Canada's 10 Most Famous Cities

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    Canadian Cool

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    ••• Vancouver (left), Calgary and Quebec City.

    The most famous cities in Canada cover a range of destination types that reflect the diversity of the country. They range from sophisticated urban adventures, like Toronto or Montreal, to more laid-back destinations, like Victoria, British Columbia. Whatever kind of vacation is your favorite, you'll find it in one of these cool Canadian cities.

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  • 02 of 11

    Toronto, Ontario

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    ••• Aerial view of Toronto with CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Lake Ontario in the background. Photo © Sylvain Grandadam / Getty Images

    Often mistaken as Canada's national capital, which is actually Ottawa, Toronto is probably Canada's best-known city, in large part because of the hubbub around the Toronto International Film Festival, the sky-high CN Tower, and major sports franchises like the Blue Jays, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Raptors.

    Toronto is a bustling, multicultural metropolis, with large swaths of distinct populations and neighborhoods that include Greek, Italian, and Korean and the second largest Chinatown in North America. Toronto is also the country's financial center and has lots of men in expensive blue suits swaggering around its downtown. 

    In addition to all the urban finery of a major city (museums, great shopping, and live theater), Toronto has ready access to miles and miles of Lake Ontario waterfront as well as three rivers that intersect the city and provide a respite by way of trails and parks. 

    Toronto is less than two hours from both the U.S. border and Niagara Falls and within two or three...MORE hours of Ontario's cottage country and loads of provincial parks.

     

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  • 03 of 11

    Vancouver, British Columbia

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    ••• Aerial view of Vancouver with False Creek in the foreground and Vancouver Mountains in the background. Photo © David Nunuk / Getty Images

    Vancouver is where the ocean meets the mountains. Aside from spectacular natural beauty, this British Columbia coastal metropolis has a laid-back charm that makes it one of the most popular Canadian cities to visit.

    A great destination in its own right, Vancouver is also a gateway to all sorts of nearby adventures, including Whistler/Blackcomb ski resort, and numerous islands off the coast. Vancouver is also a port stop for about a million people on cruise ships, most often headed for Alaska.

    Vancouver has a modern airport, the Vancouver International Airport, about 20 minutes away from downtown, and boasts an exceptional public transportation system. The city is less than three hours from Seattle.

     

     

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  • 04 of 11

    Montreal, Quebec

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    ••• Old Montreal is a popular tourist draw during the summer. Photo © Derek Trask / Getty Images

    French and English are the main influences in Montreal, but this unique Canadian city is truly international. Montreal has an energy and joie de vivre found only in the world’s best cities. 

    The biggest draw in Montreal is the city's Old Town, which is a central neighborhood close to the water that is preserved in much of its original state and filled with French flair. The 17th-century architecture and cobblestone streets will have you wondering if you traveled to Europe by mistake. 

    Though Montreal is officially a French-speaking city, as is the province of Quebec, many of its residents, especially those in the retail and hospitality industries, also speak English.

    Right up until the 1970s, Montreal was Canada's economic center until Toronto took the helm. Many important buildings and landmarks remain, including 50 National Historic Sites of Canada. 

     

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  • 05 of 11

    Niagara Falls, Ontario

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    ••• Niagara Falls with rainbow and Hornblower Boat Cruise. Photo © Brian Lawrence / Getty Images

    Although the main draw to Niagara Falls, Canada, is the waterfalls, the surrounding area also has much to offer. The Niagara wine region and the Shaw Festival are just two more reasons to visit.

    Niagara Falls, Ontario, on the Canadian side (Niagara Falls, N.Y., is on the U.S. side) has been historically known as a honeymoon destination, attracting millions of newlyweds or just plain passionate couples each year. 

    In the 2000s, Niagara Falls upped its game with the addition of a shiny new casino resort, which in turn brought finer restaurants and shops, as well as big-name stage acts. These days, Niagara Falls is especially alluring to families, with hotels, restaurants, and attractions all geared toward this demographic. 

    There are two main tourist areas: Fallsview at the mouth of Canada's Horseshoe Falls and Clifton Hill about a mile away. The two are connected by a promenade that runs along the brink of the Niagara Gorge, but both are gimmicky, neon-filled, and charmless. Clifton...MORE Hill has tourist shops, a mini-putt, haunted house, Ferris wheel, more than one water park, and other ways to empty your wallet. 

    That said, the falls themselves are spectacular to behold, and the Hornblower Boat Cruise brings you right into the spray, so you get a sense of the water's intense power.

    But as far as value? Check out the surrounding region, especially Niagara-on-the-Lake, for a more local, authentic experience.

