After spending a weekend in Belleville, I know that this area is so much more than a drive-through city on the way to Prince Edward County. It is a beautiful, flourishing place with small-town charm, an incredible foodie scene, a sense of community and an impressive cohort of young entrepreneurs.
I arrived around dinnertime on a Friday and checked into an adorable converted carriage house in the Old East Hill neighbourhood; it’s definitely one of the most charming places I’ve stayed in during my travels. The bright furniture and large windows made the place feel super welcoming.
It’s hard to beat the location, too. You can walk to Belleville’s Downtown District in less than 15 minutes, admiring the historic homes along the way. This made for the perfect evening stroll to pick up takeout dinner from Capers, a favourite local dining option that serves seasonal dishes and local craft beer. After a long workday and a few hours of driving from Guelph, I was stoked to devour their Smash Burger with a beer from Wild Card Brewing Company and call it a day.
RISE AND SHINE (AND DINE)
The next morning began with breakfast from the famous L’Auberge de France. This bakery is well known for its pastries, so I had to get my hands on some! I grabbed a coffee and a couple of fresh croissants to go so I could enjoy a picnic breakfast in one of the city’s parks.
Belleville has a great trail system that can be used by pedestrians or cyclists to easily navigate the city. If you need to rent a bike, Ideal Bike is in the heart of downtown and they can set you up for a few hours to do some exploring.
I ended up walking the Riverfront Trail to Zwick’s Park, where I finally dug into my croissants. They did not disappoint! Flaky, warm, and eaten in a beautiful park—I could’ve been fooled into thinking I was in Paris. After soaking up the sunshine in Zwick’s Park I headed back to the Downtown District, which is home to tons of cute shops and boutiques, each with its own unique charm.
SHOP, EAT, REPEAT
One of my favourites was Pure Honey Boutique; the shop has very earthy, feminine vibes and so many beautiful in-season pieces to choose from. I almost purchased a whole new wardrobe here!
Around the corner at Funk & Grüven, I found myself shopping for apartment furniture that I do not need. There were so many great finds that I couldn’t help myself! Belleville also has another unique reclaimed furniture store, Attic Revival, that will convert second-hand skeptics into professional thrifters.
After all that shopping I had worked up an appetite, so I headed to Chilangos Mexican Restaurant for lunch. It was hard to decide what to order because their menu is full of delicious, authentic Mexican dishes. I ended up going with the Tres Amigos to start and ordered Tacos Dorados as my main dish. Of course, I washed down my nachos and tacos with a refreshing Margarona.
My initial late-afternoon-to-early-evening plan was to enjoy the city’s annual Porchfest event. It’s an East Hill neighbourhood celebration of music where musicians perform on front porches to an audience that moves from house to house. Unfortunately, the event was cancelled due to COVID-19, but I’ve already marked it on my calendar for 2021!
Instead, I continued exploring the Downtown District shops and galleries. I also popped by the Village Wings mural on Bridge Street East, which is one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in the city. Plus, it was conveniently located across the street from my next stop.
SIP SOMETHING LOCAL
The Lark is a spirited neighbourhood restaurant and wine bar in the downtown core. I had their gnocchi for dinner and it was amazing! I also tried their Spill the Tea cocktail, an excellent gin-based drink made with aquafaba instead of egg whites, to make it vegan friendly! The atmosphere at The Lark was very warm and welcoming, even with all the safety precautions in place.
For late-night fun in Belleville, I suggest checking out The Pier Patio for the waterfront view and live music every Friday and Saturday night. It’s the perfect nightcap after an adventure-filled day. Is local beer is more your thing? Grab a seat on the massive riverfront patio at Signal Brewing Company just north of the city. It’s the ideal setting to enjoy a cold, locally brewed beer on a hot summer day.
Phew, that was a lot of stuff to see and do in 24 hours. I’ll definitely be adding an extra day or two to my next visit as I continue to discover this ever-changing, dynamic city.