Noted as one of Canada’s first planned towns, Guelph is a charming city with surprises. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a longtime resident, there’s always something new to discover in Guelph, which is probably why you’re here.
To help make the most of your time in the city, here’s a list of eight fun things to do in Guelph. There’s something on this list for everyone, from exploring the River Run Centre to admiring the great outdoors at Riverside Park.
So grab friends or family — or travel solo, if you wish — and prepare for your Guelph adventure. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a fun day out with the kids or a romantic Ontario getaway with your significant other; something on this list will pique your interest.
Let’s dive in and discover some of the best sights and activities in Guelph the city has to offer.
Where Is Guelph?
You’ll find Guelph in Wellington County, approximately 22 km (14 miles) from the towns of Fergus and Elora. Guelph is only 95 km (59 miles) from Toronto and sits along the picturesque Speed River.
This makes Guelph one of the many exciting Toronto day trips you must try. While you’re at it, you can take the time to explore Ontario.
Renting a campervan with your loved ones is a fantastic way to explore this province. Plus, you can get a discount car rental in Guelph that’ll allow you to visit neighbouring towns such as Elora, Elmira, and other Ontario destinations.
Guelph City History
Before you delve into all Guelph has to offer you, how about a bit of history of this former settler town?
- It was founded in 1827 by Scottish novelist and businessman John Galt, who named it after the royal House of Hanover, a British royal family from his homeland.
- Under the direction of the Canada Company, John Galt planned Guelph to be a town where others could settle.
- Guelph was land that belonged to Indigenous Original Peoples (i.e., the First Nations, Inuit and Métis), who lived in the area for millennia.
- Fast forward to today, and Guelph is known for its beautiful architecture, including the stunning Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate and the historic Old City Hall.
- The city is also home to the University of Guelph, known for its excellent agriculture, veterinary medicine, and environmental studies programs.
- Guelph is a vibrant and growing city with a population of approximately 141,000 as of the 2021 Canadian census.
How to Get to Guelph
Thanks to Canada’s reliable public transportation, you’ll find Guelph easily accessible. You can get to the city by car, train, or bus, and here’s how.
If you’re travelling from Toronto to Guelph by car, it’ll take you approximately an hour and ten minutes, and you’ll find the distance to be around 95 km (59 miles). Our neighbours from Buffalo in the U.S. will travel an hour and forty-five minutes over a distance of around 159 km (99 miles).
That said, you may wish to rent a car instead of using your own, especially if you’d like to give your car a break.
Parking in Guelph
Whether you drive a rental or your own vehicle, you’re going to have to park it at some point. Thankfully, Guelph’s downtown has ample parking spots. Just follow the rules, such as not parking your car on the street overnight or parking in non-designated areas.
View this detailed guide to parking in Guelph for more information.
Prefer trains? You can use VIA Rail’s train service to Guelph from several cities, including Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. The average price for an adult between 26 and 59 years of age is $20. Alternatively, you can get a discount pass if you’re a frequent traveller.
Regarding buses, Greyhound and GO Transit serve Guelph’s bus stations, transporting you to and from other destinations across Ontario.
Once you’ve finally arrived in Guelph, it’ll be easy for you to navigate the city’s downtown core on foot, by bike, or by public transit.
28 Things to Do in Guelph, Ontario (Canada)
Without further ado, here are eight fantastic activities and places to experience in the historic city of Guelph.
With its charming small-town feel and picturesque restaurants, you can’t go wrong visiting downtown Guelph.
Wyndham Street is where you’ll find various independent stores and quirky boutiques like On The Verge. Prefer stunning jewelry? Knar Jewellery Guelph on 56 Wyndham Street is an excellent choice.
Overall, Wyndham Street is great for exploring on foot and checking out different stores in the city.
When it comes to dining, downtown Guelph doesn’t disappoint either. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés, ranging from casual to upscale Italian dining. You’ll find everything in between to suit your palate.