     

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  • 06 of 11

    Victoria, British Columbia

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    ••• Victoria, British Columbia, Parliament Building illuminated for Christmas. Photo © Bill Grove / Getty Images

    This capital city of British Columbia is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, which is confusingly not home to the City of Vancouver. Victoria is a charming harbor city that is a gateway to all the wonderful towns, inlets, coves, and Pacific Ocean scenery that is Vancouver Island

    With a rich history dating back to the 1840s when the city was established as a trading port, Victoria also has provenance as an aboriginal community, a mining town, and economic hub. Today, people can still enjoy well-preserved 19th- and early 20th-century architecture, most dramatically by way of the Parliament Buildings and the Fairmont Empress Hotel, both of which are postured on the city's scenic and iconic Inner Harbor. 

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    Halifax, Nova Scotia

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    ••• Dusk in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Darwin Wiggett / Getty Images

    Nova Scotia's capital city has the amenities of a big city but the charm of a smaller town. Part of Halifax's allure is the hospitality of the people, something for which the whole Maritime region is famous. More of the city's charm can be attributed to an oceanside location, rugged shorelines, sandy beaches, nearby fishing villages, and historic architecture. Halifax is rumored to have more bars per capita than any other Canadian city. Even if this is not technically true, it does have a serious presence of convivial drinking establishments.

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  • 08 of 11

    Quebec City, Quebec

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    ••• Quebec City at dusk, with Chateau Frontenac sitting prominently above the St. Lawrence River. Photo © David Sanger / Getty Images

     Quebec City offers an experience unlike any other in North America.  Quebec City’s ​Old Town itself is a work of art, with its cobblestone walkways, well-preserved 17th-century architecture, cafe culture, and the only North American fortress walls that still exist north of Mexico. For all these reasons it has been awarded status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. French is still the prevalent language spoken in Quebec, which adds allure to this already appealing town. But you don't need to rush to learn French before your visit. Staff members at many restaurants, hotels, and shops also speak English. 

    Quebec is situated at the most narrow point of the St. Lawrence River, and much of the Old Town sits high above the water, capped by the famous Chateau Frontenac. This dramatic location was well-suited for the city's early role as a military fortification, many aspects of which can still be seen today. 

    Quebec is a jovial city and manageable in size, especially, if like many tourists, you...MORE stick to the Old Town, though there is plenty more to see. And the fun continues year-round by way of festivals like Winter Carnival, Summer Festival, and New France Festival

     

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    Calgary, Alberta

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    ••• Calgary skyline, Alberta. Photo © Jim Boud / Getty Images

    The Calgary Stampede put this Alberta city on the map, and the city's role as the first Canadian host of the Winter Olympics in 1988 solidified its place as one of Canada's top destinations. The Old West spirit is alive and well in Calgary, where cowboy hats and line dancing are always in fashion.

    Calgary is Alberta's biggest city and has all the hospitality options such as hotels, restaurants, and other niceties that accompany a flush urban center. You'll have no trouble finding a great place to stay and wonderful eats in Calgary.

    Calgary has enjoyed great prosperity since the 1990s and has grown significantly. Calgary's proximity to Banff, the Rocky Mountains, ice fields, and other natural sensations is a big part of the city's draw. 

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    Ottawa, Ontario

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    ••• Ottawa, Ontario, is the capital of Canada. Photo © Image Source / Getty Images

    Though Toronto and Montreal are better known, Ottawa is Canada's capital city. And it is a charming city to visit with its cultured but friendly atmosphere. Much of Ottawa’s allure is because it's a well-planned city that is pedestrian-friendly and human in scale. The many historic buildings, most prominently the Parliament Building and the Chateau Laurier, are lovingly preserved. One of the most famous landmarks in Ottawa is the Rideau Canal, which cuts through the city and in below-freezing temperatures turns into the world's biggest skating rink. 

     

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    Edmonton, Alberta

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    ••• Edmonton, Alberta. Photo © Miles Ertman / Getty Images

    Edmonton is not necessarily a destination that people choose but more somewhere you happen to end up because you are in between places or are there on business. Not to say there isn't stuff to do when you're there. In fact, Edmonton has made a name for itself as a city of festivals, the two most famous being the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.

    Good or bad, Edmonton also has the distinction of being home to the world's largest shopping mall, the West Edmonton Mall. Locals confess to rarely frequenting the massive structure that houses a hotel, roller coaster, and water park, but visitors abound. 

    Edmonton is also known as the Gateway to the North, with ready access to Jasper and the Rocky Mountains as well as Canada's northern territories, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon.