Canada is widely acknowledged to be home to some of the world’s most scenic natural wonders, including glaciers, mountains, lakes, and forests that draw thousands of visitors each year. Many of the cities are located on the coast and are rich in maritime history and historical buildings.
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Montreal is Canada’s largest city, famous for its historic architecture, excellent entertainment opportunities, superb food, and a vibrant arts scene. The city incorporates several boroughs that were once independent towns, each of which has something special to offer visitors. Architecture enthusiasts will love the juxtaposition of striking skyscrapers rubbing shoulders with heritage gems; some of the highlights can be seen in French-colonial Vieux-Montreal, the modern Olympic Stadium, and futuristic Expo 67. Nobody should miss the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the downtown Quartier where you can visit an amazing array of more than 80 cultural venues within an area of less than one square mile. Things to Do in Montreal
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Canada’s colorful and vibrant capital Ottawa offers a treasure-trove of exciting attractions and activities for visitors and locals to enjoy. At the impressive Parliament Hill, home to Canada’s government, you can watch the daily changing of the guard on summer mornings and a brilliant Sound and Light Show every evening all year round. The city is dotted with excellent museums and galleries where you can learn about Canadian history and culture – highlights include the National Gallery, Royal Canadian Mint, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum. The city offers excellent walking and hiking trails, and you can try boating and kayaking on the Ottawa River. By Ward Market, a short walk from Parliament Hill, is the best place to eat, drink, see and be seen. Things to Do in Ottawa
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Often described as Canada’s Cultural Capital, the city of Toronto is a vibrant and exciting destination for just about all tastes. You had better bring a large appetite – Toronto is probably one of the most exciting Canadian cities for foodies to visit. Start your exploration at the famous St. Lawrence Market where local farmers have been selling their produce every Saturday since 1803. Once you’ve had breakfast you can take a tour of the Distillery Historic District where cobbled lanes lead through a plethora of quaint shops and studios. Art lovers should head to Rush Lane (aka Graffiti Valley) to see the street art and then move on to AGO – Art Gallery of Ontario. In addition there are many great museums, National Historic Sites, and outdoor activities to keep you busy for weeks. Things to Do in Toronto
4.Vancouver, British Colombia
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The beautiful Canadian city of Vancouver is surrounded by water and mountains that offer almost unlimited recreational opportunities. In addition, the city is renowned for its vibrant art and culture, offering diverse museums and galleries to suit all tastes including the Vancouver Art Gallery, Museum of Vancouver, and Science World Vancouver, to name but a few. The sky is the limit for adventure seekers who can try their hand at white-water rafting, jet-boating, and zip-lining with Adventure Group Whistler or ride on the roof of the cable car up to the top of Grouse Mountain. Somewhat tamer adventures include mountain-biking excursions, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, or peddle-boating. Hopping aboard a scenic cruise will give you a completely different perspective of the city. Vancouver is just 30 minutes from world-class skiing resorts for winter visitors.
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Winnipeg will surprise and delight visitors with a great diversity of indoor and outdoor activities coupled with historic, architectural, cultural, and gastronomic attractions. One of the must-see attractions on your list should be the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is housed in a stunning example of modern architecture. The Manitoba Museum, the Royal Canadian Mint, and WAG, (Winnipeg Art Gallery) are all equally fascinating. For a break from history and culture you can visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo (to see polar bears) or go bison viewing at Fortwhyte Alive, an enormous prairie conservation area. Back in the city you can explore the interesting architecture, cuisine, and coffee-culture in the Exchange District.
6.Quebec City, Quebec
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The distinct European atmosphere and the widespread sound of the French language are part of the charm of 400 year Quebec City. Parliament Hill and the 100-year-old Chateau Frontenac dominate the cityscape, and both deserve a place on your must-see list. Old Quebec City can easily be explored on foot to reveal architectural treasures like the ancient Porte Saint-Louis (the original towering stone gateway to the walled city) and the wonderful French fountain in front of Parliament Hill. Other city highlights include a visit to the most impressive Montmorency Falls, the Jacques Cartier National Park, the National Museum of Beaux Arts, and the ancient Sainte Anne-de-Beaupre Shrine.