But it’s not just about shopping and dining—downtown Guelph also offers plenty of cultural experiences. Take the River Run Centre, for example. It’s a popular performing arts venue, and there are several art galleries and studios in the area as well.
Also read: Interested in other cities and towns in Wellington County? Check out Elora’s fun things to do.
1. Guelph City Hall | Market Square
City Hall and its adjacent Market Square are a great starting point for exploring Guelph. Kids can have fun in the large fountain and water feature during summer. As winter approaches, the square transforms into an outdoor skating rink carefully maintained by the city.
2. Eric the Baker
If you’re wondering where that aroma of fresh-baked French pastries is coming from on Carden Street…its coming from Eric The Baker.
Eric Chevalier’s ancestors have a long history of culinary artistry, beginning with his great, great, great, great grandmother, the first female cordon bleu chef at Le Grande Hotel des Paris. Eric was born in Saint Jean De Luz, France, to a family of renowned chefs.
When he was five years old in 1974, he and his mother relocated to Canada and assisted his grandmother at the family owned restaurant known as Le Petit Gourmet in Toronto.
Much of Eric the Baker’s charm lies in his dedication to upholding the time-honored customs of French patisserie Boulanger. He goes to great lengths to ensure that everything, from start to finish, is crafted in-house without any shortcuts.
3. Killer Cupcakes Gourmet
If you need more sweetness, head over to Killer Cupcakes Gourmet, where Simon (who has an uncanny resemblance to Paul Rudd) and Nicole have made their passion for gourmet baking into a sweet tooth hot spot.
The store itself is what you get if you mix cult classic movies, rock n roll and delicious buttercream. Their delectable cupcakes are crafted with artistry, creativity, and skill, making their small-batch bakery renowned for its tantalizing flavour combinations. These treats are always in high demand, selling out quickly.
Tell Simon Christopher & Gordana from Road Trip Ontario sent you –– and you might get a treat!
4. Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate
The Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate is a Gothic Revival church in downtown Guelph’s heart. It is one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the country and is considered a pilgrim destination for Catholics.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the church, which runs for about an hour between 13:00 to 15:00 and is held on the first Sunday of each month. The tours are free, but offerings are accepted.
Whether you visit for religious reasons or are just looking for beautiful and historic places to go to in Guelph, the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate is definitely worth a stop.
Read more: Found it fascinating to learn about the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate? Add these facts about Ontario to your reading list.
5. Guelph Civic Museum
The Guelph Civic Museum, located at 52 Norfolk Street in downtown Guelph, is a must-see attraction for history enthusiasts and novices alike. It boasts over 40,000 artifacts and provides insight into Guelph’s development and history.
The museum showcases permanent exhibits that trace Guelph’s history from its earliest Indigenous inhabitants to its growth and development in the 20th century. Additionally, the museum hosts temporary installations and special events throughout the year, covering a range of topics from art and culture to science and technology.
It also provides educational exhibits for schools and groups. The museum is open every day except Mondays, from 10:00 to 17:00, and admission is free. A visit to the museum is a worthwhile activity for those interested in history or looking for an interesting thing to do in Guelph.
Also read: Check out these exciting things to do in Fergus, Wellington County, for more unforgettable days in this Canadian wonderland.
6. Knox Presbyterian Church
In 1844, the history of Knox Presbyterian Church began, and in 1868, it was given Lot 80 on the north side of Quebec Street by Evan MacDonald, a Trustee, for a mere $1.00. In 1874, the Knox congregation voted to join the union of Presbyterian churches and thus became The Presbyterian Church in Canada.
However, tragedy struck in 1904 when a devastating fire gutted the church’s interior, though it was immediately restored.
7. The Bookshelf + Miijidaa Café Bistro
There is something about the smell of books that is so inviting! The Bookshelf takes it up by offering a one-stop shop stocked with various books, films and food. Established in 1988, the Bookshelf Cinema has remained the only downtown cinema in Guelph, supplying the city with superior-quality movies.
