Canada’s Coolest Capital Cities
Oh, Canada! Coast to coast, you are one large country, one filled with stunning scenery. Canada is known for its untouched landscapes, soaring mountains, pristine lakes and wonderful wildlife. But it is also known for its vibrant cities, especially the capital cities. Learn a bit about Canada and its provinces and find out which are Canada’s Coolest Capital Cities to visit.
Canada’s Capital Cities: how many are there
Canada has a capital city for each of its 10 provinces, three territories, and one for the country itself. Each of those 14 capital cities is diverse. offering travellers something a little different. It almost feels like you are visiting 14 different countries.
How big is Canada
From north to south, Canada spans more than half the Northern Hemisphere. And, from east to west it stretches almost 7,560 km across 6 time zones and 5 regions. It’s the second largest country in the world, and only has one-half of 1% of the world’s population at almost 36 million people.
What makes Canada so diverse
In some ways, Canada is many nations in one. Descendents of British and French immigrants make up about half the population. They were followed by other European and Asian immigrants. In addition to French and English, there are more than 200 languages cited as their mother tongue. Diversity is viewed as Canada’s strength. First Nations peoples make up about 4% of the population and are recognized as an important symbol of Canada’s culture and heritage.
Best Capital Cities in Canada
Now, that we know what makes Canada’s capital cities so unique, let’s take a look at some of the coolest.
The National Capital
Ottawa, located on the Ottawa River, was chosen as the capital in 1857 by Queen Victoria, the great-great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. Today, it is Canada’s 4th largest metropolitan area. The National Capital Region, all 4,700 square km, preserves and enhances the area’s heritage.
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and is a city full of exciting things to do and see. With half the popular of Ottawa under the age of 35, it’s one of the youngest cities in Canada which makes it quite lively. The city is known for its various festivals, unique museums, beautiful government buildings, and charming areas. There are quite a few highlights of the city that visitors are drawn to and very impressed by.
Contributed by: Samantha Karen of Sam Sees World
The first is Parliament hill which is an area in downtown Ottawa that holds the towering Gothic buildings that make up the Parliament of Canada. This is a hot spot for events in both the summer and winter. Most notably, yoga on the hill in the summer and Canada Day celebrations, and the Parliament Hill light show in the winter.
Ottawa is also home to the Byward Market which is a little area near Parliament hill full of restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars. In the summer this area is full of patios and the perfect place for a drink and meal in a vibrant atmosphere. Some of the best restaurants and bars are Piazza Fresh fried pizza, Warehouse, Cacao 70 and more.
If you are a sports lover, Ottawa is the perfect place for you. Not only does Ottawa have its own NHL team, the Ottawa Senators, but they also have its own CFL Team, the Redblacks. Plus, there are arenas set up for both so catching a live game is very doable.
Ottawa has one canal dividing it into two called the Rideau Canal. In both the summer and the winter this is a hotspot for many reasons. In the summer people head to this canal to walk along it and bask in the beauty of the city or take their boat on it. However, the winter is when the canal really shines! During the coldest months of winter, the canal is transformed into a 7.8 km skating rink which makes it the longest in the world.
Ottawa is a capital city that holds more than what meets the eye. There is much more to this vibrant and young city than just government buildings and it is a great place to visit for all ages.
Featured Ottawa articles: read more about Best Things to Do and How to Experience Ottawa in the Winter
Atlantic Canada, also referred to as the East Coast, is a region comprising four provinces located on the Atlantic coast. The three Maritime provinces are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the easternmost province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador have the largest area of the four provinces, more than three times the land area of the three Maritime Provinces combined.
Atlantic Canada’s coasts and natural resources, including fishing, farming, forestry and mining, have made these provinces an important part of Canada’s history and development. The east coast vibe is definitely laid back, and friendly and has a strong sense of community. The Atlantic Ocean brings cool winters and cool humid summers. And it is home to 2.3 million people.
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Fredericton is the capital of New Brunswick province of Canada. It is a town of roughly 58,000 people and it is often overshadowed by famous provincial capitals such as Victoria, Quebec City and Toronto, for example. But Fredericton is a charming small town that is totally worth your attention.
Contributed by: Tatiana of Family Road Trip Guru
It is located on the banks of the beautiful St. John River with lots of green public spaces and it is home to the University of New Brunswick campus. Fredericton is known for its music scene and it hosts the annual Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival that attracts many musicians from around Canada and internationally.
