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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 a 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 as compared to the GTA. On average, you will pay 30% less for a condominium in Hamilton as compared to an equal-sized unit in Toronto. Detached homes in Hamilton are selling on average for nearly 40% less than detached homes in Toronto. (Statistics provided by RAHB and TRREB – April 2023). 

Want to test out the city before you buy a home? You’ll be happy to know that rental prices are about 25% – 30% less than they are in the GTA (according to Rentals.ca).  But, the coin you’ll save living in the Hammer goes beyond buying a home. The overall cost of living in Hamilton is is 7% lower than in Toronto. Restaurants will cost you 22% less (and the local food scene is top notch – more on that later).

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 an hour. Though, if you’re commuting daily to Toronto, rush hour on the 403 and the QEW sucks from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Don’t worry, you have options! Check out our Commuter’s Guide to Hamilton to learn more about what options are available plus the best neighbourhoods for commuters. 

3. Parking everywhere (and not the Green P lots)

Street parking is less intimidating in Hammy than in Toronto; there are fewer cars, more spots, and it’s usually free. Street parking passes are not required on most residential streets (however there are exceptions, particularly around the hospitals). Even on main roads with parking meters, parking is often free after 6 p.m. or 9 p.m. during the week. Weekends are often 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). The Passport Parking App is available for those who no longer keep spare change in their car. 

4. Bike friendly

Hamilton is a cycle-friendly community, with bike lanes to connect you around the city. The Hamilton Bike Share system offers over 800 bicycles for riders to enjoy. Docking stations allow users to pick up/drop off bicycles at any of the 130 hub locations within the 25 square kilometre service area. The City of Hamilton offers interactive cycling maps, waterfall routes, and other sought out trails. 

Bird Canada’s e-scooters are a welcome new sight in the city. This pilot program launched in April 2023 allows riders to rent an e-scooter to help them travel around the city. The scooters can be locked to any piece of permissible public infrastructure (such as a bike rack) making them a super convenient option throughout the city. 

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 are 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.

(Did I mention that the restaurant scene is also vegan friendly? I’m talking about an all-vegan pizzeria, an all-vegan pub, different brunch and dessert options, you name it).

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 James Street South attracts working professionals out on the town. Cocktails are king on James Street North and nearby King William Street is best if you’re looking for atmosphere and can splurge a little extra on drinks and food. 

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. 

10. Waterfalls

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 cool cocktails and local beers, to gourmet food shops, to incredible antiques, Ottawa Street Noth 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, eclectic restaurants, and fantastic independent retailers. It’s tucked away in the historic and charming neighbourhood of Kirkendall – a favourite for young families. 

15. Farmer’s market

The Hamilton Farmer’s Market heads into its 186th year as one of Hamilton’s oldest traditions, featuring over 50 vendors with products from all over the world. Here you’ll find local produce, meats, cheeses, pastries, and more. The restaurant hall on the lower level has served as an incubator for talented local chefs to test their recipes and restaurant concepts in a more scaled-down environment.  It’s a must-visit destination for Hamilton foodies. 

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, Bayfront Park has picnic tables, a terrific playground, a splash pad, and room to run. The entire waterfront area in the North End is undergoing significant renovations to create even more space for the community to enjoy. 

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. Be sure to use #HamOnt when searching on social media so as to find all things Hamilton, ON (and avoid all things “Hamilton: the Musical”) 

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. This city loves beer

You’ll never go thirsty in this city. Seriously. Award-winning local breweries and well-curated craft beer bars are a mainstay throughout the city. Events such as the Ottawa Street Beer Crawl take things one step further by offering rare brews and good eats at a discount.    

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 we can’t convert everybody into Hamiltonians, we can promise you a few things. 

  1. Hamilton will surprise you, in a good way.
  2. You miss a lot of things just driving past.
  3. The Hamilton spirit is contagious. 
  4. 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.

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