Kingston Ontario is a charming old city. Its roots are planted in the beginnings of Canadian history. It is situated at the junction of the St. Lawrence and Cataraqui rivers, on the shore of Lake Ontario.
In the distant past, indigenous peoples fought each other for control of this strategically important location. Later, the French, having established a small fort on the site, battled with the native population for this land. Eventually the French and British clashed in their quest for possession of the trading post. By then the most important stronghold in New France.
More than 300 years of sometimes turbulent history have transformed Kingston from small wooden fort, built by French Governor Count Frontenac, into one of the most progressive and beautiful cities of Ontario.
Today the city is graced with classical old limestone buildings, magnificent churches, historic forts and monuments. It boasts imposing Martello Towers and attractive parks. Kingston is a city with a touch of class and romance.
We stayed in four-star comfort, downtown staying at the Delta Hotels Kingston Waterfront a Marriott Bonvoy Hotel. It is situated in the heart of historic downtown district. With views of Confederation Harbour and Lake Ontario, the guest rooms overlook the water. You can work out in the 24-hour fitness centre, or swim laps in the indoor rooftop pool. AquaTerra, the hotel restaurant, celebrates locally sourced food, wine and craft beer.
We stayed in the hotel for two nights and used it as our base to explore Kingston.
Our top tips for exploring Kingston include.
Hop on and off trolly
The Kingston Trolley Tour route covers all of Kingston’s historic old town and downtown shopping district, travelling as far east as Fort Henry and as far west as the Kingston Penitentiary. It makes stops at the city’s most popular sites of interest. Stay on board for the full 75-min guided tour, or hop off to explore.
Visit Fort Henry
Situated atop Point Henry, the fort protected the naval dockyard at Point Frederick, the entrance of the Rideau Canal and the town of Kingston. This was the major transhipment point along the supply route between Montreal or Ottawa and all points west. The British Army garrisoned Fort Henry until 1870 when Queen Victoria’s troops were pulled out of Canada.
Today, Fort Henry continues its role as a museum and historic site. Once inside the wooden gates, visitors enter the realm of 19th century military life, experience guided tours, scenic views, heart-pounding musical performances and precision military demonstrations. All recreated by the Fort Henry Guard. Mix and mingle with people representing the civilian population of the Fort. They are dressed as schoolteachers and soldiers’ wives and they explain what life was like back then. The Fort also plays host to numerous special ceremonies and events.
Admire the architecture of Kingston’s majestic City Hall, built in 1843. It was designed by the noted architect George Brown. View the portraits of City mayors, leading citizens, and politicians of by-gone days, on display within its walls.
Walk the city
Take a Walking Tour with Arthur Milnes. Explore Kingston’s political and historic past on this guided tour, always lead by Arthur. He is the downtown walking tour leader, and Kingston’s story-teller-in-chief. He’s also one of the most characterful Kingstonians you’ll meet while in town. The tours last 45 minutes to an hour – or longer once you get Arthur talking. He’s the Energizer Bunny of local history. You’ll soon learn why.
The city boasts four Rembrandt paintings, two film festivals, and one vibrant downtown shopping scene. Home to Ontario’s oldest public market and Canada’s hippest live music scene, Kingston is a walkable city, where hidden alleyways contain antique markets and restaurant patios. Don’t miss the photo op and put the i back into Kingston.
Eat the city
Get a taste of Kingston with Kingston Food Tours on a walking tour of the city’s hip and historic downtown. The tour blends tastings at the best local restaurants with an insider’s perspective on our city’s history and culture. It focuses on speciality shops, restaurants, artisans, and farmers who all contribute to Kingston’s thriving local food movement.
In 1979 Zal Yanovsky, once the lead guitar and singer for the rock band Lovin’ Spoonful, renovated an abandoned limestone stable in Kingston. He and Rose Richardson launched a dining experience that blends grace and gusto, taste and imagination – and has been a destination for food lovers everywhere. Tucked away in the heart of downtown, Chez Piggy, is the perfect choice for afternoon cocktails on the courtyard patio. The same family run Pan Chancho a bakery that also bills itself as a deli and a restaurant.
But when it comes to cakes, scones and a proper high tea then the place to be is The Secret Garden Inn. Honouring the grandeur of Victorian heritage their afternoon tea experience involves delicate cakes, buttery scones, petit fours, and a glass of bubbly. An English tradition dating back to the 1840s