Itineraries, hotels, restaurants and all the best things to do in Guelph this summer
There are plenty of reasons to visit the vibrant City of Guelph. Surrounded by farmland, this picturesque city comes with excellent shopping opportunities, beautiful parks and conservation areas, breweries, top quality restaurants, and a historic art centered downtown. With such a variety of things to do in Guelph, it’s well worth a trip.
So whether you are looking for a trip out of the city, searching for somewhere new to explore in your own backyard, or are on the trip of a lifetime through Canada, here are 3 ways you can spend a day in Guelph. Don’t worry, I’ve got a day plan for everyone; the culture hunters, the city folk, and of course the active adventurers. So while Guelph might be considered a ‘university town’, I promise you there is so much more to see in this historic city. Why would Guelph receive the nick name ‘The Royal City’ if it didn’t possess some regal qualities for you to enjoy. So without further ado, here are 3 ways to spend a day in Guelph.
How to get there
The city of Guelph is located in South Western Ontario, 100km west of Toronto and 30km east of Kitchener. With direct access to the 401, it takes about 1 hour to get to Guelph from Toronto. The highway access makes Guelph accessible from a number of locations around Ontario.
Where to stay
The Western Hotel is located right downtown in the middle of all the action. If you are looking for a place to stay in Guelph that thrives off the busy energy of the downtown core, this is for you. The nineteen suites in this historic building have been fully renovated and include thoughtful nods to its 1881 origin. I’m talking wooden beams and exposed brick work. The Western is a one of a kind hotel where no room is alike. In the western themed bar downstairs, you can grab a pint, listen to music or even taste one of the many whiskeys available before heading upstairs and enjoying one of the bachelor, 1 bedroom, or 2 bedroom suites. Some of the suites even have a full kitchen. With the restaurants, night life, shops, cafes and the university nearby, it is hard to beat the location and quality of this ‘no-two-rooms-a-like” hotel.
Does this sound like the hotel for you? Click here to book.
The Delta is one of the nicest hotels in Guelph. Just a step away from downtown, the Delta is located in a quiet area with access to a few quality restaurants, and parking. If you are looking for a classy place to stay that’s a bit away from the action, the Delta is my recommendation. Part of the ‘Marriot Group’, the Delta falls in line with the standard of quality of the Marriot brand.
If this is the type of hotel experience you prefer, click here to book the Delta
Where to Eat
There are so many quality restaurants, breweries, bakeries, brunch spots, and coffee shops in Guelph that I made an entire post dedicated to eating! If you are looking for every detail and every dish from every restaurant we ate at and can recommend, click here!
Now on to the day plans.
3 Ways to Spend a Day in Guelph
1. For the Active Adventurer
One of the best things to do in Guelph is to take advantage of the many green spaces, waterways and conservation areas in the city. Guelph is full of them and this is one of the reasons it remains such a desirable place to live. If you are looking for fun things to do in Guelph and love being outdoors, this day plan is for you!
Visiting the Boathouse is probably the most ‘Guelph’ attraction out there. For the adventurer, it’s ideal because of its access to the Speed River. There is ample accessible parking at the Boathouse and a lovely park on either side of the street, so go ahead and take a walk before settling into brunch.
The Boat House Tea Room has a patio which overlooks the Speed River. Here you can grab tea, of course, as well as a selection of breakfast bites, sandwiches, soups, and salads with vegan and gluten-free options available. You can find a full review of the Boathouse here.
After filling up at the Boathouse Tea Room, get yourself ready for a canoe or kayaking adventure. When you think about it, it is pretty cool that Guelph has access to this type of activity right in the middle of the city. You don’t need to go out of your way to get there, the Speed River is just right there, totally accessible for you to enjoy.
Speed River Paddling is located right behind the Boathouse and is open for canoe and kayak rentals from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00am to 7:00pm. It costs $22/hour to rent a canoe, with half days costing $30 and full days costing $40. You can also rent kayaks for $18/hour, $25 for a half day and $35 for the full day.
Once you have chosen your paddling option, Speed River Paddling will outfit you with lifejackets and everything you need to go on your adventure. Heading out from the dock, follow the river, passing the iconic covered bridge to your right, and into the jungle like river-scape that is the Speed River. Once you are on your way, you would never know you are in the middle of the city as the greenery surrounding the river seemingly transports you to another world. You can paddle down the river in the quiet of nature for a surprisingly long time. Remember though, you have to go back the way you came, so save some time.
When you return from your paddling experience, head back to the Boathouse Guelph for an iconic ice cream treat. I firmly believe, outside of its location, the ice cream offerings are what is so beloved about this place for Guelph locals and visitors alike. Vegan options are available for a number of flavours of creamy iced treats to which you can purchase, one scoop, two scoops or even tubs of ice cream.
After taking a moment to recover from your paddling adventure, head downtown to Baker Street Station for a casual yet upscale dining experience. Baker Street Station is the perfect restaurant to relax in after a day on the water. It has high quality food, a casual and comfortable atmosphere, and a fabulous beer menu. Find a review of Baker Street Station here.
