Hamilton

Destination Location

Hamilton

Overview

Nicknamed Steeltown, a tribute to its early industrial beginnings, Hamilton has become a popular destination for travellers en route to the Greater Toronto Area and those looking to simply relax in the hills.

Arts and culture come to life here at the city's performing arts venues, galleries and attractions. See live performances by the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Hamilton Theatre, Opera Hamilton, Symphony Hamilton and Theatre Aquarius. Then, visit Ontario's third-largest public art gallery, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, which holds more than 9,000 19th-century European and Canadian works.

Want to learn more about the region's rich history? Visit Hamilton's Dundurn Castle, a classic Regency-style villa and gardens with costumed guides. And just a short drive outside of Hamilton is Westfield Heritage Village – a 19th-century village with more than 35 restored and rebuilt buildings.

If it's relaxation you're after, visit one of the 65 waterfalls found within city limits. Then, take a walk across the paths found high above the city along the Niagara Escarpment. You can also head to nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, where you’ll find quaint bed and breakfasts and world-renowned wine country. Visit the annual Niagara Wine Festival in September and check out the Shaw Festival in the summertime, featuring the works of George Bernard Shaw and his playwright contemporaries.

With plenty to offer inside city limits and just half-an-hour's drive beyond, you’ll find everything you want to do and more along the west end of Lake Ontario in Hamilton.

Hamilton is a fantastic destination for:

  • culture and history
  • outdoor adventure
  • shopping and dining

Airport served by: YHM

Destination basics

Hamilton rests along the western curve of Lake Ontario, boasting of lush green landscapes, a striking harbor, and the semblance of a once-thriving industrial past. A diamond in the rough, Hamilton with its portside beauty has undergone furious development in the years after the decline of its steel industry. Now home to clandestine nature trails, nearly 100 cascading waterfalls, and a booming arts and culture scene, Hamilton has risen from the gritty concrete depths it was once defined by.

With the Niagara Escarpment cutting through the heart of the city, Hamilton finds itself with two distinct personalities. The part of the escarpment, colloquially known as ‘The Mountain', is perched high above the city. It is from here that several of the waterfalls begin their descent, and trails snake their way through the thick of wilderness. The rest of the city is home to a rich cultural legacy that comprises of castles, historical buildings and museums.

Downtown Hamilton
The heart of Hamilton has revitalized itself to assume a livelier personality. Charming yet modern, Downtown Hamilton is bounded by King, Wellington and Queen streets. Its busy avenues are peppered with numerous mom and pop cafes, global restaurants, antique stores and a burgeoning entertainment scene. Historic jewels like Gore Park stand out amid the industrial skyline of the city, replete with a centuries-old fountain and a Veterans' Memorial. The downtown area is also the proud home of Hess Village, a cobblestoned hub that hosts the city's nightlife. On King Street West, Hamilton's major landmarks steal the scene, from the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the FirstOntario Center, to the Hamilton Convention Center and Core Entertainment.

James Street North/South
James Street is Hamilton's dynamic thoroughfare, one that captures the city's artistic spirit. The street stretches on both ends, leading toward the north and south sides of Downtown Hamilton. Home to the radical and the creative, James Street North harbors a Brooklyn-esque vibe that is hard to ignore. The iconic Art Crawl held here every second Friday of the month paints the town red, while the annual Supercrawl festival celebrates the spirit of indie music. Restaurants and cafes at every corner vie for attention, whether it is the Green Bar that serves health on a plate, or the hip all-day eatery, Jack & Lois.

While it parents the emerging and the new, it also lets you sneak a peek into its former identity. Decades-old bakeries and grocery stores are representatives of an earlier time, back when the neighborhood was known as Little Portugal. On the southern side, architectural gems such as the Pigott Building and the James Street Baptist Church stand guard to the city's past, even as neighborhood undergoes fast real-estate development.

Concession Street
Located within the city's upper limits, Concession Street is one of the city's oldest settlement communities. What was previously home to several African American communities, has slowly transformed over the years to reveal a decidedly vibrant district. Although not as popular as James Street North, Concession Street does have its flashes of brilliance, if you consider the art-deco venue The Zoetic, or Sam Lawrence park that offers sweeping lower city views.

