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  • Writer's pictureKrista the Explorer

Best Things To Do in Niagara-on-the-Lake's Old Town

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

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The region of Niagara has a lot to offer visitors, but it’s the old town in Niagara-on-the-Lake that’s one of my favourite places to go at any time of the year. It’s located at the point where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario and its historic buildings make you feel like you’re taking a walk back in time. The countless boutique shops, locally run restaurants, and the various historic sites all play a part in welcoming millions of tourists every year. There’s no shortage of things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town, so be prepared to spend at least half a day exploring Queen Street and the streets branching off of it.


The old town is one of the most historically significant places in Canada, as it played a large role in the development of Upper Canada and went through a period of rebuilding after being almost completely destroyed in the War of 1812. What you’ll see today is a beautiful collection of colonial-style buildings that have been transformed into some of the most popular shops, cafes, and restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It may only be a small town, but there’s a reason so many people choose to visit. Here are my top picks for the best things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town.


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Things To Do in Niagara-on-the-Lake's Old Town

The Niagara region has a lot to offer visitors at any time of the year and one of the most visited places is Niagara-on-the-Lake's old town. The old town is very walkable and easy to navigate, with plenty of parking spaces available on the main street and further afield. Whether you like shopping, are looking to dine at some of Niagara's finest eateries, or are interested in the history of the area, you'll love spending time walking around the old town. Here are some of the best things to do here.

Niagara Apothecary

Niagara Apothecary white and red painted building on Queen Street.
Niagara Apothecary

Visiting the Niagara Apothecary is a very unique experience in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town. It first opened its doors in the 1860s and operated for over 100 years. Today the historic apothecary has been restored to its former glory and is used as a museum where you can learn more about how pharmacists used to practise their profession. Entry to the Niagara Apothecary is free, so it’s a great attraction in Niagara to visit if you’re on a budget.


Memorial Clock Tower

Memorial Clock Tower in the middle of the road in NOTL.
Memorial Clock Tower

One of the most iconic spots in the old town is the Memorial Clock Tower. It’s positioned in the centre of Queen Street and was built to commemorate the town’s fallen soldiers in World War I. Niagara-on-the-Lake claims to be the only town in Canada that has a war memorial in the middle of its main street, and getting a photo here can be tricky in the middle of the day, so I would recommend heading there early before the crowds start to arrive.


Queen Street

Old corner shop with a green painted trim in NOTL.
Queen Street

If you’re visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town, then chances are you’re going to be taking a walk down Queen Street. The main street of the old town is always busy, with its unique shops, quaint cafes, and world-class restaurants attracting visitors from all over the region, and beyond. There are all sorts of shops here, so it’s the perfect place to treat yourself or buy presents at Christmas. It’s a must-see in Niagara-on-the-Lake and you won’t be left feeling disappointed after your visit.


The Spa at Q

Cold water indoor swimming pool inside a spa circuit.
The Spa at Q

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town is full of charm and having walked around it for the day it wasn’t hard to see why so many people choose to come here to relax. And what better way to do that than at a spa? Located along Queen Street, inside the 124 on Queen Hotel & Spa, is The Spa at Q which is open to guests and the public. There are many services you can book at the spa, but one thing you can’t miss is the Hydrotherapy Wellness Circuit. This incredible sensory experience includes pools of different temperatures, a eucalyptus steam room, a Himalayan salt room, sensory showers, and Canada’s only snow room! It’s definitely a one-of-kind experience in NOTL.


Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar decorated in colourful flowers at sunrise.
Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

The Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar is one of the most popular eateries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a European-themed cafe that’s decorated with stunning flower arrangements on its exterior in the summertime, making it very popular for photographers. We didn’t eat here this time around, but it’s certainly worth admiring, if only from the outside.


