Boasting elegant clapboard houses and verdant, mature gardens, all spread along tree-lined streets, NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, 26km downstream from the falls, is one of Ontario’s most charming little towns, much of it dating from the early nineteenth century. The town was originally known as Newark and became the first capital of Upper Canada in 1792, but four years later it lost this distinction to York (Toronto) because it was deemed too close to the American frontier, and therefore vulnerable to attack. The US army did, in fact, cross the river in 1813, destroying the town, but it was quickly rebuilt and renamed. Since then, it has managed to avoid all but the most sympathetic of modifications, except just away from the centre down on Melville Street, where a rash of new development and a marina add nothing to the appeal of the place.

Niagara-on-the-Lake attracts too many day-trippers for its own good, but the crowds stick religiously to the souvenir and knick-knack shops that line up on the main street and mostly melt away by 5 or 6pm. The town is also popular as the location of one of Canada’s most acclaimed theatre festivals, the Shaw Festival, which celebrates the works of George Bernard Shaw with performances from April to late October, and it is also surrounded by wineries, many of which welcome visitors.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Canada 150+: healing the divide on Spirit Island

Canada 150+: healing the divide on Spirit Island

Canada's 150th celebrations, complete with flags and fireworks, have been in full swing for the entirety of 2017 – but the year has also been a chance to shin…

20 Dec 2017 • Edward Aves local_activity Special feature
20 picturesque Christmas destinations

20 picturesque Christmas destinations

Dreaming of a trip this Christmas? We're here to help. From glittering cities to a few snowy escapes, here are 20 classic destinations for a festive break. …

12 Dec 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right