Paris Ontario

Paris might be Ontario's prettiest little town with European vibes

Paris, Ontario may be far lesser known than the City of Light in France, but the small Canadian town has its own charms and allure.

Named as one of the prettiest small towns in Canada, you'll see European inspiration everywhere you turn, from the cobblestone homes on the edge of the Grand River to intimate cafes and trendy shops.

Just over an hour outside the city, Paris is a great day trip destination for a small town escape. With outdoor adventures, an unsuspectingly fabulous food scene, and enchanting architecture to admire, here are some of the best things to do in Paris.

Penman's Dam

The historic Penman's Dam is a picturesque stop on your way into Paris, with a gently flowing waterfall and river to admire. The dam was built over 100 years ago in 1918 by the Penman clothing company to harness the river's power to run their mills.

You can walk along the boardwalk leading down to the Grand River, which is popular for paddlers in the summer months. At night, the dam is illuminated with colourful LED lights. For the best view of the waterfall, head to the William Street Bridge.

Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail

The Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail is a beautiful scenic trail along an old rail bed, stretching for 18 km along the Grand River. The trail leads you through lush Carolinian forests and past cobblestone ruins with lookout points of the river.

You can snowshoe or cross-country ski on the path, and access or exit it at various points. Watch trains roll by on the bridge over the river, a setting you might recognize as a backdrop in many Hallmark films.

Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area

For more outdoor exploring, check out Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area, a park open year-round featuring a 23-acre lake formed by a single piece of ice and the Carolinian forest. The conservation area is popular for snowshoeing and ice-fishing in the winter.

Shop on Grand River Street

Grand River Street is full of quaint shops, restaurants, galleries, and cafes to explore and pick up locally-made gifts or souvenirs. Stop at The Peddlar Tea Store and pick up some artisan tea, or check out the unique gifts and home accessories at Fizz Soakery.

Try the local restaurant offerings

Paris has an impressive array of restaurants and cafes to choose from, and visitors can enjoy delicious meals with the scenic Grand River as their backdrop.

Embrace French cuisine reminiscent of the more famous Paris at the fine-dining Juniper Dining Co. restaurant, with delectable menu items like Sous Vide duck breast or sunchoke risotto.

If you love tea parties, book a table at Tea on the Grand for an incredible high tea experience. The tea house has a spread including freshly-made finger sandwiches, fresh fruits and veggies, cakes, scones, clotted cream, jam, and tea bags.

Visit The Paris Wincey Mills

If you visit on the weekend, pop into Wincey Mills, a market set in a historic structure which has operated for over a century. The market is filled with local food stalls and boutique shopping, and you can also grab a delicious bite to eat.

If you're a beer lover, grab a pint at The Paris Beer Company which brews beer made with their own hops and has a scratch kitchen whipping up yummy bites.

Learn about the history of the telephone

Paris has a unique history as the town where the first ever telephone call was received. Alexander Graham Bell made the call from Brantford in 1876 to what was then Robert White Shoe Store.

You can see a plaque in downtown Paris honouring the occasion, and nearby, you can visit the Bell Homestead National Historic Site to learn more about the telephone's history.

Stay at the historic Arlington Hotel

As the small town's only hotel, the Arlington Hotel is located right in the heart of downtown Paris. With only 23 rooms, each one is playfully decorated with inspiration from popular figures like Dr. Seuss, Ernest Hemingway, and even a quirky Monty Python-themed room.

The hotel also boasts a great restaurant and bar onsite, with shareable small plates, tacos, and curated cocktails.

Satisfy your sweet tooth

For those with a craving for sweets, add Chocolate Sensations to your itinerary. The shop offers decadent handmade chocolates and other  tasty treats.

Another must for anyone with a sweet tooth is the Paris Bakery. The bakery is a town instution dating back to 1927, with various baked goods like puff pastries, donuts, and butter tarts.

Lead photo by

Jay Thaker

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