Prince of Wales Hotel

Prince of Wales Hotel historic building in downtown NOTL.
Prince of Wales Hotel

The most popular and well-known hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake is the Prince of Wales Hotel. It’s located at the beginning of the rows of shops on Queen street, and is a favourite spot with tourists for afternoon tea. If you happen to be staying here, expect the royal treatment and to be transported back to the Victorian era.


Royal George Theatre

Royal George Theatre, a white building with red doors and windows.
Royal George Theatre

Apart from the shopping, wineries, and restaurants, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a popular destination for theatregoers. The Royal George is an iconic building on Queen Street that was built in 1915. It seats just over 300 people and was originally built to entertain troops garrisoned in Niagara-on-the-Lake during World War I. It was later used as a movie theatre before being operated by the Shaw Festival Theatre.


The Olde Angel Inn

The Olde Angel Inn an historic inn painted in yellow in NOTL.
The Olde Angel Inn

Did you know Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to Canada’s oldest operating inn? The Olde Angel Inn was established in 1789 and was rebuilt following the destruction of the War of 1812. The pub boasts hearty English-style food and the rooms are relatively modern yet quaint at the same time, making sure not to take away from the historic nature of the building. Visiting the Olde Angel Inn is a unique thing to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town, if only to snap a quick photo.


Lailey Winery

A 5 minute drive from Queen Street will bring you to Lailey Winery. It was founded in 1970 and is home to some of the oldest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in the region. They make small batch artisan premium wines that are VQA certified, including 4 ice wines that are very flavourful. This is a great winery near Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town to visit if you want to support local businesses, and they offer a very reasonably priced wine tasting experience too. In the summer months visitors can enjoy sitting outside with a nice glass of wine after a tiring day.


Where To Eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake's Old Town

Wondering where to eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town? Although it may be small, the old town boasts a wide array of delicious eateries with everything from world class dining experiences to locally run bakeries and dessert spots to choose from. If you’re planning on spending 2 days in NOTL then you’ll have plenty of chances to try out a few of the old town’s most popular places to eat.


Treadwell Cuisine

Treadwell Cuisine is easily one of the most well-known restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake, so much so that you often have to book a table well in advance to dine here. This award-winning farm-to-table restaurant features only the best local producers from the surrounding area and their trusty sommelier team are always on hand to help pair local wines with your dishes.


We dined at Treadwell Cuisine in the evening so we were treated to their seasonal 4 course prix fixe menu. Each course has four choices and you have the option of adding the sommelier wine pairing to your experience. All of our dishes were fantastic and I really need to applaud the vegetarian options which were all beautifully presented and full of flavour - not something you get at every restaurant. Treadwell Cuisine is centrally located on Queen Street making it the perfect dinner option to cap off a day of exploring the old town.


And if you’re looking for a breakfast spot in NOTL then you’re in luck because Treadwell Cuisine also has a breakfast menu. The menu isn’t huge but it has some tasty options such as the Chef’s Breakfast and a delicious brioche French toast served with berries and creme fraiche - both are great choices!


Fritters-on-the-Lake

Three apple fritters with syrup and scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Fritters with ice cream

If there’s one thing that people travel from far and wide to eat in NOTL it’s homemade apple fritters. Fritters-on-the-Lake is a family-owned bakery serving delicious freshly made apple fritters right in the heart of NOTL’s old town. It’s not just traditional apple fritters on the menu though. You’ll have the option of topping your fritters with flavoured syrup or adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream to your sweet treat. However you choose to eat your apple fritters I guarantee you won’t have tasted any quite as good as at Fritters-on-the-Lake. Don’t forget to have a chat with the owners too who are very friendly and can’t do enough for their customers.


Budapest Bakeshop

Chocolate chimney cake and two sandwiches in bakery.
Chimney cake and sandwiches

I first tried chimney cakes when I visited Prague, so I was really excited to find some in Niagara-on-the-Lake as well. Budapest Bakeshop is located along Queen Street, in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town, and is family owned and operated. They serve up a fantastic selection of freshly made traditional Hungarian chimney cakes, which are a mixture of sweet and savoury flavours.


