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Looking for the best cities in Canada to visit on your Canada vacation? I’ve got you!
In case you didn’t know, I like to think of Vancouver as my home away from home. I’ve done two Canadian working holidays and lived in Vancouver for over two years. While living in Canada, I was fortunate to visit several Canadian cities. I’ve also recently started working as the editor of Quebec Wonders, which has reignited my love for the beautiful country.
So today we’re taking a walk down memory lane and I’m sharing what I think are the best cities in Canada. I’ve also included the popular Canadian cities on my bucket list. I will get back there eventually!
Best cities in Canada
Check out the best Canadian cities (in my opinion).
I mean, duh, you all know Vancouver would win the award for best city in Canada. Seriously though, there’s so much to love about Vancouver. Let me list all the things, shall we?
- Vancouver’s natural beauty is made for outdoor activities and includes hiking trails, sprawling parks (my favourites are Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park), beaches and snowcapped mountains backdropping the city.
- The unique neighbourhoods to explore: from historic Gastown to quirky Commercial Drive and beautiful False Creek.
- How it comes alive in summer with markets, food trucks, the Fair at the PNE, fun festivals and so much more.
- Its location and the endless day trips available.
- The food. I ate very well when I lived in Vancouver!
- It’s nicknamed Hollywood of the North so it’s not unusual to see a celebrity or five. I walked past Supernatural filming one day and internally squealed!
Safe to say that when it comes to the best cities in Canada, you can’t go wrong with Vancouver, British Columbia.
It took me until my last month in Canada to visit Victoria and I am so glad I did. The capital of British Columbia, Victoria is located on Vancouver Island. You have to get a ferry from near Vancouver and then drive for 30 minutes or get the bus from the ferry terminal to Victoria. But the effort is worth it as Victoria is a very beautiful city in Canada.
It has a beautifully maintained Chinatown, floral baskets hanging outside the colourful buildings lining the streets, a picturesque seaside location and a plethora of historic buildings. Don’t miss Victoria.
3. Quebec City
When it comes to famous cities in Canada, Quebec City surely wins. It’s known for a lot of things, such as being:
- The only fortified city north of Mexico (nearly five kilometres of walls surround Old Quebec). The Fortifications of the Quebec National Historic Site is Canada’s most visited National Historic Site annually, with over a million visitors.
- Home to the world’s most photographed hotel (Chateau Frontenac).
- The birthplace of French Canada.
I spent a couple of days in Quebec City and I fell in love with picturesque Old Quebec. It truly feels like you’ve stepped into Europe, with the historic buildings and cobblestoned streets. There are so many things to do in Quebec City, but the other place I recommend is The New Grand Market. I am a total foodie, after all.
For a lot of locals and visitors, Ottawa wouldn’t make their list of the coolest cities in Canada. But you know what? I spent one day in Ottawa and really enjoyed myself. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a visit to fellow solo travellers.
In one day, I took a cruise along the Ottawa River, checked out the Rideau Canal National Historic Site, visited the Parliament Building on Parliament Hill and sat in on a session, visited ByWard Market Square and, you know… stayed in a former jail. Yes, it was as creepy as it sounds!
One of the most popular Canadian cities, Montreal is definitely worth visiting. It’s also located in French-speaking Quebec but is bigger than Quebec City. In fact, it’s the second-biggest city in Canada following Toronto.
Montreal still has a historic area downtown called Old Montreal, which is reminiscent of and just as beautiful as Old Quebec. If there’s only one thing you do in Montreal, this is my top pick. I also personally recommend stepping inside Notre Dame Basilica, visiting Mont-Royal and eating a feast at Time Out Market.
But let it be known that there is a lot to see and do in Montreal, so it’s the perfect destination if you want a fun-filled and jam-packed Canadian city vacation.
I know Toronto is the top city in Canada for a lot of people. I’ve got to be honest though… the city life in Toronto didn’t blow me away! It was kind of like a knock-off of New York City. Nevertheless, seeing as it’s Canada’s largest city, I had to include it in this list.
My top recommendations include visiting St Lawrence Market, walking around Kensington Market (Toronto’s hipster neighbourhood), heading to the Harbourfront to see Lake Ontario and doing a day trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario.
This is what I did when I visited and it was worth it. I had no idea what to expect from Niagara Falls but the township resembled a mini Las Vegas. Don’t forget to do a cruise to get up close and personal with the powerful falls. If the weather isn’t great in Toronto during your visit, head inside the Eaton Centre – North America’s busiest shopping mall.
I had 24 hours in Calgary and we did not instantly bond. The temperature dropped about 25 degrees overnight and I basically got stuck in a snowstorm, so it was a struggle to see the main sights. If you have better luck than me though, check out Heritage Park Historical Village, Calgary Tower and Fish Creek Provincial Park (one of the largest urban parks in North America).
But let’s be real – the best reason to visit Calgary is to head outside the city to Banff National Park and neighbouring Lake Louise. I spent two days in Banff and loved it. What a beautiful spot! If you have the time, I also recommend visiting Jasper National Park.
Top cities in Canada on my bucket list
Okay, let’s move on to the best places in Canada I haven’t visited… yet!
8. St John’s
This is the top city in Canada that I was bummed to miss. But it’s not the easiest (or cheapest) to reach St John’s. Yet if you can make the effort, you’re in for a treat! Think a seaside location, colourful row houses lining the downtown streets and hiking trails galore.
I did try to get to Winnipeg while living in Canada, but it wasn’t meant to be. If I were to visit this popular Canadian city, I would make a beeline for The Forks Market, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights and the Exchange District National Historic Site. I have a thing for historic buildings, it’s true.
Charlottetown is the capital of Prince Edward Island and it’s known for being Canada’s cultural capital and the birthplace of Canadian Confederation. But it’s the city’s waterfront boardwalk, Victorian-era buildings and bustling harbour that have me captivated. I also think the coastal drives around Prince Edward Island from Charlottetown look amazing!
The capital of the Yukon, Whitehorse is “a small city with a big backyard.” It’s known for having the cleanest air in the world and 700 kilometres of marked trails. So if you’re a hiking, biking or cross-country skiing enthusiast, Whitehorse is clearly one of the best cities in Canada for you. The main reason I’d visit? To see the Northern Lights!
What’s the best city in Canada to live and work in?
From personal experience, I think Vancouver is the best city in Canada to live and work in. But from what I’ve heard, it’s definitely gotten more expensive since recent events. The other best cities in Canada to live in include Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal.
Where is the prettiest city in Canada?
I think Quebec City is the prettiest city in Canada, followed closely by Victoria.
What is the most naturally beautiful city in Canada?
Vancouver unequivocably wins the award for the most naturally beautiful city in Canada. It’s surrounded by beautiful parks, beaches and snowcapped mountains.
Which Canadian city has the best quality of life?
Edmundston, New Brunswick actually has the best quality of life in Canada, closely followed by a couple of cities in Quebec.
Which is the best city in Canada for international students?
If you’re an international student, Montreal is actually rated one of the world’s top student cities, followed by Toronto and Vancouver.
I hope you enjoyed this post on the best cities in Canada. It’s a beautiful country with so much to offer – whether you’re visiting on vacation or moving there. If you’re thinking of living in Canada, I do have a working abroad archive with tips and tricks… and a blog post detailing why I think a Canadian working holiday is the best thing I ever did.