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Canada: Must-See Places

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O Canada! Home to 20% of the world’s fresh water, 10% of the world’s forests, and 77% of the world’s maple syrup production, Canada is full of beauty and fun. From vibrant cities to lush, beautiful national parks, the world's second-largest country by total area shouldn’t be missed.

Banff National Park. Photo by John Lee from Unsplash.

1. Banff National Park

Alberta T0L, Canada

Canada’s first and oldest national park, Banff National Park was established in 1885 and is located west of Calgary in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can bask in the glory of turquoise glacial lakes, abundant wildlife, Rocky Mountain peaks, scenic drives, and picturesque mountain towns. Whether you want to hike, ski, snowboard, camp, or bike, Banff’s 6,641 square kilometers (about 2,564 square miles) is perfect for any outdoor adventure. Here you’ll find the breathtaking Moraine Lake , a glacially-fed lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the village of Lake Louise, where you can splurge on a stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and visit the Lake Louise Ski Resort , and the town of Banff, where you’ll find a plethora of fun shops, restaurants, and accommodation options. If you have time, hike Parker Ridge Trail for awesome views of Saskatchewan Glacier, or for a longer, more challenging hike, take Sentinel Pass out to Moraine Lake for beautiful views over the valley.

Vancouver. Photo by Lee Robinson from Unsplash.

2. Vancouver

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver is among Canada’s densest, most ethnically diverse cities and is known for its thriving music, art, and theater scenes. Come here to check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Stanley Park , a 405-hectare public park where you’ll find a great bike path, a free drum show at Third Beach on certain nights, and Stanley Park Brewing Restaurant & Brewpub . Granville Island—technically a peninsula—is also a must-see district that’s great for shopping and seafood (head to Granville Island Public Market for both). Last but not least, head to Kitsilano Beach for amazing views and places to hang out and relax on either the sand or grass. If you’re in Vancouver during the summer, don’t miss Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival , a Shakespeare Festival that takes place at Vanier Park from May/June until September/October. If you’re there in the winter months, head to the 1,200-meter Grouse Mountain for skiing and sweeping views of Vancouver (you can also hike the Grouse Grind Trail in milder weather).

Montreal. Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin from Unsplash.

3. Montreal

Montreal, QC, Canada

The largest city in Canada’s Quebec province, Montreal is home to neighborhoods ranging from French colonial to bohemian. Start your visit off at the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal , which boasts a dramatic interior—considered a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture—housing a pipe organ, religious statues, intricate wooden carvings, and stained-glass windows. For an incredible light show inside the Basilica, purchase tickets to Aura (currently suspended due to COVID-19, but check the site for updates). Afterwards, head to Restaurant L'Orignal for Québécois farm-to-table game and seafood dishes or Olive et Gourmando for artisanal breads, sweets, paninis, and salads. Also, don’t miss the The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts , the largest art museum in Canada by gallery space, the Montreal Botanical Garden , and the Jean Talon Market , a farmer’s market located in Little Italy and the largest open-air market in North America. Last but not least, try to catch a Montreal Canadiens ice hockey game; it’s not a truly Canadian experience if there is no ice hockey.

Niagara Falls. Photo by Cameron Venti from Unsplash.

4. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, ON

With Goat Island separating the US and Canada, Niagara Falls on the western, Canadian bank falls 158 feet (47 m). Horseshoe Falls, also known as Canadian Falls, is the largest of the three waterfalls that collectively form Niagara Falls, with approximately 90% of the Niagara River flowing over it (the other two falls are American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls). Head to Journey Behind the Falls in the Table Rock Centre beside Horseshoe Falls to get close to the natural wonder and see the water rush from behind (Pro tip: the best views are from the observation deck near the base of the falls). You can also take a 20-minute boat ride with Niagara City Cruises , Canada’s only Niagara Falls boat tour experience. Enjoy the experience during the day, or go right before, during, or shortly after sunset so you can see the light show as it gets dark. Want more awesome views of Niagara Falls? Head to Skylon Tower for 360-degree views of the city and a top-down view of the falls, or the Niagara SkyWheel , a 175-foot tall Ferris wheel that provides passengers with views of the Niagara River, Horseshoe Falls, and American Falls during a 12 to 15 minute ride.

Whistler. Photo by Lance Anderson from Unsplash.

5. Whistler

Whistler, BC V8E

A chalet-style pedestrian village at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, Whistler is a quaint ski town north of Vancouver. Come to Whistler Blackcomb to get your skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, tobogganing, and snowshoeing fix during the snowy months, and for hiking, golfing and mountain biking (there are 20 miles of paved biking trails and many additional unpaved) during warmer months. In addition to all of the outdoor activity opportunities, Whistler is known for its gorgeous lakes, waterfalls and outdoor patio dining. Make your way to Brandywine Falls Provincial Park for hiking trails, including one to a beautiful waterfall. Ready to relax after all that activity? Indulge at Scandinave Spa Whistler before checking out the Audain Art Museum , a 56,000-square-foot private museum housing a comprehensive permanent collection of British Columbian art, and/or the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre , where you’ll learn about aboriginal culture and history (Pro tip: take the guided tour to hear fascinating first-hand stories about the cultures of both the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations).

Quebec City. Photo by Rich Martello from Unsplash.

6. Quebec City

Quebec City, QC, Canada

Fun fact: Quebec City is the only walled city in North America. That’s right, it’s the only city north of Mexico that still has fortified walls, built between the 17th and the 19th centuries by the French and later fortified by the English. This is one reason why Quebec City’s historic district has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. To start off your trip, snag accommodations at or simply visit the historic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac for brunch. From there, visit the Montmorency Falls ; take the cable car up and walk across the suspension bridge on your way back down. If you want a bit of adventure, you can even zipline across the falls. For the art lovers, don’t miss the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec , or MNBAQ, situated in Battlefield Park. The collection includes over 40,000 works from the 16th century to the present day. You should also check out the Museum of Civilization before heading to the Quartier Petit Champlain , the oldest commercial district in North America, where you can find unique shops and wonderful restaurants. Stop into Le Lapin Sauté , a cozy little restaurant with delicious French food and a lively weekend brunch. Last but not least, head to the Roch district to visit the Fromagerie des Grondines , a cheese shop that produces organic raw milk cheese. While here, try the sea buckthorn juice—think a sour orange juice with a hint of mango—great as a seltzer and in some cocktails. Next, head northeast on Rue Saint-Joseph to arrive at one of the many Chez Ashton restaurants in town, the popular fast food place for poutine—fries with cheese in gravy—especially after a night out.