London, Ontario

What to See & Do in London, Ontario?

London, Ontario lies on the beautiful Thames River nestled in  lush open countryside between the sandy beaches of Lake Huron and the warm waters of shallow Lake Erie. London area has over 20 golf courses, and outdoor skating rink at the Covent Garden Market, and skiing & snowboarding at Boler Mountain.

London International Airport

London International Airport

London Ontario Overview

London, Ontario is currently the 11th largest city in Canada, with a population of 532,000 people in the census metropolitan area (2019). London is now southwestern Ontario’s largest municipality, with a great public transit system. The region has great access via London’s international airport, train, and bus stations as well as access to Highways 401 (connecting to Windsor and Detroit, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Toronto), 402 (connecting west to Sarnia), and 403 (connecting east to Woodstock, Brantford and Hamilton) connecting to the rest of Ontario.

London has preserved its historical charm through the preservation of heritage buildings and landmarks, such as Eldon House and Fanshawe Pioneer Village.

London area has over 20 golf courses, and outdoor skating rink at the Covent Garden Market, and skiing & snowboarding at Boler Mountain.

London Ontario History

Archaeologists have found that indigenous people have resided in the London area for at least 10,000 years. Just prior to European settlement, the area around London was settled by several Neutral, Odawa, and Ojibwe villages, and finally the Iroquois by the 1650s.

The history of London traces back to the early 19th century when Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe (after being stationed here following the American Revolution) selected the site as the capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1793. London and the Thames River were both named by John Graves Simcoe. However, due to concerns about potential American invasions during the War of 1812, the capital was moved to York (now Toronto) in 1796. As a result, London did not become the provincial capital but remained an important regional center.

The first European settlement was by Peter Hagerman just after 1800. Locally, it was part of the Talbot Settlement, named for Colonel Thomas Talbot, the chief colonizer of the area, who oversaw the land surveying and the administration of the western Ontario peninsular region. London became a village in 1826 and was incorporated in 1855. Talbot also built out and maintained the colonial roads to the rest of Ontario. In 1845, a fire destroyed one-fifth of London, including 150 wooden buildings in Ontario’s first million-dollar fire. The residents rebuilt and by 1855 the town grew to 10,000 people.

The arrival of the Great Western Railway in London in the 1850s accelerated the city’s growth. The railway connected London to other major centers, fostering trade, industry, and population growth. London’s role as a transportation hub grew with the addition of other railway lines and the development of colonial road networks.

Downtown-Harris Park along the Thames

Downtown-Harris Park along the Thames

In the 1860s, a sulphur spring was discovered at the forks of the Thames River (while industrialists were drilling for oil) and became a popular destination for wealthy Ontarians. By 1870 London had several tanneries, oil refineries, foundries, four flour mills, the Labatt Brewing Company, the Carling brewery, three newspapers, other manufacturing, and several insurance companies. Both the Great Western and Grand Trunk railways had stops and stations here.

London also grew as a center for education and healthcare also emerged during this period. In 1878, the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) was established in London. The university has since grown into a prestigious institution and a key driver of research and innovation in the region. Additionally, London became known for its healthcare institutions, including the founding of Victoria Hospital (now London Health Sciences Centre) in 1875. It also grew as a major Canadian center for Insurance companies that focused on life and health insurance.

City of London

London Area Map

London Ontario Road Trip Planner (explore our directory)

Look for what to see & do, and where to stay in London Ontario and the nearby communities.  First click on the LOCALE to search, then use the CATEGORY filter on the left side for the feature of interest!

Visit London, Ontario