My personal favourite attraction in the area is King’s Landing living history museum, which is located just on the outskirts of Fredericton. It represents a 19th-century village with costumed actors that go about their daily village life. You can stop by, say Hi and learn about different trades, such as shopkeeper or blacksmith, etc. You can sit down and learn a 19th-century craft (we loved sewing Christmas ornaments by hand!) and don’t miss the local inn with locally baked delicious bread and yummy lunch. You can easily spend the whole day here just wondering about, listening to presentations and trying things for yourself.
There are several great hiking areas for outdoor enthusiasts near Fredericton, including Hyla Park Nature Preserve and Currie Mountain Trail. Overall there are 115 miles of non-motorized multipurpose trails in and around Fredericton. To learn more about these trails I suggest stopping by Trail Visitor Center in Fredericton. Also, nature lovers should not miss the charming Fredericton Botanic Garden with a fine collection of plants.
Fredericton may be located out of the way and not too close to any major Canadian airport (it is actually closer to Portland, Maine than to, say, Montreal) but it will be so worth your effort getting there. The best time to visit this capital is in late spring to early fall so that you can enjoy all the outdoor attractions.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island is one of the smallest capital cities in the country. But don’t be fooled by its size, that’s what makes it special. The main attractions lie along the waterfront, with places like picturesque Victoria Row. A pedestrian-only stretch of road lined with bars and restaurants, Victoria Row is loved by locals and tourists alike. It’s the perfect place to sit outside in the summer with a beer. The people are friendly and the seafood is fresh, PEI mussels anyone? Make sure you check out Row House Lobster Company and order their lobster poutine and lobster tacos, they will not disappoint.
Contributed by: Nicole of Wandering with a Dromomanic
Once you have had your fill of fresh seafood you can wander around the small shops that line the main streets, making sure to get some Cows ice cream and an Anne of Green Gables gift for family back home.
From there it is an easy walk down to the boardwalk, where you can continue to check out little shops, stop at one of the waterfront restaurants or watch the world go by on one of the boardwalk benches.
If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, join the family-friendly game of finding the various mouse statues hidden throughout the city. Based on the book “The true meaning of Crumbfest” you can learn about Charlottetown’s heritage by following a list of clues that lead you to the various mice.
After a long day of exploring, one of the coolest places to hang out for a drink is Marc’s Lounge. What used to be known as 42nd Street Lounge, has been renovated into the Brickhouse. When you enter the Brickhouse head all the way up to the attic area for a unique and cozy bar with live music and cool cocktails. It is a favourite among locals.
With many other great places to check out you’re going to need to spend a few days here. Catch a show at the Confederation Center of Arts or hear some classic maritime live music at one of the local bars, there is truly something for everyone.
Central Canada is a region consisting of Canada’s two largest, most well-known and most populous provinces: Ontario and Quebec. Geographically, they are not at the centre of the country, rather they overlap with Atlantic provinces in the east.
Central Canada is known as the industrial and manufacturing heartland, producing more than three-quarters of all Canadian manufactured goods. Southern Ontario and Quebec have cold winters and warm humid summers. This region has a population of almost 22 million people.
Québec City is the perfect travel destination due to its versatility. Even though you are visiting the provincial capital of Québec, you feel like you’ve been swept away to a city in Europe. From the stunning European-style architecture to the fabulous food and sounds of the beautiful French language, Québec City is a dream destination!
Contributed by: Heather of Trimm Travels
Dating back to the 1600s, Québec City sits on the Saint Lawrence River. Old Québec, comprised of Upper and Lower Towns, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is most well-known for its famous hotel, Château Frontenac, a true fairytale-like castle located in Upper Town. The Château is said to be the most photographed hotel in the world and for good reason. Both Upper and Lower Towns have the most quaint cobblestone streets. You can stroll for days ducking into an endless number of artisan shops and restaurants. There is a funicular with gorgeous views of the river to take you from one to the other.
If you are a foodie and like to base your travel around food, Québec City has you covered. From the best poutine to maple syrup cake, chocolate, and wine, Québec City has the most amazing food. I will return for the poutine and maple syrup cake alone! Organizing or creating your own food tours are great ideas here year-round. There are a number of day trips available from the city. Most notable is Montmorency Falls, an impressive double-tiered waterfall that stands higher than Niagara Falls. In the summer months, the staircases and suspension bridge make for a great hiking experience offering several different viewing spots.
