City Hill is a five hectare landscaped hill located in the centre of Canberra and surrounded by Vernon Circle. It is central to the original design of Canberra by Walter Burley Griffin and features formal tree plantings by Thomas Charles Weston from the 1920s.
Six major avenues radiate from City Hill giving rise to the symbolic notion of it being the heart of the Capital. City Hill offers shade, grass and seating.
A significant place in the National Capital
Walter Burley Griffin saw City Hill as a significant point on his prize-winning plan for Canberra. Six important avenues radiate from it. Two of these - Commonwealth and Constitution Avenues - are sides of the parliamentary triangle which is Griffin's intended symbolic heart of the Capital. The other avenues are Ainslie, Northbourne, University, and Edinburgh. From the top of City Hill vistas along all six avenues are possible. Planting of the hill from 1921 onwards by Charles Weston, Canberra's first Superintendent, Parks and Gardens, helped to emphasise these vistas.
The planted hill has remained throughout its history as the symbolic point of gathering for the local population. On 13 February 1954, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was welcomed at the foot of the hill by the people of Canberra. A plaque, at the intersection of London Circuit and Northbourne Avenue, marks the location of the dais on which the welcoming ceremony was staged. The ACT Legislative Assembly, the law courts, Civic Square and local administration offices were all located subsequently at the foot of City Hill within London Circuit.
City Hill is entered into the Register of the National Estate and the ACT Heritage Places Register. It is also listed by the National Trust of Australia (ACT).
Designed to emphasise its key location in Griffin's Plan
Charles Weston's symmetrical landscape design for City Hill responds to Walter Burley Griffin's plan. On either side of Griffin's six radiating avenue axes, Weston planted double staggered rows of closely spaced Roman cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens Stricta). The rows are located with the intention of providing confined views from City Hill along each of the six avenues. Twelve oval shaped groups of Roman cypresses and six groups of Monterey pines (Pinus radiata) reinforce the symmetrical nature of his design and confine the views from the hill-top to the avenues. Weston added deciduous trees to achieve a touch of autumn colour and spring flowering effects. As the dark green trees have grown they have tended to increase the perceived height of the hill, and emphasise its important role as a landmark in the National Capital.
The original composition and character of the landscape has changed little since the 1920s. Most of the spring flowering trees have been removed. Safe public access to the top of the hill has been lost with the construction in the early 1960s of the now heavily used Vernon Circle to the south-eastern flank of the hill where a landscaped lookout and carpark (time limited) were constructed at the time.
A place to reflect on the plan for the National Capital
The tree planted City Hill is a strong visual symbol marking one corner of Walter Burley Griffin's Parliamentary triangle. At the Vernon Circle lookout visitors and residents can view the National Capital's parliamentary triangle and appreciate the role of City Hill in Griffin's outstanding design for Canberra.
Gray, J (1999). The Historical and Cultural Background of selected Urban Parks in Canberra - Volume 2.
Facilities and activities
- Picnic tables
- Dogs allowed on leash
- There also is a directional indicator, coin-operated tourist information dispenser and seats.
About urban parks
TCCS manages urban parks and open space in Canberra. There are three main types of urban parks in Canberra: town parks, district parks and neighborhood parks. Other landscaped components of the park system include:
- Pedestrian parkland which are corridors of open space provided for pedestrian movement within and between suburbs.
- Semi-natural open spaces which are areas of remnant grazing land or native vegetation, and include creek corridors, hilltop areas, ridges and buffer areas between suburbs.
- Native grassland or woodland sites which contain endangered plant species.
- Major road verges and medians.
- Informal use ovals which are non-irrigated open dryland grass areas for informal sport and recreational use.
- Special purpose areas which are large open spaces dedicated to specialised recreational activities or sporting events.
Plans of management
Plans of management for urban parks identify what is important about the areas and how they are to be managed. A plan of management is intended to provide direction and guidance to the land custodian, management staff, visitors, neighbours, volunteers, and others with an interest in the area.
More information and feedback
For more information or to provide feedback, contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81 or complete an online feedback form.