Canada is a mighty place, and home to plenty of fabulous cities. Here is an overview of some of the most intriguing and unmissable metropolises to include in your North American adventure.
Toronto is often called the New York of Canada, due to its ‘big city’ feel and a population to match! The brightly lit CN tower, which springs high into the sky, characterizes the city’s skyline, and it is the second tallest freestanding structure in the world, after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Toronto is known for being one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, with over half the population of the city being born outside of Canada, meaning it is a hotbed for an amazing abundance of cuisine and in some neighborhoods, public signs are written in several languages. Old Toronto is the downtown district at the heart of the city. It lies on the shore of Lake Ontario and the promenade down by the ferry docks is the perfect place to enjoy a bicycle ride for a spectacular view once night falls. Toronto retains its streetcar (tram) system, which makes for a unique way to discover the different districts, which each possess completely unique atmospheres. Shopping is a must in Canada, especially in the cold winter months where Toronto’s abundant malls are the best place to shelter from the icy conditions.
For Gothic architecture and old-world grandeur, Ottawa is the perfect antidote to the more modern of Canada’s great cities. During the long winters, the canal that weaves through the city is a frozen commuter highway, with many Ottawa citizens ice-skating to and from work and school. Ottawa is a city that encourages outdoor pursuits, with Ice Sculpture festivals and museums so inspiring that they are worth braving the weather to visit. It sits on the Ottawa River and is known for being a bilingual city, with residents speaking both French and English and is nowadays home to a growing high-tech business sector. Gatineau Park, just across the river from the city center is a must-see all year round for nature lovers, where you can take part in a number of outdoor pursuits or simply enjoy the changing colors of the leaves in the Autumn. The citizens of Ottawa love their coffee houses, so be sure to pass some time soaking up the culture in one of the local coffee shops.
Dedicated to celebrating the arts, Montreal has an almost constant schedule of cultural events, from a famous International Jazz festival to Cinema events and theatrical extravaganzas. Aside from year-round festivities, foodies will rejoice at the cities abundance of cuisine options, from quirky bars to late night eateries. Winter is probably the best time to visit to get a real slice of what makes the locals tick. As the nights draw in, the people of Montreal head out to the plentiful cozy pubs, the authentic Christmas markets and to while away the afternoon in the many design museums that showcase the talent this city has for pushing the boundaries of contemporary design. Don’t miss out on the famous Sugar Shacks that appear in the colder months, offering sweet treats during maple syrup season. Alternatively, escape the cold at the Biodome Nature Reserve, where the artificial tropical temperature is home to fascinating wildlife, under a huge glass-roofed dome.
The official capital city of the Quebec Province, Quebec retains, more than any other city, the French romance that you might expect to find in France itself. It is one of the oldest European settlements in North American, which is seen in its Old Town, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and likened to a living museum. You may forget you’re in Canada at all as you pass traditional bistros and 17th-century architecture. Cobbled back streets are covered in a sea of café tables, urging you to take a stop from your sightseeing for a delicious pastry and a coffee. Quebec is a hilly city, so don’t miss out on a Funicular ride to help you get your bearings and move between the Upper and Lower Town. The must-see attraction is the Chateau Frontenac, a hotel so beautiful it is claimed to be the most photographed hotel in North America. You can even pop in for a drink to soak up the Old World grandeur!
Visit these cities, and more on our exciting Coast to Coast Explorer tour of Canada.