We begin our journey in the North, with Canada’s three territories. Moving from West to East, you will find the Yukon (which borders on Alaska), Northwest, and Nunavut territories. These territories are all north of the 60th parallel, and are the least populated areas within Canada. Nunavut is the newest territory, separated from the Northwest Territories on April 1st 1999, and represents the first major change to the Canadian map since 1949. Nunavut represents one fifth of all of Canada’s landmass.
The Canadian Prairie provinces are situated between BC and Ontario – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. These provinces are flat, and covered in grasslands, plains, and lowlands. The land of the prairies is exceptionally fertile, and these provinces contain over 90% of Canada’s arable farmland. Alberta is less hospitable to farming, so settlers used the land mainly for cattle ranching. Manitoba has the least amount of prairie land, as it is also partially covered with the boreal forest.
Ontario is the most populous province, hosting just fewer than 40% of the entire population of Canada. Most of that population lives in Southern Ontario, concentrated around the United States border. Ontario’s waterways, including its connection with four of the five Great Lakes, link it with shipping routes on the east coast and beyond. Ontario’s landscape is more diverse than the other provinces, and includes rolling hills, flat lands, a portion of the boreal forest, and over 250,000 lakes. These lakes alone account for one-fifth of the world’s freshwater supply.
Toronto’s rich history and incredibly diverse population fuel its position as a leader in business, finance, technology, entertainment, and culture. The city welcomes the most newcomers among Canadian cities, taking in 118,000 immigrants in 2019.
With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that Toronto is the 29th most visited city in the world, and sees over 27.5 million visitors annually.
History of Toronto
Toronto was originally home to trading posts, set up by the French and later the British. The area was the site of the important Battle of York during the War of 1812, before the city was incorporated in 1834.
In January of 1998, the city amalgamated with the smaller surrounding municipalities, and became a “megacity,” making it then the fifth most populous city in North America. Since then, it has moved into fourth place ahead of Chicago.
Toronto is the capital of Ontario, and the largest city in Canada by population. More than 25% of Canada’s population lives within a 160km radius.
Located at the western end of Lake Ontario, the city proper has a population of 2.7 million, while the amalgamated region known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) hosts 6.4 million people. Toronto has its own stock exchange, museums and galleries, and attracts more than 43 million tourists per year.
Toronto is an exceptionally multicultural city, with half of the population having been born outside of Canada. 30% of Toronto residents speak a language besides French or English, and it’s estimated that over 160 languages are spoken within the city.
Toronto is a well-educated city, with over 40% of adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher and 20% with a college certificate. It is the largest centre of education, research, and innovation in Canada.
The post-secondary institutions within Toronto include: Centennial College, George Brown College, Humber College, OCAD University, Ryerson University, Seneca College, University of Toronto, and York University. The University of Toronto is the most prestigious university in Canada, and ranks 18th in the world.
Toronto is one of Canada’s premier destinations, and there are plenty of things to see and do for residents and tourists alike.
The CN Tower is an iconic building that can be seen from anywhere in the city, even from as far away as Niagara Falls. It is one of the Modern Seven Wonders of the World, and was until 2007 the world’s tallest free-standing structure. It’s a wonderful place to go to get a 360 degree view of the city.
Toronto Island is a popular destination for residents during the summer. There are no vehicles allowed on the 15 small islands, which are only accessible by ferry or pedestrian tunnel. Toronto Island hosts plenty of recreational trails, as well as an amusement park, petting zoo, and four beaches.
With large outdoor markets, French style parks and architecture, and 300 year old cathedrals, Montreal feels a lot like being in Europe. It boasts more international events and festivals than any other city in North America, and sees more than 10 million tourists per year.
The name Montreal comes from one of the three mountain peaks located west of Downtown, “Mount Royal.” The entire city is built around the mountain, and no other building (with one exception) can be built any higher than the mountain.
Montreal is located on the main waterway of the Saint Lawrence River, giving easy access to the Atlantic shipping routes, allowing Montreal to become a central location for manufacturing and transportation.
