Hamilton (Ontario)

Hamilton is a port city in Ontario with a population around 505,000. It is situated at the westernmost end of Lake Ontariothe city wraps around the lake and continues towards the Niagara Escarpment, referred to by locals as "the mountain."


Hamilton, Ontario skyline

Conceived by George Hamilton when he purchased the Durand farm shortly after the War of 1812, Hamilton has become the centre of a densely populated and industrialized region at the west end of Lake Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe. Formerly, the city limits of Hamilton were bounded by approximately Horning Road in the west and Centennial Parkway in the east, but a continuous urban or suburban area had grown around the city, in the towns of Dundas, Ancaster, Stoney Creek and the community of Greensville in the town of Flamborough. On January 1, 2001 the new City of Hamilton was formed through amalgamation of the former City with the constituent towns of the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Municipality. In addition to the aforementioned communities, the city also includes the community of Waterdown, which is located closer to Burlington than it is to the urban portion of Hamilton. Residents of the city are known as Hamiltonians. Since 1981, the metropolitan area has been listed as the ninth largest in Canada and the third largest in Ontario.

Traditionally, the local economy has been led by the steel and heavy manufacturing industries. Within the last decade, there has been a shift towards the service sector, particularly health sciences. The Hamilton Health Sciences corporation employs nearly 10,000 staff and serves approximately 2.2 million people in the region.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) -1 0 5 12 19 24 27 26 21 15 8 2
Nightly lows (°C) -9 -8 -4 2 8 13 17 16 12 5 0 -5
Precipitation (mm) 56.8 57.2 63.7 73.3 85.5 72.7 82.7 89.7 80.9 71.6 91.3 71.9
Snowfall (cm) 32.4 31.1 18.3 2.8 0 0 0 0 0 0 7.5 26.0


Hamilton is home to the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, the Bruce Trail, McMaster University and several colleges. The Canadian Football Hall of Fame can be found downtown right beside Hamilton City Hall and across town to the east, the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats play at Tim Hortons Field. Partly because of its diverse locations, numerous TV and film productions have been filmed in Hamilton, regulated by the Hamilton Film and Television Office. A growing arts and culture sector garnered media attention in a 2006 Globe and Mail news article, entitled "Go West, Young Artist," which focused on the growing art scene in Hamilton. The article highlighted local art galleries, recording studios and independent film production.

Get in

By plane

By car

Main thoroughfares into Hamilton include the Queen Elizabeth Way/Highway 403, and Highway 6. Hamilton is ideally situated for tourists, being roughly 1 hour from both Toronto and Niagara Falls.

By bus

Most regional bus services depart from the Hamilton GO Centre, a handsome art deco structure, in the heart of downtown at Hunter and Hughson South between James and John Streets.

By train

Hamilton itself is not serviced by VIA Rail, but VIA Rail does stop in nearby Aldershot (in Burlington), which is along the Windsor-Quebec City corridor.

By boat

When approaching Hamilton Harbour from the east- Lake Ontario- remember that the lift bridge opens every half hour on the hour.


According to Section 177(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, it is illegal for a pedestrian to enter any 400 series highway or the QEW. Not only is it illegal, but very unsafe due to the high velocity and dense volume of traffic. If you should choose to do so anyway you can expect a police officer to pick you up and remove you within a short time.

A safe and legal alternative is to hitchhike on the on-ramp, providing there is sufficient space for a vehicle to pull over without endangering the driver or passing traffic.

Hitchhiking on other roads in Hamilton (and Ontario) is legal so long as you do not stand in the roadway itself.

Get around

Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) operates public transit buses in the city and the surrounding suburbs. The fare is $2.55 as of January 1, 2014. No change is provided. HSR has partnered with Google Maps to provide a comprehensive trip planner.

Hamilton is divided into two main sections"The Mountain" and downtown. The Mountain refers to anything on the escarpmentaccess to the mountain is limited to a few roads, which often arrive on a different street than when you started. If you're going up the mountain, take a second to learn which access you need to take. Driving on the mountain accesses in the winter can be treacherous, and even many locals avoid it if possible due to icy road conditions. During severe storms many and sometimes even all of the accesses can be closed by the city, making travel between the two major districts nearly impossible. The Sherman Access changes to one-way traffic during rush hour, to get traffic down the mountain in the morning and up the mountain in the afternoon. If you aren't aware of this, it can mean having to take a long detour if you've committed to taking the Sherman but can't. Even outside of rush hour the signage on this access can be confusing.

Hamilton is infamous for having mainly one-way streets throughout its downtown core, although many have turned two-way over recent years. Be aware of what intersection you're heading for, and what streets precede it, or you may overshoot. Conversion back to two way streets began in 2004. In the fall of 2005, John and James Streets, main North/South arteries, were converted back to two way traffic. Most of the locals preferred the one way system, but visitors will find it easier to get around.

