Known as the Hammer, Steeltown, and even Toronto’s Brooklyn (insert Hamiltonian cringe), Hamilton is a fun city with a gritty reputation. Maybe you’re looking for change from the hustle and bustle of T.O., or for a home you love in your budget. Whatever the case, if you are considering the move out of Toronto and into the GTA, don’t underestimate Hamilton.
From a lower cost of living to the foodie’s delight restaurant scene, there is so much to love about the city of many nicknames:
1. More bang for your buck
It’s likely no surprise that Hamilton is a cheaper city to live in. On average, buying an apartment in Hamilton is less than half the cost of an equal-sized apartment in Toronto, and rent prices are about 33% less than in TO. But, the coin you’ll save living in the Hammer goes beyond buying a home. Restaurants will cost you 12% less, grocery prices are about 8% lower, and you’ll save at least 7% on gas (plus, cheaper insurance!). Even childcare costs in Hamilton are about 23% lower than in Toronto!
2. Little traffic, commutable to Toronto
Day-to-day traffic is a rare and minor inconvenience compared to Toronto’s pileups. Depending on where you live, driving from Hamilton to Toronto will take you about 40 minutes. Though, if you’re commuting daily to Toronto, 403 rush hour sucks from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Don’t worry, you have options! You may want to consider the GO train or express bus to union if you prefer to avoid carpooling or the 407.
3. Parking everywhere (and not the Green P lots)
Street parking is less intimidating in Hammy than in Toronto; there are less cars, more spots, and it’s usually free. Even on main roads with parking meters, parking after 6 p.m. and on weekends is free in good ol’ Hamilton. When you have to pay for parking, expect to drop somewhere between a loonie and five bucks (for all-day parking).
4. Bike friendly
Hamilton is a cycle-friendly community, with bike lanes to connect you around the city. The bike share system offers over 130 hubs across the downtown area, and docking stations allow users to pick up/drop off bicycles at any hub location. The City of Hamilton offers interactive cycling maps, waterfall routes, and other sought out trails.
5. Bring Fido!
While both Hamilton and Toronto offer green spaces and off-leash dog parks, Hamilton’s dog culture is just different. It’s not uncommon for storefronts to leave bowls of water on the sidewalk on hot days, and some stores even allow dogs to enter. During patio season expect to see happy, wagging tails when you’re sipping brews.
6. Big city, small town feel
Emphasis on this one! Hamilton has a population size comparable to Quebec City and is the second largest city in Ontario, after Toronto. Yet, something about the Hammer gives small town feel. While it could be the classic old buildings downtown, or the local businesses on every corner, it’s part of the city’s charm you’ll love.
7. Restaurant scene
Calling all foodies! Hamilton’s culinary scene has been receiving national attention over the past few years, even receiving praising features like “The Best Places to Eat and Drink” in WestJet magazine.
Michele Sponagle, the article’s author, described the food scene as one of a kind. “It’s not like Brooklyn, it’s not Toronto light. It really is its own thing and a very unique personality,” Sponagle said. “They’re not followers. There’s a lot of firsts that happened in Hamilton. You look at Pokeh, that was the first poke bar in Canada.”
Another article, by the Globe and Mail, even says that restaurant veterans are coming to Hamilton from Toronto.
8. Vibrant nightlife
The best part about Hamilton nightlife is that there is a place for everyone. Hess village tends to attract a younger crowd (especially students), while Augusta attracts working professionals out on the town. Go to King William if you’re looking for atmosphere and can splurge a little extra on drinks and food, you won’t be disappointed. Hamilton’s small town feel means if you don’t like the bar or club you’re in, you can try the one next door. And for the ladies, most places offer free cover until 11 p.m. or midnight!
9. Artisan stores and thrift
Hamilton knocks this category out of the park. I could write an entire article about Antique Mall, with four floors filled with vintage goodies, let alone all the other niche artsy stores that are sure to steal your heart (and empty your wallet). Even better, at most Hamilton thrift stores, expect to spend half of what you would in Toronto. Seriously.
