A lot of people are talking about Hamilton these days – including some of North America’s top travel and lifestyle writers. The city was featured recently in no less than the New York Times, Elle Canada magazine and major dailies like The Globe and Mail and Montreal’s Le Devoir, where it’s been called “a burgeoning hipster haven” and “full of promises and surprises”. Read on to travel in the footsteps of those in the know, and get the experts’ take on not-to-be missed spots in this urban centre that is definitely trending!
Benoit Legault of Montreal’s Le Devoir recently visited Hamilton and raved about the vibrancy of the city. The travel writer of Canada’s esteemed daily francophone newspaper spent time in the city exploring its culinary and live music scenes, along with beautiful historic sites and “remarkable” museums. Legault suggests that Hamilton has emerged from the shadow of Toronto to compete with Canada’s largest city as a must-see destination, with recommendations to visit Dundurn Castle, Whitehern, Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. To take in and enjoy the area’s “bucolic natural settings”, he suggests heading to Royal Botanical Gardens and Spencer Gorge Conservation Area.
The Local Food Scene
The consensus is that Hamilton’s local food scene has exploded, and according to the Globe and Mail, one reason is that restaurant veterans are “ditching Toronto for Hamilton”. It lists at least five top Toronto chefs who have relocated to open buzz-worthy spots like Hamburgr, Aberdeen Tavern, The Heather and The French. Benoit Legault of Montreal’s Le Devoir raved about some of the same spots, specifically recommending The French, Radius, and Aberdeen Tavern, while giving a special shout out to the Hamilton Farmers’ Market.
Elle Canada also explored a few of the spots that are pioneering the Hamilton foodie landscape, eating its way across Hamilton with delicious results. The magazine recommends Earth to Table Bread Bar for “truly insane pizza” along with The Burnt Tongue for its changing roster of hearty daily soups and Belgian fries.
Of the New York Times’ “five places to go”, three eateries were mentioned, including Nique, a spot that pays tribute to Canada’s ethnic mosaic with a menu that leaps from sushi nachos to braised beef cheek. The Times also praised its “playfully named cocktails”, specifically the bourbon-infused Thai Cat, a homage to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Saint James is described as a packed daytime-only eatery, where weekend crowds “queue for brunch staples like peppery avocado toast, crunchy falafel salad and house-made scones.” Steps from the James Street North strip, the tiny, all-white espresso bar Smalls offers “meticulous artisanal coffee alongside pillowy pastries from De La Terre, an organic bakery 29 miles to the east in Vineland”.
In its feature story on Hamilton, the New York Times noted that the city is getting a big boost from creatives fleeing Toronto’s skyrocketing real estate costs. The Times found much of the buzz centered on once-rundown James Street North, which is percolating with a vibrant art scene. At The Assembly, sixteen prominent Ontario artists, including the painter Daniel Hutchinson and the sculptor Andrea Carvalho, started a bi-level cooperative gallery as an incubator for edgier work — and an alternative to Toronto’s competitive art scene.