Hamilton is often pegged as a boring steel town though this reputation is starting to change. Today, it is turning into a major centre for the arts and health sciences, and is home to many of Canada’s specialised museums, such as the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. The downtown area of the city can easily be discovered by public transport but in its suburbs, such as Hamilton East, public transport is lacking. This is because so many residents own cars, which means as a visitor, organising car hire in Hamilton East is the best option for getting around.
Who to Book With
Discount Car Rental has the largest presence in Hamilton, with locations in the city centre as well as in Hamilton East. Other leading suppliers in the city include Budget, Avis, Enterprise and Thrifty, with offices found along Main Street East, close to the railway station.
Best Time to Go
Hamilton is a windy city, especially within the city centre. It is also noticeably more polluted than most other major Canadian cities as a result of its steel industry, which is more evident on windy days. This should not discourage anyone from visiting Hamilton, however, as in the summer it is very beautiful and there is much to do. This is also when rates are at their highest, especially in the downtown core. Winters here are much colder than what most UK citizens are used to, though not as cold as winters in many other destinations in Canada.
Need to Know Essentials
When picking up your vehicle, you will need to present the following documents:
- Both parts of your UK licence
- Another document to prove your ID
- A credit card that is valid
- Confirmation of the reservation
For more info read our FAQs.
Like in most cities, traffic can be a problem during rush hours, though in Hamilton traffic is rarely a problem at other times of the day. Some visitors may find navigating the downtown area a challenge due to its mostly one-way streets, though the main streets allow two-way traffic. The mountain access (Sherman Access) changes to a one-way system during rush hours to help locals get in and out of the city centre for work. There are over 800 on-street parking spaces in the city, 18 open-air car parks and two covered car parks, so finding a parking space should be simple. Free parking is available at weekends and after 18:00.
Have a look at our guide to Canada for more driving tips.
Local transportation in Hamilton East is lacking for a city if its size. Still, there are local buses that travel through the city centre but service to areas outside of the downtown core is unreliable. Most people drive into the city and then explore on foot. There are also plenty of cycling trails, both on and off road, that visitors can use. Taxis are less expensive than in bigger cities, such as Toronto, but not as easy to find.
There is no train service in Hamilton but GO Transit has a station here, with regular train service to and from Toronto’s Union Station. Tickets are bought right in the station and cost less than £7 for a one-way journey. The closest long-distance railway station is in Burlington (Aldershot), which can be reached by the Go Transit line. From here, Via Rail trains run along the Windsor-Quebec City line.
Local Hamilton Street Railway buses operate 16 lines throughout Hamilton as well as shuttle buses during special events. Nearly all buses terminate at Gore Park Terminal in the city centre, with riders paying the fare directly to the driver. A few bus lines pass through Hamilton East, which has connections with downtown Hamilton. Regional and long-distance buses depart from the Hamilton GO Centre, with Go Transit providing the most service. Greyhound is also present here and offers regional service as well as buses to the USA.
Taxis must charge according to distance by metre and are not allowed to negotiate fares. Blue Line Taxi and Hamilton Cab are reputable companies which are suitable for visitors. It is customary to tip the driver if you received acceptable service.
Hamilton sits midway between Toronto and Buffalo, making it easy to take daytrips to either of these large cities. The magnificent Niagara Falls is less than a 1 hour drive away, as are other natural attractions such as the Niagara Escarpment and Burlington Bay. The old German town of Kitchener and the university town of Guelph are also close by.
Niagara Falls – This world wonder has a vertical drop of more than 50 metres and is actually made up of three waterfalls. The Horseshoe Falls is the most magnificent and is on the Canadian side, while the American Falls and the least impressive Bridal Veil Falls are on the American side. This is one of Canada’s most visited attractions and one of the world’s most romantic places. The drive here takes less than 1 hour and once here, visitors can take a ferry around the foot of the falls, walk behind the falls or just snap photos of it from Queen Victoria Park.
Royal Botanical Gardens – Canada’s largest botanical gardens can be reached in less than 30 minutes from Hamilton. It occupies 980 hectares of natural scenery and is considered to be an Important Bird Area. It is home to the endangered red mulberry tree, many fish species, 20-plus miles of trails and plenty of native wildlife.
Kitchener – The old German city of Kitchener has the largest Oktoberfest in the world outside of Munich. It is also host to a blues festival and a multicultural festival. If you come outside of festival times, you can visit its museums and landmarks or enjoy its fantastic shopping opportunities.