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Calgary is located at an altitude of over 1,000m above sea level and receives more hours of sunshine than any other major Canadian city. These great conditions draw many visitors who come to enjoy the great outdoors and to explore a modern and vibrant city. First-time visitors can get a great overview of the city from the observation platform of the 191m Calgary Tower and enjoy a snack or drink at the SKY 360 revolving restaurant. You can learn about the pioneer days in Calgary at the Heritage Park Historical Village or take a tour of the remarkable modern Studio Bell, home to the National Music Center. Outdoor activities include river rafting, hiking, biking, and much more.
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Brampton is widely known as Canada’s Flower City – spring and summer visitors will be delighted to enjoy the spectacle of millions of blooming bulbs and flowers that have been planted in public areas throughout the city. Besides the public floral displays, garden lovers can also visit several impressive parks and historic gardens for inspiration. If you are interested in learning about history and culture you can join a guided Downtown Heritage Walking Tour and visit Historic Bovaird House Museum. The city also offers plenty of outdoor recreational facilities including lakes and beaches, hiking and biking trails in summer and skating, skiing, snowboarding, and tubing in winter.
9.Burnaby, British Colombia
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Burnaby is located just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver and offers active visitors an ideal base for enjoying outdoor activities and exploring all that Vancouver city has to offer. Active outdoor pursuits include hiking and biking along an expansive network of urban and country trails, canoeing, kayaking and boating on Burnaby or Deer Lake, or just going for a walk in one of the city’s 200+ parks and conservation areas. In winter you can be enjoying snowboarding and tobogganing less than 30 minutes from the town. Arts and culture enthusiasts can visit the Burnaby Art Gallery, the Burnaby Village Museum, or catch a show at the Michael. J. Fox Theater.
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Gatineau (aka Ville de Gatineau) is located in western Quebec along the northern bank of the Ottawa River. Offering a variety of activities and attractions, Gatineau is a good choice for a weekend getaway. If you have limited time to explore the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour is a good choice and will take you to see most of the city highlights – you can stop wherever you please to tour local landmarks. Some of the city highlights include the Canadian Museum of History, the Downtown Gatineau Culture Trail, and the Beer Museum at Les Brasseurs de Temps. Outdoor enthusiasts should not miss a visit to Gatineau Park for hiking and walking in summer and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow biking in winter.
11.Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Halifax is an historic ocean port on the east coast of Canada and is the capital of Nova Scotia. You can learn a lot about the history of Halifax on a visit to historic Pier 21, where over one million immigrants first stepped onto Canadian soil, and at the 200-year-old Fisherman’s Cove. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic showcases maritime history and houses an important collection of artifacts from the ill-fated Titanic. For a change from history you can take a ferry ride to Dartmouth, stroll through the Victorian Halifax Public Gardens, or go hiking on McNabs Island. Foodies can visit the farmer’s market and tour Alexander Keith’s original 1820’s Brewery.
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Located on the western tip of Lake Ontario, Hamilton is a modern city that offers visitors a great choice of activities and attractions. The city has a thriving arts scene that can best be appreciated on the second Friday of each month when the famous Art Crawl introduces visitors and locals to numerous galleries, studios, and live music, combined with great street food. You can visit some of the historic sites and museums dotted around the city to get an ideal of the early days – the Hamilton Military Museum and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and two of the most popular. Children will enjoy spending some time at the interactive Hamilton Children’s Museum and the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology.
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Located in southeastern Ontario, the city of Kitchener was settled by German immigrants in 1807 and still retains a lot of its original small-town charm and Bavarian traditions. If you visit in October you might think you have landed in Munich, Germany, as the city extravagantly celebrates Oktoberfest (October Beer Festival). You can get a glimpse of the early days in Kitchener by visiting the Doon Heritage Village, Woodside National Historic Site, and the Schneider Haus National Historic Site. For a change from history and heritage you can taste some craft beers at Descendants Beer and Beverage Company, take a hot-air balloon excursion or go for a walk (or play some ball games) at McLennan Park.
