First time going to Canada? Discover the best places to go on your first trip to the Great White North with this guide to the ideal Canadian destinations.
Discover the best places for first-time visitors to Canada and how to get the most out of your first trip to the Great White North.
So, you’re taking your first trip to Canada? Good choice — the Great White North has so much to offer as a destination that it can be difficult to know where to start.
The world’s second-largest country has a diverse range of cities, landscapes, and cultures to explore. From the cityscapes of Toronto and Vancouver to the wildness of the Yukon and the peaks of the Rocky Mountains; from the European influences of French Canada to the cowboy culture of Alberta’s prairies.
Whether your idea of the perfect holiday is relaxing in hot springs, exploring a new city, immersing yourself in a new culture, getting close to nature, or getting the adrenaline flowing with outdoor activities and winter sports, you’re coming to the right place. Canada has something for everyone.
Here are some of our top suggestions for places to visit on your first time in Canada. Then all that is left is to get your visa or eTA, book a flight, and begin your Canadian adventure. Be aware there are different Canada visa types, so make sure you have the right one!
Which is the best Canadian city to visit?
This is a tough question. Each of Canada’s cities has its own character and a list of things that visitors have to check out before they leave.
If it is your first time visiting Canada, there are 4 strong contenders for the best city to head to. At the end of the day, the ideal destination depends on what you want to see or do.
Toronto is Canada’s biggest metropolis. Like New York, Tokyo, or London, there is no end to the list of possible things to do.
Whether you’re interested in checking out museums and galleries (the Art Gallery of Ontario, or AGO, is worth a visit), gazing out over the cityscape from the top of the CN Tower, or taking a day trip to nearby Niagara Falls, Toronto is an ideal choice for a first-time Canadian destination.
Vancouver is another great option. The main urban hub on Canada’s Pacific Coast, the capital of British Columbia is a pretty city surrounded by bays, mountains, and parkland. One of the country’s most diverse locations, it is home to thriving music and art scenes.
Vancouver is a great summer destination, as it offers the best of both city breaks and outdoor adventures due to its proximity to the North Shore Mountains and various areas of woodland. It is pleasant in summer and relatively mild in winter.
If French Canada appeals to you, look no further than Montreal. The largest city in Quebec is known for being one of the most bilingual cities in the country, as well as for its early colonial architecture and surprisingly European character. Montreal has more National Historic Sites of Canada than any other city (50), including the Notre-Dame Basilica.
Montreal is also the home of the world-famous Cirque du Soleil. Where better to catch a local preview of one of the newest shows before it heads off to tour the globe?
The dark horse of this list, Calgary might be a less obvious choice than Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal, but it might just be the place to base the perfect first-time visit to Canada.
Located in southern Alberta, Calgary International Airport is often the stepping stone for international visitors heading to the Rockies, but it is well worth staying to check out the city too.
Travelers will discover a city of beautiful parks, intriguing modern architecture, craft beer galore, and an artistic streak a mile wide. Check out the Studio Bell National Music Centre for a truly interactive experience where you can not only learn about music, but get hands on with a variety of instruments.
However, the city’s big draw comes during the summer in the form of the infamous Calgary Stampede. One of the world’s largest rodeos, the event has evolved over the years into a city-wide festival celebrating Alberta’s cattle-ranching culture.
The main festival grounds feature fairground rides, live music, beer tents, stalls, animals, and traditional rodeo events, including “chuckwagon racing”. It is a side of Canada that some people are unaware of, and yet it is perhaps the most Canadian thing you could experience.
The Rockies and Banff National Park
The Canadian Rockies are a thing of beauty and first-time visitors to the country would not be disappointed making a stop in Banff National Park, or even spending their entire trip here. With stunning mountain scenery, picturesque lakes like Lake Louise, and quaint mountain towns, you’ll be at one with nature.
If you’re lucky, you might get a glimpse of elusive mountain creatures, such as deer, elk, eagles, and bears. Even harder to spot are cougars, lynxes, and timber wolves.
If winter sports are your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a number of ski resorts in and around both Banff and neighboring Jasper National Parks.
The Maritime Provinces, located on the Atlantic coast of Canada, show off Canada’s quainter side. Full of colonial charm and greenery, Nova Scotia is perhaps the most beautiful of these regions.
A great place to relax by the coast, get pictures of the stunning vistas, or take a boat out to go whale watching. Historic fishing villages, majestic cliffs, and the music festivals of the summer months make for a great holiday away from city life. However, if you do venture into Halifax (the capital and largest city of Nova Scotia), be sure to check out the historic Citadel.
No trip to Canada would be complete without ticking off certain things from the “must-do” list.
First-timers should be sure to visit a Tim Horton’s. They are Canada’s biggest restaurant chain and every Canadian you meet will advise you to eat there before you leave.
With the number of national parks in the country, it would be a crime to not at least visit one.
By the same logic, visit a lake. Whether it is one of the beautiful blue bodies of water in the Rockies or the vast Great Lakes in Ontario, be sure to take a canoe or hop on a ferry and drink in the incredible scenery.
Other musts include seeing an ice hockey game, trying poutine, and making friends with a few Canadians (the last one will not be difficult — the people of Canada have a reputation for being the nicest for good reason!).
Are you ready for CANADA?
Are you ready to fly to travel to Canada? Here some quick booking links and resources that I use myself for travel planning. These websites will help you to get started with your Canada itinerary!
Cheap Flights to Canada (and around)
Skyscanner is my favorite search engine for finding cheap flights, I always start my flight search here! I've tried plenty other flight websites - hands down - Skyscanner has the lowest rates, almost every time!
Transport within Canada
Bus, boat, and trains: Omio is an easy to use platform to book tickets for buses, ferries and railway. Get an instant seat confirmation and start your overland travel worry-free.
Find a place to stay in Canada
Hostels, hotels and resorts: Agoda is excellent if you're looking for hotels from budget to luxury! It's one of the largest hotel booking websites in the world. Plenty of options to book now and pay later, or even pay at the hotel. Risk-free booking, many with free cancellation.
Apartments and houses: Airbnb is a fantastic option if you prefer staying like a local, and looking for a unique accommodation! I'm using it for years and got amazing places through it! If you have never used Airbnb before, you can get $45 off on your first booking!
Fun Tours and Activities in Canada
Get your Guide has plenty of fun activities in Canada, such as hiking tours and city sightseeing trips. There is plenty of choices to keep yourself entertained!
SIM Cards in Canada
Klook is not only good for tours and trips, you can also buy a sim card for Canada here!
Travel Insurance worldwide
SafetyWing is a super affordable Travel Medical Insurance, starting from only $40 per 4 weeks. It's perfect for travelers and digital nomads! They will help you with financial help when have to see a doctor, or if there’s an emergency and you need to go back home. Don't go overseas without travel insurance!
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About the Author:
Sabrina Iovino started JustOneWayTicket.com in 2012. She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to 70+ countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Let's restart:
Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.
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