Wineries are plentiful and easily accessible from the city. I highly recommend trying the ice wine, ice cider, and grabbing a freshly baked treat while you marvel at the beautiful landscapes. Québec City is great for solo trips, girls’ trips, couples’ trips, and family trips. With so many options there is something for everyone!
Featured articles for Quebec: read more about Best of Old Montreal, the Regions of Eastern Townships and find some of the Most Charming Villages in the Eastern Townships
Toronto represents a great Canadian destination with so many things to do one needs more time to explore just the basics. Even though Toronto is a typical Canadian city it is also a perfectly balanced multicultural metropolis because half of its inhabitants were born outside of Canada and each nationality counts for less than 13% of the total population.
Contributed by: Slavka of On 2 Continents
Toronto also has a reputation for being one of the most pleasant, cleanest, and safest North American cities to live in due to its low crime rate. Cultural diversity is reflected in the local cuisine. Foodies can go crazy and choose from over 8000 eateries, not to mention multiple tempting distilleries and microbreweries.
As a visitor, you cannot leave without visiting the most famous landmarks such as the CN Tower, which was the tallest free-standing structure in the world until 2010. Casa Loma, a unique, real castle with splendid gardens, towers, and underground corridors. Hockey Hall of Fame, ROM museum or the Distillery District or Ripley’s Aquarium. Shopping addicts will love the Eaton Centre as well as Bloor Street.
My favourite and quite unique places are the Toronto Islands and the PATH. Make sure you take a ferry to the Islands because besides the most picturesque view of the city you can also enjoy the largest car-free community in North America. You can have a picnic, relax or spend a day on the beach. Plan your ferry ride back just before the sunset for the best skyline photo. PATH is a must-see. It’s a network of over 30 km of underground pedestrian tunnels that connect hundreds of shops, office towers, parking garages, and public transit systems.
To get a feel of real, local Toronto life, visit Cabbagetown. It’s a popular neighbourhood in the centre of the city with lovely Victorian architecture, a strong community spirit, and its own festival. Take a stroll, go for a food tour, visit local design and antique boutiques, or get a drink at a local pub.
Featured article for Toronto: read more about creating the perfect 1-day Toronto Itinerary that is Paris-inspired
The Canadian Prairies are made up of these three provinces in the west – Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. This region spans a 2,000 km valley of plains, forest and farmland, making it rich in energy resources and some of the most fertile farmland in the world. Although the Prairies are now home to some of the country’s biggest cities, rural life remains an important part of this region’s identity.
The region is mostly dry, with cold winters and hot summers. It has a population of 5.8 million people.
Winnipeg isn’t often thought of as a travel destination. People think “colder than cold” or “excessive mosquitoes”, and just stop there. However, Winnipeg has so much more to offer than simply cold weather and pests. We have a rich history dating back thousands of years, we have a fantastic sense of community, and we are the Gateway to the West for a reason!
Contributed by: Jessica of An Historian About Town
Winnipeg absolutely does get cold in the winter, but we make the most of it. Our Festival du Voyageur lasting 10 days in February, celebrates Francophone and Metis culture here in Manitoba. Festival is the largest winter festival in all of Western Canada, and whether you like food, music, crafts, beer, or more, Festival has something for you. We also make the most of our cold weather, with skating trails on the rivers, outdoor curling, and so much more. If you are adventurous, you must try eating dinner on the frozen river at RAW:almond! The cold is only cold if you don’t have warm clothes and a good attitude.
Winnipeg is home to several professional sports teams. The Winnipeg Jets are one of the NHL’s success stories of the 21st century- we are still waiting for our Stanley Cup, but we are some of the loudest and most supportive fan bases you will see in professional sports. If you head to a game, a Jets dog is the best dinner- a locally-made smokie with sauerkraut. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in the CFL, also have some of the most passionate fans. With a new stadium and lots of energy, Bombers games are always fun. And one of our favourite Bomber alumni, Obi Khan, now has a fantastic restaurant, Shawarma Khan, which is a must-visit.
