The Top 5 Cities in Canada
This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.
If you’ve ever strolled the Old Port of Montreal or wandered around downtown Victoria, British Columbia, you know that the best cities in Canada blend history, culture, beauty, and a certain je ne sais quoi. This irresistible mix puts many of the country’s urban centers at the top of annual “most livable” lists — and it’s also what draws millions of visitors to experience all of the sights, scenery, and easygoing charm for themselves.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.
Related: The World's Best Awards 2020
In a surprise twist, Toronto — Canada’s biggest city — didn’t make it onto this year’s list. However, Montreal (No. 3), Canada’s second-largest metropolis, did, wowing visitors with its “old-world feel,” as one voter described. Readers were also impressed with its dynamic dining scene and its roster of luxurious hotels, which continues to improve with the addition of newcomers like Hotel Birks Montreal and the Four Seasons Hotel Montreal.
What No. 5 Banff, Alberta, lacks in size, it makes up for in its “spellbinding beauty” and “romantic and quaint atmosphere,” according to readers. “Absolutely beautiful,” one respondent raved about the idyllic resort town, which is surrounded by the imposing peaks of the Rocky Mountains. “It’s the best place for a true nature-and-adventure-filled vacation.”
British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, claimed two winners this year: Victoria (No. 4) and Vancouver (No. 2). The former, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, has century-old architecture, windswept views, boutique shopping, and, as numerous readers emphasized, good-natured locals. “Victoria is home to many beautiful, quaint neighborhoods filled with friendly folks,” one reader said.
Meanwhile, visitors to Vancouver raved about its abundant greenery, mountain-meets-sea scenery, and clean, walkable streets. “The most well-rounded city I’ve ever been to,” one respondent wrote. “There’s amazing hiking, the public transit is easy to access, it’s a very diverse place, home to people from around the world.”
Still, no city has managed to unseat Hall of Famer Quebec City. Keep reading for the reasons why it continues to earn T+L readers’ affections — and, of course, the full list of the best cities in Canada.
1. Quebec City
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.46
For five years running, T+L readers have awarded this 412-year-old metropolis the gold medal as Canada’s best city. With its atmospheric cafés and classic bistros, its sweeping views of the St. Lawrence River, and its historic Old Quebec neighborhood (a UNESCO World Heritage site), the province’s capital exudes timeless romance. “It’s the closest one can get to being in Europe while remaining in North America,” one respondent wrote of its Continental character. Another touted its every-season appeal: “it’s a beautiful place to visit no matter the time of the year.”
4. Victoria, British Columbia
5. Banff, Alberta
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.