With a population of around 500,000, HAMILTON lies at the extreme western end of Lake Ontario, about 70km from Toronto. The city takes its name from George Hamilton, a storekeeper-turned-landowner, who surveyed the area after he moved here following the destruction of his homestead during the War of 1812. By the early 1900s, Hamilton had become a major steel producer and today its mills churn out about half the country’s output, though the city’s industrial heyday has gone and in recent years it has struggled to keep itself afloat. Industrial cities are rarely high on tourist itineraries and Hamilton is no exception, but it does have one or two quality attractions, most notably the sprawling Royal Botanical Gardens. Other than the gardens, all the city’s key attractions are in – or within comfortable walking distance of – a surprisingly compact downtown core. This runs east to west parallel to the lake shore along King Street West and Main Street West, between Bay Street North and James Street North. Beyond here, Hamilton becomes a large and sprawling city with a confusing one-way street system.
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