17 Best Places to Visit in Canada
As we all know, there is a time and a place for everything. However, when it comes to the 17 best places to visit in Canada, anytime is the right time. This vast country is home to one of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes on the planet. Encompassing vast areas of pristine wilderness where bears and arctic animals thrive, alongside bustling sophisticated cities, Canada truly offers something for everyone. Originally home to the Paleo-Indians thousands of years ago, Canada has attracted a melting-pot of people from all over the world. Each of these colonizing countries brought with them their unique cultures, all of which have contributed to making Canada the vibrant and interesting place it is today. They also brought their fabulous food – which means culinary diversity reigns supreme!
Many visitors come to admire world-class museums, galleries and music venues in the cities, but it is by far the great outdoor opportunities which attract most tourists. Resort towns like Banff and Whistler are world-famous skiing destinations and incomparable national parks get you up close to diverse wildlife, towering mountains and azure glacial lakes. Then there are quaint islands with miles of beaches and extraordinary water sports waiting to tempt you.
Each of these destinations is very special in its own way which is why we have decided to list them alphabetically.
1. Banff, Alberta
The resort town of Banff lies nestled in the foothills of Canada’s famous Rocky Mountain region in Alberta. The town is surrounded by the Banff National Park, which is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful wilderness areas on Earth. Banff offers easy access to vast expanses of pristine wilderness where towering snow-capped mountains drop dramatically down to meet shimmering turquoise glacial lakes. You can try your hand at all types of snow-sports in winter or enjoy hiking, paddling, wildlife watching, scenic drives and gondola rides in summer. Banff offers something for everyone – sumptuous hotels and spas, excellent shopping and dining and a vibrant resort atmosphere.
2. Calgary, Alberta
From cow-town to boom town, Calgary has undergone a series of metamorphoses since it was established back in 1875 as an outpost for the Mounted Police. The arrival of the railway in the late 1880’s made the city famous as a cattle trading center. Then came the discovery of natural gas in 1914. After this Calgary gradually shrugged its cow-town image and embraced its new identity as one of Canada’s leading cities. Must-see attractions include several excellent museums, galleries, the Calgary Zoo and WinSport, venue of the 1988 Winter Olympics. The annual Calgary Stampede is a 9-day Rodeo festival which celebrates the city’s earlier cattle-ranging heritage – don’t miss it!
3. Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton Island is home to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, one of Canada’s most scenic destinations. Jaw-dropping scenery includes endless vistas of emerald-green fir-covered mountains dipping down to meet the brilliant blue Atlantic. The Cabot Trail is a 298km scenic highway which carves its way through the extraordinary mountain landscape. Along the way it exposes kilometers of rugged shoreline, quant fishing villages and a vast inland sea. Hikers can explore a network of scenic 26 trails. Other popular activities include cycling, motor-cycling, boating, fishing, culinary adventures and cultural visits. In winter you can enjoy a wide range of snow sports.
4. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador
Named for the imposing, stand-alone mountain which it surrounds, Gros Morne (large mountain in French) National Park is located on the west coast of Newfoundland. The park protects some of the world’s most unique rock formations which were caused by movements of the earth’s crust. Gros Morne is a wonderland for anyone interested in geology, while everyone else goes there to enjoy the unusual landscape. Here you can admire desert-like areas contrasting with lush wildlife-filled forests and a glacial fjord. Hiking, camping and wildlife watching are the most popular activities – there are more than 20 marked trails including one which will take you to the summit of Gros Morne. This is a challenging hike which will earn you great bragging rights!
5. Halifax, Nova Scotia
The city of Halifax owes its existence to its location on one of the world’s largest ice-free natural harbors. The town was originally settled by the French in the 1600’s and then taken over by the British in 1713. After that it was constantly involved in territorial battles for fishing and fur trading rights. Halifax also has a rich maritime history and was a navy and military base during both World Wars. As you can expect, there are plenty of attractions for visitors. You could start by exploring the vibrant Waterfront and visiting the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Then move on to the poignant Africville Museum, before abandoning history for some fun. Try whale-watching cruises, harbor cruises, brewery and distillery tours, shopping and dining on the freshest Atlantic lobster.
