Canada is home to a wealth of vibrant, historic cities, from cosmopolitan Vancouver on the Pacific Coast to sprawling Toronto at the edge of Lake Ontario, and all the way up the great St Lawrence River to the two French-speaking metropolises of Montreal and Quebec City.
Many explorations of British Columbia and Alberta begin in Vancouver, a beautiful city that deserves a few full days of dedicated discovery. Highlights here include Stanley Park with its scenic seawall, charming old Gastown and the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, whose treetop walkway has thrilled visitors since 1889.
From Vancouver, you can take a luxury train or follow the spectacular Sea-to-Sky Highway up into the Coast Mountains, where the famous resort town of Whistler awaits. In the warmer months, Whistler offers fantastic golf courses, as well as hiking and biking opportunities, while in winter, it is mecca for snowsports.
Further up in the Canadian Rockies, accessible by both road and rail, are the pretty alpine towns of Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. Each has its own distinct personality, while offering fabulous accommodation options and access to a wide range of outdoor activities from hiking, canoeing and biking amongst stunning mountain scenery.
South of Vancouver lies Victoria, the handsome capital of BC. Renowned for its well-preserved colonial-era public buildings, this city is where you’ll find the perfectly manicured Butchart Gardens. There are also a wide range of seasonal boat tours that visitors can take from Victoria to see the orcas, dolphins and whales that inhabit the surrounding waters.
At the start or end of a number of rail routes, Calgary in Alberta is most famous for the Calgary Stampede. Relive the cowboy days of the old frontier during the “Greatest Show on Earth”, which takes place every July. This ten-day event features one of the world’s largest rodeos, with chuckwagon races, concerts and agricultural competitions.
In Ontario, you’ll find Canada’s largest city – Toronto, which is home to one of the tallest freestanding structures in the world, the CN Tower, at an impressive 553.33 metres. From here, the magnificent Niagara Falls is merely a day trip away.
East of Ontario is Quebec, Canada’s only predominantly French-speaking province. Its two largest cities lie on the Saint Lawrence River, a major waterway whose southern reaches form the border between the United States and Canada. Quebec City harbours 400 years of history and its Old Town is the only fortified city north of Mexico. Chic Montreal is full of Parisian-style streets lined with trendy patisseries, pavement cafes and traditional bistros. Both cities are well worth a visit for their tantalising fusion of European charm and contemporary Canadian culture.