The Top 5 Cities in Canada
This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
Canada's natural beauty is well-known: this is the land of polar bears, temperate coastal rain forests, and stunning ski mountains. But its cities — some soaring with glass and steel, some holding on to old-world cobblestones — offer excitement and charm, too.
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.
Visitors to No. 2 Vancouver waxed lyrical about its proximity to nature and adventure. "You can tour the city in the morning, sail the harbor in the afternoon, and ski on the mountains overlooking the city by night," shared one reader. Other voters commented on its cleanliness, accessibility, impressive public-transit system, and small-town feel. The food was another point of distinction. "Excellent dining options, especially if you like Asian cuisines," said one reader; others called out the many spots throughout the city serving delicious dim sum.
Returning favorite Banff, Alberta, which came in at No. 5, is beloved for its outdoor beauty, particularly for its national park. "Wherever you look, you see beautiful mountains, some capped with snow," wrote one fan. No. 4 Montreal, Canada's second-largest city, wowed readers with its European feel, varied cuisine, and rich cultural offerings. One voter described it as "the Paris of North America."
Readers seemed to have rediscovered their love for coastal Halifax, Nova Scotia. It returned to the list this year at No. 3, after last appearing in 2017. "The people are very friendly, and it has a great small-town vibe," said one respondent, who added that "a day trip to the Bay of Fundy for whale watching is a must-do!" Another reader made a bold claim: "Without question, Halifax is the best-kept secret in the world. Its beauty is majestic and its people are a joy. There is no drawback."
Still, no city could dethrone perennial winner Quebec City. Keep reading for the reasons why, year after year, it continues to earn the top spot on our list of best cities in Canada.
1. Quebec City
Reminiscent of European capitals, Quebec City is beloved for its cafés, bistros, and cobblestoned streets, which exude an old-world atmosphere and make it an enduring favorite among T+L readers. "Everything about this city is magical!" said one reader. The walled part of the city, which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is especially beloved by voters. "The views, the food, the culture, and the people made our week there one of sheer pleasure," wrote a fan. "One night we were dancing in the street to local bands, and, the next day, we were visiting historical places."
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 86.71
3. Halifax, Nova Scotia
5. Banff, Alberta
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021.