Hamilton, the fifth largest city in Ontario and the tenth largest in Canada, is a mix of big city appeal and small town quaintness thanks to its many and diverse communities.

Hamilton has been known by various nicknames, including “The Birmingham of Canada”, “The Ambitious City”, “The Electric City”, “Hammer Town” and “Steel Town”. The city may be known as Steel Town but in reality, Hamilton today employs more people in health care than in industry.


Population:  519,949 (census 2011)

Geographic Location:

Hamilton is located in the centre of the Golden Horseshoe and is roughly the midway point between Toronto and Buffalo, New York.  Its major physical features are Hamilton Harbour, which marks the northern limit of the city, and the Niagara Escarpment, which runs through the middle of the city, bisecting the city into ‘upper’ and ‘lower’.


  • Hamilton Harbour was discovered by explorer Robert Cavelier De La Salle in 1669. The First Nations peoples who lived in villages around the harbour named it Macassa Bay, meaning “beautiful water”.
  • The town of Hamilton was founded in 1816 and named after George Hamilton, a settler.
  • A permanent jail was constructed in 1832; the first police board and town limits were defined in 1833
  • Dundurn castle, built by Sir Allan Napier McNab, was completed in 1835.  McNab helped establish the first bank and the railway in Hamilton.
  • Hamilton became a city in 1846.
  • The Ferguson Station, built in 1875, was the Hamilton terminal for the Grand Trunk Railway Company and the principle passenger station for downtown Hamilton.  At one time, Ferguson Street formed the eastern boundary of Hamilton.
  • By 1878, Hamilton was home to the first commercial telephone service in Canada, the first telephone exchange in the British Empire and the second telephone exchange in North America.
  • The Around the Bay Road Race was begun in 1894, making it the oldest road race in North America.
  • Hamilton’s population doubled between 1900 and 1914, when Stelco and Dofasco were established and Proctor and Gamble built a manufacturing plant in Hamilton – P&G’s first plant outside the U.S.
  • In 1921, the Pantages Theatre opened on King Street with a seating capacity of 3,500. It was the largest theatre in Canada at that time.
  • The Piggott Building, Hamilton’s first skyscraper, was built in 1929.
  • McMaster University moved from Toronto to its present site in Hamilton in 1930.
  • Ivor Wynne Stadium, originally known as ‘Civic Stadium,’ was constructed in 1930 for the British Empire Games.
  • The first Tim Hortons opened on Ottawa Street in 1964.
  • On January 1, 2001 the new city of Hamilton was formed from the amalgamation of the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth and its six municipalities: Hamilton, Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook and Stoney Creek.

Points of Interest:

  • The Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) is Ontario’s third largest public art gallery and owns one of the finest collections of art in Canada.  www.artgalleryofhamilton.com
  • Binbrook Conservation Area Is home to Lake Niapenco reservoir, the largest inland lake in the Niagara Watershed.  www.npca.ca/conservation-areas/binbrook/
  • Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum documents the history of football in Canada.  www.cfhof.ca
  • Waterfalls– The city boasts over 126 waterfalls and cascades, most located near the Bruce Trail on the Niagara Escarpment.  www.cityofwaterfalls.ca
  • Dundurn Castle is a National Historic Site that recreates the life and times of Sir Allan Napier MacNab, who served as Prime Minister of the United Provinces of Canada (1854-56). www.dundurncastle.com

Dundurn Castle







James Street North Art Crawl features new art exhibits, trendy shops, music and food every second Friday of the month.  www.jamestreetnorth.ca.

Brott Summer Music Festival – May to August.  This year marks the 20th anniversary season of one of Canada’s largest music festivals, featuring classical, jazz, pops and chamber music concerts. www.brottmusic.com

Festival of Friends is an annual outdoor music, crafts and arts festival .  This year’s festival will be held August 8, 9 and 10.  www.creativearts.on.ca

Hamilton Fringe Festival is held over 11 days each July in downtown Hamilton. www.hamiltonfringe.ca

Hamilton Greek Fest celebrates Greek culture and food.  This year’s event will be held August 15-17.  www.hamiltongreekfest.com

Hamilton Music Awards is held each November to promote and recognize Hamilton’s vibrant music community.  www.hamiltonmusicawards.com

It’s Your Festival is the oldest and biggest Canada Day festival in Canada and one of the top 100 festivals in Ontario.  It is held in Gage Park every Canada Day long weekend.  www.itsyourfestival.ca

Dundas Cactus Festival is an annual event featuring a parade, art and craft vendors, sidewalk sales, live entertainment and a midway in downtown Dundas.  This year’s event will be held August 15 – 17.  www.dundascactusfest.ca

Winona Peach Festival is held annually in August (August 22-24 in 2014).  It is three days of arts and crafts, vendors, entertainment, food, a midway and a car show.  www.winonapeach.com

Locke Street Festival is an annual family event featuring art/craft stalls, live entertainment, food and more.  This year’s event will be held Saturday, September 6 starting at 10:00 a.m. www.lockestreetfestival.com/

Music on the Waterfront presents free concerts every Thursday evening  from July 3 to August 28 www.hamiltonwaterfront.com

Super Crawl is an annual art and music festival on James Street North.  This year’s event will be held September 12 – 14.  www.supercrawl.ca

For a full list of up-to-date festivals, events and activities, visit www.tourismhamilton.com, or download the Visit Hamilton App on your mobile device. You can also visit the new Tourism Hamilton Visitor Centre in the Lister Block in downtown Hamilton.

Sources:  Tourism Hamilton, City of Hamilton, Wikipedia, Dundas Cactus Festival, Winona Peach Festival; photos by
Rochelle Edwards and Laura Doucette