guelph

How to spend a day in Guelph

Guelph is best known as a university town, but there’s plenty of other reasons to visit this quaint getaway. With pristine streets and the glistening waters of Guelph Lake nearby, it’s no surprise this place is nicknamed The Royal City. 

If you’re driving here from Toronto, just jump on a highway westbound—you’ll be at your destination in about 1.5 hours. Equally convenient is hopping on a Greyhound or a GO bus for cheap.

No matter how you decide to get there, it shouldn’t take you more than two hours; perfect for a quick day trip out of the city. 

Here’s how to spend a day in Guelph, from morning until night. 

Breakfast 

You’ll need some sustenance to start off your day, and there are few places to better enjoy the charm of Guelph in the morning than 39 Carden Street Bistro. This stylish spot serves brunch every day, meaning you can grab an avocado toast or eggs benny until 4 p.m. 

Eggcetra is where to go for huge breakfast platters, perfect for sharing. Try their Spanish omelette or their skillets but prepare to wait in line if you don't get there early. 

Get Caffeinated

There are a few centrally located favourites to grab a cup of joe. There’s a popular Balzac’s a few blocks from Guelph Central Station, if you want something more familiar.

You can also head to Planet Bean Coffee, also conveniently located right by St George’s Square for organic, fair trade brews.

Red Brick Cafe is a local favourite for the beautiful patio and artsy atmosphere. Stay here into the evening and find yourself being serenaded by live music performances.

Morning Activity

If you happen to be here on a Saturday, you’d be remiss not to visit the Guelph Farmers’ Market, which has been around since 1827; catch it from 7 a.m. until noon at 2 Gordon Street.

On all the other days of the week, you can visit the University of Guelph and see what all the buzz is about. Make sure to grab a picture in front of the epic Gryphon Statue at the entrance. 

Before noon is also probably the best time to walk through the trails of the university’s Arboretum, a glorious 410-acre land that’s open year-round from dawn to dusk.

The roses in the Frances Ball garden will be in full bloom around June and July, while rhododendron season in the Leslie Hancock collection starts in April. If you don’t want to wander solo, register for a free evening tour. 

Lunch

For an AYCE raw fish fix, Cherry Blossom Sushi Bar covers all the basics and is decorated with huge wooden arcs and glowing spherical lighting. Order the Guelph roll made with shrimp tempura, fake crabmeat, BBQ eel, avocado and cream cheese.

Miijida (which means “Let’s eat” in Ojibwaay) draws influences from First Nations, French and British cuisines, offering an affordable and eclectic lunch menu of shareable plates. They’ve also got a bunch of local beers on tap and daytime cocktails too. 

Culture and Fun 

If you’re still itching to explore Guelph, definitely pay a visit to Basilica of Our Lady, the historic Roman Catholic church that overlooks downtown Guelph. Architecture fans will swoon over this limestone building’s Gothic Revival design, from its incredible entrance to the windows and the pillars inside. 

To explore a different kind of cultural institution, head to the popular Wellington Brewery on a Saturday for a guided tour of Canada’s oldest independently-owned mircro brewery.

They’ll lead you through the brewhouse for a behind-the-scenes look of their award-winning craft beers. You can also check out their Duke House Tap Room and sip an IPA on their outdoor patio. 

If the weather’s good, head to The Boathouse, where you can rent out canoes and kayaks and go boating down Speed River.

Afternoon Snack

The Boathouse also offers ice cream and tea, but you could also head next door to Earth To Table: Bread Bar, where you can nom on some mussels or a watermelon salad outside on the patio. 

A trip to Crafty Ramen’s not bad either, if you’re really hungry. They’ve got tons of little snacks to hold you down, plus lighter bowls of cold ramen if you don’t want a hot bowl soup (though their chicken tantan mazemen is definitely worth trying any time of the day). 

For something sweet, there are tons of sweet treat options in Guelph. Killer Cupcakes bakery has a rotating menu of cupcake flavours but also does cheesecake and slices of cake. They’re open until all their cupcakes sell out, so make sure to stop by before it’s too late.

Dinner

There’s definitely no shortage of evening meal options in Guelph. In terms of Italian, Buon Gusto is one of the best Guelph has to offer. They’re known for their wood-fired pizza and pasta.

For tacos and margaritas, hit up La Reina, or Borealis Grille for wholesome eats made from local ingredients. If you feel like treating yourself, make a reservation at La Cucina well in advance for high-end Italian.

Drinks and Entertainment

Nearly every place in Guelph serves some kind of alcoholic drink, so realistically you could post up anywhere and imbibe the night away. But if you’re looking for more specific types of entertainment (or physically taxing), there’s the popular Riot Axe for axe throwing. 

Boardroom Cafe is great for a night-in with board games and drinks, or hit up Afterlife to spend the night in a luxe video game lounge. 

You can’t go wrong at the Wooly Pub, an oldschool-style watering hole located in an old house. Sip Club has an extensive drinks menu, including 15 beers on tap, live music, and karaoke nights.

The Albion Hotel is definitely a hit: kind of like Guelph's version of The Broadview Hotel, this historic building houses a big drink menu and local bands nightly for you to groove the night away.

Lead photo by

@douglasproductions. With files from Dhanung Bhulsara.


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