Guelph offers a quiet, quintessentially Canadian experience. The exciting list of things to do, from the beautiful Guelph Lake Conservation Area to the multitude of art and history museums, makes Guelph one of the most charming places in Canada. Come to Guelph for the historic churches, like Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate, and stay for the vibrant music scene, like the annual Guelph Jazz Festival.
To learn more about all there is to see and do in Guelph, scroll down or visit the city's tourism website.
Where is Guelph?
Guelph is a small city located about 100 km west of Toronto. Less than an hour and a half from the cities of both Toronto and Niagara Falls, Guelph is an easy and worthwhile addition to a south Ontario travel experience. Guelph is easily accessible by car, bus, or train from Toronto. For those traveling from Niagara Falls, take a bus or car to get to Guelph as quickly and directly as possible, or enjoy a leisurely train ride throughout an afternoon.
Things to Do in Guelph
Guelph is best known for its multifaceted cultural significance, including striking limestone architecture, a range of history and art museums, scenic natural attractions and a robust music scene.
When touring Guelph, the famous limestone structure of the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate is a must-see. This functioning Gothic church built in the late 1800s has overlooked the city of Guelph since its founding. The intricate stone carvings and stained glass windows represent the thriving architectural history of the city. Continue the architectural tour at the University of Guelph to see the stone buildings and the uniquely Ontario-focused Arboretum.
Guelph’s rich history is well documented in museums like the Guelph Civic Museum, where visitors can learn more about fascinating aspects of Guelph like the presence of limestone. The museum also includes the McCrae House, the birthplace of veteran and author John McCrae. One of the prides of Guelph, McCrae was a doctor, soldier and author who epitomized the selflessness and sacrifice of the many Canadian veterans of World War I. Read McCrae’s famous poem, “In Flanders Fields,” to reflect on the melancholy war history sprinkled throughout Guelph and all of Canada. For art buffs, not far away is the Art Gallery of Guelph, which appeals to a range of tastes, featuring everything from ancient Inuit artwork to contemporary Canadian exhibitions and a vast outdoor sculpture garden.
The Guelph Lake Conservation Area boasts a scenic reservoir surrounded by quiet beaches and day hikes. Spend the day fishing the reservoir or sailing, canoeing, or kayaking on the mirror-like water at this park situated minutes from the city’s center. Closer to the city center, check out the historic Riverside Park Carousel, where children can enjoy a playground or a ride on the antiquated carousel or miniature train. The 15 minute drive to Rockwood Conservation Area is well worth it for dramatic reflections of the limestone cliffs overlooking the beautiful Eramosa River, or enjoy a walk along the river on the centrally located Royal Recreation Trail.
Guelph’s music scene includes regular live music in town as well as tens of annual music festivals like the Guelph Jazz Festival, Hillside Festival and Guelph Musicfest. Relax with some live music after a long day of exploring the charismatic city of Guelph.
Guelph Neighbourhoods & Districts
Guelph is made up of several neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood provides historic sites, natural beauty and cultural hot spots.
This charming, riverside downtown boasts several historic churches, including the iconic Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate, as well as modern restaurants, cafes and museums to peruse on a sunny afternoon.
Walk a few minutes west to Old City to enjoy more of the city’s architecture and a quiet stretch of the river bank to relax by, and keep an eye out for hidden antique stone architecture.
This quiet northwest neighborhood consists of a conveniently located shopping cluster and several parks that make it a nice area to stay for a longer period of time on a visit to Guelph.
One of the city’s most widely used outdoor spaces, Riverside Park features an impeccably landscaped garden, a playground for children and the historical site of Guelph’s antique Riverside Park Carousel and miniature train, making this the perfect area to spend the day with kids.
This historic neighborhood, located south of the Eramosa River, is home to the McCrae House, the Royal Recreation Trail and several of the city’s historic stone homes.
With the University of Guelph, the Arboretum and the Eramosa River sprinkled throughout, this neighborhood features some of the main highlights of a visit to Guelph.
The western half of the Kortright neighborhood is home to Hanlon Creek and Preservation Parks, making it another well-loved outdoor space in Guelph, perfect for a picnic.
Located in the city’s South End, Westminster Woods is a local favourite for a metropolitan day of shopping and trying out new restaurants.
Explore Hanlon’s niche museums and mod brewery tours, the perfect place to stop on the way in or out of town.
Things to Know About Visiting Guelph
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’re already on your trip to Guelph, you'll appreciate what the locals recommend around the city.
Where to get a great cup of coffee
Where to get great baked goods
Where to snap a great Instagram pic
It’s hard to find a better place to take an Instagram photo in Guelph than Guelph Covered Bridge. There’s a reason why photographers from all over the region make it a point to stop here.
Where to go for brunch
Where to take a romantic stroll
Riverside Park flanks the Speed River, which flows through the city of Guelph, and features a lovely floral clock.
The term “Hat Trick” was invented in Guelph. A local hat company sponsored the hockey team, called the Biltmore Mad Hatters, and fans threw their hats on the ice when a player scored three goals. Also, Colonel John McCrae, author of “Flanders Fields,” was born and raised in Guelph.
Last updated: April 23, 2021