The Best Canadian City Breaks Perfect for Summer

Torontos glittering skyline
Toronto's glittering skyline | © OTMPC

Staff Writer

From east to west, cities in Canada have personality and captivating stories to discover. Each urban destination has a unique charm during the winter. However, come summer, and the cosmopolitan cityscapes have a life of their own.

Endless festivals, the best food and drink of patio season, outdoor activities, beaching, hours by the countless lakes, enclaves of culture, art, history and so much more await you in the warmer months. These Canadian city escapes are perfect for a break over summer.

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto’s ever-changing skyline along the banks of Lake Ontario is home to vibrant street culture, some of the country’s best cuisine, a burgeoning theatre scene and fascinating museums and art galleries. Despite being one of the largest cities in North America, Toronto is defined by its neighborhoods, each locale adding to the diversity for which the city has become so famous. As well as arts, food, music, and style, Toronto has lots of activities such as paddleboarding, biking around on the islands and many trails and hikes just over an hour or so away for those that love the outdoors too.

Toronto, ON, Canada

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Ottawa, Ontario

Discover a bit of everything in the capital of Canada. Ottawa has its fair share of historical charms. The city center has some spectacular Gothic architecture, seen best on Parliament Hill and by walking along the UNESCO World Heritage canal on a warm sunny day.

If you fancy experiencing the city’s trendier side, then head to Westboro’s tree-lined streets where you can shop and eat at Ottawa’s hippest spots all while enjoying scenic views of the Gatineau Hills. The thriving culinary scene will please foodies, and beer lovers can rejoice, with the craft brews here being a local delicacy. If you want something a bit more outdoorsy, biking, paddling, or birdwatching, for example, Ottawa has plenty in store.

Ottawa, ON, Canada

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Rideau Canal, Ottawa

Kingston, Ontario

Canada’s former capital is a joy in the summer. The city’s downtown has one café after another, restaurants, ice creameries, shops and other little outlets where you can eat your fill of delicious food and purchase just about anything. Spend your days here sailing around the 1000 Islands or exploring Fort Henry. There are lots of pubs, late-night venues and classical architecture to fill up your Instagram feed.

Kingston, ON, Canada

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Vancouver, British Columbia

This maritime city takes the prize for being one of Canada’s most stunning. In between the sea and the Canadian Rockies, there’s an exciting and energetic vacation just waiting to happen. Summer in Vancouver gives visitors a selection of cultural and adventurous options. The attractions range from beaches and water activities to local markets and parks to exploring the different neighborhoods of the city. With its numerous green spaces, glittering downtown and vibrant food scene, it’s easy to see why everyone loves this beguiling coastal city.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

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Vancouver’s green spaces

Victoria, British Columbia

Although it’s one of the smaller urban destinations, Victoria is the breathtaking jewel on this list, and there’s plenty to see and do here on a warm summer’s day. Known as the City of Gardens, it has a fascinating history rooted in an Indigenous culture that goes back thousands of years, and British and Asian traditions since the mid-1800s. These influences are visible throughout the city’s architecture, heritage sites, museums, gardens, galleries, markets and cultural celebrations.

Victoria, BC, Canada

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Calgary, Alberta

The largest city in Alberta is well placed and often functions as a gatekeeper for the Rocky Mountains and destinations such as Jasper or Banff, but Calgary is brimming with attractions, architecture, and entertainment. Culture is a thriving cause here, with each community coming together to champion what they are most passionate about.

As microbreweries bloom, the local artistic community fuels the city’s contemporary art scene, and chefs commit themselves to creating locally sourced menus. Museums educate visitors on a variety of things, including the science of sound at Studio Bell. If you can plan your visit during the 10-day summer festival Calgary Stampede, then all the better. This colossal rodeo party lassos almost one million visitors every year with its flannel shirts, cowboys, parades, and concerts.

Calgary, AB, Canada

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Calgary Stampede

Montréal, Québec

Montréal, the largest city in Québec, lies on an island in the Saint Lawrence River. Named after Mt. Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the center of it all, the city is renowned for its French-Canadian cultural blend. Winter in the city is magical, but during the summer, almost everyone is outdoors. Warm weather unlocks Montréal’s old-world charm, creative flavors and festival season. Old Montréal becomes the essential location for a wander along cobbled streets and visits to historic bars and restaurants.

The rest of the city is full of other temptations, a spirit for partying, a superb network of cycle lanes, a palate for international cuisine, and an energetic, artistic community, and beautiful parks—Mount Royal, in particular—come with views across the city. Whether you’re a foodie, contemporary art lover or vintage shopper, an avid city cyclist or culture vulture, Montréal has much to offer you.

Montréal, QC, Canada

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Québec City, Québec

For a fairytale destination brimming with old-world charm reminiscent of European cities, head to Québec City. For over 400 years, globetrotters have flocked to its cobblestone streets to explore North America’s only remaining fortified city north of Mexico. In Canada’s oldest city, travelers can experience the past by taking a horse-drawn carriage alongside stone walls that have been around for centuries, their path illuminated by gas lanterns. There are also nightclubs, stylish restaurants, delicious wine, terraces for people-watching, late-night eats, or other local treats such as the Crépuscule, a free circus show on the riverbanks of the St. Lawrence that runs in late summer.

Québec City, QC, Canada

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Château Frontenac, Quebec City

Halifax

A summer break in Halifax is all about feasting on local in-season produce and washing it all down with liquid concoctions from award-winning breweries, distilleries, and vineyards. The city has more pubs and clubs than almost any other city in Canada, so you’re in for a good time. Nova Scotia’s capital is in a great location that will let you explore many of the region’s other attractions. The iconic Peggy’s Cove and port town of Lunenburg are easily accessible from here.
Halifax, NS, Canada
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St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador

St. John’s bright oceanfront is tailor-made for fun in the sun. This colorful city has a lively arts scene and buzzing culture but remains mellow enough to be an idyllic escape for foodies and music-loving sightseers. The heart of the city is renowned for its Victorian architecture, vibrant row houses, and heritage shops. If history is your jam, then visit Signal Hill National Historic Site (the reception point of the first transatlantic wireless signal) and The Rooms, home to provincial archives, an art gallery, and museum. To party those summer nights away, head to bustling pubs and bars on George Street, but if you want an awe-inspiring encounter with nature, book an iceberg excursion.
St. John’s, NL, Canada
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Beautiful colors of St. John’s
landscape with balloons floating in the air

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