Rush hour traffic can be problematic like in any other large city. Try to avoid driving down Upper James Street in the mornings or between 4-6PM unless you're content to watch pedestrians overtake you on the sidewalks. The nearby street of West 5th (next major street to the west of Upper James) generally has a far lower volume of traffic and can save you upwards of 10 minutes of driving time. It also sports a mountain access that can get you down to (lower) James Street in no time at all.

The Lincoln Alexander Expressway (known locally as the Linc or Link) is a city by-pass that runs across the mountain from Ancaster to Stoney Creek. If you're trying to get past the city be sure to avoid the major roads (Mohawk, Fennell, Stone Church or Rymal) at all costs and take the Linc, which will save you ample time and gas.

There are some duplicate street names between Hamilton and the surrounding areas it amalgamated with; for example, there is a King Street in Dundas, Hamilton, and Stoney Creek.

The transit system is average at best for a city of its size. Downtown service is quite good, but the neighbouring suburbs suffer from infrequent buses, primarily due to high levels of car ownership. On Sundays and holidays expect 30-60 minute waits between buses, even on fairly major routes (such as Upper James Street on the Hamilton Mountain). Late or too-early buses are a common problem on the mountain and can get irritating for locals who depend on transit to get to work. The City has recently announced plans to fund improvements in bus service with additional buses on major routes, but this has not yet been realized.

The major bus hub is located at MacNab St S, which runs between King Street and Main St. You can catch a bus to pretty much any part of the city from Gore Park, and each stop generally has a schedule posted on the pole for your convenience. As of January 2, 2011, Gore Park will be largely replaced by the new MacNab Street Transit Terminal, which is a short walk several minutes west of Gore. This will affect many, but not all buses. If you have any questions just ask a local - most people are usually quite friendly and helpful and will be happy to provide suggestions if you're looking for a place to visit or something to do while visiting.

Many locals will have stories about rude or inattentive drivers, but if you are missed by a speeding driver or find yourself thrown around by over-zealous use of the brakes you can contact the usually-friendly HSR help desk to file a complaint.


Albion Falls, Hamilton



Hamilton has numerous shopping districts. While fewer brand-name retail items are available in Hamilton than in neighbouring Toronto, several districts host a successful spot for antiques, art and specialty boutiques.


This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget $3-8
Mid-range $9-19
Splurge $20 and over

It's not difficult to find a superb variety of foods in Hamilton. Having a large minority and immigrant population, many people in Hamilton can and do take the opportunity to eat exotic cuisines.



Hamilton is a large city and therefore enjoys almost every mid-range dining chain. Examples include Kelsey's, Montana's, The Keg, etc. Hess Street, in addition to housing some newer upper-scale establishments, has several mid-range places that offer fantastic food (Ceilidh House being an example).







Stay safe

Hamilton resides on a highly polluted area of Lake Ontario. High levels of E. Coli bacteria usually prevent the beach from being open for swimming season. In addition, the city suffers from high air pollution including fine particulate matter, consistent with most of Southern Ontario from Windsor through Oshawa.

Like most cities, there are unsafe areas which should be avoided. Some of the areas that may be problematic after dark due to black market activities (i.e. sex trade and illegal narcotics) are Barton Street from around Lottridge to James Street and Cannon and Wilson Streets between Wentworth and Victoria, along with the general downtown area including Gore Park and Jackson Square, but again, only at night. Additionally, Ferguson Avenue between Cannon and Barton is home to a large transient population, as is the rest of the Beasley neighbourhood.

Hess Village can and does experience the usual amount of drunken bar fights (typically outside of the bars), but this is no different from any other large city. Several uniformed police officers typically patrol the small area on busier nights.

Use common sense and avoid walking around alone at night. Police presence is usually infrequent in less-busy neighbouroods, so it can be best to avoid them unless you have business.

The rate of violent crime is moderate compared to other similarly-sized Canadian cities.

The beautiful trails along the Niagara Escarpment can sometimes run quite close to unfenced, unmarked cliff edges. Stay on the trail and use caution and you'll be fine.


Emergency Services

Hamilton Police

Taxi Companies

Go next

There are many points of interest in the large rural area that is still within Hamilton's city limits:

Some interesting places a short drive away are:

Routes through Hamilton

Toronto Burlington  NE  SE  Grimsby Niagara Falls
London Brantford  W  E  Burlington Brampton
Guelph Waterdown  N  S  Port Dover END
Kitchener Cambridge ← becomes  W  E  becomes Grimsby Niagara-on-the-Lake
END  W  E  Burlington Toronto

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, February 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.