You’ve heard of London, England, but what about Canada’s London? London is a city of about 400,000 in southwestern Ontario that’s big on culture with lots of museums and art galleries. Just over two hours from Toronto by car, it’s a great place to dine out, see art and artifacts, and relax in the park. Here’s a mini guide on how to explore it.
To play on the beach and get cultured — just north of Lake Erie at the U.S. border, London is near two great lakes, so beautiful shorelines within easy reach abound. It’s also a college town (home to the University of Western Ontario) with a young, fun, and entrepreneurial vibe. It has several excellent museums — Museum London, Museum of Ontario Archaeology, the “birthplace of insulin” Banting House, The Secrets of Radar Museum. In addition, London boasts a large number of urban parks and green spaces on the banks of the Thames River (yes, the same as London, England as well!), an outstanding food scene, and excellent micro brew. Shop chic Richmond Row, find vintage treasures in trendy Old East Village, see a play, or catch a music festival.
When to go
Summer is lovely — warm and sunny, optimal for enjoying the leafy parks, and swimming and picnicking at the lakeshore. But fall is especially pleasant with the crisp air, blue skies, bustle of students flocking back to the university, and the gorgeous backdrop of orange, red, and yellow autumn leaves.
Where to stay
Boutique Hotel Metro is great for its central, downtown location and proximity to both the business and entertainment districts, like Covent Garden Market, where it’s all happening. This spot, just across the street, houses a bustling covered farmers’ market dating back to 1845 and an array of popular restaurants, bars, cafes, and coffee houses. Also nearby are Museum London and sports entertainment center the Budweiser Gardens. The old-meets-new hotel itself is minimalist-cool — with designer beds, large windows, soaker tubs, and rainfall showers — housed in a 19th century brick building. Overnight in one of 20 contemporary suites.
3 top attractions
London to-dos? There are lots, but here are the top three. 1. Museum London shines a spotlight on art and history, displaying 45,000 artifacts and 5,000 regional and Canadian artworks, including the celebrated Group of Seven, in an airy, open space designed by renowned Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama. It’s right near the river in downtown and puts on regular special events, such as poet-led walking tours and gallery crawls. 2. Lavish, ornate, and plush, the historic Grand Theatre is an Ontario gem. See box office musical hits along the lines of “Once” or a classic, like Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” and make a night of it. 3. Rent mountain bikes and ride the 120 acres of primo cross-country terrain at Boler Mountain, or ski, snowboard, or go tubing in winter. There’s also the Treetop Adventure Park for ziplining and ropes courses high up in the forest.
Where to eat
London has an impressive dining scene, and microbrew is making an appearance in a big way too. Drink local at Milo’s Craft Beer Emporium, with a top-notch selection of 23 premier beers on tap, plus cask ale and tasty farm-to-table eats. Go to cool, clubby Toboggan Brewing Co if you want a little bit of everything: Wood-fired pizzas, tacos, fully-loaded salads, plus creative vegan offerings and small-batch house suds.
Cast Iron Skillet Mac & Cheese is the thing at centrally located Garlic’s of London, a hot spot for from-scratch modern food that's both flavorful and inventive. Perfect for date night, cozy, unpretentious Abruzzi Ristorante is always busy, and for good reason. Sample contemporary and traditional Italian cuisine drawn from locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. Favorites include the grilled catch of the day, house-cured charcuterie, and fresh pasta like gnocchi in cream sauce. Tuck into the goat cheese cake or crème brulee for dessert.
After wining, dining, and playing in London, get to know the province’s other top destinations, like big city Toronto and Canada’s capital city Ottawa. Or just check out Five Places You Need to Visit in Ontario for the full details.
Get great vacation ideas at the Ontario Travel website.