Locke Street
Locke Street occupies the city's lower limits, and is a quaint neighborhood that balances religion and retail. Although a residential area with homes dating back to the 1800s, the street is also the site of several 19th century churches like the Locke Presbyterian Church and Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church. Locke Street South opens up to avenues that are dotted with cute antique shops, gift stores and specialty boutiques. Hit up fair trade and antique shops like Ten Thousand Villages and Locke Street antiques for interesting finds.

North End / Dundurn
This district is largely defined by the Dundurn Castle, a neo-classical château from the 19th Century Harvey and Dundurn parks sprawl across the castle's front side, running parallel to the Waterfront Trail that overlooks Burlington Bay. Other bay-facing parks toward the North End include Bayfront Park and Pier 4 Park.

Westdale
Bound by the beautiful Cootes Paradise to the north and a fantastic shopping scene that extends to its south, Westdale offers an exciting mix of nature and retail. Among its many defining features, the Westdale Village is its most popular one, with endless avenues of shopping and dining. Westdale is also the site of Canada's 4th ranking educational institution, the eminent McMaster University.

Old Stoney Creek
This rustic old town finds itself on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, beneath the shadows of the Niagara Escarpment. Besides featuring the Battlefield House Museum, Stoney Creek also leads to the Devil's Punchbowl area from where the eponymous falls begin their cascade. Each summer, this neighborhood hosts the Stoney Creek Flag Festival and the Winona Peach Festival.
Hamilton boasts a fast flourishing arts and culture scene supported by historic museums, art galleries, concert venues and theatrical performances. Additionally, it also encourages visitors to come play in its untamed outdoors.

Museums & Galleries
Hamilton pays homage to its rich history through various museums. While the Dundurn Castle and Battlefield House & Museum provide a window into Canadian history, technical museums like Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology probe into Canada's engineering accomplishments. The Hamilton Children's Museum features an eclectic play area for kids, allowing them to learn through interactive exhibits and galleries. The city is also recognized for its stellar contribution to the arts, evident from the Art Gallery of Hamilton and McMaster Museum of Art.

Concerts
Hamilton takes its inclination toward the musical arts seriously, and is home to a dozen live music venues. The FirstOntario Centre is the city's premier venue to catch modern concerts and large scale music events. The FirstOntario Concert Hall is home to classical concerts hosted by the Hamilton Philharmonic. Typically, Hamilton is more famous for its smaller live music venues that introduce local flavor and host native bands. Popular hangouts include lively venues like Casbah, The Augusta House, the Baltimore House and This Ain't Hollywood. Those in the know flock to these venues nightly for a fun-filled musical night, with the added bonus of a bar area. If this isn't enough, the bi-monthly Art Crawl and the annual Supercrawl have every audiophile standing in rapt attention at the street gigs that take place on James Street North.

Performing Arts
Downtown Hamilton is home to Theatre Aquarius, a modern centre that hosts everything from Broadway musicals and modern renditions of classic plays. The Studio at Core Entertainment is perfect for smaller theater events, as is the Zoetic, located on Concession Street.

Outdoors
The Niagara Escarpment offers ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. Home to nearly 100 waterfalls, 65 of which are within city limits, the escarpment is a hikers' paradise. Match steps with other hikers along the iconic Bruce Trail that leads you to several of the city's falls. The dreamy Albion Falls, a classical waterfall, is the city's pride and allows hikers to climb down and enjoy the falls from a lower vantage point. In Dundas, the Webster Falls and Tew Falls are located in the Spencer Gorge Wilderness Area, while the Tiffany Falls and Devil's Punchbowl are other popular sites.

Cyclists can also ride their bike along some of the trails, and stop by the falls to admire the breathtaking views. In winter, these falls turn into hotspots for professional ice climbers. A little outside of Hamilton, the African Lion Safari park is home to vast expanses of wilderness. Witness over 1000 kinds of native and foreign birds take flight, besides lions, giraffes, elephants and lemurs.
As Hamilton came to terms with its steel industry's death, it birthed a growing dining scene in its wake. Over the years, the city has witnessed a spurt of emerging trends and independent businesses on the culinary front. From ethnic eateries and trendy burger joints, to hip cafes and contemporary restaurants, Hamilton has it all.

Downtown Core
Downtown Hamilton is connected by a diverse network of restaurants and cafes. The Rapscallion Rogue Eatery is one of the more popular hotspots for meat-centric dinners, driven by a chalkboard menu that changes daily. For lighter, Asian-inspired lunches, August 8 is a good choice, while the decades-old Capri Restaurant on John Street North offers varying Italian dishes. For when you want to unwind in the evenings with a beer and some nosh, hit up the George Hamilton Restaurant & Bar for incredible pub ‘n grub menu.

