Best Cities in Canada to Visit Anytime
Canada is the second-largest country in the world, but has only 38 million people. Because of this, many people focus on Canada's breathtaking nature or charming small towns.
Still, Canadian cities are some of the most exciting destinations in this large and inspiring country. Within them, you'll find a mix of cultures, learn about First Nations peoples, eat some fantastic food and visit major landmarks.
Given its gigantic size, you probably can't visit all of the country. So you should start with the best cities in Canada.
What to Do in Regina
As the capital of Saskatchewan, Regina is a pretty city surrounded by gorgeous prairies. You'll find everything you could expect from a provincial capital: parks, government centers and cultural institutions.
Make time to visit the Mackenzie Art Gallery and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. You can also tour the imposing Legislative Building, if only for the gorgeous pictures you will be able to get there.
But the highlight of any visit to Regina will be Wascana Park. Set at the very center of the city and embracing Wascana Lake, it provides a scenic urban green space where you can walk, picnic and see local birds.
What to Do in St. Catharines
St. Catharines is a highly underrated Canadian city. Most people head to the Niagara Falls city to see the impressive natural wonder, but we'd recommend making St. Catharines your base for it, as it is a veritable destination on its own.
Of course, visiting the ninth-widest waterfall in the world should be your priority, but once you've checked this off, there will be plenty of fun things to do.
Learn about the history of the Underground Railroad, which used St. Catharines as its terminal. Numerous formerly enslaved people — including Harriet Tubman — moved to the city to avoid being caught and brought back to the South. You can visit Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church, which was founded and attended by freed people in the 1850s.
Other interesting attractions include parks, gardens and hiking trails, which have helped St. Catharines earn its nickname of "The Garden city."
What to Do in Saskatoon
Although Regina is Saskatchewan's capital, Saskatoon is its largest and most popular city. Known as "The Paris of the Prairies," it has a robust cultural scene, with live music venues, concerts, public art installations, independent art galleries and museums like the Remai Modern.
One of the coolest things to do is visit the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where you can learn about the culture and history of Northern Plains First Nation tribes. The Beaver Creek Conservation Area provides ample opportunities for outdoor fun at any time of year, from hiking in the summer to snow-shoeing in the winter.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you don't leave town before trying the famous Saskatoon berry pie.
What to Do in Charlottetown
Anyone who grew up reading "Anne of Green Gables" should make it a point to visit Charlottetown. Prince Edward Island's capital is a picturesque city filled with historic brick and wood houses.
The Confederation Centre of the Arts is the cultural heart of the city, making up an entire block and boasting a theater, an amphitheater and an art gallery. Head to Victoria Row for beautiful colorful homes from the 19th century that are now boutique shops and restaurants serving fresh seafood.
What to Do in Halifax
An extensive coastline, seafood and plenty of bars cement Halifax as one of eastern Canada's coolest cities to visit.
Halifax Peninsula is where most people begin their tour of the city, as the long boardwalk provides first-rate views of the waterfront, complemented by restaurants, bars and shops. The 19th-century Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada is another place with preferred views and a side of history.
Other places worth a visit include the Canadian Museum of Immigration, detailing the story of millions of immigrants that arrived at Pier 21, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. During certain times of the year, Halifax is also an amazing whale watching spot.
Where to stay: Fort Garry Hotel
What to Do in Winnipeg
Smack-down in the middle of Canada, Manitoba doesn't receive as much attention as coastal provinces. But if you want to visit the heart of the country, there really is no city more interesting than Winnipeg, the capital of the large province.
The city's cultural institutions and events are its main draws, bringing in people from surrounding towns who want a taste of city life. There is the Manitoba Museum, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
At the confluence of the Assiniboine River and the Red River, you'll find the Forks, a hip district decorated with converted warehouses that now act as gastropubs, concept restaurants, boutique shops and independent galleries.
At any time of year, you're likely to find concerts, plays and other interesting events.
Where to stay: Sundog Retreat
What to Do in Whitehorse
With 24,000 people, Whitehorse isn't a city per se, but we're including it here because it's the largest capital of the frigid northern provinces of Canada, which include Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nuvanut.
Founded during Canada's gold rush, Whitehorse is now a paradise for anyone looking for extreme nature-based sports and experiences. Activities include canoeing down the Yukon River, horseback riding through trails, and walking around Miles Canyon. After a long day, take a dip at the Takhini Hot Pools natural mineral springs.
Your experience will change drastically depending on when you visit. The summer brings with it the midnight sun: a sun that refuses to set at all. During winter, you'll have the opportunity of witnessing the majestic Northern Lights.
Province: British Columbia
Where to stay: Abigail's Hotel
What to Do in Victoria
Gorgeous Victoria is overshadowed by its bigger, more popular cousin, Vancouver. But the capital of British Columbia is very much a worthy destination.
Known for its British colonial architecture and mild weather, Victoria is at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, right next to Washinton state's San Juan Islands. Even by Canadian standards, locals are known for their friendly demeanor, which in part is due to the ample time they spend relaxing in urban green spaces.
