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The best of Canada’s vibrant cities from coast to coast to coast

person walking their bike down a cobblestone street

The best of Canada’s vibrant cities from coast to coast to coast

Set on the footstep of serrated mountains, alongside mighty rivers and fragrant forests, Canada’s vibrant cities from the west to east—such as Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax—offer experiences you can’t find anywhere else.


Connect with Indigenous culture, discover creativity in cuisine and arts and most of all, recharge and ignite your imagination while travelling across Canada. Delve deep into urban centers with our guide on the best ways to experience these Canadian major cities.


Vancouver, British Columbia

two people sitting on a log at the beach with water views behind them
Vancouver is a city nestled between the sea and mountains.

Vancouverites believe that the West Coast is the best coast, and for good reason. VancouverExternal Link Title is one of the world's greenest cities and holds top spots on global liveability lists. Locals fully embrace this ethos, whether eating sustainable sushi made from British ColumbiaExternal Link Title spot prawns (a seasonal delicacy you can get fresh off fishers' boats at Granville Island Public MarketExternal Link Title) or fuelling their passion for playing outside. 


Absorb Vancouver's laid-back vibe by walking or biking (borrow a MobiExternal Link Title). The city has 450-lane-kilometres (280 miles) of paths tracing the West End, Kitsilano and UBC's ocean beaches, backdropped by Yaletown's heritage buildings and Olympic Village's glass towers. Parks and streets are practically open-air museums with massive sculpturesExternal Link Title and muralsExternal Link Title, especially in Mount Pleasant.


It's even easy to experience nature and authentic Indigenous culture downtown at Vancouver's 405-hectare (1,000-acre) Stanley Park with Talaysay ToursExternal Link Title. A local guide and cultural ambassador leads educational walks through the old-growth forests, sharing contemporary stories and legends and pointing out local plants harvested by Skwxu7mesh Uxwumixw (Coast Salish people). Build on this knowledge at the Museum of AnthropologyExternal Link Title at UBC, where each piece in its collection of Northwest Coast Indigenous art is a living story of past and present. And while you're on the West Side, find a seat at Salmon and BannockExternal Link Title to taste Indigenous dishes such as candied salmon and its namesake fried bread.


For more rainforest rejuvenation, head to Capilano Suspension Bridge ParkExternal Link Title in North VancouverExternal Link Title. As you stand on its 137-metre (450-foot) showpiece gently swaying 70 metres (230 feet) over the Capilano River, imagine that the original 1889 structure was made from hemp rope and cedar planks. Also experience the Treetops Adventure and the Cliffwalk, a series of bridges and stairs floating 34 metres (110 feet) in the forest and alongside a granite precipice above the river. 


Nearby, Grouse MountainExternal Link Title is also alluring with hiking trails, adrenaline-inducing ziplines and a wildlife refuge that's home to grizzly bears Grinder and Coola--all atop its 1,127-metre (3,700-foot) summit. When you're ready, relax in your room at Pinnacle at the PierExternal Link Title overlooking Vancouver Harbour.



Calgary, Alberta

aerial view of the folk fest in calgary beside the bow river
Calgary sits on the banks of the Bow River. Photo credit: Tourism Calgary - Roth and Ramberg Photography Inc.

CalgaryExternal Link Title is probably best known for its 10-day celebration of Western heritage during the annual stampede celebrationsExternal Link Title. Stampede Park is one of many places to reconnect with friends and family as this vibrant AlbertaExternal Link Title city also plays host to international festivals from filmExternal Link Title to beerExternal Link Title, which you can sip on a curated brewery tourExternal Link Title


Sitting on the banks of the Bow River, Calgary is the traditional territory of the Blackfoot People. Many Chief ToursExternal Link Title offers ecotourism experiences around the city that showcase the region's rich Indigenous history, culture and connection to the land. Then explore more on your own: Calgary has 800 kilometres of paved pathways, where arts and outdoor pursuits blend beautifully. 


To roam around on foot, a prime place to stay is at Hotel Arts KensingtonExternal Link Title in trendy Kensington Village. Take a self-guided art walkExternal Link Title among 30-plus sculptures, murals and art installations, making sure to stop at the iconic Peace Bridge, a helix-shaped deep-red structure nicknamed "the finger trap." 


The Peace Bridge is also the jumping off point for the 34-kilometre Bow River PathwayExternal Link Title, which travels to Eau Claire and Prince's IslandExternal Link Title parks, plus ChinatownExternal Link Title. Here, fill up on authentic dim sum at Silver Dragon RestaurantExternal Link Title. Discover downtown's landmarks too. Like Studio BellExternal Link Title, home to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, whose nine interlocking towers reference acoustic vessels, and the Calgary Central LibraryExternal Link Title, an outsize structure that has an expansive wood archway evocative of the Chinook mountain-wave clouds unique to the area. 