James Street North
James Street North offers a bewildering number of dining choices in its close-knit space. At Jack & Lois, begin your day with superb breakfast sandwiches. Their large glass windows are perfect for idle people watching as you drink your coffee. When hunger strikes at lunchtime, choose between gourmet pies at Knead Pizza and barbequed specials at Salt Lick Smokehouse. In case you were wondering, this fantastic barbeque joint serves delicious vegetarian options as well. For dinner, the Lake Road restaurant is an excellent fine dining pick serving regional favorites. If you're feeling a bit fancy, then the Wild Orchid's Portuguese-inspired seafood specialties will satisfy your cravings.

James Street South
James Street's cousin down south is no stranger when it comes to eclectic eateries. Indulge your taste buds in Canadian specialties, and let Nellie James Too surprise you with a delicious chef-driven menu. At WASS, ethnic Ethiopian specialties hit the spot when regular burgers and fries just won't cut it. For fiery meals and tantalizing libations, turn to Mezcal Tacos & Tequila and it won't disappoint. Spare an evening for locally-inspired steaks at Radius, and reward yourself with wine on their picturesque patio. For all your coffee needs, the Red Crow Coffee and House of Java can be relied on.

North End
While the North End is comparatively nondescript when it comes to culinary accomplishments, it is home to a couple of good ones. A case in point is the Butcher and the Vegan, where farm-to-table specialties are paired with local wine and beer. Nearby, the Harbour Diner is also a popular staple for hearty breakfasts with families who come up to visit the harbor.

Locke Street
Hamilton's Locke Street South sports a mixed culinary bag, from elegant bars, to casual burger joints. Make a stop at Mattson & Co., an upscale jazz bar that is great for an evening of carefree lounging. But before you get too comfortable, head upstairs for a dinner of Muscovy Duck Wings and Canadian mussels. If you cannot get enough of pizza, then NàRoma is a must-visit for its square-shaped, wood-fired pizza pies. Go see if the Burnt Tongue can make it to your hot favorite list for its soups and classic burgers. Else, the Brux House has a long list of brews on tap for the indecisive.

Ottawa Street North
This busy street is one of the leading localities for the food truck movement in Hamilton. From Gorilla Cheese to the Southern Smoke Barbeque House, what were once thriving food trucks now occupy concrete spaces along this street. Ottawa Street North also takes its food truck obsession to the next level, by hosting the Sew Hungry Food Truck Rally each year. Until then, shuck oysters and sip on inventive cocktails at the Two Black Sheep Bar.

Hamilton

Province: Ontario

Country: Canada

Hamilton by the Numbers
Population: 536,917
Highest Elevation: 324 meters / 1,063 feet
Lowest Elevation: 75 meters / 246 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 4.18 centimeters / 1.64 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 118.1 centimeters / 46.5 inches
Average January Temperature: -1°C / 30°F
Average July Temperature: 27°C / 81°F

Quick Facts

Electricity: 120 volts, 60Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT-5 (GMT-4 Daylight Saving Time); Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 226; 289; 519; 905

Did You Know?

The Niagara Escarpment on which Hamilton is located, is a World Biosphere Reserve.

Orientation

Hamilton is located on the western end of Lake Ontario. Burlington, ON is located 18.4 kilometers (11.4 miles) from Hamilton, while Mississauga, ON is located 47.5 kilometers (29.5 miles) away.

Hamilton was the habitat of the First National aborigines and remained particularly unnoticed until it was discovered by Frenchman Étienne Brûlé in 1616. Much later during the American Revolution, the United Empire Loyalists started trickling into the territory of Hamilton. More Americans followed under the pretext of settling on fertile land, and the population grew by leaps and bounds.

After the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States, the town of Hamilton came into existence because of the efforts of George Hamilton. He also joined hands with Nathaniel Hughson, a landowner, and James Durand, to build a courthouse in town. In 1846, the City of Hamilton received its official status. Somewhere between 1846 and 1866, Hamilton began its venture into the steel industry. It grew into names like ‘Ambitious Little City' and ‘Steeltown', and it was defined by similar limiting labels, until its demise in the new millennium.

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