Old Montreal was founded in 1642, and this area survives as a tourist quarter in Montreal. There is a large boardwalk that hosts restaurants, boutique shopping, and galleries. Here you can find the large gothic revival style basilica of Notre Dame, which is the oldest church in Canada.
Most of the city is centered on the Island of Montreal, situated where the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa rivers meet, however some of the population spills over onto the other smaller nearby islands.
Montreal is the second most populous city in Canada, hosting more than 1.7 million people. Like many other large metropolitan areas, Montreal has amalgamated with nearby smaller cities, which brings its population up to 1.9 million.
The city’s official language is French, however over 57% of the population can speak both French and English. About 20% of the population speak English as their preferred language at home.
Montreal’s economy is the second largest of the Canadian cities, and lists its key sectors as aerospace, visual effects and animation, video games, and artificial intelligence.
The city of Montreal welcomes more than 18,000 foreign students each year from over 150 countries. There are four world-class universities to choose from – McGill University, Concordia University, University of Montreal, and UQAM. McGill is considered one of the best global universities, ranking #51.
Things to Do in Montreal
Given Montreal’s diverse range of events, parks, and attractions, there are no shortage of things to do.
Montreal is home to the second largest amusement park in Canada, La Ronde, which was built for Expo 67. Today you can ride on a total of 40 attractions, including 8 rollercoasters.
There are a total of 21 large parks within the city, making up 4,900 acres of greenspace. The most famous, Mount Royal Park, was designed by the same architect that is responsible for New York City’s Central Park.
From the top of Mount Royal, you will notice that only one building stands as high as the mountain. That is Saint Joseph’s Oratory, and it is Canada’s largest church. Founded in 1904 by Brother André, the oratory hosts more than 2 million visitors and pilgrims yearly.
One other park worth a visit is Parc Olympique, which was a central location for the 1976 Summer Olympics. The tower located within the park is the tallest incline structure in the world. The park also is home to a large Biodome and the Montreal Botanical Gardens.
Calgary is a beautiful city that honours its traditions, but has kept pace with modern culture. Here you will find a booming economy, diverse population, and plenty of western hospitality.
In the 1970s, another commodity brought a large population to Calgary – Oil. The first oil boom happened in the 1940s, when over 700 oil and gas companies cropped up. However when the price of oil skyrocketed three decades later, Calgary’s population increased by a third to keep up with the demand on the oil rigs.
Calgary is located in the province of Alberta, where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet. It is within the foothills, and only 80 kilometres west of the Rocky Mountains.
Calgary is the 4th largest city in Canada, and the most populous city in Alberta. There are more than 400,000 immigrants living in Calgary, accounting for one-third of the workforce.
Though it is not the capital city (Edmonton is the 5th largest city, and is just 299 km north of Calgary), it is a popular city to live in due to a good job market, low sales tax, and excess of outdoor activities. It has one of the fastest rates of employment growth in the country. Calgary was also named the world’s cleanest city by Forbes in 2007.
Education is an important part of Calgary’s economic development strategy. Class sizes are capped to just fewer than 23 students, and every student from pre-school to special needs get individual attention.
Calgary is also home to a number of post-secondary institutions, including the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University. The university of Calgary boasts 14 faculties, with more than 250 programs, and is ranked as the 9th best university in Canada.
Things to Do in Calgary
Whether you are looking for an authentic western experience, or just a quick getaway into nature, Calgary has you covered.
Calgary’s Heritage Park Historical Village is Canada’s largest living history museum, where you can learn about Calgary’s oil and stampede heritage. Close by you will find Canada’s largest zoo, which hosts 900 animals, including those from Canadian Wilds. It’s the best spot in Calgary to see grizzly bears, snow leopards, and bison up close.
The Bow River pathway is a 48 kilometre stretch where you can walk, cycle, or jog. Built in 1975, the paths connect you to the Elbow River, as well as other areas of the city.
The Calgary Stampede is a must-see event in Calgary, called the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. The event seeks to preserve western heritage in Calgary, and the 10-day-long event features classic rodeo shows such as bucking broncos and trick riding.
Vancouver really has the best of all worlds in terms of its access to a variety of activities. You can easily visit beaches, see the ocean, explore the rainforest, or hike a mountain, all within a few miles of this metropolitan city.
