Wondering what the best cities in Canada are? Look no further, we’ve compiled a list of beautiful Canadian cities. Most people think of the great outdoors, national parks, and vast open spaces when picturing Canada, but Canada has some pretty special urban centers.
Having crisscrossed our home country over the years, we’ve compiled a list of the best cities in Canada to help you decide where to start when planning your Canada trip.
I know we are going to get some flack from people as everyone is a fan of their own home town but we thought this was a fun experiment to see what others think about our beautiful Canadian cities. So are you ready to get started? Let’s go!
Best Cities in Canada
1. Ottawa, Ontario
I know you are thinking we’d have Toronto as our number one city in Canada, but we actually love Ottawa, Ontario. What do we like about Ottawa? It’s a city with a small town feel.
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and there is so much more to it than just the Parliament Buildings standing proud on Parliament Hill. Located on the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River, Ottawa is not only beautiful, there are countless things to do. Like most capital cities, Ottawa has outstanding museums from the historic Diefenbunker to the fun Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. Check out our detailed Ottawa Museum guide here.
Home to the famous winter carnival known as Winterlude, Ottawa is a year-round destination. People skate on the Rideau Canal when it freezes over creating the world’s largest ice rink and they sail down it in the summer on paddleboards and yachts. It’s the heart of the city. With festivals, fine dining, a great bar scene at the ByWard Market, and lots of outdoor spaces, we put Ottawa at the top of our best cities in Canada list.
2. Toronto, Ontario
Toronto is our home town so I will admit that we are a bit bias when it comes to The 6ix. (Or the T-Dot or Hogtown – depending on your generation Toronto has a lot of names.) Toronto is often at the top of lists of the best cities in the world and with good reason. Toronto is Canada’s largest city and it has everything you could ever want out of a world city.
Home to the Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto is a city that attracts movie stars and jet-setters to enjoy its high-end shopping, dining, and skyline. Toronto is poised to have more skyscrapers than Chicago in a few short years. And with all the construction going on, it’s easy to believe.
When in Toronto don’t miss going up the CN Tower, shopping in Yorkville, and browsing the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) . But what makes Toronto so special are all the neighbourhoods. Head to the Danforth for Greek Food, Pasta in Little Italy, or dim sum in one of its six Chinatowns. As the most culturally diverse city in the world, Toronto has something for everyone.
- Check out:
3. Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax is certainly one of the cheeriest cities in Canada. Nova Scotians are some of the friendliest people in Canada and you’ll feel right at home when visiting Halifax. Rumored to have more bars per capita than any other city in Canada, Halifax knows how to party.
The Halifax Waterfront is one of the best in Canada with a 4km boardwalk passing many of the best things to do in Halifax. Visitors love going up to the Halifax Citadel National Historic site for a view over Halifax and the harbour.
- Read more about Halifax at Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia
4. Vancouver British Columbia
Vancouver is definitely the hippest city in Canada. Dave and I lived in Vancouver in the 1990s and have been back several times since. But it was this last visit in 2021 that we saw just what an amazing Canadian city it has turned into. Vancouver has always been outdoorsy and environmentally aware and it truly is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada. Read: 14 Best Hikes in Vancouver to Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Vancouver has seamlessly blended urban with nature with waterfront living on False Creek and English Bay and gorgeous views of the mountains. There the amazing Stanley Park and there are three ski hills just minutes from downtown so you can be enjoying the great outdoors one minute and then sipping a cocktail on Granville Island the next.
I’ll never forget opening my curtains in my new apartment after moving to British Columbia from Ontario and seeing my view of the Coastal Mountains for the first time. It was then that I fell in love with Vancouver.
5. Quebec City, Quebec
Quebec City is only one of two urban centers in North America to be given the distinction as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the St. Lawrence River, its historic city walls date back to 1608 making Quebec City one of the oldest cities in North America.
Montreal may be considered Canada’s European City, but Old Quebec City is certainly the most historic and truly feels like Europe centuries ago. Take a horsecart through the cobblestone streets, drink a pint in an old pub that feels straight out of the 17th century and admire the Chateau de Frontenac standing tall over the Saint Lawrence River.
6. Saint John New Brunswick
We hadn’t heard the best things about Saint John before visiting, but this Eastern Canadian City has a cool vibe and is going through a renaissance. It’s one of our favourite places on the East Coast of Canada with a hip downtown filled with chic eateries, boutique hotels, and a thriving art scene.
When doing a New Brunswick road trip, don’t just pop in between the Hopewell Rocks or a visit to Saint Andrews, spend a few days exploring one of the best cities in Canada that you never considered.
- Read more about Saint John – 24 Fantastic Things to do in Saint John New Brunswick
- 25 Best Things to do in New Brunswick, Canada
7. Niagara Falls, Ontario
Niagara Falls makes nearly ever list of our favourite and best places in the world. And it is up there as one of the best cities in Canada too! Niagara Falls itself is beautiful, so the city of Niagara has a leg up on other Canadian cities because it is built beside a natural wonder.
