New Parliament House, Canberra

4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars - 45 Reviews

Capital Hill 02 6277 5399

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  • Parliament House - Out to Rooftop Flagpole
    Parliament House - Out to Rooftop...
    by wabat
  • Parliament House - Internal
    Parliament House - Internal "Fountain"
    by wabat
  • The Queen
    The Queen "in" Parliament
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  • tiabunna's Profile Photo

    The ivory tower on the Hill?

    by tiabunna Updated Nov 23, 2006

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    Early morning balloon view
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    The New Parliament House began with controversy, because of long arguments about where it should be sited. When the hill finally was agreed as the site for the New Parliament House, a contest led to the design of the current building complex, with the main building appearing to be built into the hill (actually the hill was entirely removed, then the roof grassed over). For security reasons it is no longer possible to walk on the roof.

    The building complex consists of a large central area with grassed roof, an imposing facade, long curved walls on either side, with inter-connecting passages to separate office buildings on the outside. It cost what was considered a huge sum at the time, but that needs to be considered in the following context. Considered as a whole it is a very large building, additionally it is one of the very few buildings in Australia built with a design life of hundreds of years, so all materials and construction had to be first class.

    The problem is that the large scale of the building and its layout means that Ministers can largely avoid contact with anyone should they wish. So the hurley-burley of the Old Parliament House no longer occurs and Parliament is the poorer for it. Maybe with time it will change, but having worked there briefly I have my doubts. If I sound negative, it is only about the workings of the building. In itself it is, indeed, a very impressive 'must see', of which Australia can be very proud and I do recommend a visit.

    Join a free guided tour of the building (every 30 minutes 0900-1600), you will learn far more than could ever be presented here. The building is open 0900 -1700 daily except Christmas Day, there is a shop open the same hours as the building, and a licensed cafe open daily 0930 -1630.

    Main photo New Parliament house from above (low elevation)
    Second photo A high elevation view shows the building's form and the circular roads
    Third photo Ground level view, with Old Parliament House in the foreground.

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  • tiabunna's Profile Photo

    Go and look at the flagpole

    by tiabunna Written Apr 21, 2006

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    New Parliament House flagpole

    At 81metres high, the flagpole on New Parliament House is one of the world's largest stainless steel structures. The sheer size of it is not easily appreciated from a distance, but get up close and it becomes more obvious. Although security now precludes going to the top of the grassed roof of the building, you will still be able to get sufficiently close to appreciate it fully.

    The flag on top may not look large, that is because of its height and the dimensions of the pole supporting it: the flags are actually about the size of a double-decker bus! Flags of differing fabric weights are used, depending on the wind conditions - if winds will be light, a gauzy flag is flown, if they are strong, a flag made from heavier fabric is used. The flagpole designers overcame the design problems of how to raise and lower the flags by consulting some of Australia's top yacht designers. There also is a small carriage on one of the sloping legs, to take maintenance workers up, should that be necessary.

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  • balhannah's Profile Photo

    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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    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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  • iandsmith's Profile Photo

    New Parliament House

    by iandsmith Written Sep 19, 2005

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    The standout flag pole atop the building

    This is a unique building. Let's face, how many do you know that have lawns for a roof? Renowned for its impressive architecture, landscaped gardens and Australian art it is open from 9-5 daily.
    Free tours are available in English, French, German, Japanese and Chinese and, if you book ahead, you can watch parliament in session. You can also take a self-guided tour (brochure provided).
    One of the highlights for me was the Great Hall Tapestry, a wonderful work done by some ladies who have a lot more patience that me!
    If you're hungry, the Queen's Terrace Cafe has food with a lovely view over the lake.

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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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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    A Modern Shell filled with History

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 8, 2007

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    Parliament House and its Aboriginal mosaic.

    Queen Elizabeth II opened New Parliament House on Capital Hill on 9 May 1988.

    The building was designed by Romanldo Guirgola of Mitchell, Giurgola & Thorp Architects, with the prospect of a lifetime of 200 years. It sits on a 32-hectare site on Capital Hill, at the top of one of the wide corridors, linking the Australian War Memorial, Old and New Parliament Houses.

    If you stand in front of this modern, rather cold and functional building, you would not imagine how beautiful it is inside, and how full of history, culture and art. There could not be a bigger contrast.

