London, Ontario has quite a few things in common with that other London over on the other side of the world in the United Kingdom. There’s a Thames River and a Covent Garden, but Ontario’s London also has its own unique set of attractions to make it an interesting place to visit in its own right.
Located in southwestern Ontario, London is about halfway between Toronto, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan, just north of Lake Erie and the US border. It is also known as the “Forest City” as it was once a thick forest, which is still quite evident with the many woodlands, parks, and greenways along the Thames River.
Home to the University of Western Ontario, it’s also known as a “university city” with many students living here. It has some of Ontario’s oldest buildings and there are plenty of eateries, cultural centres and outdoor activities to keep you busy.
In this Ontario travel guide, we’ll share with you the top things to do in London, Ontario, including where to eat and drink.
If you can time your visit to one of the many festivals, Sunfest is a great option. Sunfest is an annual Canadian festival of food, culture, art, and music and one of the many festivals that take place in London throughout the year. It takes place every July at Victoria Park and is the second-largest world music event in Canada. In addition to the live music, there is also delicious food on offer from all over the world.
Location: Victoria Parc, 509 Clarence Street, London.
Victoria Park was originally designed back in 1874 as a British Military base and cricket ground spread out over 7.3 hectares. Today, it is one of the major centres of community events in London. It features a bandstand, a skate park, a skating rink, and several monuments. If you’re visiting around the Christmas holidays, the lighting of the Christmas lights is a very special event to witness.
It’s a great park to just go for a stroll and relax, taking the opportunity of spotting the melanistic (black) Eastern Gray Squirrels. The park is also close to Richmond Row, which has beautiful shops, fabulous restaurants and great lounges/bars.
Location: 509 Clarence Street, London
Springbank Park & Storybook Gardens
Springbank Park is London’s largest park covering 350 acres alongside the Thames River. It has 30 km of tree-lined trails for biking, hiking, rollerblading, jogging, or walking. Many birds can be seen along the shores of the Thames River such as Geese, American Goldfinch, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cedar Waxwing, and Chickadees, so be sure to bring your binoculars and camera.
There’s also a playground, swings, a wading pool, picnic areas and soccer fields and it is home to Storybook Garden, a favourite family destination with its enchanting storybook environment aimed at young children, themed around storybooks, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes.
There’s also ice skating in the winter and a splash park in the summer.
Location: 1085 Commissioners Road W, London, Ontario.
Can you even imagine a world without insulin? Banting House is the former residence of Dr. Frederick Banting, the inventor of insulin. It is the very house where Sir Frederick Banting woke up at two o’clock in the morning on October 3, 1920, with the idea that led to the discovery of insulin. Today it is a museum dedicated to his life and his discovery of insulin and is known as the “Birthplace of Insulin.”
Location: 442 Adelaide Street N, London.
St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica
Located in the heart of the downtown area of London, St Peter’s Cathedral Basilica was built in the early 1800s during the episcopate of Bishop John Walsh to serve as the cathedral for the Diocese of London. Designed by the prominent architect Joseph Connolly, it was constructed in the 13th-century French Gothic style, which was favoured by Ontario’s Roman Catholics in the late 19th century.
This magnificent structure features massive bell towers, high transepts, an imposing sanctuary and a fine rose window made in Innsbruck, Austria. Although the interior was decorated in 1925-26 and the towers, sacristy and chapel were completed in 1957-58, the building retains its original character.
Location: 196 Dufferin Avenue, London.
Canadian Medical Hall of Fame
The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame is another London tourist attraction that is well worth a visit. The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame honours Canada’s medical heroes and aims to inspire youth to pursue careers in the health sciences. The Hall seeks to be representative of the full breadth of health leadership and excellence in research, clinical care, illness prevention, education, and health administration. Six nominees are inducted each year.
The exhibit hall showcases displays related to the many major medical breakthroughs in Canada and includes important tributes to Canada’s first nursing and healthcare professionals.
Location: 100 Kellogg Ln, London
Eldon House was built in 1834 and is London’s oldest residence and contains family heirlooms, furnishings and priceless treasures of the Harris Family. Eldon House has been preserved and maintained since 1960 when it was donated to the City of London.
It was home to four generations of the Harris family and is an excellent example of Georgian and Regency architectural styles. Be sure to check out the gardens that are considered to be among the most beautiful in the city. There are also seasonal events throughout the year.
Location: 481 Ridout Street N, London.
Covent Garden Market
London’s Covent Garden Market is one of the oldest markets in Canada. The market is a local landmark and is always busy with shoppers enjoying locally grown produce and fresh food as well as restaurants, bars, a theatre, and specialty shops. During the summer, there is plenty of entertainment with street performers and musicians outdoors and in the winter, there’s also a skating rink!
From May to December, the farmer’s market operates outdoors whereas in the winter the market goes indoors to the building’s upper floor.
LOCATION: 130 King Street, London
Like beer? Canada’s largest brewer is Labatt and its headquarters are in London. You can take a two-hour tour of the brewery, which of course, includes sampling.
Craft beer is really all the rage these days though, and some other smaller local breweries in London include the Toboggan Brewing Company and Anderson Craft Ales.
Location: 150 Simcoe Street, London.
Fanshawe Pioneer Village
Fanshawe Pioneer Village is an open-air museum that uses historical reenactments and activities to portray the lives of the early settlers in the London area. It was created in 1959 on 19 hectares of land. It is split into four areas that each represents a different period in the development of the area from 1820 to 1920.
