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The city's most famous landmark is worth it for the glorious view alone, though there's much more to see. The tiny castle atop the hill is Cabot Tower, built in 1900 to honor both John Cabot's arrival in 1497 and Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. In midsummer soldiers dressed as the 19th-century Royal Newfoundland Company perform a tattoo and fire cannons.
The Signal Hill Visitor Centre features interactive displays on the site's history. The last North American battle of the Seven Years' War took place here in 1762, and Britain's victory ended France's renewed aspirations for control of eastern North America. The tattoo takes place next to the center at O'Flaherty Field.
You can see cannons and the remains of the late 18th-century British battery at Queen's Battery & Barracks further up the hill. Inside Cabot Tower, educational displays relay how Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi received the first wireless transatlantic message from Cornwall, England at the site in 1901. An amateur radio society operates a station in the tower in July and August.
Signal Hill also offers guided tours around the grounds, Thursday lunches where you eat like an 18th-century soldier (complete with rum pairings) and sunset concerts. Check the website's 'Activities' section for details and costs.
An awesome way to return to downtown is along the 1.7km North Head Trail, which connects Cabot Tower with the harborfront Battery neighborhood. The walk departs from the tower's parking lot and traces the cliffs, imparting tremendous sea views and sometimes whale spouts. The trailhead isn't marked; look for it right before you enter the lot. It's the path leading furthest to the right. Because much of the trail runs along the bluff's sheer edge, this walk is not something to attempt in icy, foggy or dark conditions. Free maps are available at Cabot Tower.
The site sits 1.5km from downtown, up Signal Hill Rd.