Our top three Canadian cities

Cities are pretty much the same across the globe but Canada always likes to do things just a little different. It’s no secret that Vancouver consistently tops the list of best cities in the world to live, however, we know there are others that are equally, if not more so, fun to visit. So if you’re looking for some alternative Canadian cities to experience, you could do a lot worse than our favourites.

Victoria – Vancouver Island

I visited Victoria four years ago and the minute I arrived in the city, I knew it would be a favourite of mine for many years to come. Although I took the more traditional means of getting there by airplane, the seaplane option would be much more fun and will have you landing in the water, smack bang in the harbour in the middle of the city. As well as being ridiculously pretty – I was there in June when the hanging baskets that adorn the streets were in full bloom – it couldn’t be easier to explore and get around.

Although it’s a great base to explore the world-renowned Butchart Gardens, there is actually no reason to venture very far from the city centre. I spent the day just walking around, stumbling on the quirky offerings that are plentiful in the city.  Tiny Fan Tan Alley is a real treat with its eclectic collection of shops – as I was on my own, I didn’t manage to take the obligatory photo with arms outstretched touching each side of the alley).

As pretty as the city is during the day, it’s truly beautiful round the harbour at night. I would suggest a cocktail before indulging in the curry buffet at the Fairmont Empress’s Bengal Lounge – a real treat. A nighttime stroll is made truly magical by the lights that adorn the impressive Parliament Buildings and if your legs can’t take all the walking, there’s plenty of horse and carts to see you safely back to your hotel.

Dawson City – Yukon

Although it’s really now just a city by name, Dawson was once the place to be when gold sparkled in the hills during the Klondike gold rush. Still a working town, many of the buildings from this bountiful era remain. Dawson was also home to Jack London, author of The call of the wild, who, like so many, travelled to the Klondike from San Francisco to make his fortune. It’s still a popular stop for those travelling from San Francisco except now they come from cruise ships heading to Alaska.

There are no paved roads in Dawson City and the dirt tracks only serve to take you back in time to when Diamond Tooth Gertie’s was the place to be. Still a popular spot with its nightly shows and dancing girls, Diamond Tooth Gertie’s is incredibly fun and you can even lose your fortune gambling – just like the prospectors did at the turn of the 20th century.

And if you’re really brave and still have a few dollars left, head along to the Downtown Hotel and become initiated into the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. Now, this is one club, that on reflection, I’m glad I didn’t make it into. I bought my drink and queued for the dubious privilege of having a pickled toe – yes, a human toe – popped in said drink by Captain Jack, while onlookers watch you squirm as you drink it. Eugh, you might think. However, so popular is this pastime that the queue was too long and I didn’t manage to make it to the front before Captain Jack called time on the shenanigans. So, while I may not have a certificate to hang on my wall, I do have my dignity.

Dawson may be a popular trip from the cruise ships heading to Alaska, but it’s easily accessible by air from Whitehorse, the Yukon’s actual capital city and also well worth visiting, just make sure you do it before the weather gets too cold.

Ottawa – Ontario

Even as the capital of Canada, Ottawa holds close to it’s British roots, offering visitors the chance to experience traditional Canadian hospitality with a little pomp and circumstance thrown in. Strangely enough, even though I lived and worked near London, I never saw the Changing of the Guard there – so thank goodness you can see it every day on Parliament Hill. As it happens every morning at 10am, it’s rarely packed, so you can get a good view of what’s going on – I would however, suggest getting there a little earlier to secure a good spot.

Ottawa is also the first place that I tried poutine – the quintessential Canadian dish of chips, curd and gravy – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Once you’ve become a convert like me, you might want to time any visit to the city with PoutineFest, which occurs at the end of April and gives you plenty of opportunity to sample lots of variations to this delicious dish.

One of my favourite things about Ottawa is how it transforms from a calm, riverside city with museums, parks, buildings steeped in history and fabulous farmers markets during the day to a bustling cosmopolitan hub, with enough bars and restaurants to keep you busy every night of your stay. Don’t forget to catch some of the live entertainment that brings ByWard Market to life at night.

Do you have a favourite Canadian city that you would love to share with others?

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Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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