Where Winnipeg truly shines is our culture, though. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet was founded in 1930 as the Winnipeg Ballet Club and is North America’s oldest continually operating ballet company. From The Wizard of Oz and Moulin Rouge to Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, the RWB is a true gem in the ballet world and in Winnipeg. A rarity in the dance world- the company performs outside at Assiniboine Park in July for Ballet in the Park, for free! And of course, our two-week festival, Folklorama, held annually in August, where nearly 100 different cultural groups host a week-long pavilion for people to visit, enjoy great food, and see cultural performances.
The next time you are looking for a Canadian trip, come to Winnipeg- you won’t regret it!
Pacific Canada, also called the West Coast, is a region composed of only one province – British Columbia. British Columbia is known for its majestic mountains, and national parks and as Canada’s Pacific gateway. The Port of Vancouver, Canada’s largest and busiest, handles billions of dollars in goods traded around the world. The west coast vibe is often described as super chill, multicultural, lover of nature and adventure.
Warm air streams from the Pacific Ocean give this coastal province a temperate climate. Just over 5 million people reside in this region.
Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria, nestled at the south end of Vancouver Island, is the charming capital city of British Columbia. Victoria brings the sea, rich history and culture together to create a delightful and unforgettable experience for the visitor.
Contributed by: Alison of Dreamer at Heart
Bring your dilly-dallying spirit to Victoria. It’s the perfect place to wander. Saunter along the coastline from the beach to beach, amble past colourful Victorian buildings on Lower Johnson Street and explore Canada’s oldest Chinatown. Don’t miss Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada.
Victoria’s Inner Harbour is the perfect place to watch the bustle of seaplanes and ferries while kayakers and rowing skiffs silently slip past. While at the Inner Harbour note the statue of Captain James Cook who discovered this magical harbour in 1778. Don’t forget to indulge in High Tea at the fairytale-like Fairmont Empress hotel. You might feel a little like royalty! Across the street is the Royal BC Museum full of fabulous exhibitions, many celebrating Canada’s rich First People’s history. Don’t miss the soaring totem poles in Totem Hall.
Fisherman’s Wharf will have you strolling past colourful floating homes and savouring fresh fish and chips. While at Fisherman’s Wharf why not rent a kayak or hop on a whale watching excursion? Exploring the unforgettable Canadian landscapes around Victoria is a critical part of the experience.
One can’t mention Victoria without heralding the outstanding Butchart Gardens, a world-class attraction. The gardens are open all year and include an intriguing Japanese Garden, a stunning Rose Garden and a sunken garden. Don’t miss a boat ride on the delightful Todd Inlet while visiting the summer fireworks.
If you are looking for a beach day, head to Willows Beach. The long stretch of sandy white beach is perfect for a relaxing day seaside. Bring a picnic or grab a snack at the concession stand or in the tearoom.
All of this exploring in Victoria must be interrupted with a stop here and there. Visit a local pub that specializes in West Coast Craft Beer or a funky coffee shop where you can sip a signature coffee while overlooking the Inner Harbour.
A visit to Victoria is sure to charm and leave a lasting impression.
The Northern Territories
The Northern Territories includes three territories – Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Nunavut and Yukon contain one-third of Canada’s land mass but have a population of only 100,000 people. There are gold, lead, copper, diamond and zinc mines. Oil and gas deposits are being developed. The North is often referred to as the “Land of the Midnight Sun” because, at the peak of summer, daylight can last up to 24 hours. In winter, the sun disappears and darkness sets in for three months. The Far North refers to Canada’s arctic, the portion that lies north of the Arctic Circle, east of Alaska and west of Greenland. This area covers about 39% of Canada’s total land area but has less than 1% of Canada’s population.
The Northern Territories have long cold winters and short cool summers. Much of the North is made up of tundra, the vast rocky Arctic plain. Because of the cold Arctic climate, there are no trees on the tundra and the soil is permanently frozen. Some continue to earn a living by hunting, fishing and trapping. Inuit art is sold throughout Canada and around the world. And, the best place to see the mesmerizing Northern Lights is in Whitehorse, Yukon.
As a holidaymaker…
Canada offers travellers so much diversity from coast to coast. And, that includes its capital cities. People come to Canada to witness its incredible scenery and diverse history and culture. Hopefully, this list of Canada’s coolest capital cities has inspired your future travel plans.