You can pick up a new read, enjoy a beer or wine with dinner at Miijidaa and even participate in the occasional salsa night at their bar.
8. Lady Glaze Doughnuts
Lady Glaze Doughnuts launched Its first store in Kitchener in 2019 with a mission to share a little bit of joy through freshly made doughnuts and, in a short time, have launched stores in Hamilton, Cambridge, and Stratford.
Their secret is that their dough, glazes, and toppings are all made from scratch daily, with no artificial flavours or processed shortcuts and all-natural ingredients like real butter, cream, sugar, honey, and maple.
In addition, they boast a diverse selection of unique, seasonal flavours inspired by our local communities with ingredients from local farms and small businesses.
9. Royal City Mission
Completed in 1873, Chalmers United Church (then Chalmers Presbyterian) was home to worship services in its basement since the 1850s.
10. “The Family” Fountain
“The Family” Fountain, commissioned by Canadian artist William McElcheran, is a bronze sculpture commemorating the hard-working immigrant families in-built who settled and built Guelph.
11. The Red Brick Cafe
In 2004, Bella Krieger envisioned creating a warm, vibrant, and charming local hotspot. A place for people to come together, be inspired and appreciate the work of local artists, musicians, and event organizers.
Enter The Red Brick Cafe. In addition to serving great coffee and treats in a great location, it has been a proud supporter of many events, such as Kazoo Fest, the Comedy Festival, Jazz Fest, Film Fest, and the Guelph Music Festival.
12. Old Quebec Street Shoppes
Old Quebec Street was an extension of Quebec Street for years, connecting Wyndham and Woolwich Streets. The building was originally opened as the Eaton Centre in 1980 and remained until 1999 when it was sold to the city and renovations began on the Sleeman Centre.
The remaining section of the Eaton Centre was remodelled into its present-day version and opened in 2003 as Old Quebec Street. The lower levels still feature retail and restaurants, while the upper floors are occupied by doctors’ clinics, laboratories, and offices.
13. Guelph’s Farmers’ Market
Looking for fresh and locally-sourced produce? Then you have to check out Guelph’s Farmers’ Market. It’s been a community staple and a must-visit destination for anyone visiting or living in Guelph for the last 200 years.
You’ll find diverse vendors selling everything from freshly baked bread and delicious pastries to organic fruits and vegetables. It’s a great place to stock up on groceries or grab a bite while enjoying a friendly atmosphere.
But it’s not just about the food — the market also offers great opportunities to support local businesses and artisans. You’ll find unique crafts and other artisanal goods that make fantastic souvenirs or gifts for your loved ones.
The market is open year-round, with vendors operating on Saturdays from 08:00 to 13:00. From spring to fall, you’ll also find the market open on Thursdays from 16:00 to 19:00, which is perfect for a quick stop right after work.
14. Found Coffee
After 18 years of working with specialty coffee around Australia and Indonesia, Leighton Walters moved to Toronto to recreate the feeling of finding something unique and providing a home away from home for people.
Found Coffee aims to be more than a café – it’s an effort to connect disconnected, disregarded, or disenfranchised people. Profits are reinvested into projects that help fight mental illness, and poverty, and rebuild communities.
In addition to great coffee they are passionate about people over profit, environmental sustainability, and ethical sourcing.
15. The Boathouse Tea Room
The Boathouse, located right by the Speed River, is the perfect tea or snack spot.
Their outdoor seating offers a scenic view and indoor seating for tea and meals, with a menu ranging from homemade ice cream to breakfast and lunch items such as their signature scones, desserts, and chicken Caesar wraps.
16. McCrae House
Located in Royal City Park (more below) you’ll find the historic McCrae House, which was initially completed in 1858 and the birthplace of John McCrae. McCrae is most famous for authoring the renowned poem “In Flanders Fields,” an essential part of the nation’s history, particularly in regard to Remembrance Day.