The Fallsview Tourist area is a pretty picture of highrises overlooking the falls and there’s something very charming about the kitschy tourist areas of Clifton Hill and Lundy’s Lane. Plus it doesn’t take long until you are out of the city and surrounded by nature exploring the Niagara Parkway.
- Read More about Niagara Falls
8. Winnipeg, Manitoba
Ask me 10 years ago if I’d put Winnipeg on a top cities in Canada list and I’d say never! But after visiting it a couple of times in the past few years, we’ve changed our tune. Winnipeg is a city that has a lot going on. The gateway to the Hudson Bay, Winnipeg was once the fastest growing city in North America. A lot of the buildings in Winnipeg are historic and worth visiting.
It is home to one of Canada’s most fascinating museums, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, it has an incredible zoo that houses rescued polar bears. Go into the Journey to Churchill to see them swimming in the tanks and make sure to tour the historic Manitoba Legislative Building. Visitors should definitely check out Hermetic Code Tour here.
- Read more about Winnipeg
9. Calgary, Alberta
While browsing other people’s best places in Canada lists, I saw that a lot of them mentioned Banff City in Alberta. Don’t they know that Banff is a town, not a city? My guess is that they’ve never been there. Let me assure you, we have.
Banff town is beautifully located in the heart of Banff National Park, but the people writing those lists have clearly never been to Alberta if they can’t see that it has remained a small town on purpose since it is located within a national park.
So, as I choose my beautiful city in Alberta, it can’t be Banff since it is not a city, so our choice is hands down Calgary. Edmonton’s is nice too, but I love Calgary’s waterfront along the Bow River, the views from the Calgary Tower and it is home to the Calgary Stampede! Calgary has a vibe that makes you fall in love with its Western hospitality. I mean, greeters in cowboy hats say hello at the airport to say hello when you land!
- See more of Calgary and Alberta travels
10. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
While taking a road trip through New Brunswick we made a detour to Prince Edward Island and went directly to Charlottetown. I’ve wanted to visit ever since auditioning for Anne of Green Gables at the Charlottetown festival back in college. Charlottetown is a picturesque waterfront city located on Prince Edward Island.
Famous for its red sand and PEI potatoes, PEI is an absolutely beautiful island in the Maritimes. Charlottetown has a blossoming food scene, strong art community and a walkable downtown. The summertime shines when the patios open and the street performers show off their talents. When taking an east coast road trip, be sure to cross the Confederation bridge and take a tour of PEI.
- Read more about Charlottetown: Things to do in Prince Edward Island (PEI)
- Explore our Canada road trips at BBC Storyworks.
11. Montreal, Quebec
Montreal is Canada’s European City. Located in the French Speaking province of Quebec, you’ll find a lot of Anglophones in Montreal as well, so English is not a problem. The largest city in Quebec, Montreal has a mix of history and modern making it one of the best destinations in Canada to visit.
Visitors should head directly into Old Montreal to walk the cobblestone streets, and to admire the architecture of the 17th century. Notre Dame Basilica stands proud in the center of Place d’Armes and you feel as if you’ve stepped into a little slice of Paris.
- Read More about Montreal
12. Victoria, British Columbia
When Dave and I first visited Victoria BC, we said “I could live here if it were on the mainland.” Located on Vancouver Island in the West Coast of Canada, Victoria used to feel a bit isolated for my taste. But this capital city of British Columbia is all grown up and attracting millennials and hipsters to the community.
While living in Vancouver, Victoria felt more like a resort town, but now it is more than just the retirement capital of Canada. The Capital of British Columbia is one of the prettiest cities in Canada with the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel dominating the picturesque Inner Harbour. Here you can enjoy afternoon tea and feel like the royalty it was named after for a few hours.
13. Whitehorse, Yukon
Lining the Yukon River and surrounded by mountains, Whitehorse is a little city in the heart of the wild Canadian North. The capital of the Yukon Territories, Whitehorse had its heyday during the Klondike gold rush.
But it is now catering to people planning their trips to Canada’s great white north. With the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, you can see Canada’s northern wildlife in person before setting out for Dawson City and the Dempster Highway.
Whitehorse is the jumping off point to your Yukon adventure and it is worth spending a day or two to explore this hospitable town. In the summer enjoy the land of the midnight sun and in winter, it’s the place to be for the Northern Lights.
- Read more of the Yukon
14. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
I admit it’s been a while since we’ve been to Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, so we don’t have an up-to-date photograph of the city, but I remember Saskatoon was already a cool place in Canada. The cold weather places in Canada always make up for the long winters with superb nightlife areas, great restaurants, and a strong art scene. Located on the South Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon is known as the Paris of the Prairies. Get there soon, because it is one of Canada’s fastest-growing cities.
St. John’s Newfoundland
I know you are all going to yell at me for not putting in Saint Johns Newfoundland, but we haven’t been there yet. We had in our list of road trips last year, but we all know what happened with that, so finger’s crossed, we will finally get to Newfoundland this year. When we do, it will be added!
We have to see Newfoundland because everyone keeps telling us how cool it is. If you’ve been let us know what we should do there when do go!
And these are beautiful Canadian cities. Have you been to any places in Canada that you love? Let us know, we plan on getting in our car in 2021 and traveling the country.