Canada is often associated with the Rocky Mountains, pristine forests, and long distances between urban centres, but did you know three of its cities are considered the best cities to live in the world?
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index 2022 ranked the best places to live in the world, and out of 172 cities, it rated three Canadian cities in the top ten. The criteria measured five categories: stability, healthcare, culture & entertainment, education, and infrastructure.
Whether you are looking for adventures in the wilderness or sophisticated urban exploits, Canada has a variety of cities to welcome you. A day in Canada might include a luxurious stay in high-end hotels, visiting iconic museums and historical landmarks, but still being within an hour’s drive to the wilderness.
From the Atlantic provinces to Central Canada, the prairies, and the Rocky Mountains, you can enjoy many different experiences in these Canadian cities.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
St. John’s is a vibrant and picturesque city with a rich cultural heritage. Its location on the eastern edge of Canada provides a unique and beautiful natural setting with rugged coastlines, rolling hills, and sparkling blue waters. The city has a lively arts and music scene, with many festivals and events celebrating its cultural diversity throughout the year.
St. John’s is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with many bars, restaurants, and pubs that showcase the city’s friendly and welcoming spirit. The city’s low crime rate makes it a safe place to live and visit.
As the provincial capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s is a hub of economic and cultural activity. It is home to the Memorial University of Newfoundland, the only university in the province and a top-ranked Canadian institution.
Things to Do in St. John’s
- Visit Quidi Vidi Village.
- Have a pint and listen to live music on George Street.
- Go to Signal Hill, where Marconi received the first wireless message.
- Watch icebergs float by Cape Spears.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The gateway to Cape Breton Island, Peggy’s Cove, and other Maritime Provinces (Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick), this provincial capital has so many exciting places to visit. Haligonians are some of the friendliest people in any Canadian city.
Halifax, the provincial capital of Nova Scotia, is home to the Citadel and Fort McNab, two forts guarding Halifax Harbour. The city used to be the gateway to Canada and welcomed thousands of immigrants to the country. Its affordability and casual lifestyle make it attractive to university students and families.
Things to Do in Halifax
- Stand on the massive boulders at Peggy’s Cove.
- Watch the changing of the guard at The Citadel.
- Visit one of many local breweries and cideries.
- Visit the historic Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
Quebec City, Quebec
Quebec City is a beautiful and historic destination located in the province of Quebec, and it is the second oldest city in Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The appeal of this French-speaking province is its unique food, warm French Canadian culture, and stunning architecture. A prime example is the iconic Chateau Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world. It is a grand castle-like hotel perched atop the city’s highest point.
During the summer, walk the ramparts of Old Quebec, which date back to the 1600s, stay in a nunnery, or explore cobblestone streets and historic sites. In July, on the Plains of Abraham, stay for the 11-day Festival d’été de Québec to hear world-class bands. Past performers include U2, Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lemar, and The Weeknd.
You can visit this provincial capital year-round, with The Quebec Winter Carnival kicking off each February in the city center.
Things to Do in Quebec Region
- Visit Old Québec and see the most photographed hotel in the world, Chateau Frontenac.
- Attend the winter carnival.
- Take in the largest music festival in Canada, FEQ.
- Zipline across Montmorency Falls.
Although not in the top ten, at number 23, Montreal was the last of the Canadian cities to make the Global Liveability Index 2022. Multicultural, multilingual, and a hub of culture, art, and commerce, you want to experience Montreal during summer.
Start the festival season with the Canadian F1 Grand Prix, the International Fireworks Festival, International Jazz Festival, Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, and multiple music festivals. One might consider Montreal the festival capital of Canada.
Its underground city lets you shop til you drop, even in the coldest of Canadian Winters. Montreal remains a safe and exciting option with excellent public transport, reasonable renting options, and access to French language schools.
Things to Do in Montreal
- Savour a Montreal-style bagel, smoked meat sandwich, or poutine.
- Shop the underground city with over 20 mi (33 km) of pathways and tunnels.
- People watch while sipping a cold Molson’s beer on St. Catherine’s Street.
- Visit Notre Dame Cathedral, where Celine Dionne was married.
At number eight globally, Toronto is Canada’s largest city with a diverse population, numerous post-secondary institutions (universities and colleges), a vibrant arts and cultural scene, and fantastic restaurants.
Located on Lake Ontario, ‘the Six’ or ‘the GTA’ has a few islands to which you can sail, boat, or ferry. There are plenty of parks and green spaces for biking and relaxing. Toronto’s food scene is diverse and plentiful.
Things to Do in Toronto
- See the GTA and Lake Ontario from the top of the CN Tower.
- Check out Canadian art at the Art Gallery of Ontario or The Royal Ontario Museum.
- Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto.
- Cycle through the Don Valley.
- Check out the best vintage and thrift shops in Kensington Market.