In 1966, it was declared a National Historic Site of Canada.
17. The Covered Bridge
Officially, Ontario only has one covered bridge, located in West Montrose, called the Kissing Bridge near St. Jacob’s in Waterloo Region. However, Guelph has this incredible 144-foot lattice-covered walking bridge that spans the Eramosa and Speed Rivers.
Constructed by 400 volunteers from the Timber Framers’ Guild in 1992, it was designed after Ithiel Town’s patent from the 1880s and featured handmade wooden dowels within its interior.
Outdoor Activities In Guelph
18. Royal City Park | York Road Park | Eramosa River Park
Just south of the city centre is Royal City Park, which has musical performances, playgrounds, sports fields and walking trails (Royal Recreation Trail/Eramosa Trail) along the bank of the Eramosa River.
Continuing East past the Covered Bridge and The Boat House through York Road Park, the Royal Recreation Trail/Eramosa Trail continues to Eramosa River Park near Royal City Brewing Co (more below)
Additionally, head north on the East side of Speed River. The Speed River Trail will take you to Guelph Lake, and on the West side of Speed River, the Downtown Trail will take you to Riverside Park.
19. Riverside Park
Riverside Park is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a relaxing and picturesque outdoor activity in Guelph. This sprawling park is located on 709 Woolwich Street, along the Speed River, and boasts plenty of green space and stunning scenery.
For more active visitors, the park has a disc golf course, sprawling fields for playing soccer, and a large playground area for children.
The park’s floral clock is a noteworthy feature, which is quite a sight to behold. Given its ample amenities, it’s no surprise it’s one of the Guelph tourist attractions that draw in many visitors.
University Of Guelph
20. Art Gallery of Guelph
Located near the University of Guelph campus, the Art Gallery of Guelph was originally opened as the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre back in 1978, curates an incredible colloection of rotationg exibhits. Around the exterior of the building is the Donald Forster Sculpture Park, an outdoor area full of different sculptures and works of art.
21. University Of Guelph
Established in 1964, the University Of Guelph has since garnered a name in veterinary science, life sciences, and agricultural studies. Not to mention, its campus is full of life and history. If you have time, a self-guided tour of the campus is available.
22. Johnston Hall
William Johnston (1848-1885) was the visionary who founded the Ontario Agricultural College. His work culminated in creating a three-year degree program affiliated with the University of Toronto from 1887 to 1964.
Named after William Johnston, the iconic Johnston Hall is a student residence and administrative building completed in 1932. The building is recognized by its stone tower, which stands as one of the University’s most striking landmarks, and its front lawn is a hang-out spot amongst students.
23. War Memorial Hall
The 1919 alumni of the University of Guelph were asked to contribute to constructing the War Memorial Hall and, together with the provincial government and alumni, raised $60,000. Students cut down Norway Spruce from the area surrounding the grounds, Georgetown limestone was acquired, and a series of concerts were held to raise additional funds.
The hall was opened to the public in 1924, bearing two bronze tablets which memorialized the 109 men who had fallen in World War I and those who would die in World War II. In addition to being a memorial to those who lost their lives, War Memorial Hall is a cultural centre and the site of OAC convocation ceremonies.
24. The Arboretum
The University of Guelph’s Arboretum encompasses 400 acres of lush land adjacent to the main campus. The grounds feature breathtaking gardens, walking trails, woodlands, wetlands, and meadows open to the public from dawn to dusk.
Established in 1970, the Arboretum is home to over 2000 different taxa of woody plants, organized in collections like the World of Trees, Native Trees of Ontario, and special collections of Oaks, Beeches, Maples, and Conifers with little signs on the trees telling you about their species.
Savour Mouthwatering Meals at Any of Guelph’s Restaurants
Thanks to a wide range of dining options, Guelph is a culinary hotspot with cuisine sure to satisfy any palate.
