Oh, Canada! Coast to coast, you are one large country – and one filled with stunning scenery. Known for your untouched landscapes, soaring mountains, pristine lakes and wonderful wildlife, you are also home to a whole host of vibrant cities. Especially our capital cities.
Canada has a capital city for each of its 10 provinces, three territories, and one for the country itself. So you might be wondering out of the 14 capital cities which are the best ones to visit? Well, all of course!
I decided to ask my travel blogging community, and as a result, here are seven travel bloggers I collaborated with to bring you Canada’s Coolest Capital Cities.
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 fourth largest metropolitan area. The National Capital region, all 4,700 square kilometres, 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 is 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 too and very impressed by.
The first being 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 Fiazza 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 their 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 7.8km 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.
Atlantic Canada, also referred to as the East Coast, is the region comprising of the four provinces located on the Atlantic coast. The three Maritime provinces are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, and the easternmost province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador has 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, 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 a 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 it totally worth your attention.
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 most favorite 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 a shop keeper or a 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 a 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.
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 favorite 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, 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.
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.
Toronto also has a reputation of 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 mentioning 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 of 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.
Toronto is a charming city, you’ll love it there.
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 countries 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!
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 twenty first 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, 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.
Bring your dilly-dallying spirit to Victoria. It’s the perfect place to wander. Saunter along the coastline from 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, stunning Rose Garden and a sunken garden. Don’t miss a boat ride on the delightful Todd Inlet while visiting nor 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.
A visit to Victoria is sure to charm and leaving 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. From the stunning scenery of its landscapes to its rich history and culture. That’s what it is most known for, but it is also home to some vibrant capital cities. Hopefully this has inspired you to add some of these amazing cities to your future travel plans.