6. Jasper National Park, Alberta
Jasper National Park in Alberta is home to Mount Columbia, the regions tallest mountain. The massif towers majestically above the azure waters of Maligne Lake, one of the largest glacial-fed lakes in the world. Nature lovers and adventure seekers come from all corners to explore the park and her wildlife. Here you can observe a wide variety of wildlife including grizzly and black bears, elk, deer and mountain goats –have your camera and checklist ready! Must-do activities include hiking (there are 745 miles of trails) and riding the Jasper Sky Train. You can get a unique view of the area from the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk. Other exciting add-ons include a glacier adventure on the Columbia Icefields and/or a boat tour to Spirit Island.
7. Mont-Tremblant, Quebec
Located in the beautiful Laurentian Mountains northwest of Montreal, Mont-Tremblant is a year-round outdoor recreational area. This is a place where you can re-connect with nature in its purest form. The fir-clad mountains dip down to embrace multiple rivers, lakes and streams. This mountainous splendor provides the breathtaking backdrop to the Mont-Tremblant Ski resort. Here you can choose from over 102 skiing slopes for all ability levels. Cross-country skiing, fat-biking, guided alpine tours and snow-shoeing all form part of the coveted Mont-Tremblant winter experience. In summer you have access to the Parc National du Mont-Tremblant for scenic hiking and biking, golfing, fishing, water sports and horse-back riding.
8. Montreal, Quebec
Canada’s second largest city will enchant you with its amazing marriage of old and new and its melting-pot of cultures. The city was first settled by French colonists, followed by the English, Scottish and Irish! As you walk along the delightful cobbled streets of Old Montreal, it is easy to imagine that you are in Europe. The historic architecture would be perfectly at home in Paris and you will hear French spoken all over the city. Modern Montreal, by contrast, is a bustling city of skyscrapers and sophisticated tourist attractions. You can learn about the origins of the city by visiting the Pointe-a-Calliere Archaeology and History Complex and MEM, the Montreal History Center. Don’t leave without trying Poutine, the city’s signature culinary curiosity.
9. Niagara Falls, Ontario
A winning combination of height and flow rate makes the Niagara Falls one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world. The falls form a spectacular horse-shoe shape as they spill thousands of cubic meters of water over the crestline every minute. It is a mesmerizing sight, enhanced by the startling green color of the mineral-rich water. A boat trip on the Maid of the Mist will bring you up close to the thundering spray – raincoat recommended! Other exciting options include an elevator trip to the caves behind the falls or a bird’s eye view from a helicopter. Afterwards, you can visit a winery, go hiking at the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve or tempt Lady Luck at the casino.
10. Ottawa, Ontario
Canada’s vibrant capital city is a must on any visitors’ travel itinerary. Overlooking the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill will astound you with its amazing Gothic Revival architecture. The downtown area is filled modern buildings which are home to world-class museums, art galleries, boutiques and eateries. The city is easy to explore on foot – you can join a free guided walking tour of the city highlights. If you visit in Jan/February you can join the locals as they have ice-skating fun on one of the world’s largest outdoor rinks on the frozen Rideau Canal. Discover some of the unique flavors and aromas of the city on a guided Tasting Tour for foodies.
11. Prince Edward Island
Located off the coast of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island beckons adventure seekers and nature lovers. Here you can leave the city behind and embrace the idyllic island life. The island is Canada’s smallest province, and has much to offer visitor. You can spend your days exploring the rolling hills and unique red-sand beaches by car or bicycle along miles and miles of peaceful coastal roads. The island is dotted with picturesque little fishing towns and quirky harbors and inlets. Set aside time to find the many excellent places to eat fresh seafood. Prince Edwards Island is the setting for the famous Anne of Green Gables books and many fans come to the island specifically to visit the Green Gables Heritage Place.