London is in southwestern Ontario, within two hours west of Toronto and two hours east of Detroit. Its proximity to three great lakes (Ontario, Erie, and Huron) places it within an hour of prime vacation rentals.
London offers skiing in the winter and weekly festivals in the summer. Known as the Forest City, it has plenty of green parks and hiking trails to discover. It hosts TD Sunfest in July, which is Canada’s premier world music and cultural celebration.
London’s regional hospital hub has four extensive medical facilities, including a teaching facility. Fanshawe College is home to many post-secondary and post-graduate programs, from Game Design to Culinary Arts.
Things to Do in London
- Visit the Covent Garden Market before taking in a show at Budweiser Gardens.
- Enjoy Sunfest, the most significant world music and cultural festival in Canada.
- Tour Western University – one of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious universities.
- An hour away, watch world-class Shakespeare productions at The Stratford Festival.
Winnipeg has something to offer everyone, from the historic Exchange District to the bustling downtown area. The Forks, Winnipeg’s historic meeting place and one of the city’s top attractions, is home to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. This fantastic interactive facility educates and enlightens visitors of all ages.
Winnipeg also boasts beautiful outdoor spaces, such as Assiniboine Park, the city’s most significant green space, and the nearby Oak Hammock Marsh, a wetlands nature reserve. If you’re looking for some culture, the Winnipeg Art Gallery has a great selection of Canadian and international art, while the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre offers live performances year-round.
Near the convergence of the area’s two rivers is a natural shallow amphitheater known as the Oodena Celebration Circle. It pays homage to the 6,000 years of Aboriginal peoples in the area.
Things to Do in Winnipeg
- Visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
- Chow down and have a beverage at The Forks Market.
- Attend the sākihiwē festival (indigenous music & cultural festival).
Saskatoon is the best-kept secret of the prairies. Known as the “Paris of the Prairies” for its eight bridges that span the South Saskatchewan River, this small city is full of culture, natural beauty, and culinary surprises.
The Remai Modern, which opened in 2017, is a gem—sitting on the banks of the river, mimicking Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style, similar to Fallingwater. A proposed UNESCO world heritage site, Wanuskewin has the longest-running archeology site in Canada, with artifacts dating back 6,400 years — it’s older than the Egyptian pyramids!
Things to Do in Saskatoon
- Learn about Metis culture and heritage at the Batoche National Historic Site.
- Visit Remai Modern, which hosts the world’s most extensive collection of Picasso linocuts.
- Enjoy a welcome with a tea and smudging ceremony in Wanuskewin.
At number four, Calgary is the highest-ranking Canadian city on the Global Liveability Index 2022.
Another major city at the foothills of the Rockies, Calgary is the perfect example of nature and urban living seamlessly coexisting. The Rocky Mountains were close enough to host the Olympic Games in 1988, with world-class skiing at Lake Louise or Banff National Park within a few hours’ drive.
Located 90 minutes away, you can discover pre-historic dinosaurs at the world-famous Royal Tyrrell Museum (part of the Hoodoo Trail and the Dinosaur Trail) or hike the trails in any number of National and Provincial parks nearby.
If you want something unique, consider visiting in July to see the Calgary Stampede; it’s entertaining with great food and a lot of cowboys.
Things to Do in Calgary
- Go to the rodeo during the Calgary Stampede.
- Drive 1.5 hour south to the Royal Tyrrell Museum to see 30 dinosaur skeletons.
- Visit the world-class Calgary Zoo.
- Board the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train ride through the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Coming in at number five on the best places to live in the world, Vancouver is a world-class city with the North Shore Mountains as a backdrop and the Pacific Ocean at its feet. Vancouver has the perfect work-hard, play-hard package. With two major Canadian universities and numerous colleges, it has access to excellent education, state-of-the-art hospitals, and cultural landmarks.
Vancouver has a great foodie scene, numerous museums, art galleries, and a family-friendly aquarium. It’s also home to the world’s largest urban park, Stanley Park.
Within a two-hour drive, you have world-class winter skiing or summer mountain biking on the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains slopes. Vancouver also offers year-round outdoor recreation, from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to kayaking and hiking in the summer. Vancouver has something to offer whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an active adventure.
Things to Do in Vancouver
- Have dim sum in Chinatown.
- See the totem poles at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology.
- Ski any one of the three mountains on Vancouver’s north shore: Cypress, Grouse, or Seymour.
- Cycle more than 279 kilometers (over 173 miles) of bike routes.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks and syndicated by Our Woven Journey.
Margarita is the creator and author of DownshiftingPRO.com a travel and lifestyle blog that focuses on travel to the US, Canada, Colombia and Europe. Bringing unique insight on museums, cultural activities and luxury accommodations. She loves a good girl’s getaway and traveling with her adult children - family travel but with cocktails. Colombian by birth Canadian by nationality she here to help others organize their lives and travels.