If you’ve been following along on my social channels, you’ll know that my boyfriend and I have been trying to spend more time adventuring around Ontario this year. Recently we spent a weekend in Guelph. Guelph is a city of about 125K people, located in Southwestern Ontario located about 70km west of Toronto. It is home to the University of Guelph and is an incredibly green, and beautiful city. It makes for a great weekend getaway when you’re thinking of a spot to explore. Without further ado, here is my guide to help you plan.
Where to stay
You’ll want to stay close to the downtown core if you are just visiting for the weekend. There are Airbnb’s that you can choose from in the area, and also several hotels. The Western Hotel and Royal Inn & Suites are both located right downtown. I will flag that there is a shelter right downtown so there is a bit of riff-raff, but the downtown is also home to some adorable local shops, bars, and restaurants.
When my boyfriend and I were visiting, we were specifically trying to get a vibe for the different neighbourhoods as we are looking for a potential city to move to when we move out of the city, so we did quite an extensive amount of research on the best areas in Guelph. For us, the Old University and Exhibition Park areas were really cute. Lots of big, mature trees, and green spaces but located very central to downtown Guelph. Two Rivers had some adorable pockets too, and we also really liked the St. Patrick Ward, and Grange Hill. Close to the river, great for walking, kayaking/canoeing, and still close to downtown. All of these would be great areas to look for an Airbnb.
How to get around
The ViaRail train system, and the GO Train system both run to Guelph from Toronto. The city is also a very student-friendly one so naturally, it is very accessible by public transit and Uber. It’s also fairly easy to find parking everywhere if you plan to drive yourself.
What to do in Guelph
Guelph Farmers Market: Located at 2 Gordon Street, the Guelph Farmers Market is a year-round market of local vendors that happens every Saturday from 8am-1pm, and every Thursday from spring to fall from 4pm-7pm. In the warmer months, the vendors will be sprawled both inside and out.
Downtown Guelph: The downtown strip in Guelph is pretty cute with lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants. The downtown goes from around Wellington Street East and Norwich Street, as well as Woolwich Street and Dublin Street. Some cute spots to check out are Brothers Brewery, The Bookshelf, The Patch, Blooms & Flora, and Sunday General Store.
Brewery Hop: Guelph has many great breweries in the city to visit, and even its own Beer Bus that runs once a month all year round and will take you from brewery to brewery without the need for someone to be your designated driver. Read more about Guelph breweries to visit here.
Eat: There are some fantastic locally-owned restaurants in Guelph that you need to check out. Some recommendations are La Reina (Mexican), Park Deli & Bar, Baker St Station (pub), The Wooly (comfort food), The Cornerstone or Rise & Shine for breakfast, and The Boathouse Tea Room for ice cream right by the water.
Drink: Outside of the breweries mentioned above, there are some cute spots to grab some cocktails or drinks. Head to La Reina for great margaritas. They even do a margarita flight! Grab some locally-made cocktails at the Spring Mill Distillery, and naturally, given it is a student town after all, there are a ton of pubs and bars serving up cheap drinks.
Cafes: If you’re looking for coffee head to Found Coffee or Planet Bean.
Outdoors: You can rent kayaks and canoes on the river at Speed River Paddling in the summer months, or opt for a hike/walk in one of the many conservation areas such as Guelph Lake, or Rockwood. The Arboretum at the University of Guelph is also a fantastic area for nature walks. There is also no shortage of green space in Guelph to stop and have a picnic!
Nearby: Slightly outside of Guelph you can opt for a day trip to Elora, a picturesque town about 30 minutes from Guelph. Here you can hike in the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, or just pop in and out of shops and restaurants along the downtown strip.
Another fun spot to visit outside of Guelph is the Aberfoyle Antique Market only about 20 minutes out of town. This massive market happens every Sunday from April to October (exact dates available on their website) and you could seriously spend hours here.
Lastly, a spot on my list for a while that I haven’t made it to yet is the Donkey Sanctuary in Puslinch about a 17-minute drive from Guelph. You have to purchase a ticket to visit in advance and visiting days are on Sunday only.
Overall, I really enjoyed Guelph. I thought it was a really cute town with a lot to do and a lot of beautiful, lush green space which, naturally, we don’t get much of in Toronto. It made for the perfect “staycation” road trip.