12. Quebec City, Quebec
Quebec City has a unique charm and identity which set it apart from other Canadian Cities. You will notice a distinct European ambiance as you explore the city’s fortified colonial center, which dates back to 1608. At the heart of Old Quebec (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) you will find the famous Chateau Frontenac Hotel. This towering fairy-tale castle is reportedly the most photographed hotel in the world. The Chateau and the Citadelle, the largest British fortress in North America, are both well-worth a visit. Other highlights include the Basilica of Notre Dame de Quebec and the Montmorency Falls. If you dare you can admire the falls from the overhead suspension bridge, cable-car or zip-line.
13. Toronto, Ontario
The sprawling city of Toronto spreads itself out along the picturesque north-western shore of Lake Ontario. At the core of the city you will find a handful of skyscrapers and the city’s iconic CN Tower (get a great overview of the entire city and beyond from the viewing deck). Toronto’s diverse population hails from all over the world. This means you can have fun exploring enclaves like Little India, Chinatown and Greektown – all of which offer colorful and vibrant dining options. Must-see attractions include the Toronto Islands (for beaches, hiking and more), the Distillery District (for history, shopping and dining) and the Royal Ontario Museum.
14. Vancouver, British Colombia
Nestled along the edge of the Pacific Ocean in British Colombia, the coastal city of Vancouver combines the best of outdoor recreational activities with vibrant cultural city experiences. There are several museums and historic neighborhoods to explore – don’t miss Gastown, Chinatown and Yaletown. Wherever you go in the city you will be close to water and water sports are available all over. Then there are the beaches – long expanses of inviting soft white sand await you. Hikers are spoiled for choice with more than 20 exciting hiking trails near the city. You can get a great overview of Vancouver and Vancouver Island from Grouse Mountain – using the cable car is the most scenic way to get there.
15. Victoria, British Columbia
Located on the southern-most tip of beautiful Vancouver Island, British Colombia’s capital city Victoria is a joy to explore. For a start, this little slice of heaven has the mildest climate in Canada. This means there is a lot more time to explore her rugged coastline, beaches and other outdoor recreational activities. As the oldest city in the Pacific Northwest, Victoria is blessed with a wealth of historic attractions. In addition you will find fabulous museums and galleries. When you need a break from history and culture you can take a stroll through the world-famous Butchart Botanical Gardens. Other popular activities include hiking or biking along Galloping Goose Trail or scenic Harbor or Whale-watching cruises.
16. Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler is known for offering year-round action-packed adventures. Backed by the snow-covered Coastal Mountains, Whistler is home to the largest ski resort in North America on Blackcomb Mountain. This winter wonderland offers every winter sport activity known to man! In addition to 200 slopes, served by 37 lifts, the area boasts 4 terrain parks, a snow-cross track and a super pipe. Whistler is known for its great atmosphere and lively Après-Ski scene! When the snow has melted outdoor enthusiasts come to enjoy the summer activities. These include Whistler Mountain Bike Park (with lifts to carry bikers up the mountain) and 5 brilliant golf courses. In addition both easy and challenging hiking trails, whitewater rafting, fishing, dog-sledding and ATV tours are also available.
17. Whitehorse, Yukon
The former gold-rush town of Whitehorse lies nestled along the banks of the Yukon River. Here the town provides an ideal base for exploring a vast recreational playground of mountains, canyons, valleys, forests, glaciers and deserts. In summer you can spend your days hiking a network of fabulous trails. Bikers can take in the splendor of the tapestry-like landscape along various bike trails. Other summer activities include kayaking, camping and relaxing in the Hot Springs at Takhini. When the first snows fall the area is transformed into a winter wonderland. Now is the time to try many winter sports including dog-sledding, snow-shoeing and skiing. Late summer and early winter visitors may be lucky enough to witness the brilliance of the famous Northern Lights, a natural spectacle like no other on earth.
Have we succeeded in whetting your appetite for seeing these 17 best places to visit in Canada? Rest assured that what we have described is just the frosting on the cake! A remarkable experience awaits you in Canada’s sophisticated cities and pristine wilderness areas. Seize the day and start planning an unforgettable trip to Canada right now!