Join the locals and relax at the Inner Harbour's long and pretty promenade, or visit the flowery Butchart Gardens. Another must-do activity is having afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress, whose 1904 building defines Victoria's cityscape.
What to Do in St. John's
Revel in the charm of the northern Atlantic Ocean in the scenic capital of Newfoundland and Labrador.
One of St. John's most distinctive features is the colorful row of houses in its downtown, which are stacked on the hills where the town was founded. But what we really love about the city is the beauty of its rugged nature.
You'll find powerful waves crashing onto jagged rocks and will get to take advantage of adventurous whale and puffin watching tours.
What to Do in Calgary
Most people use Calgary as a stopover on the way to Banff National Park. We won't lie to you: Canada's first national park is most definitely the number one reason to visit Calgary. But don't make the mistake of skipping a few days in this amazing city.
Besides being the Canadian city with the highest number of sunny days, Calgary is also known for its rodeo culture. Nicknamed "Cowtown," the city hosts ranching-related events like the famous Calgary Stampede, which provides a side of Canada not many people get to see.
Visit the Heritage Park Historical Village for a fun immersive museum experience, or get an opposite experience by going up Calgary Tower and enjoying views of the modern downtown.
What to Do in Ottawa
Many people still incorrectly believe that Toronto is the capital of Canada, something that annoys Ottawans like nothing else. And while the actual Canadian capital is neither the biggest nor the most populated city, it does prove worthy of its title.
In Ottawa, you'll find some of the country's most important museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian Museum of Nature. Other popular landmarks are the beautiful government buildings, particularly the Parliament Building, where you can see the changing of the guard, a reminder of Canada's history as a British colony.
As in most capital cities, the food scene is superb in both quality and diversity, as is the festival schedule that is busy year-round. And since this is Canada, nature is never far away. You'll find trails within the city, as well as opportunities to kayak on the Ottawa River.
For an even more immersive experience, head to nearby Algonquin Provincial Park.
What to Do in Toronto
Have you ever wished New York kept its vibe but was smaller, cleaner and friendlier? If you have, all you need to do is go to Toronto, Canada's most populated city.
The economic and cultural capital of the country is undeniably cool, despite its relatively small size and population. Some of Canada's most important universities are here, and college students always bring alternative and fresh cultural events to a city. Visit the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario, but also look for exhibitions and concerts in smaller, independent venues, of which the city has plenty.
Downtown is where most tourists spend their time, with views of the water and the CN Tower making for the quintessential Toronto experience. That being said, dare to venture out to different neighborhoods like Chinatown, K-Town, Little Italy and Danforth (Little Greece).
Whatever you do, make sure you eat as much as possible. This is the city with the absolute best food scene in all of Canada.
What to Do in Montreal
Montreal is Canada's second-most populated city, and may just be its coolest. This is where the young, alternative crowd in the country thrives, mixing Canadian culture with sprinkles of French creativity and artistic innovation.
If you're one to appreciate history, you'll love Vieux-Montreal, the historic quarter of the city, stemming from Notre-Dame Basilica and welcoming the click-clack of shoes in its cobblestone streets. The Old Town is dotted with old colonial buildings. You'll find restaurants and boutique shops, many of which are owned and operated by First Nations collectives, selling traditional art and crafts.
But Montreal is also famous for its modern side, particularly its never-ending roster of cultural events, many of which happen at one of over 80 downtown venues dedicated to art and culture. As you probably expect, the food is also beyond amazing, thanks to French influence and a large immigrant population that has brought flavors from around the world to the city.
What to Do in Quebec
A place straight out of a fairy tale, Quebec is in our humble opinion the most beautiful city in all of Canada.
The fortified Old Town, Vieux-Quebec, is absolutely breathtaking, with cobblestones, a pretty little town square, and hilly streets lined with stone buildings on both sides: historic homes now turned into restaurants and shops. You will feel as if you've been sent back in time to an old provincial French town. Wherever you are in town, you are likely to see the dominating Chateau Frontenac, an 1892 castle that now houses the Fairmont hotel.
Though most places are at their most beautiful in the warmer months, we recommend visiting Quebec City in the winter, when it becomes a veritable winter wonderland. Lantern lights are hung above the narrow streets, the Christmas market offers hot wine, and a blanket of snow covers the town.
Province: British Columbia
Where to stay: L'Hermitage Hotel
What to Do in Vancouver
Quebec may be prettier, but Vancouver comes out on top as the number one best city in Canada simply because it has it all: good weather, plenty of nature, great museums, good food and constant events.
The city is surrounded by both mountains and the Pacific Ocean, making it perfect for people who can't choose between city life and outdoor adventures. You'll be able to kayak, hike, ski, mountain bike, swim, whitewater raft, and zip-line without having to drive more than 30 minutes.
When you want to take advantage of the cosmopolitan side of Vancouver, go to Main Street, where you'll find some of the best restaurants in the city, or visit the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Museum of Vancouver.
To get a true feel of the city, however, you have to spend a couple of hours at one of its many coffee shops, immersing yourself in the cafe culture that is truly a way of life for locals.