    But, ok, let's start on the outside, with a big Aboriginal mosaic in the Forecourt, based on the typical dot-style paintings. It depicts a meeting place and symbolises the continent of Australia, inhabited by Aboriginal people prior to European settlement. 90,000 granite pieces in seven colours had to be hand-guillotined to put this piece of art together.

    In the foyer marble and timber are used to mark the arrival of the Europeans. The marquetry panels are inlaid with designs of Australian flora. I loved it!

    The settlement and cultivation of the land are expressed in the Great Hall by the use of rich Australian timbers, tapestry and embroidery.

    The Members' Hall is located directly under the flagmast in the heart of the building. The Senate and the House of Representatives chambers are to the left and to the right.

    A lot of commissioned artworks, as well as gifted portraits and sculptures, give the rather dark and serene interior a touch of museum. To me, the building as a whole symbolises a young and modern nation on the outside with a rich history on the inside.

    Free guided tours begin at 9am and follow every 30 minutes, the last tour starting at 4pm. When Parliament is not meeting tours take 45mins, when P. is meeting they take about 20mins. Audio-guides in various languages are available.

    Self-guided tours are also possible. If you have questions you can ask the guides who are positioned at strategic points.

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  • wabat's Profile Photo

    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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  • ZiOOlek's Profile Photo

    New Parliament House

    by ZiOOlek Updated Apr 1, 2007

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    Visiting the New Parliament House is possible. The trip is free and you can visit it with a guide or by yourself. You will be able to see for example portraits of Heads of the Country and both chambers - House of Representative and Senate. Nice gifts in a Parliament shop on the first floor, close to the main entrance.

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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    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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    ... and do not forget the Flagpole

    by Kakapo2 Written Jul 8, 2007

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    The flagpole is 81 metres high.

    The flagpole on Parliament House is 81 metres high and made of stainless steel. The flag measures 12.9 by 6.4 metres. In their brochure they compare the size to the side of a double-decker bus. It weighs 220 tonnes; the steel comes from Newcastle in New South Wales.

    With those measures it is one of the biggest stainless steel constructions in the world. It has become the symbol of national government and is flood-lit at night. So you will always see it dominating the city - and somehow this is a symbol of its own right, as Canberra once was only planned as the place of the Australian Government.

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  • Kate-Me's Profile Photo

    Parliament House

    by Kate-Me Written Feb 26, 2005

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    the avenue leading to Parliament house

    I'm not sure why Parliament House is given as one of the tourist attractions of Canberra.....maybe for people with more interest in politics than I have.
    At any rate, we didn't get time to go there, but I was surprised by just how much you can see it by not even going there - it towers over and dominates the Canberra skyline - we could see it from just about everywhere in the city.

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  • AusPinay's Profile Photo

    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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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    The Two Houses under One Roof

    by Kakapo2 Written Jul 8, 2007

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    A reflection of the flagpole on the roof.

    The Federal Parliament of Australia consists of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

    76 senators form the Senate, 12 from each of the six states and two from each of the two mainland territories. The members are elected for six years, with half retiring every three years.

    The number of members in the House of Representatives can vary slightly, due to the movement in the population, but it is always about 150 members. One member is elected for each district. The members are elected for about three years. The party that wins a majoity of seats forms the government.

    The Senate chamber is furnished in shades of red, the House of Representatives in green. At the front of each chamber is an elevated chair for the presiding officer. This person is called President in the Senate and Speaker in the House of Representatives.

    The members of the governing party sit to the right of the Speaker, the non-government members to the left. At the large table in front of the presiding officer you find the leaders of the major parties and clerks who advise members on procedure and make the formal records of the work of each chamber.

    A gold mace is placed on the table when the House of Representatives is sitting.

    From the Foyer you walk up to Queen's Terrace and Great Hall on the first floor. Having left the Great Hall, you reach Members' Hall. The Senate is to the right, the House of Representatives to the left.

    Parliament House is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9am to 5pm.

    Question Time in both chambers begins at 2pm. Seats can be reserved for Question Time in the House of Representatives by calling (02) 6277 4889. (No res. necessary for Senate.)

    The Queen's Terrace Café is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

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