After a few days walking, biking and checking out Calgary's arts scene, get re-energized at Cedar & SteamExternal Link Title with a detox aromatherapy massage and a flight of locally made kombucha at the spa's Remedy Bar.


Winnipeg, Manitoba

view of the canadian museum for human rights and river
Winnipeg is home to the spectacular Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Photo credit: Travel Manitoba

Situated in the geographic centre of North America at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, WinnipegExternal Link Title, ManitobaExternal Link Title, is an ideal city for taking things slow. Start your trip off right in this city of 750,000 by unwinding in the sauna at Therm?a by Nordik Spa-NatureExternal Link Title, then slipping into an ice-cold pool for a "thermal shock" (really, it's a good thing). Continue your self-care in "The Peg" by checking in to the Inn at the ForksExternal Link Title (it also has an on-site spa and restaurants), named for the The Forks National Historic SiteExternal Link Title, where Indigenous peoples trapped and traded for 6,000 years. 


You can spend hours at this traditional meeting place, from visiting a tall grass prairie garden to shopping in historic stable buildings. But do take time out at other new gathering spots: the Indigenous Peoples Garden in Assiniboine ParkExternal Link Title and QaumajuqExternal Link Title. The recently opened museum located within the WAGExternal Link Title has the world's largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art. Another mind-expanding must-see is the Canadian Museum for Human RightsExternal Link Title. The first museum of its kind, its aim is to preserve and promote Canadian heritage and encourage human rights dialogue and education globally.


Winnipeg's diversity can also be discovered through its cuisine on a food tourExternal Link Title in the West End, an area brimming with Ethiopian, Chinese, Pakistani and Vietnamese restaurants. The local food and beverage scene is flourishing too. Feast Caf? BistroExternal Link Title, started by a home cook turned restaurateur from the Peguis First Nation, melds culture and cuisine in fare such as Bison Banny, made with Manitoba grass-fed bison sausage and served on bannock.


In Winnipeg's historic exchange district, the tasting menu at Deer + AlmondExternal Link Title almost reads like a love letter to the province, with carefully composed dishes like deer tartare with fermented sour cherries and Manitoba hemp hearts. Nearby is Patent 5 DistilleryExternal Link Title located in a former livery stable, and just two doors down, Nonsuch BrewingExternal Link Title has rotating taps (try the Prairie Common) and snacks such as beef tartare and burrata.



Montréal, Quebec

people walking past the outside of the place des arts building in quebec
Montréal’s Place des Arts is a major performing arts centre. Photo credit: Eva Blue - Tourisme Montréal

For the ultimate urban vacation, head to Montr?alExternal Link Title, a tr?s belle (beautiful) French-speaking city (the world's second largest, after Paris) spread out on its namesake island in the St. Lawrence River. In addition to its Francophone heritage, expect to hear a host of languages spoken when exploring this city of 3.6 million people. Montr?al has 120 distinct ethnic communities that contribute to its international appeal. You'll notice that cool convergences are everywhere.


To get acquainted with the dynamic nature of old Montr?al, stay at Auberge du Vieux-PortExternal Link Title, formerly a 19th-century warehouse that's been converted into a modern hotel. Then take a ride on La Grande Roue de Montre?alExternal Link Title (Canada's tallest observation wheel) and gaze at the grandeur of Old MontrealExternal Link Title with cobblestone streets and buildings preserved from the 1600s. Contemplate the city's storied history while sitting on the terrace of Le Bistro de la Grande Roue eating salted-caramel cr?pes. 


At Notre-Dame Basilica, an iconic edifice with layers of religious heritage and French-inspired Gothic Revival architecture, be mesmerized at AURAExternal Link Title, a high-tech multimedia experience combining music and light projected on the basilica's walls. Then head outside to Saint-Laurent Boulevard and wander among buildings decked with murals (there's a self-guided dynamic mapExternal Link Title and guided toursExternal Link Title). Look for new works like BirdO X Iregular, a surreal geometric rooster created by reclusive visual artist Jerry Rugg (aka "birdO") during the 2021 mural festivalExternal Link Title.


Montr?al is constantly pushing boundaries while preserving its multicultural heritage. Experience this coexistence first-hand at the 1933 Marche? Jean-TalonExternal Link Title in Little ItalyExternal Link Title. Stalls of flowers and farm-fresh fruits line this public market and community gathering place. A favourite stall is La Maison Onyx, which hosts a rotating lineup of Black and Indigenous chefs and purveyors. 