2. For the City Go-er
If you are wondering what to do in Guelph and are a city slicker at heart, I’ve got you covered. Lucky for you this city speaks to the shopper.
Grab yourself a seat at Rise and Shine for breakfast right downtown. This restaurant is full of the fabulous flavours of the Caribbean and serves one of the best brunches I’ve had. Make sure you arrive early enough as apparently I am not the only one who knows about this gem of a restaurant. It’s known to develop a line.
After enjoying a breakfast/brunch of Caribbean flavours and Mimosas, make your way to the Guelph Farmer’s Market right down the street. There are a multitude of vendors at this market, both indoors and out. You can find fresh veggies (it is an agricultural centre), meats, cheese and crafts. Inside the market you can also find a number of vendors selling food and of course sweet treats. There unique items to purchase in Guelph’s Farmer’s Market; my favourite was the mushroom shop where the owners were selling fresh oyster mushrooms, a rare treat for any foodie. So have a look, take your time, and you might just find something special to buy.
It’s lunch time, so head over to La Reina to grab a taco or two on the patio of this prime Mexican restaurant downtown. With a Dia de los Muertos theme, La Reina is a pretty trendy restaurant, perfect for the shopper. You can grab yourself one of the many flavour options of margaritas to enjoy with a serious selection of tacos. You can read my review on this restaurant here.
After enjoying a lunch of tacos, it is time to get your shop on. Downtown Guelph is full of boutiques. Lining the streets are a number of stores selling things like trendy cloths, eco-friendly items, home decor and art. There are even a number of unique grocery stores to shop at as well as some cool book shops. There’s a shop for anything your heart desires. You can even find a flour store dedicated to gluten-free living. Being a sustainable traveler myself, I loved stopping by Molly’s Soap Store which offers sustainable products for every part of life, even ones I never knew about. There are enough stores to wander through in downtown Guelph to last an entire afternoon.
After a day of shopping downtown, head on over to Piatto Pizzeria for a real Neapolitan pie. This is one of those restaurants that are inherently chic. The interior is slick and the patio is comfortable. Grab a properly made pizza and a glass of wine from this east coast family owned chain. It’s a great place to relax after a day of shopping.
After dinner you should find your way to Brothers Brewing, one of the Bars in Guelph that scream ‘young professional’. If you are a city slicker, then there is no doubt in my mind that ending the night with quality nightlife is key. At Brothers Brewing you will find a selection of in-house brewed beers, ciders and kombucha. Grab a spot on the patio (book ahead) and enjoy the Edison bulb lit atmosphere of young professionals and university students.
3. For the Culture Hunter
Thanks to the University and the city’s connection to Flanders Field’s famous poet, John McCrae, Guelph is a becoming a bit of a cultural hub. The art scene in Guelph is both vibrant and encouraged. So if you are an art fan looking for art based Guelph attractions and things to do in Guelph, this day plan is for you.
Start your day by grabbing a coffee at The Common, one of Guelph’s most popular coffee hangouts. You know as soon as you walk up to the antique-like building that houses the Common, with its mismatched yet aesthetic furniture, that this is the hip coffee shop in town…or at least the hipster coffee shop. Enjoy an espresso based drink and a muffin while connecting with fellow art focused friends. This is the best coffee hangout in Guelph.
After enjoying coffee, walk down to Woolwich Street to visit ‘With the Grain Bakery’. Grab a savoury option at this bakery to go alongside a few sweet treats, then it’s time for a picnic lunch. The bakery is located inside a cute ‘house’ store front, and has the most pleasant staff.
With your picnic lunch in hand it’s time to visit the Art Gallery of Guelph and its open-air sculpture garden. Once at the gallery, you will notice that there are a number of art installations surrounding the building. Find a spot on the grass in the sculpture garden, or pop a squat on one of the many picnic tables for lunch. Once you’ve eaten, feel free to wander around the garden, taking photos and getting up close and personal with the outdoor art.
After enjoying the sculpture garden, it’s time to head into the art gallery itself. The Art Gallery of Guelph is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00pm to 5:00pm and is free with donations accepted. The art gallery occupies 2 stories of the building and is well curated. As you wander through the Art Gallery of Guelph, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised at what a small town art gallery can present.
After working up an appetite exploring the Art Gallery of Guelph, it’s time for dinner. Head back up Woolwich Street to Park Grocery. This restaurant is located in a quaint, heritage building, circa 1890, and is a favourite in Guelph. Serving up fresh, organic and local eats along with local brews, ciders and spirits, this barista driven cafe, bar, deli, and restaurant is ideal for an art focused day. Great care is taken in every aspect of this neighbourhood dining spot, read more about it here.
Take a chance on the City of Guelph
The City of Guelph is so much more than its university town reputation. It really is a community full of events, traditions, and classic ‘Guelph spots’ you just have to visit. This is one of the reasons people continue to pursue living here. It is just that good. With coffee shops, breweries, restaurants, hikes, art galleries, the boathouse, kayaking, eco-friendly shopping, and markets, it’s easy to see why Guelph is a desirable destination. There really are things to do in Guelph for everyone. So if you are looking for something to do in Ontario, head to Guelph for a day.