History of Vancouver
Vancouver was originally named “Gastown” after a local bar owner and Gastown remains one of the neighbourhoods within the larger city. In 1886 the city was incorporated and renamed Vancouver.
The city has a long history of immigration, as a huge influx of workers was required to complete construction projects such as the Canadian Pacific Railway. Many of these workers were Asian and Indian. As a result, over 50% of Vancouver’s population today is of a visible minority, and 30% have Chinese heritage.
Vancouver sits on the southwest corner of the province of British Columbia, making it one of Canada’s warmest cities in the winter. It has a population just under 631,000 people, giving it the highest population density in Canada. More than 5,400 people live within each square kilometre on average. Surprisingly, it ranks with the third highest quality of living in the world.
Over 50% of its residents speak English as a second language, and belong to visible minority groups. In fact, there are over 200 ethnic groups who identify within Vancouver, and it ranks behind only Toronto as the most diverse city in the country. Just over 40% of the population are immigrants.
Over 10 million tourists visit Vancouver annually, making tourism its second-largest industry bringing in 14 billion per year, or 104,000 full time jobs. The city also has a large film production industry, with over 100 productions shot on location each year, including Deadpool and Star Trek.
Vancouver hosts five universities, all with unique areas of study. The two largest universities, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, both have global reputations and host over 85,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
The Emily Carr University of Art and Design focuses on visual and performing arts, and has just over 1,600 full time undergraduates.
Things to Do in Vancouver
Vancouver is a city of neighbourhoods, and city planners throughout its history have ensured that greenspace and open spaces are factored into the city’s design. There are more parks in Vancouver than any other city in the world.
One of the best places to visit is Granville Island, which is a reclaimed industrial space. You will find art studios, shops, restaurants, and a large public market encompassing 6 buildings. You can take the ferry out to the island for the afternoon.
Another greenspace located in the heart of Vancouver is Stanley Park, which at 1000 acres is larger than New York’s Central Park. Around the park is a Seawall, a 5.5 mile uninterrupted waterfront path. Within the park you can visit the Vancouver Aquarium, Canada’s largest aquarium and the fifth largest in North America.
Vancouver has a thriving art scene, and has some of the top art galleries and artist run spaces in the country. Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery, which has over 9,000 pieces, or the Museum of Anthropology, which contains over 10,000 artifacts of First Nations Peoples.
With some of the best public healthcare insurance, a diverse population, and a superb education system, it’s no wonder that so many people are making Canada their home. Large cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver are expanding at an exponential rate. Toronto was ranked #1 for population growth in North America in 2019, growing by 77,000 residents from 2018-2019.
While there are some great urban centers to make your home, many new immigrants are reconsidering heading to these largely populated urban areas. And within Canada, there are lots of cities that offer the convenience of a large metropolitan area, without the crowding and higher price tag. We’ve picked the top 5 places to live in Canada, outside of urban centers.
Burlington often ranks high on lists of the best cities in Canada to live, and was even named the best community in Canada by Maclean’s Magazine in 2019. Burlington is well located between the Hamilton-Niagara region and Toronto, so commuting to either larger city is an option. It remains more affordable than Toronto, hosts art and music festivals throughout the year, and is just a 15 minute drive from some agricultural areas.
There are so many things about Canada that make it a great place to live. It ranks above average in education, job opportunities, and environmental quality on the Better Life Index, and welcomes over
300,000 new immigrants annually.
Canada is also home to some beautiful cities. While many of these places, like Montreal and Toronto, are popular destinations, there are a few hidden gems throughout the country that not everyone knows about.
You may not have known about these places before, but now that you do, you’ll definitely want to visit these 5 Canadian cities you didn’t know about!
Just outside Calgary, nestled in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, is the resort town of Banff. It is located within Banff National Park, Canada’s first National Park, and is easily accessible on the TransCanada Highway. This town gives you an up-close look at some of the most awe inspiring mountain views, and the opportunities for outdoor adventures are endless. Take a scenic drive from Banff to Lake Louise, explore one of the 140 local hiking trails, or enjoy a dip in the natural mineral water hot springs.
Halifax, Nova Scotia