Guelph is a vibrant, beautiful and lively city; one in which I was very lucky to grow up in. Mind you, it has developed a lot since I was a kid. Any Guelphite knows that if this blog was written several years ago, the number one attraction would be the Pergola…seriously, Google it!
Whether you are visiting Guelph for the first time, a brand new U of G student or a lifetime veteran and want to be a tourist in your own city for a day (as I did), this list of must-sees includes a handful of my favourite spots. From the hiking trails to the cafes and cute shops, the beautiful landscape to the history, Guelph has got it all!
1 | THE RED BRICK CAFE
Start your day off right and check out the Red Brick Cafe. This hipster spot is easily one of my favourite cafes in the downtown core and boasts a super casual vibe. Pop in for a quick drink to go, enjoy an item from their cafe menu, whip out your laptop to get some work done or indulge in an evening of live music or an art show. This coffee house has so much to offer. Might I suggest trying their iced matcha latte?
2 | STARKEY HILL CONSERVATION AREA
Located just on the outskirts of Guelph, in Puslinch, Starkey Hill offers a variety of terrain and a number of hiking trails available to enjoy. It doesn’t matter if you are a runner, mountain biker or simply enjoy a scenic hike with your four-legged best friend in tow, like Apollo and I. The trail is about an hour in length at a medium pace and I suggest hiking boots or runners at the very least.
3 | CANOE RIDE ON THE RIVER
Speed River Paddling offers canoe and kayak rentals for your enjoyment of the Speed River. The best part? Rentals are conveniently located at the Boathouse and just steps from Guelph’s lattice covered bridge mentioned below. Paddling down the river on a gorgeous summer day is an absolute must in Guelph and I highly recommended. It is my personal mission to kayak to the old jail and back all the while taking in the beautiful scenery that will have you questioning whether you are actually in a city.
4 | COVERED BRIDGE
During your canoe ride along the Speed River keep your eyes open for one of the two covered bridges in all of Ontario! Perfectly picturesque, Guelph’s foot bridge was erected on June 1, 1992 by 400 volunteers and constructed using building designs from the 1800’s! The lattice covered bridge is located directly on the Speed River Trail and lends itself wonderfully as a photographic backdrop for special occasions or a perfectly located resting point while enjoying the best ice cream you’ve ever had as mentioned below.
5 | THE BOATHOUSE
An incredible spot, and one known to every Guelphite. The Boathouse serves up the best ice cream (strawberry being my personal fave!), and doubles as a tea house offering an incredible high tea experience. Located on Gordon Street and alongside the Speed River, the Boathouse is a summer hit amongst all. Only minutes from one of two covered bridges in Ontario, the John McCrae house and the Speed River Trail! With so many things to do and see, you must make the Boathouse a priority on your tour of Guelph. Keep in mind while visiting, that this single-storey wooden structure was built in 1930 for Edward Johnson, a well-known opera singer. Ahh, the history that this city offers is so neat.
6 | JOHN MCCRAE HOUSE
The McCrae house, birthplace of John McCrae; doctor, soldier and author of the First World War poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’, is a small limestone cottage surrounded by lush gardens and memorial to the late John McCrae. The home was built in 1858 and owned by the McCrae family from 1870-1873. Other families occupied the house until 1966, when a group of Guelph citizens purchased the building with the intention of preserving it as a museum. The McCrae house is open to the public Tuesday-Sunday and surrounded by many beautiful homes in the Old University neighbourhood. This area is easily one of my favourite spots to walk about with an ice cream in hand, marvelling at all of the pretty houses.
7 | OXFORD STREET
One of my all-time favourite things to do in Guelph is stroll through beautiful neighbourhoods with a hot cup of joe. I love marvelling over gorgeous stately homes with loads of character, grand gardens and fantastic elements of modern architecture. If you are anything like me, then visiting Oxford Street (and surrounding streets) in downtown Guelph is right up your alley. Often times, I am lucky enough to meet the owners of these gorgeous estates and learn the history behind their homes and those of their neighbours.
8 | BASILICA OF OUR LADY IMMACULATE
When I think of the most iconic part of Guelph, the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate (formerly Church of Our Lady Immaculate) immediately comes to mind. Looking up at the structure in all of its architectural glory is awe-inspiring regardless of your religious beliefs. Catholics have been worshipping in this national historic site for the last 120 years! My favourite aspect of this incredible piece of Guelph’s history is mass on Christmas Eve and on Easter Sunday. The church is candle lit and incredibly breathtaking; a sight to be seen even if it is only once.
9 | BAKER ST. STATION
I have two major pastimes, drinking red wine and eating delicious food. So it should come as no surprise that I have included one of my favourite restaurants on my top ten list. The surprise, if any, is that I have only included one of my faves. If you’re looking for a casual and cozy atmosphere, an excellent patio vibe, a grand selection of local craft beer and cider paired with local and delicious cuisine, Baker Street Station is an absolute must.
10 | ROYAL CITY BREWING CO.
A tiny, local brewing operation with a massive flavour! Royal City Brewing Co. has an incredible lineup of delicious craft beers and behind it all, a very talented and driven team. Considering our city size, our selection of craft breweries is very impressive and I urge you to book a tour and see for yourself. For my fellow Guelphites, popping into Royal City on the weekend for a few brews with some friends is a great time and I highly recommend it. The vibe and atmosphere is awesome, the staff are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, the beer selection is vast and the flavour is fantastic!