Pack your suitcase, check your driver’s license, and organize your photo-ready outfits. We’re heading on a faux Eurotrip. Okay—so it’s not completely the same. There are no romantic jaunts up the Eiffel Tower or photo-ops in front of the iconic London phone booths. But in times like these, we have to be pragmatic about the way we see the world. International travel is essentially non-existent right now and many countries have closed their borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, true travelers won’t let that keep them from getting their dose of wanderlust.
Did you know that you can visit seven “European” cities right here in Ontario, Canada? And while it might not be exactly the European experience you were hoping for this year, you’ll get to explore new—and underrated—cities, support local tourism, and ignite your social media with an influx of cute markets, quaint bed & breakfasts, and breathtaking scenery. Plus, you’ll save on airfare and you won’t need as much time off work. (If you’re working remotely, even better—take a whole week to explore.)
An adventure through small town Ontario can be just as rewarding as an overseas excursion. Of course, in a vastly different way. Think about it: no weaving customs lines, no disgusting airplane food, and no losing out on a week’s salary because of outrageous conversion rates. If you’re not convinced yet that an Ontario sojourn is for you, keep reading.
7 “European” Cities You Can Visit On an Ontario Roadtrip
According to Harrowsmith Magazine, Paris is “the Prettiest Little Town in Canada.” It may not have the savoir faire of its European counterpart, but “pretty” is something we can work with. Located in Brant County, downtown Paris is rich with open-air cafés, bakeries, cheese shops, fine-dining—you name it. There’s no shortage of scenic hiking trails, cobblestone architecture, and winding rivers to keep you occupied during the day. At night, sit down for a cocktail at one of the various patios that overlook the Grand River.
In London, Ontario, you won’t come across Big Ben, the London Eye, or Harrods, but you will find a Covent Garden Market, Piccadilly Street, and a Thames River. History buffs and art lovers will enjoy the museums in town while beer connoisseurs won’t want to miss a brewery tour. Hanging out in Victoria Park is always a good option with lots going on. Try using the “Heart of London” app to let your phone guide you around to all of the Canadian city’s hot spots. Scope out a spot serving fish & chips for dinner.
There’s isn’t a whole lot happening in Brussels, Huron County. However, if you’re looking for a quiet, picturesque escape from your busy city life, then it’s perfect. You’ll find plenty of Victorian-inspired architecture and a low-key village vibe. Nearby, Lake Huron offers stunning views. Cue up your driving playlist and hit the road.
Small boutiques and furniture shops make a trip to Dublin worth it. Who doesn’t want to snag a unique piece of décor to display back home in the city? Afterwards, pop into Dublin’s Family Restaurant for some homestyle cooking.
There’s no shortage of sprawling countryside vistas in Copenhagen. Follow a labyrinth of back roads to explore the natural landscape—maybe even stopping to snap a candid photo with a dramatic farmland backdrop. Why not spend an afternoon sipping crisp wines at a nearby vineyard? Not too far away, Port Bruce features gorgeous, sandy beaches. Pack a picnic and spread out on the shore.
Vienna, Ontario could literally fit into a teeny fraction of downtown Vienna, Austria. It’s not known as “a blink of a village” for no reason. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a visit—or at least a drive-through. If you’re there on a Monday night, you could check out the Vienna Auction and score some antique furniture, books, or garden tools. A few minutes outside of Vienna, you’ll find a beachy oasis in Port Burwell.
A peaceful drive through Lisbon’s dirt roads is all it takes to absorb its quaint beauty. There are a few golf courses nearby and interesting architecture in neighboring villages—but that’s about it. Turn up your radio and enjoy the sights as you pass them by.
By Melina Morry