Eclectic shops and restos transform Hamilton from gritty to great road trip getaway
Think you know Hamilton? Ontario’s fifth-largest metropolis has a gritty history, but that’s giving way to a bold and creative future. Make the 60-minute trip from Toronto and you’ll see that the steel capital of Canada’s sooty sky has long cleared, revealing an industrial-chic city with lake-side bike paths and over 100 waterfalls. Add to that intriguing architecture, a hot art scene, plus a stack of on-trend businesses, and it’s easy to see how ridiculously good-looking Hamilton really is.
Explore the city by clicking on the icons in our interactive map below or scroll down to learn more about our favourite spots.
/ HAMILTON HOT SPOTS:
1 Waterfront Trail
Follows the Hamilton Harbour
Cycle or walk alongside Lake Ontario on this 7.5-kilometre stretch.
2 Dundurn Castle
610 York Blvd
Actors in period garb lead visitors through this neoclassical mansion.
5 Art Gallery of Hamilton
123 King St W
A Kim Adams installation packs a mini metropolis into a ’60s VDub van.
6 GO Centre
36 Hunter St E
Zip to Hamilton from Union Station in just over an hour.
8 Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King
714 King St W
A striking gothic church designed by William Russell Souter in the 1930s.
/ WHERE TO SHOP:
// JAMES STREET NORTH
A hip hood buzzing with street cred and one-of-a-kind finds
9 Mixed Media
When David Kuruk and Teresa Devries opened their shop a decade ago, the creative landscape of James Street North was just beginning to reveal itself. Now it’s a heavily trodden hotspot dotted with galleries and studios with its own monthly art crawl. Catering to artists and art-enthusiasts alike, MM is beloved for its letterpress cards from Kingston’s Everlovin, Germany’s lustrous Lamy pens and offbeat, frame-ready Hamilton neighbourhood maps from the Jelly Bros. 154 James St N
10 Chaises Musicales
The destination of choice for all things mid-century, this is the place to find perfectly preserved rosewood and teak coffee tables, as well as Murano glass tableware and 1960s globe light fixtures. Though floor space is modest, the oft-rotating selection is consistently impressive (check the vinyl collection often!). If it’s not in the shop, tell owner Jeremiah Boyter what you want and he will track it down. 152 James St N
11 Pretty Grit
For store owners Annie Horton and Amanda Cordero, Pretty Grit is a perfect description of Hamilton’s unique identity – industrial and picture-sque. It’s also the vision that drives the modern housewares store; each carefully selected item is functional, spunky and, in fact, pretty. The prismatic, pure-white bathroom accessories, geometric black-metal air plant holders and hammered copper flatware from David Shaw Designs are all great scores. 128 James St N
// OTTAWA STREET
A burgeoning design district home to textile suppliers and vintage stores galore
12 Remember When
Housed in the historic Avon movie theatre (the marquee is still intact), this antique emporium is the promised land for those looking for the genuine article: a like-new 50s teak-and-leather rocking chair, sprawling oak harvest tables and cash registers from the 1900s. Organized as a multi-vendor set-up, the enormous space is divided into booths, each with its own eccentricities. A recent visit unearthed retro cameras, mod armchairs and plenty of Bakelite. 195 Ottawa St N
// LOCKE STREET
A mash-up of mom-and-pops, trendy lifestyle shops and specialty grocers
With its warm wood interior and handcrafted (from barn board) fixtures, Canoe is a staple lifestyle store for those looking for cool Canadiana gifts and garb by the best up-and-coming young designers. It has rustic chic down pat: Muskoka-ready Filson flannels, leather bags from Lowell and hand-painted canoe paddles from Norquay Co. are all on offer. 233 Locke St S
14 Michael Thomas Antiques, Art & Furnishings
While a stone’s throw away from Locke Street, you’d be smart to make the detour to MTAAF. The upscale shop carries some of the finest examples of 20th-century design: marble-top side tables from Drexel Heritage, an elegant Italian brass and glass bar cart from the ‘50s and sweet rarities like brutalist bookcases. Thomas also curates a contemporary art collection, including etchings from Canadian legend David Blackwood. 318 Dundurn St S, #2
/ WHERE TO EAT:
15 Aberdeen Tavern
Regal and refined but not the least bit stuffy, this popular spot feels something like a New York-style tavern. The restaurant calls an old bank building its home, and the mood is set with dark wood and oil paintings lining the walls. Get comfy on a tufted leather banquette for lunch or dinner (try the curried mussels and lamb bolognese orecchiette), or hit the patio for an indulgent weekend brunch. 432 Aberdeen Ave
16 Dundurn Market
Part coffee shop, part high-end take-out go-to, DM is a modern version of the neighbourhood corner store. Intricately tiled floors, ornate wallpaper and a large L-shaped counter make the space feel elegant, but warm and unpretentious. Shelves are stocked with local fare, including preserves, Relay Roasters coffee and fresh wildflower bouquets. Grab-and-go meals like butter-chicken meatballs and Sicilian eggplant caponata nourish regulars like they are family. 346 Dundurn St S
17 Two Black Sheep
The aqua-blue door framed in worn and mismatched board cladding invites visitors inside for late-night dining that marries upscale taste with cozy charm. Best bets: The creamiest Maritime oysters, house-made charcuterie and a custom cocktail selection that prides itself on its capriciousness (case in point: the Rhubarb Julep). Birdcages with glowing orange bulbs create an ambience that might tempt you to extend your nightcap. 163 John St S