabilia.

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    VISIT WHERE THE LAWMAKERS DO THE DEED!

    by AusPinay Updated May 5, 2008

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    at the great foyer of PARLIAMENT HOUSE
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    The Australian Parliament is open to the public for free but there are measures in place to maintain security and preserve the safety of our Parliamentarians.

    As it is the seat of government, CANBERRA being the capital of Australia, security is tight here so your bags are checked and big ones are left at the foyer.(Not much has changed since we last went there, except that we have a new leader which I helped install! This inspired us to go back there!)

    Cameras are allowed but there are off limit areas.

    We also saw the main hall/chamber where the senators do their deeds - bickering and/ or making laws!

    There are heaps of historical exhibits as well as leaders past and present of Australian government.

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  • Incorrect Information

    by ogre583 Written Feb 10, 2008

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    This is just a correction of another article I read on this site from someone. They said that due to security reasons people can no longer walk on the roof. This is INCORRECT. The public can access the roof but can only access it from the inside. People cannot walk up the side slopes onto the roof. All public who want to access the roof have to now go through normal security screening procedures to access it. Then they take a lift to the roof from the public area.

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    Get onto the Roof

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 8, 2007

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    Artworks of their own: Features of the roof.

    The roof of Parliament House provides spectacular views of Canberra. Access is via the lift at Members' Hall in the first floor.

    But it's not only the views. Also the roof itself is very interesting, with lawns (yes, really!) and outbuildings, designed in geometric shapes, offering frames for the views, or just other interesting aspects of the city and the region. You have 360° views. So it is really a perfect place for getting a feeling of the layout of the perfectly planned place in the middle of nowhere.

    From the roof you understand best the concept of the National Triangle. New Parliament House is the main corner of the National Triangle which is formed by Kings Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue, originating right there. On the other side of Lake Burley Griffin, where ANZAC Parade starts, Constitution Avenue connects those two avenues.

    So this triangle connects the three peaks of Capitol Hill (the location of Parliament House), City Hill and the Russell Apex (the location of the defence headquarters).

    Inside the triangle, a smaller triangle is located; it is the "Government Group", now the Parliamentary Zone.

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