To get a taste of local craft beer from its source, drive across the St. Lawrence River from West Montreal to Kahnawake Brewing CompanyExternal Link Title, Canada's first Indigenous-owned microbrewery on Indigenous land. Try the Hard Day's Work, an ESB beer brewed with 100 per cent Quebec malts. 



Toronto, Ontario

women on ferry with hair blowing in the wind looking at toronto
Toronto seen from the Toronto Islands Ferry. Photo credit: Max Coquard

In TorontoExternal Link Title,start uncovering the city's singularity at Gladstone HouseExternal Link Title in the epicentre of downtown, where innovative local art and light applications meld with exposed-brick walls. For a deeper exposure to art, check out the Art Gallery of OntarioExternal Link Title or visit McMichael CanadianExternal Link Title Art Collection. This museum on the outskirts of Greater Toronto is situated in 100 acres of forest on the original lands of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe people. Its permanent collection of 6,400 pieces includes Indigenous art and works from Tom Thomson, among other members of Canada's Group of Seven.


Another sensory experience--one that incorporates musical elements into landscape design--can be had at Toronto Music GardenExternal Link Title, conceived by celebrated cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy. The garden's natural elements, such as swirling paths of wildflowers meadows and arc-shaped conifer groves, were inspired by Bach's "First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello."


Naturally, Toronto's not just creative when it comes to art. It's a dynamic destination for dining and drinking. Get the insider intel with Tasty Tours TorontoExternal Link Title. Led by passionate locals (who'll let you sample the Toronto Truffle(TM), or  Toffle(TM)), the tour roams through the eclectic Kensington MarketExternal Link Title neighbourhood and offers exclusive behind-the-scenes peeks at restaurants. Or discover some of Toronto's local foods at your own pace. Visit the farmers and merchants at St. Lawrence MarketExternal Link Title, selling  tasty items like maple syrup, pastries and cheeses. On Sundays an antiques and collectibles show and sale pops up at the market. 


A few blocks away is the Distillery DistrictExternal Link Title, a National Historic Site founded in 1832 by Gooderham & Worts. Once "a windmill in the wilderness," it became the world's largest distillery. The windmill is gone but industrial-era Victorian buildings still stand, along with art galleries, cafes, beer halls and the Spirit of York Distillery CoExternal Link Title., which makes grain-to-glass gin, vodka and whiskey, among other spirits. 



Halifax, Nova Scotia

people dining at pickford black on the waterfront in halifax
The lively Halifax Waterfront is known for its strollable boardwalk lined with seafood restaurants. Photo credit: Discover Halifax

With endorsements like making it onto National Geographic's "places of a lifetime" list, HalifaxExternal Link Title easily lives up to the hype. The city describes itself as full of dreamers, strivers, doers and believers. Meet some of these 431,000 friendly Haligonians (Halifax residents) when strolling its historic 4-km (2.5-mile) seaside boardwalk downtown. 


But first, settle in at the HalliburtonExternal Link Title, a boutique hotel composed of three historic townhouses. After exploring, make your way back for "The Flight," a six-course blind-tasting menu for two. It's just a 20-minute walk from the Halliburton to the waterfront is lined with shops, sculptures of historic figures, the Maritime Museum of the AtlanticExternal Link Title and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21External Link Title, which tells the story of how Canada has been shaped by newcomers.


The latter is also one pier away from the Halifax Seaport Farmers' MarketExternal Link Title, North America's longest continuously operating farmers market. Marvel at exotic locally grown mushrooms, purchase Nova Scotia spirits and for lunch pick up a plant-based Bliss Bowl or plate of authentic Polish pierogies handmade with local Nova Scotia ingredients. 


Thirsty? As you make your way back along the waterfront, drop by Alexander Keith's Nova Scotia BreweryExternal Link Title for a tour and tasting. This Halifax institution has been keeping the city supplied with suds since 1820. And if you skipped lunch or want a late-after snack, take a water-bound excursion to The CanteenExternal Link Title in Dartmouth (its Crobster Roll, a mix of Nova Scotia snow crab and lobster topped with truffle aioli, is worth the mini adventure). Simply stroll to the Halifax Ferry TerminalExternal Link Title and board the Alderney Ferry, a glorious 15-minute ride (just $2.75 for adults) that drops you off right downtown.


As one of the world's largest and deepest ice-free natural harbours, it's no surprise that Halifax Harbour has many stories hidden on its islandsExternal Link Title. A local favourite is McNabs Island. Find sanctuary in the seat of a kayak paddling here or head for the sandy shores of Cole Harbour-Lawrencetown Coastal Heritage ParkExternal Link Title, where the surf is always up. Slip on a wetsuit and learn to ride the waves for a unique Halifax experience.