Hamilton is a port city home to more than 100 waterfalls. It’s literally the waterfall capital of the world, what more can I say! A small heads up, tourists swarm these areas on summer weekends, but here’s a guide to help navigate.
11. Parks and trails
According to The City of Hamilton, there are 525 parks in the city and 14 currently being developed. There are 131 trails to choose from, ranging from 1.13km to 18km, and some up to 1,122 feet above sea level. The trails are well-maintained and look even better than the pictures.
12. Ottawa Street
From vegan comfort food, to a rentable gallery for local artists, to Antique Mall, Ottawa St. has been nicknamed “Hamilton’s destination for inspiration.” It’s up and coming, a feel-good area, and there’s even a shopping directory.
13. James Street North
Classic downtown Hamilton. A mix of old-school Portuguese retailers, independently owned grocers, more delicious eats, funky finds, and jaw-dropping street art. Storefronts have changed a lot here over the years, but the Hamilton spirit has stuck around. Every second Friday of the month is Art Crawl, an event that features local artists and their products for sale. Once a year Super Crawl happens here too, and if you’ve never been, highly recommend catching the next one! You’re really missing out if you like free concerts, food trucks, and art.
14. Locke Street South
Think walking down a main road in a small, friendly town. That’s how Locke Street South feels. There are coffee shops (a dog friendly one too!), eclectic restaurants and other independent businesses. It’s tucked away in the historic and charming neighbourhood of Kirkendall North.
15. Farmer’s market
The Hamilton Farmer’s Market heads into its 184th year as one of Hamilton’s oldest traditions, featuring over 50 vendors with products from all over the world. The indoor market has stayed open throughout the pandemic, emphasizing a focus on public safety while shopping. Though some non-food vendors had to close due to restrictions, there are still ways to support them online.
16. New industries
Though Hamilton has earned its reputation of Steeltown as one of Canada’s leading steel producers, the history of manufacturing has allowed for the advancement of innovative technology and other industries. According to Invest in Hamilton, the largest industries now include Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing, Agribusiness, Finance, Digital Media and Creative Industries. Tourism is on the rise too!
17. Waterfront views
Remember the trails we talked about? Some of them are right on the lake. The rink at Pier 8 offers 5$ skate rentals (ice skates in the winter and roller skates in the summer), and a DJ booth on the weekends. You’d rather have an intimate, waterfront picnic? No problem, there are green spaces everywhere along the harbour. And there won’t be strangers in the back of your pictures!
18. Small business love!
Hometown Hub is a digital one-stop solution for online, local shopping, supported by the city. From Hamazon (100% Hamilton-made and Bezos-free), local eats, skincare products and more, it’s never been easier to shop small.
BLK Owned Hamont is an open resource to support Black-owned businesses in the Greater Hamilton Area. Their mission is to celebrate, showcase and explore, as a way to empower sustainability and encourage Black-owned businesses to thrive.
19. Breweries, beer lover city
You’ll never go thirsty in this city. Seriously. Craft beer fans might want to consider a Craft Beer Passport once pandemic restrictions are lifted; it gives users access to $2 craft beers at participating breweries and bars across the city. Even Tourism Hamilton highlights the best breweries, cideries and wineries in the city.
20. Family friendly
Learning and fun go together in Hamilton! From hands-on museums, summer festivals, a tropical greenhouse, and more, there are so many exciting experiences to be had in the city. Many of which happen to be family-focused and kid-friendly!
While I can’t convert everybody into Hamiltonians, I can promise you a few things.
- Hamilton will surprise you, in a good way.
- You miss a lot of things just driving past.
- Good ol’ Hamilton spirit is contagious. We too have merch!
- If you want to move to Hamilton, we can help! Our Hamilton agent Kellye loves nothing more than introducing people to her city.
Feeling the #HamOnt spirit? Welcome! Enjoy your stay.