Being British, I think I often find that Canada is frequently overshadowed and brushed aside by the media dominance of the United States. This can sometimes lead to a somewhat opaque opinion of the country that is arguably most similar to America. Having previously lived in Canada and experienced much of the East Coast, I can say with full heart that Canada is a truly amazing country (and there is a lot of it to experience…).
Canada is the world’s second largest country by total area, a truly vast expanse of land with so much to see and do. It would take a traveller an awful long time to see the entire country. Whilst famed for beautiful lakes, stunning conifers and vast mountain ranges, there are a number of large, multicultural cities that adorn the country.
So if you haven’t been to Canada before, love the outdoors or want to visit as part of a trip round the rest of North America, then check out the following Canadian cities and decide which one would best suit you:
Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and probably the best known too. Residing on Canada’s Eastern border, this bustling metropolis is home to the CN Tower, the Toronto International Film Festival and is only 2 hours from the iconic Niagara Falls.
Best for those who – ‘Love to party…’ – Toronto is a beautifully popular North American city which brings all the vibrance that entails. The Entertainment District draws thousands of party-goers every weekend. There is certainly culture to that nightlife too though, with the Opera and Theatre (Toronto’s self styled ‘North Broadway’ in fact) attracting visitors from all over the world.
Must see attractions – Niagara Falls and the CN Tower aside, Toronto is home to 3 major sports franchises in the Blue Jays, Raptors and the Maple Leafs so why not check out a game when you visit? (Extra points for naming the different sports of all three teams…)
Vancouver is about as close as you’ll get to a classic American city outside of America. Similar to Toronto as a metropolis, part of the draw to Vancouver is the conveniently located mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb just 2 hours north of the city. Vancouver island only adds to the alure of this unique city topography and is a must see when visiting.
Best for those who – ‘Love a city / mountain combination…’ – There is no denying that Vancouver has appeal in itself. From the ‘trendy’ downtown area to the hustle and bustle of Granville Street, there is always plenty to do. But the allure of a two hour drive to the iconic slopes of Whistler is a constant draw for tourists and locals alike. Beautiful mountain ranges with amazing ski runs draw in thousands and thousands of tourists every year.
Must see attractions – Chinatown for Sushi lovers, Stanley park for the naturist, Rogers Arena for Canucks fans (or those who don’t know what a Canuck is) and English Bay beach in the summer for for those who it want it all…
The second largest city in Canada by population, Montreal resides in the Quebec province and is the first city on our list where French is the official language. The French influence is certainly present throughout the city which is opitimised in the presence of the botanical gardens and the museums of fine arts and archaeology.
Best for those who – ‘Love the mix of city and culture…’ – Montreal is steeped in history and as long as your French isn’t too rusty (only around 20% of the population speaks English) then communicating around this rustic delight should be a joy.
Must see attractions – The Montreal Biosphere is home to a museum that teaches visitors about sustainable development. St. Lawrence river guarantees a beautiful summers walk. The Château Ramezay museum encompasses 500 years of local history. Montreal Poutine is also pretty amazing (though Poutine is rather amazing all over Canada…).
Calgary was put on the map during the 1988 Winter Olympics which was hosted by what was then a relatively small city in North America. Calgary is now the 3rd largest city in Canada, by population, and has enjoyed much growth through the 90’s and beyond. Much like Vancouver, part of the draw to Calgary is the presence of Banff and the amazing ski slopes that are part of the mountain range there.
Best for those who – ‘Want an authentic, Western Canadian experience…’ – You get the real feel of the old west when you are in Calgary, as is the American influence across much of Western Canada. The city provides much in the way of attractions (see below) but the allure of Calgary and Banff is somewhat down to the latter being less busy than neighbouring (neighbouring relative to Canada anyway…) Whistler.
Must see attractions – The Canada Olympic Park is a tribute to the 1988 games (famous for the Jamaican bobsleigh team, amongst other things…) and is a must see. The Calgary zoo houses around 1,400 different species… 1,400! All in areas to simulate their natural habitat. The Calgary Tower provides a spectacular 360 degree view of this bustling city.
Picking a winner here is tough but I would have to say that Vancouver had a certain charm that really appealed to me. Not to mention the glorious mountains a stones throw away… Have you been inspired to experience some authentic Canadian hospitality? Then head over to our Canadian flights page to check out the low cost prices on flights. A trip to Canada is certainly an experience you will want to repeat again and again.