Cambridge was created in 1973 by the merger of four municipalities: Galt, Preston, Hespeler, and Blair. The four communities maintain their individual identities to a certain extent.
The former city of Galt covers the largest portion of Cambridge, making up the southern half of the city. The former town of Preston and village of Blair are on the western side of the city, while the former town Hespeler is in the most northeasterly section of Cambridge. There was considerable resistance among the local population to this "shotgun marriage" arranged by the provincial government and a healthy sense of rivalry had always governed relations among the three communities. Each unique centre has its own history that is well documented in the Cambridge City Archives.
As Cambridge has developed and the open spaces between the original municipalities have been filled in, a fourth commercial core, entirely modern in its construction, has emerged. The Macdonald-Cartier Freeway Highway 401 runs through its midst.
Galt: In the late 1700s, developers began to buy land around the Grand River from the Six Nations Indians. The land was divided and sold particularly to Scottish settlers. The planned community was named in honour of John Galt of the Canada Company which was developing this entire area. Primarily agricultural in early years, Galt had attracted industry by 1840, and was called "Manchester of Canada" because of the extensive industry, powered by the Grand River. The railway reached Galt in 1879, increasing the opportunities of exporting local goods and importing others.
Preston: Preston was formed on land belonging to the German Company Tract, along the Speed River, which was purchased earlier from the Six Nations Indians. The name Preston is from the hometown of William Scollick, who was surveyor and a native of Preston, Lancashire in England. In the 1800s a group of German-speaking Mennonites from Pennsylvania arrived in the area and purchased land. The population continued to grow primarily because of immigration from Germany. By 1879 there were many industries such as a foundry, carriage manufacturer, potteries and a furniture company. This was also the year that the Cherry Flour Mills started, which would later become the Dover Flour Mills, a Preston company that still operates today.
Hespeler: The area was purchased in 1798 by Mennonites from Pennsylvania from the Six Nations Indians with the assistance of developer Richard Beasley. Settler Jacob Hespeler arrived in 1845 and bought a 145 acres (0.59 km²) tract on the Speed River. He built an industrial complex that was the beginning of Hespeler's future industrialization which would consist primarily of woollen and textile mills. The arrival of the railway in 1859 helped businesses to develop and prosper. Textile production mills were the primary industry in the early 1900s and continued to be successful until the late 1940s, when this industry began to decline.
Blair: The land was purchased from the Six Nations, and was settled in 1800 by Mennonites from Pennsylvania. In 1846, a large flour mill called the Bowman Mill, Blair Mill and also the Carlisle Mill opened. In about 1876, a 15-horsepower hydroelectric system, the Sheave Tower, was built on Bowman Creek to help power the flour mill using a series of shafts and gears. The village's honours Adam Johnston Fergusson-Blair, the first judge of Wellington District and a militia colonel in the area.
Highway 401, Ontario's main east-west highway, runs through Cambridge, and there are five exits in or adjacent to Cambridge:
- Exit 275 (Fountain Street), west of Blair
- Exit 278 (Shantz Hill Road), northwest of Preston
- Exit 282 (Hespeler Road/former Highway 24), south of Hespeler and north of Galt
- Exit 284 (Franklin Street), south of Hespeler
- Exit 286 (Townline Road), southeast of Hespeler
If arriving from the southeast (Hamilton and beyond), take Highway 8, which becomes Dundas Street in Cambridge.
If arriving from the south (Brantford), take Highway 24, which becomes Water Street in Cambridge.
By intercity bus
There are three stops serving intercity buses for Cambridge:
- 1 Cambridge Smartcentre, 44 Pinebush Rd (behind The Keg restaurant near a GRT bus stop).
- GO Transit. GO Transit provides bus service about once every two hours to Mississauga and Waterloo University. You must have a pre-purchased ticket, Presto card, or cash to buy a ticket from the driver (about $15 one way to Mississauga). Buses have bike racks that can accommodate two bicycles at a time.
- 2 Ainslie Street Transit Terminal, Ainslie St S, Galt, Cambridge.
- Grand River Transit (ION). Grand River Transit, the public transit authority in the Region of Waterloo, offers its ION light rail and bus service for those coming to Cambridge from Kitchener and Waterloo. First take an ION light rail train to ION Fairway station and from there transfer to an ION express bus (route 302) to Cambridge. The ION bus stops at the Cambridge Centre on Hespeler Road before terminating at the Ainslie Street Transit Terminal in Galt.
- 3 Kitchener Sportsworld, Sportworld Drive, Kitchener (south-west side of Highway 8 interchange). A number of GO Transit buses from Mississauga Square One stop at this location near the city limits between Kitchener and Cambridge before proceeding to the Charles Street Transit Terminal. ION bus 302 running between ION Fairview Station (Kitchener) and the Ainslie Street Transit Terminal (Cambridge) also stops here.
Cambridge does not have passenger rail service. Nearby cities served by VIA Rail are Kitchener, Guelph, and Brantford. Kitchener Railway Station, near Downtown Kitchener, is probably the most convenient as it is near the ION light rail line which connects to the ION bus (route 302) to the Ainslie Street Transit Terminal in Cambridge.
- Main article: Region of Waterloo (Ontario)#Public transportation
It is also possible to get to many points of interest by walking. Most hotels are near malls and major shopping centers. There are also several reasonably priced car rental services in the city and in Kitchener nearby. Walking is probably most convenient within one of the three communities; it's a bit of a long walk between Galt and Preston and Hespeler.
Cambridge is an essentially residential city. There are several areas of interest on Hespeler Road.
- 1 Fashion History Museum, 74 Queen St E (at Cooper St). W-Su noon-5PM. Collection of apparel, accessories & archive
- 2 Fire Hall Museum & Education Centre, 56 Dickson St (near Wellington St). Museum in a quaint former firehall.