Chimney cakes date back over 300 years and their popularity continues to grow, so you can imagine how busy Budapest Bakeshop gets! We tried their Nutella and Walnut chimney cake, and took a couple of sandwiches to go as well. The chimney cake sandwiches are amazing so I would recommend getting one for lunch! This is one of the best places to eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and is a great experience if you’ve never had a chimney cake before.


NOTL Bar & Restaurant

One of the latest restaurants to enter the food scene in Niagara-on-the-Lake is NOTL Bar & Restaurant, located inside 124 on Queen Hotel & Spa. The restaurant and bar area are stunning, with both indoor and outdoor patio seating available. The menu is based on local cuisine, featuring producers from around the region so everything is very fresh which is a bonus. They’re already making a name for themselves with their incredible cocktail options and their food menu is also making big waves with both locals and visitors.


One of their most popular menu items is the NOTL Burger which comes with a hefty portion of fries, but a great alternative to that is the Fried Chicken Sandwich. On the lighter side of things the Wedge Salad is definitely large enough to act as a main rather than a starter. Even if you aren’t staying in the hotel this is one of the best places to eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake so get it added to your itinerary.


Craig's Cookies

Hand holding two freshly baked cookies in front of bakery.
Craig's Cookies

Craig’s Cookies has officially opened one of their stores in NOTL and if you like freshly baked, soft cookies then you’ll want to stop by. They have a wide selection of flavours available with everything from traditional chocolate chip to mini eggs and pride cookies ready to take away. I was slightly overwhelmed with the flavours and wanted to try everything but I think we did a pretty good job of choosing the flavours that spoke to us the most. And if you're really craving them when you head home they now offer Canada-wide shipping from their official website!


COWS

Two ice creams in cones melting on a hot day.
COWS Ice Cream

If this is your first time visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town then you can’t walk by COWS without grabbing an ice cream for yourself. COWS Ice Cream is based in Prince Edward Island and was started in 1983, but they still use the same old-fashioned ingredients in their products. It’s become a mandatory stop for many tourists who come to Niagara-on-the-Lake, so expect large queues - but the wait is worth it.


Where To Stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake's Old Town

124 on Queen Hotel & Spa

There’s only one place to stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town if you want a truly relaxing and luxurious experience - 124 on Queen Hotel & Spa. This beautiful hotel is located on the main street and has recently undergone an expansion which means it now features 72 rooms that range from deluxe rooms to 2-bedroom villas, all impeccably decorated with modern furnishings that still match the historic building that the hotel is based in. The hotel is also home to the popular Spa at Q, NOTL Bar & Restaurant, a Starbucks, a zen garden, and the town’s only underground parking lot.


We stayed in one of the 2 Bedroom Villas (Gollop House) which is located next to the main building and accessed by a flight of stairs. It’s the perfect place to stay if you’re travelling as a group with an ensuite king and queen bedroom, an open-plan living and dining area, and a fully equipped kitchen. Despite its modern appearance it’s located in one of NOTL’s historic buildings with a view over Queen Street.


And if all of these hotel features weren’t enough, all guests have access to a free shuttle service within the old town as well as complimentary bike rental, an amuse bouche per guest, and access to the fitness centre. By the time you leave NOTL you’ll be feeling like you’ve had the full royal treatment at 124 on Queen Hotel & Spa.


>> Click here for the most up to date prices at 124 on Queen Hotel & Spa <<


There's no best time to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, as there’s a lot going on year-round. The summer months make it more enjoyable to walk around and there are more outdoor activities happening, but winter is equally as popular with people visiting for the holidays or doing some Christmas shopping. The best things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town are a unique blend of historic sites, quaint shops, and tasty eateries that are sure to please any type of traveller.


Have you been to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town before? Let me know what your favourite part was in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram as well for more travel photos and tips!


 

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