In a country as large and diverse as Canada, narrowing down a list of the country’s best destinations is not easy.
With 10 provinces and three territories spread over 9,985,000 square kilometers, there are literally countless places to visit – each with unique attractions, beautiful landscapes and kind people.
In other words, it’s safe to say there are no bad cities in Canada.
Having said that, some are different. We’ve carefully selected the cities on this list because each has something spectacular that you won’t find anywhere else in the country – or possibly the world.
From Canada’s largest city to the country’s largest national park to its capital city, we believe every city on this list deserves a spot on your travel bucket list – and we can’t tell you why.
1. Toronto, Ontario
There’s a lot to be said for the bustling city of Toronto – the capital of Ontario, Canada’s largest city and the country’s most visited city – with a population of nearly three million, which is why it earned the top spot. In this list.
First, there are Toronto’s infamous landmarks. You can’t mention Toronto without thinking of the iconic CN Tower , and many tourists make time to visit popular attractions like Toronto Island , Casa Loma , and the Toronto Zoo.
There are world-renowned museums such as the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), and other major attractions such as the Hockey Hall of Fame and Nathan Phillips Square.
Then, there are sports teams. Toronto hosts the most professional sports teams in the entire country – seven in total – and you don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy a game.
No matter what time of year you visit, there might be a pro sports game going on – the Toronto Blue Jays are playing a baseball game, the Toronto Raptors (2019 NBA Champions!) are playing a basketball game, or the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing. The Leafs play hockey games.
But most Torontonians would argue that it’s not the major attractions that make Toronto the best city in Canada: it’s the diverse neighborhoods located throughout the city, each a micro-cultural hub with unique restaurants, shops and parks.
From Little Italy to Chinatown to the Danforth (home to a large Greek community), you can stroll through the neighborhood and experience cuisines from around the world.
After you’ve filled your stomach to your heart’s content, get out and explore the city’s natural beauty: take a stroll along Lake Ontario or spend some time at the local beaches.
Take a hike through Wonder High Park, Toronto’s largest public park, or the Toronto Islands.
2. Quebec City, Quebec
As the horse-drawn carriages chug along the cobbled streets of Old Quebec City, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped back in time in this historic city.
Overlooking the St. Lawrence River, Quebec City is a French-speaking city (although most people speak English in popular tourist areas) that is rich in culture and history.
Most visitors are drawn to Vieux-Québec , the heart of the walled city that features the aforementioned cobblestone streets, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.
The castle-like Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is an iconic Quebec City landmark and is worth seeking out even if you’re not lucky enough to stay as a guest.
A visit to La Citadelle de Québec is a great idea; Join a walking tour to learn about this historic fort, which operates as an active military installation.
Lovers of art and all things decorative will feel like kids in a candy store in Quebec City.
From architectural details to exceptional museums like the Musée National des beaux-arts du Québec , there’s beauty everywhere you look.
The Museum of Civilization (or Musée de la civilization) is one of the most visited museums in Canada and takes you behind the scenes of Quebec’s history. You’ll be inspired – and urged to come back again someday.
3. Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada. With mountains to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the massive Stanley Park right downtown, the city’s landscape is jaw-droppingly magnificent.
Whether you’re exploring the beaches in Kitsilano , walking the trails of the University of British Columbia’s Pacific Spirit Park , or cycling along the seawall downtown, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Vancouver’s natural beauty.
Thanks to warm, sunny summers and mild (though often wet) winters, it’s easy to enjoy spending time outdoors year-round.
Many of Vancouver’s neighborhoods are easily walkable, and there are hidden gems around almost every corner.
Downtown is the main area to find a spot in a coffee shop and watch the world go by, while nearby Gastown has a mix of quirky, contemporary and cool shops and restaurants.
Granville Island features its famous market filled with all kinds of goods, and Main Street is a foodie’s paradise, with restaurants offering the best local fare.
It’s hard to see the whole city in one visit – but it sure is fun trying to do it all!
4. Calgary, Alberta
Welcome to Canada’s Wild West: Calgary, Alberta is home to the famous Calgary Stampede , a week-long festival featuring rodeo events, concerts, special activities and exhibits.
More than a million visitors flock to “Cowtown” every year in early July to celebrate Calgary’s farming and ranching heritage, making it the largest festival in the entire country.
But there’s more to Calgary than horses and cowboy hats: you can step back in time and experience life as a pioneer at the Heritage Park Historical Village, take in city views from a revolving restaurant atop the Calgary Tower , or stroll along the Bow River. through the 50-acre Prince Island Park .
Even though it’s bitterly cold in the winter, Calgary’s people have a smile on their faces – perhaps because the city has the most sunshine anywhere in Canada.
On average, Calgary has 333 days of sunshine per year , for a total of 2,396 hours of sunshine . If you’re planning a trip, chances are good that you’ll have good weather.
5. Ottawa, Ontario
Oh, Canada – it’s hard to feel extra patriotic when you’re in the nation’s capital, Ottawa. If you are a history buff, Ottawa will amaze you in no time.
A guided tour of Parliament House on Parliament Hill will give you a glimpse into the world of Canadian government – and the building itself is a masterpiece. The city is also home to some of the best museums and galleries in the country.
The Canadian War Museum explores the history of Canada’s military and the major events and conflicts that shaped the country as we know it today.
And that’s just the tip of the cultural iceberg: there ‘s also the National Gallery of Canada , the Canadian Museum of History , the Canadian Museum of Nature , and the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum .
Another thing Ottawa knows is how to throw an epic festival. On July 1, no city celebrates Canada Day like Ottawa.
Every February, Winterlude is a winter lover’s dream come true, celebrating all things cold – you haven’t really experienced winter in Canada until you’ve gone ice skating on the Rideau Canal.
There’s also the Canadian Tulip Festival , Jazz Festival, Bluesfest – the list goes on.
6. Montreal, Quebec
Since its establishment as a French mission station in 1642, Montreal (or Mont-Réal as it used to be) has grown in importance as a world-class commercial and cultural center.
Today, it is not only the second largest city in Canada, but also the second largest French-speaking city in the world, surpassed only by Paris.
As big as it is, Montreal, like many similarly large cities in North America, has managed to preserve not only its unique character, but also many of its old buildings and neighborhoods.
The best places to get a feel for “Old Montreal” are in Vieux-Montreal, the original old colonial heart of the city, with its charming old townhomes; and the equally picturesque “Old Port,” or View-port, with its grand promenade.
Add the city’s new entertainment, museum and arts districts to this historic character, and you won’t find anything interesting in Montreal.
7. Victoria, British Columbia
The Canadian city of Victoria is about as “little old England” as you’re likely to find this side of the Atlantic.
Situated on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, its mild climate is typical of Canada and similar to that of Britain, making it popular not only as a holiday destination but also as a place to retire.
It also doesn’t hurt that Victoria was named after the reigning monarch when it was founded in 1843.
And overlooking it all, the city’s most iconic building, the magnificent Fairmont Empress erected in 1904, also happens to serve what it is. Perhaps Canada’s most authentic afternoon tea experience.
Other highlights of the visit include exploring the city’s Inner Harbour, with its long promenade; the beautiful Butchart Gardens, which are especially beautiful in spring; and the Royal BC Museum, with large collections related to the country’s cultural and natural history.