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Travel like a local.
Insider takes on the best of the city – by Thomas Allen

From historic gems to modern masterpieces, Hamilton is blessed with a breathtaking stock of heritage buildings.

See for yourself why we're proud of our preserved past and so hopeful about our future.

Put on your walking shoes and head out on this self-guided downtown walking tour and don't forget to look up!

The Lister Building

28 James St. N.

The brown brick and white terracotta Lister building was designed by Bernard Prack and completed in 1924. It's been referred to as a slice of cake because of its decadent facade. After an economic downturn, the Lister closed in 1995 but re-opened in 2012 after a high profile restoration. It's now Hamilton's oldest remaining retail/office complex with a retail arcade, which include a coffeeshop, restaurant, offices and Tourism Hamilton's Visitor Centre.

Go Here: The success of the Lister has trickled onto King William Street, which has become one of Hamilton's hottest dining destinations, also known as Restaurant Row.

LIUNA Station

360 James St N.

A grand building of Palladian symmetry with Doric columns and bas-reliefs, the former CN Rail train station designed by John Schofield was completed in 1931. Now a National Historic Site, the station was closed in 1993 and reopened after it was purchased in 2000 and converted into one of Hamilton's finest event centres. The interior is just as beautiful as the exterior, with its decorative ceilings, rich materials and Versace curtains draped over the windows.

Go Here After: Check out Bead Maze across the street. This colourful and playful public art installation by Laura Marotta sits at the entrance to the West Harbour GO Station.

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The Pigott Building

36 James St. N.

Sitting at 18-storeys, the Pigott building is Hamilton's first skyscraper. Designed by Prack & Prack Architects and completed in 1929, the building is a mixture of Neo-gothic and Art Deco style. It's composed of a steel skeleton frame and the exterior is clad in limestone with pointed windows and decorative mouldings. Inside, the lobby has stained-glass windows with vignettes of the construction trade. Once the offices for Pigott Construction, they have since been converted into condos.

Go Here After: Steps away is Hamilton's historic Gore Park with its iconic fountain, statues, public art and a cenotaph.

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FirstOntario Concert Hall & Art Gallery of Hamilton

1 Summers Lane and 123 King St W.

Formerly known as Hamilton Place, the FirstOntario Concert Hall and the Art Gallery of Hamilton are situated in Commonwealth Square, directly across from City Hall. The Concert Hall was completed in 1973 and Art Gallery was completed in 1977. Architect Trevor Garwood-Jones designed both buildings in the late modern brutalist style, though the AGH received a contemporary facelift and some interior work by KPMB Architects in 2005. This included the installation of the now highly recognizable gold-steel panels to cover the existing structure, with most of the materials coming from ArcelorMittal Dofasco.

Christ's Church Cathedral

252 James St. N.

Christ's Church Cathedral was relocated to its current location on James Street North in 1854 after William Thomas was hired to redesign the church. It was never completed to what was originally envisioned, but this High Victorian Gothic church underwent further work in 1875 by architects Langely & Burke and later through the years by various architects.

Go Here After: During Hamilton's monthly Art Crawl, the courtyard of the church turns into a Makers' Market, featuring local artisans.

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Hunter Street GO Station

36 Hunter St. E.

Originally the head office for the Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railway, this Art Moderne gem was designed by the American firm Fellheimer & Wagner Architects in 1933 and hasn't changed all that much, other than some complementary additional work and restoration by Trevor Garwood-Jones in the early 1990s. Like a journey back in time, the interior is a shining example of the Streamline Moderne style.

Go Here After: A short walk south of the station will lead you to Augusta Street, lined with Some of Hamilton's most popular pubs and patios.

The Hamilton Farmers' Market

35 York Blvd

The reinvigorated market is a must-visit, both for the architecture and for the experience of one-of-a-kind local vendors and food stalls. Although the building has taken various forms, it's one of the oldest farmers' markets in Ontario. Be sure to visit the historic ‘Charging Horseman’ clock that hangs above the stairs that once adorned the now-demolished Birks building at James and King. Out front, snap a selfie in front of David Hind's Raising the Barn, an eye-catching red 3D aluminum-clad barn.

Go Here After: The market boasts an indoor connection and similar glass facade to the adjacent Hamilton Public Library that runs west along York Boulevard.

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City Hall

71 Main St. W.

Designed by Stanley Roscoe (then the City architect), Hamilton City Hall made a cameo appearance in the Oscar-winning film, The Shape of Water, directed by Hamilton superfan Guillermo del Toro. Completed in 1960, the building has become a definitive piece of architecture in the city. With an emphasis on volume, glass, and space, city hall helped spearhead the modern movement in Hamilton.

Go Here After: It's hard to miss the 60-foot long H-A-M-I-L-T-O-N sign in City's Hall's forecourt built from 7-foot tall letters and lit up with thousands of LED lights. A perfect backdrop for you Hamilton selfie.

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Thomas Allen is an award-winning architectural journalist from Hamilton with a
background in history. Thomas has been writing on the topic of architecture and urbanism for over eight years and is co-founder of The Inlet, a publication featuring Hamilton's art and culture scene.