Travel insights from Jenna Buege, associate editor of The Compass

5 Exciting Cities in Canada You Should Definitely Visit

The second largest country in the world next to Russia, Canada is home to a number of majestic sights, experiences and of course, notable cities. North America’s very own taste of Europe; Canadian cities have a hint of flair that can’t quite be found anywhere else on the continent. Here are a few of our favorite Canadian metropolises.

1. Vancouver

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The fourth most-densely populated city in North America next to NYC, San Francisco and Mexico City, Vancouver is Canada’s cosmopolitan gem with a mountainous backdrop. Renowned for its fabulous mix of culture, scenic outlooks and green consciousness, Vancouver is a big city with a cozy feel. Travelers enjoy spending time in Stanley Park, a densely forested area complete with a popular pedestrian and bicycle pathway, lively gardens and impressive monuments. The city’s culinary scene rivals top contenders around the globe such as Portland and New Orleans, making Vancouver a must-see on many foodies’ radar. However, Vancouver’s biggest appeal is its abundance of outdoor activities like kayaking, whale watching, boating and hiking, each of which is easy to do with such great terrain.

Two of Vancouver’s favorite lodging options among travelers include House White Rock, a snazzy modern bed and breakfast and The Burrard a local boutique hotel near the trendy bars and entertainment of Davie Street. 

2. Montreal

Festivals, music and museums, brimming with artistic flair is one way to describe the great city of Montreal. Travelers make their way to this Canadian hot spot when they’re looking for a dose of European charm minus the layovers. Expect a brilliant mix of old and new, from buildings dating back centuries to sleek modern skyscrapers and hipster-attracting coffee shops paired with traditional local markets. While the cobblestone streets of Rue Saint-Paul will take travelers back in time, Montreal also has RESO, an underground city compromised of 20 miles of tunnels with a contemporary feel where residents take refuge on those chilly winter nights and sizzling summer days.

Looking to stay the night? Travel agents are feelin’ Auberge de la Fontaine, an inviting stone building with quaint rooms and all the amenity bells and whistles including complimentary breakfast, whirlpool tubs and of course, a great cable TV package.

3. Toronto

Wines, beers and spirits, tip one back and enjoy a tour of Toronto’s picture-perfect Distillery District, complete with genuine old timey streets and gas lanterns. Dating back to the 19th century, the Distillery District reopened in 2003 and is now the place to be for booze, boutiques, art, coffee and so much more. Head downtown for a visit to the CN Tower, a building with a lot of fancy titles including the tallest building in Toronto and the tallest free standing building on North America. Toronto also offers an abundance of museums, including The Royal Ontario Museum which houses over six million artifacts, arts and dinosaur bones.

Interested in seeing what Toronto is all about? A high-rise hotel with a view, the Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto is the place to be to catch sunsets along Lake Ontario. Just blocks away from a light rail station and an 8-minute walk from the Harbourfront Centre cultural complex, the Westin Harbour Castle is the perfect hotel for those looking to explore Toronto. 

4. Quebec City

Named Travel and Leisure's top Canadian city of 2019, Quebec City has a way of capturing travelers’ hearts with its old-world allure. Picture the scene: sprawling cobblestone streets accompanied by dazzling string lights dreamily framing storefront windows and cafes as the smell of poutine and sugar pie wafts through the air. From the food and the culture to architectural styles, the French influence is strong in Quebec City. Despite the infamously frosty winters, travelers consider Quebec City a must-see and enjoy visiting local attractions such as Petit-Champlain District for shopping, Marché du Vieux-Port for culinary delights and Le Château Frontenac for photo ops at the world’s most-photographed hotel. One stop that surely cannot be missed is a visit to the astounding Montmorency Falls, a waterfall reaching almost 100 feet higher than Canada’s famous Niagara Falls. Bonus points to the extra adventurous traveler as you can now zip-line above the falls, catching some mist along the way.

Not only is the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac the world’s most-photographed hotel, it’s also rated one of the best luxury hotels in Old Quebec City. Located along the St. Lawrence River, the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is where travel agents send their clients for  a taste of castle living. The hotel is also near great attractions like Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec and the shops of Quartier Petit Champlain.

5. Calgary

Have you ever seen a Canadian cowboy? While this question may sound a bit kooky, after a trip to Calgary the answer may well be “yes.” Each July the city hosts its Old West Festival featuring rodeos, parades, wagon races and more. Travelers who want to continue living life like in the olden days can head to Heritage Park Historical Village for a look at houses, stores and machinery used by early Canadian settlers in the 1860s. Those looking to fast-forward into modern times can head to Stephen Avenue for shops, boutiques and pubs with welcoming terraces and sidewalk seating.

When it comes to spending the night, Calgary’s Moose Hotel and Suites is the place to be for the chance to enjoy your morning cup of coffee paired with the stunning view of the Canadian Rockies. Don’t let the cabin-esque exterior confuse you, Moose Hotel and Suites is a super stylish lodging option with a side of rustic flair.

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