- 3 McDougall Cottage Historic Site, 89 Grand Ave S (near west bank of Grand River). Seasonal openings. Granite and limestone cottage built in 1858.
- 4 Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, 2500 Kossuth Rd., ☏ . Daily 10AM-5PM. Contains a tropical garden containing a large number of butterflies, as well as a large insect collection. Nice gift shop and cafe too. $13 (seniors and teens $11.58, children $6.78).
- 1 African Lion Safari, 1386 Cooper Rd, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. A small zoo with a good selection of animals and a drive-through safari great for families. Guard your cars well against roving bands of outlaw baboons. It was named by In Defense of Animals as the worst zoo for the treatment of elephants in North America for 2020 for acting as an elephant trafficking hub. Adult $28, child 2-13 $18.
- Cambridge Arts Theatre, 47 Water St. S. (Galt). Features Theatre Cambridge, which features live theatre in the summer, as well as the Galt Little Theatre, a volunteer troupe.
- The Cambridge to Paris Rail-Trail, Highway 24 (Water St.) (Trailhead located between Concession and Myers Rd.). The 18-km (11-mile) trail follows the Grand River through lush Carolinian Forest with spectacular river overlooks en route. Posts mark each kilometre from Cambridge. The trail is level, finished with fine gravel, and provides an easy path for cyclists and hikers. Food and washrooms are available in Cambridge, Glen Morris and Paris. Benches are provided in some areas
- Cambridge Centre, 355 Hespeler Rd (on Hwy 24 south of Hwy 401 exit 282), ☏ . M–Sa 9:30AM–9PM, Su 11AM–5PM. Largest mall in Cambridge, with over 140 stores. Home of the Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame. Large stores include Sport Chek, and The Bay.
- Cambridge Farmers' Market, 40 Dickson Street (corner of Anslie). Sa 6AM–1PM, W 10AM–5PM (mid-June to mid-September). The Cambridge Farmers' Market, which has operated at this location since 1837, features farm-fresh fruits and vegetables from the surrounding countryside, fresh meat, baked goods, and other food. The German heritage of the area is well-represented in the foods to be found here. If you find the farmers' market in nearby St. Jacobs a little too touristy for your tastes, you'll enjoy this one. Named one of the top ten farmers' markets in Canada by Best Health Magazine.
- Cambridge Nostalgia & Co., 73 Water St North, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Specializes in products with the retro look from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.
- Grand River Flea Market, 261 Hespeler Rd. (4 km south of Hwy. 401 exit #282), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Sa Su 10AM–5PM. Southern Ontario's largest indoor flea market has around 30 different vendors. Open year-round.
- Green Spot Antiques - TwoJJs Miniatures, 49 Cedar St (between Grand & St. Andrews), ☏ . F 10AM-7PM, Sa Su 10AM-5PM. A great source for antiques, salvage chic, and architectural artifacts, they also restore antiques in their large workshop. All in the antique 1800s Cedar Hill Dairy building. Skype:greenspotantiques for video or chat service. Open by appointments anytime (call ahead)
- Southworks Antiques, 73 Water St North, ☏ . Canada's largest antique mall (30,000 square feet).
- Blackshop Restaurant & Wine Bar, 595 Hespeler Road, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-11PM, F Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-9PM. Casual European fine dining. Prime Rib Sundays starting at 5PM.
- Cambridge Mill, 130 Water Street North, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 11:30AM-9PM, Su brunch 9:30AM-2PM, Su dinner 4:30PM-9PM. The Cambridge Mill serves earth to table cuisine sourcing impeccable local, seasonal ingredients from near-by farms and food artisans. This results in seasonally changing menus of fresh, local ingredients
- Eagle Restaurant, 1390 Eagle St N, ☏ . Quality food is prepared using fresh ingredients, and the menu choice is extensive.
- Fifty's Deli & Family Restaurant, 426 Hespeler Road, ☏ . M-F 6AM-9PM, Sa Su 7AM-9PM. It’s the only restaurant in the city where you can almost guarantee there will be a line-up. People feel comfortable there, and it’s a Cambridge classic in so many ways. At Fifty’s, when the plate is in front of you, there are no real surprises except the automatic reaction “they’re only charging that much for this?”. Seating for about 200. Reservations accepted M-Th. Licensed
- 1 Red Basil, 61 Main St, ☏ . Vietnamese cuisine is at last attracting a broad audience it deserves.
There are a large number of chain hotels near the 401/Hespeler Road interchange. More unique places to sleep in Cambridge can also be found, however.
- Best Western Plus Cambridge, 730 Hespeler Rd., ☏ .
- Hilton Homewood Suites, 800 Jamieson Pkwy, ☏ .
- Langdon Hall, 1 Langdon Dr. (in Blair), ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. A luxurious country inn in an old estate toward the northwest side of Cambridge. Surprisingly luxurious, considering it's neither in the middle of nowhere (you can hear the 401) nor in a big city. Excellent food, though quite expensive. From $300/night.
- Sunbridge Hotel & Conference Centre, 200 Holiday Inn Dr., ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- [dead link] Travelodge Cambridge, 605 Hespeler Road, ☏ , toll-free: .
- rare Charitable Research Reserve, a 913-acre natural area in North Dumfries Township, abutting Cambridge.
- Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail. This 19-km trail follows a former railway between Cambridge and Paris. The scenery is beautiful as the trail runs near the Grand River for much of its length. Makes for a nice bicycle ride.
|Routes through Cambridge|
|London ← Kitchener ←||W E||→ Guelph → Toronto|
|Goderich ← Kitchener ←||W E||→ becomes → Hamilton|