While Canada may be one of the world’s best destinations for outdoor adventures and scenery that includes everything from magnificent coastlines with driftwood-strewn beaches to soaring snowcapped mountains, it’s also home to some fabulous cities.
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- What’s the best city in Canada to visit?
What’s the best city in Canada to visit?
Cities in Canada are as varied as the vast Canadian landscape. The best city for your trip to Canada depends on what you’re looking for. One of these great Canadian cities is bound to be just right for you:
- St. John’s, Newfoundland
- Halifax, Nova Scotia
- Quebec City, Quebec
- Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Victoria, British Columbia
Whether you’re looking for a booming foodie scene, world-class museums, historical sites, buzzing nightlife, or any other city delights, these are the top cities to visit in Canada from east to west.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
North America’s oldest city feels more like a small town, but it’s jam-packed with attractions. The capital of the easternmost province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the historic downtown area offers charming winding streets and alleyways that include one of the continent’s oldest mercantile districts.
There are intriguing museums, art galleries, pretty parks, historical sites, pubs, and independent boutiques too. Over on George Street, enjoy outstanding local live music.
The street is famous for housing more bars and pubs per square foot than any other in Northern America, with live music in just about every genre over seven nights a week.
There are many possibilities for outdoor adventures too, with urban and coastal trails to hike and summer whale watching boat tours that operate from the harbor.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The capital of Nova Scotia offers the charms of a small town and the amenities of a larger city, with lots of friendly, hospitable residents. It enjoys a picturesque waterfront location, a renowned farmers’ market, historic architecture, and a wealth of eateries that serve fresh seafood.
There are some fantastic museums here too, including the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic which features a popular Titanic exhibit documenting the city’s role in the disaster, with much of the rescue efforts taking place from here.
It even includes a poignant deck chair from the Titanic herself. Other exhibits are focused on the maritime history of Halifax.
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is also well worth a look with a permanent collection of over 17,000 Nova Scotian, national, and international works.
One of the favorites comes from the most famous folk artist in Halifax, Maude Lewis, whose life was depicted in the 2016 film “Maudie.” It even includes the actual house with the walls she beautifully painted while living and working in the space.
Quebec City, Quebec
If you want to get a taste of Europe without crossing the Atlantic, visit Quebec City.
It offers a unique experience with an Old Town that’s like a work of art. It’s surrounded by fortress walls, the only ones that still exist north of Mexico on the continent. Inside you’ll find cobbled lanes and alleyways lined with impressive 17th-century architecture.
There’s a trendy café culture to enjoy too, and at the Citadel you can watch Canadian troops stage a military ceremony. In between your exploits, fuel up with the locals’ favorite snack, poutine. There are countless versions available of this dish that originated in the province, although the main base is French fries with gravy and cheese curds.
Canada’s second-largest city and its cultural capital, Montreal is an international city although the main influences are English and French.
It also has a European feel with cobblestone streets and magnificent historic buildings in Vieux-Montreal. A walk down Saint-Paul Street, which dates to the late 17th-century when the city was the hub of the fur trade, is a great way to soak up the atmosphere and you’ll find many galleries, boutiques, souvenir shops, restaurants and bars too.
Gothic/Revival Notre-Dame Basilica towers over the cobbled streets and also displays many works of art inside with tours available. One thing you won’t want to miss is the view from Mount Royal, the crown jewel of parks here.
The largest city in Canada is also one of the most diverse.
With its high immigrant population (more than 50 percent of those who reside here were born outside of the country), entire neighborhoods in Toronto are devoted to the different cultures. That includes Little Italy, Little Portugal, Little India, and Little Koreatown.
As such, you can expect to find a wide range of international fare with just about everything imaginable on the menu. The city also offers world-class shopping, theater, and an interesting history to explore with a castle right downtown.
Casa Loma is a Gothic/Revival-style home that was constructed in 1914. It has nearly 100 rooms with opulent décor and marble floors. You’ll feel as if you’re walking in the footsteps of royalty while exploring them, as well as the towers, secret passageways, and a wine cellar.
Ottawa may not often be talked about as a Canadian vacation destination, but it’s the capital of Canada and offers a wealth of attractions along with a friendly yet cultured atmosphere.
There are around 60 square miles of green space spread across 850 different parks, while the 125-mile-long Rideau Canal is an ideal place to people watch, walk, jog, or bike. In the winter, it freezes over, becoming a popular ice-skating rink.
Don’t miss the Byward Market, one of the oldest and largest in the country, open all year-round. In the summer, it’s fun to sample the local eats in the outdoor stalls, with everything from poutine to buttery croissants and chocolates.
If you’re here at dusk, you can watch a fantastic sunset from the rooftop bar at Copper Spirits and Sights.
Winnipeg offers plenty to do, complete with a green oasis in the heart of the city that has a tree-lined walkway along the river, lush open spaces, sculptures, interpretive displays, and more.
The Forks area is where the Red River and Assiniboine River meet, serving as a popular gathering point with shops, restaurants, and buskers. There’s even a water taxi where you can hop on and catch a ride to other popular points in the city.
Right next to The Forks is one of Canada’s best museums, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It’s the world’s only institution focused solely on human rights awareness with a uniquely Canadian lens.
Calgary grew out of the Canadian West and the city has also become renowned for hosting the annual Calgary Stampede. The 10-day event in July showcases cowboy culture complete with rodeos, a parade, live concerts, and First National Culture.
There will be plenty of line dancing and cowboy hat wearing, something that seems to always be in fashion here. But this is a sophisticated city, with plenty of cultural attractions, museums, and a wide range of dining, shopping, and entertainment to enjoy year-round.
Plus, you can be in the Rockies enjoying some of the most beautiful national parks in just a little over an hour’s drive.
The capital city of Alberta is famous for its festivals, including the most well-known Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.
But you’ll find plenty to do if you aren’t here for those events, including shopping in North America’s largest mall. The West Edmonton Mall hosts 80 different shops, a huge indoor waterpark with wave pools, water slides, bungee jumping, a mini-golf course, four movie theater complexes, and a full-size skating rink.
There are many museums here too, with the Royal Alberta Museum the largest, displaying more than 10 million objects with a focus on the area’s native tribes.
Just east of Edmonton is Elk Island National Park with herds of free-roaming bison. Mule deer, coyote, porcupine, lynx, great blue heron, and red-tailed hawks can all be spotted here too.
Vancouver, British Columbia
A city surrounded by mountains and water, Vancouver offers city attractions with a long list of opportunities for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers.
Often found on lists of the world’s most beautiful cities, it’s sandwiched between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific while hosting grand parks, fine-dining restaurants, hip cafes, museums, and a wide range of shopping venues. Just minutes from the center is Stanley Park with its 5.5-mile-long seawall along the waterfront popular for walking and biking while enjoying breathtaking views of downtown, the North Shore Mountains, Burrard Inlet, and Lions gate Bridge.
The park’s interior hosts an outdoor water park, a heated outdoor pool, a miniature train, and the Vancouver Aquarium.
Victoria, British Columbia
The capital of British Columbia, Victoria is located on Vancouver Island, easily accessed by ferry from Vancouver. It’s considered to be one of the continent’s most British cities, with double-decker busses for hop-on, hop-off tours, famous tearooms, and architecture that reveals the city’s British colonial past, including Craigdarroch Castle.
You’ll also find authentic coffee bars, excellent eateries, antique shops, and galleries. Nature abounds here too, with many beaches nearby and the opportunity to embark on whale watching tours in one of the best areas for spotting orca whales.