Treat yourself and experience Guelph’s diverse culinary scene at its many restaurants. Buon Gusto Restaurant in downtown Guelph offers upscale Italian fare, including charred octopus and homemade pasta, while Eric the Baker ( mentioned above) serves pastries and espresso.
Try Borealis Grille & Bar’s locally sourced Canadian cuisine, such as the Truffle Gouda and Peameal Burger or the Wild Boar Chop, for a unique taste. Bring your appetite, as Guelph has plenty of delicious meals to offer.
Regardless of the restaurant or café you plan to visit, bring your appetite because you’ll need it.
25. Park Eatery
Park Eatery is a family-run restaurant in the Exhibition neighbourhood, boasting a collection of traditionally-made items like applewood smoked chicken, smoked meat sandwiches, salads and soups. The bar offers an exquisite selection of local beers, ciders, wines, organic fair-trade coffee & teas, artisan sodas, and milkshakes.
Park Eatery has been around since 1890, serving delicious meals to its loyal customers and embodying the spirit of a modern-day establishment.
26. With The Grain Bakery
If you’re heading to the Park Eatery for lunch, pop into With The Grain Bakery. A charming cozy bakery that offers customers delicious artisan bread, pastries, cakes, and fresh sandwiches and snacks. From sourdoughs to focaccias, all their hand-crafted bread is made using traditional recipes.
Everything is made with quality ingredients – locally sourced, whenever possible – and with lots of love.
27. Have a Drink or Two at Guelph’s Various Breweries & Bars
Besides serving spectacular scenery and cultural activities, Guelph boasts several breweries.
For both rich history and flavour, check out Wellington Brewery. It was founded in 1985 and is Canada’s and Guelph’s oldest independently owned microbrewery.
Head to the Royal City Brewing Co. or Brothers Brewing Company for a different atmosphere. They offer fresh and unpretentious beers in an extensive range, from hoppy IPAs to refreshing lagers.
The brewery doesn’t just serve refreshing beers; they’re known for dishing out hearty food too. Be sure to order something good from their beer hall. How does spicy chorizo with a pairing of Smoked Honey Ale sound? For the vegetarians out there, they serve giant soft pretzels that come with yummy mustard and curried ketchup.
These aren’t Guelph’s only breweries. You’ll find other fantastic breweries in the Onward Willow region of the Guelph area. So be sure to grab a pint and each and say “cheers!”
If you’re thinking beer + pub food, then Baker Street Station, McCabe’s Irish Pub & Grill and the Junction are excellent choices!
28. Be Enthralled With a Gripping Performance at the River Run Centre
Located at 35 Woolwich Street, the River Run Centre is a premier performing arts venue showcasing the best of Guelph’s art scene. If you need help deciding what to see in Guelph, don’t stress, we’ve got you covered.
This has been a community staple for over 25 years, with roots dating back to October 4, 1997, when it officially opened. Since then, it’s grown into a beautiful venue with state-of-the-art facilities. You’ll enjoy various captivating performances, such as comedic acts or musicals in its cozy, intimate atmosphere.
With volunteer positions readily available, you can even stay after the show and hang around other theatre buffs. If you’re wondering what’s on while you’re in town, visit the River Run Centre website to stay in the loop.
Tip: The theatre offers you stunning panoramic views of the Speed River. Why not have a look from the main lobby?
Places To Stay In Guelph + Map
Final Thoughts on Guelph Attractions & Places to Visit in Guelph
You no longer need to wander about what to do in Guelph, as there’s a world of opportunity waiting for you. From supporting locals at the Farmers’ Market to enjoying a stroll in Riverside Park’s luscious grounds, there are many great places to visit. And with some of these being outdoor activities, you’ll get to enjoy the warm sun caressing your face.
Plus, if you have an appetite (and room) for good food and fun atmospheres, you’ll love the variety of restaurants and cafés available in the downtown area.
Now that you’ve got an idea of what Guelph offers, why not learn about other fantastic destinations to add to your Ontario road trip?