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The city of Laval is located in southwestern Quebec where it forms the largest suburb of Montreal. The city welcomes visitors to a large variety of modern and historic attractions that can be enjoyed year-round. You can get a good overview of the city’s past by taking a walking tour through the Saint Vincent de Paul Historic District and visiting some of the city’s various interesting museums. Outdoor attractions include hiking and biking along several trails, boating, sailing, kayaking and golf in summer, and a huge selection of snow sports in winter. In addition, the remarkable attractions of Montreal are located just across the river.
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Although London Ontario has its own River Thames and very British double-decker buses, it is very much a modern Canadian city with great atmosphere and many attractions on offer for tourists. The city is known as a hub for culture and entertainment and hosts many music and other festivals and events each year, notably Rock the Park and the International Food and Craft Beer Festival. There are several museums to explore including the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, and the hands-on London Children’s Museum. Old East Village is a great place to explore on foot to see historic homes, unique shops and galleries, breweries, and brilliant food at The Market.
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Located east of Montreal on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, Longueuil is one of three cities which form the Montreal metropolitan region. The city offers a diversity of outdoor recreational pursuits, making it an ideal weekend getaway for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. You can enjoy hiking (or cross-country skiing) in Parc Michel-Chartrand or the wildlife preserve Boise de Tremblay. If you love history and architecture you can take a self-guided tour through Old Longueuil, where there are over 400 buildings that were built before 1945. Jet boating, sailing charters, and various boat excursions are available nearby, and all the exciting attractions of Montreal are easily accessible in less than 20 minutes.
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Conveniently located in the greater Toronto area, Markham is one of Canada’s most ethnically diverse cities and welcomes visitors to come and join in celebrating a variety of festivals and events. History buffs can spend their time exploring various heritage districts in Thornhill, Unionville, and Markham Village and tour the Markham Museum, while Art lovers can feast their eyes at the Varley Art Gallery and Mc Kay Art Center. There are many outdoor activities including hiking and picnicking at Rouge Park or Milne Park, swimming (indoors and outdoors), ice skating, and golf. Foodies can visit four separate Farmer’s Markets from Thursday to Sunday, and everyone can shop till they drop at Markham Mall and Main Street Markham.
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Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, (next-door to Toronto), Mississauga is a large Canadian city known for good shopping and interesting tourist attractions. To sample the atmosphere of this large city you can start by visiting some of the characteristic neighborhoods like Port Credit (for great shopping and dining), scenic Streetsville (where you can go on a free guided Historic Walking Tour), and historic Clarksville, where you can tour the 1830 Bradley Museum and join the Clarkson’s Walk through Mississauga’s oldest district. Art lovers will find it hard to decide which gallery or museum to visit first, and everyone should try and visit the beautiful Brueckner Rhododendron Garden and Erindale Park.
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Home to the famous Canadian Mounties, the town of Regina is the capital city of Saskatchewan and is surrounded by miles and miles of prairie landscape. At the heart of the city you will find Waskana Park, the perfect place to have an early morning walk or jog before you set off to explore the city. A few of the highlights you have to see include the impressive Legislative Building (tours available daily), the 1891 Government House, and the RCMP Heritage Center where Canada’s Mounted Police are trained – be sure to attend the Sunset Retreat Ceremony. If you like museums and galleries you can head to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History and the Mackenzie Art Gallery.
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20.Richmond, British Colombia
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Forming part of the Vancouver metropolitan area, Richmond can boast several unique attractions for visitors and lots to please foodies. The city is as multicultural as you can be – a whopping 70% of the population can trace their roots to Asia and have had a profound effect on the ambiance of the city. One of the key attractions is historic Steveston Village (Canada’s largest commercial fishing harbor) where you can visit the historic Gulf of Georgia Cannery and the Britannia Shipyards and eat delectable seafood. Another must-see is the famous Highway to Heaven, where dozens of churches, temples, and mosques peacefully rub shoulders on No. 5 Rd. In Golden Village over 200 Asian restaurants compete for your custom – do not miss the wonderful Dumpling Trail.