There are numerous events held throughout the year and the traditional Christmas Market is a very popular one.
Location: 1424 Clarke Road, London.
Museum London is an art and history museum located near the forks of the Thames River. It started its operations in 1940 with London Public Library and amalgamated with London Regional Art Gallery and London Regional Historical Museum in 1989. It is a part art gallery and part history museum and home to over 5,000 unique works of art and 45,000 artifacts from all over Canada.
Other interesting museums in London are the Museum of Ontario Archaeology and the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum.
Location: 421 Ridout St N, London
London Children’s Museum
This very popular children’s museum has over 100,000 visitors a year. Established in 1975, the museum focuses only on subjects of interest to kids with hands-on exhibits and interactive displays. The London Children’s Museum helps children indulge their curiosity and play their way to a life of innovation and creative discovery.
Location: 21 Wharncliffe Road S, London.
East Park London
Who doesn’t like waterslides and Go-Karts?
All of these things (and more) can be done at East Park Golf. The golf course/amusement park is great for the whole family, with things for everyone to enjoy. For those who love to golf, you’ll be pleased to know that this course is an 18-hole, Robbie Robinson-designed course that is stunningly beautiful and a great place to play. In fact, some rank it as the best golf course in London!
If golf isn’t your thing, head to the amusement park portion of East Park Golf. This is where you’ll find the waterpark, the Go-Kart track, bumper cars, and rock climbing.
How to Get to London, Ontario
From Toronto: The total driving time is about 2 hours 15 minutes and the halfway point is Cambridge, Canada. The driving distance is 189 km (117 miles).
From Detroit: The driving time is about 2 hr 5 min via ON-401 E and the distance is 194km ( 120.6 miles)
From Toronto: There are three return trips per day between Toronto and London operated by VIA Rail and GO Transit. The train journey time is around 2h 16m and covers a distance of around 185 km.
From Detroit: The train journey time between Detroit and London is around 1h 51m and covers a distance of around 174 km. Operated by VIA Rail, the Detroit to London train service departs from Windsor and arrives in London. Typically 28 trains run weekly.
From Toronto or Detroit: From Toronto’s Pearson International Airport or the Detroit Metro Airport, the Robert Q Airbus runs an airport bus service to London, Ontario. For those on a budget, it is often less expensive than flying to London and this company offers discounted student rates.
London International Airport offers daily flights from major Canadian cities.
Air Canada has daily flights from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, Swoop Airlines has daily flights from Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Abbotsford and Halifax; and WestJet has daily flights from Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.
The London International Airport is approximately a 20-minute drive to the downtown area.
Where to Eat and Drink in London
It’s always such a difficult decision when you’re in a new place to find the best places to eat. To help you out we have scanned the internet restaurant reviews for London, Ontario for top recommendations and we have listed the 6 restaurants that had excellent reviews and appealed to us.
Waldo’s on King: According to TripAdvisor, Waldo’s on King is the #1 restaurant in London. People rave about the delicious food and the generous portions.
Zen’Za Pizzeria: If you’re after mouth-watering pizza, this is the place to go. We’ve heard that people even drive from other nearby cities to eat here.
Ivanopoblano: Craving Mexican food? The menu at Ivanopoblano includes delicious tacos, quesadillas, and even cupcakes! Toss in some tequila, beer, or wine, and you’ll have a great night out. People rank it as having impeccable service and Restaurant Gurus ranks it as the top restaurant in London, Ontario.
David’s Bistro: Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral? This bar is nearby and features exquisite French cuisine. You’ll find things like salmon, lobster salads, duck legs, sticky toffee pudding, crème brûlée, and poached pears. Oh, and good coffee!
The Church Key Bistro-Pub: According to Yelp, this is the best restaurant in London. This extensively renovated pub resides in a prominent heritage building across from the Grand Theatre on Richmond Row in downtown London. It features an intimate outdoor courtyard and follows the British tradition of the gastropub by specializing in traditional food done with gourmet flair.
6 Roll Roll: Another incredibly popular restaurant in London is 6 Roll Roll, the best spot to eat some sushi! The staff is wonderful, the Japanese food is delicious, and the presentation is beautiful.
Best time to Visit (Weather in London, Ontario)
The best time to visit London is definitely from March through to May when the temperatures are mild and the city’s parks are green and blooming. Late spring and summer are also popular times to visit.
May can be a glorious month to visit London because temperatures average in the high teens, and late sunsets stretch daylight hours until about 9 pm. The hottest months are July, August, and then June.
In any month, cloudy days can be damp and chilly, and it’s always best to be prepared for the possibility of rain. Make sure to bring your umbrella.
In London, the summers are warm and partly cloudy and the winters are freezing, snowy, windy, and mostly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 16°F to 79°F and is rarely below -0°F or above 87°F.
For about 84 days a year, London has at least a centimetre of snow on the ground. In mid-winter, the snowpack averages around 11 cm deep. Generally, the snow cover begins to build in late December and accumulates further during January.
Looking for more Ontario Travel Guides?
Look no further. Whether you’re looking to take a helicopter ride over one of the world’s most famous waterfalls, stroll the streets of the most multicultural city on Earth, or visit an underground bunker built during the cold war, there’s something for everyone in our Ontario travel guides.