The city of Cambridge sits at the convergence of Speed River and Grand River, a Canadian Heritage River. Formed in 1973, Cambridge is actually the consolidation of the four communities of Galt, Preston, Hespeler, and Blair, each with their own rich heritage and histories that now give Cambridge its distinct character.
Cambridge is widely known in the region of Waterloo for its old-world “Dickensian” look, owing to the historic limestone buildings in the city that date back to the mid-1800s. The unique architectural features of Cambridge has made it a go-to for film and TV series productions. The critically acclaimed TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, was filmed here, with several memorable scenes shot in Cambridge’s most popular landmarks.
Before its consolidation, Cambridge had its start as one of Ontario’s foremost industrial centres. Galt, Hespeler, Preston and Blair were built on the thriving industries of lumber, flour and textiles. Currently, Cambridge remains a largely industrial city, producing pharmaceutical and automotive parts, and growing high-technology industries along with business and financial services.
To learn more about all there is to see and do in Cambridge, scroll down or visit the city's tourism website.
Where is Cambridge?
Cambridge is located within the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, in southern Ontario, approximately an hour's drive from Toronto and easily accessed via GO Transit. Former Galt makes up the largest part of Cambridge to the south, with former Preston and Blair covering the western side, and Hespeler making up the northeastern side of the city.
Things to Do in Cambridge
Being composed of several historic communities, Cambridge has three official downtown centres, making it an ideal city for exploring. Visitors will enjoy the Cambridge Farmers’ Market with its fresh local cuisine and unique, homemade crafts. Open since 1830, it’s one of the oldest operating markets in all of Canada. Stroll along the streets of downtown Cambridge and peruse unique specialty boutiques and local restaurants. Catch a glimpse into Cambridge’s rich history at the McDougall Cottage Historic Site, the impressive Former Galt Post Office with its breathtaking mix of Gothic and Romanesque Revival architecture, and at the old Forbes Textile Mill, heritage buildings that all date back to the mid-to-late 19th century.
Take in Cambridge’s local art scene. Snap a selfie at one of the sprawling street murals or visit the Cambridge Sculpture Garden. Summers in Cambridge bring events such as the Cambridge Arts Festival, Forbes Park Music Festival and the Cambridge Scottish Festival. The city is also home to three art galleries, namely the Ideas Exchange Queen’s Square Gallery, Preston Gallery (both of which focus on contemporary art by local artists), and Design at Riverside Gallery, which focuses on architecture and design. Lovers of historical fashion and contemporary fashionistas will want to drop by the Fashion History Museum, with over 10,000 historical garments, some dating back to the 1600s. The Cambridge Centre for the Arts offers a variety of drop-in classes for pottery, drawing, quilting, sewing and even ballroom dancing.
Nature lovers will feel right at home in Cambridge. Hikers, paddlers, cyclists and anglers alike will enjoy Shade’s Mills Conservation Area. Popular for canoeing, swimming and sport fishing, this park also has several trails that are ideal for hiking and trail cycling. Hop over to Riverside Park for a picnic and enjoy its hiking trails and tennis courts, or Churchill Park with its 14 camping sites and numerous playing fields for baseball and football. Spend an afternoon at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory where you can sit among dozens of species of butterflies from countries as far as Costa Rica and the Philippines. Eagle-eyed wildlife enthusiasts may also spot exotic birds that call this conservatory home, such as the German Roller Canary and the Pintail Whydah, or a number of resident bugs such as the Vietnamese Walking Stick and the Giant African Flower Beetle.
Cambridge Neighbourhoods & Districts
Cambridge’s origins as flourishing industrial towns with their own unique histories make every neighbourhood feel both established and diverse.
The largest area in Cambridge is divided into three neighbourhoods: East Galt, West Galt, and North Galt. East Galt is a fast-growing part of town thanks to its proximity to downtown and the Grand River, filled with diverse local businesses, restaurants, and urban residential buildings. West Galt is a quieter section of Cambridge, filled with quaint streets lined with historic Victorian homes. It's also home to the state-of-the-art Hamilton Family Theatre, as well as the University of Waterloo’s world-renowned School of Architecture.
A neighbourhood where old meets new, Hespeler is also home to the iconic Hespeler Library. It’s not unusual to see historic homes and establishments in the same street as brand new homes and buildings, and locals are no stranger to film crews and celebrities going about their business around the town.
Divided into North and South Preston by King Street, Preston is centrally located, making it convenient for residents to commute quickly elsewhere in Cambridge. It is home to Riverside Park, the largest park in Cambridge.
Things to Know About Visiting Cambridge
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’re already on your trip to Cambridge, you'll appreciate what the locals recommend around the city.
Where to take an Instagram photo
Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory is a tropical garden that's home to over 2,000 butterflies and exotic birds.
Where to watch the sunrise
The new, iconic downtown Galt bridge crosses the Grand River and connects the east and west sides of downtown Galt.
Where to find great street art
The flood wall, and the throughout the rest of Downtown Galt, is lined with art by local artists.
Where to get great city views
Hill 60 Park is a small park that overlooks the south end of the city and offers great views.
Last updated: October 18, 2021