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Picturesquely located along the south bank of the Saskatchewan River, the vibrant city of Saskatoon combines city and country attractions to offer something for everyone. Allow yourself to be transported back to the pioneer days in Saskatoon as you make your way through the interesting Western Development Museum, or check out Wanuskewin Heritage Park to learn about Northern Plains Indian culture. Outdoor enthusiasts can head to the Beaver Creek Conservation Area or the Meewasin Valley Trail for walking or hiking (snow shoeing in winter) or book a guided fishing trip with Adventure Destinations International. The city offers a variety of live-theater venues where you can catch a show or concert.
22.Surrey, British Colombia
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Surrey forms part of the Vancouver metropolitan area close to the Canada/US border and is known for its wide-open green spaces and its pleasing blend of rustic rural and chic city atmosphere. The city is made up of six distinct neighborhoods, each with its own story to tell – for example, in Cloverdale you can visit the Cloverdale Rodeo, Fleetwood is a popular residential area, and Newton is the city’s cultural hub and home to a large South Asian population – don’t miss shopping and dining at Payal Plaza in the Punjabi Market. There is also plenty on offer for outdoor enthusiasts including golf, bird watching, and exploring some of the city’s over 6,000 acres of parks, gardens, and trails on foot or by bike.
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Vaughn is located just north of Toronto, serving as a good base for visitors who prefer to be outside the hustle and bustle of the city. Although you can commute to the heart of downtown Toronto in less than 30 minutes, you will find that Vaughn offers plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, birding, and picnicking in the Boyd Conservation Area. One of the most popular Vaughn attractions is Canada’s Wonderland, a huge theme park offering more than 200 hair-raising rides and roller coasters. At the Black Creek Pioneer Village you can learn about the early days in Vaughn, and the Legoland Discovery Center is the perfect place to take younger children for some educational fun.
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The lovely city of Windsor forms the gateway between Canada and the US and offers a cultural and historical treat for visitors who take the time to linger for a while. A great place to start your exploration of Windsor is the lovely waterfront Sculpture Park – a good introduction to Windsor’s thriving arts scene. From there art lovers can move on to the Art Gallery of Windsor and the Chimczuk Museum. History enthusiasts will enjoy Willistead Manor (and its 15 acre gardens) and Mackenzie Hall, which is now a cultural center for the city. Indoor/outdoor activities include fun at the Adventure Bay Family Water Park and walking, hiking, or biking in some of the city’s 200+ parks and green spaces.
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25 Most Beautiful Canadian Cities
- Montreal, Quebec, Photo: Courtesy of Nicolas - Fotolia.com
- Ottawa, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of jiawangkun - Fotolia.com
- Toronto, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of surangaw - Fotolia.com
- Vancouver, British Colombia, Photo: Courtesy of MF - Fotolia.com
- Winnipeg, Manitoba, Photo: Courtesy of Steve - Fotolia.com
- Quebec City, Quebec, Photo: Courtesy of John Nicklin - Fotolia.com
- Calgary, Alberta, Photo: Courtesy of ronniechua - Fotolia.com
- Brampton, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of Witthaya - Fotolia.com
- Burnaby, British Colombia, Photo: Courtesy of edb3_16 - Fotolia.com
- Gatineau, Quebec, Photo: Courtesy of Henryk Sadura - Fotolia.com
- Halifax, Nova Scotia, Photo: Courtesy of Adwo - Fotolia.com
- Hamilton, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of hstiver - Fotolia.com
- Kitchener, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of gustavofrazao - Fotolia.com
- Laval, Quebec, Photo: Courtesy of Leonid Andronov - Fotolia.com
- London, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of proedding - Fotolia.com
- Longueuil, Quebec, Photo: Courtesy of pepsee30 - Fotolia.com
- Markham, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of Timur Djafarov - Fotolia.com
- Mississauga, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of Aqnus - Fotolia.com
- Regina, Saskatchewan, Photo: Courtesy of blaze986 - Fotolia.com
- Richmond, British Colombia, Photo: Courtesy of Alex Lyubar - Fotolia.com
- Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Photo: Courtesy of hihatimages - Fotolia.com
- Surrey, British Colombia, Photo: Courtesy of edb3_16 - Fotolia.com
- Vaughn, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of loga25 - Fotolia.com
- Windsor, Ontario, Photo: Courtesy of icholakov - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of David Jallaud - Fotolia.com