Best Cities to Live in Canada
Anytime that worldwide organizations like the UN rank countries by their standard of living, Canada is right there at the top. Its clean cities, decent employment opportunities, and access to quality education and healthcare make it appealing for anyone seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families.
Now for the million-dollar question: Where are the best places to live in Canada? The cities outlined below all present an attractive combination of affordable prosperity, first-rate amenities, and good opportunities for a sustainable career.
St. Albert, Alberta
There is more to Alberta than its legendary oil fields, and St. Albert proves it. In March 2014, the Calgary Herald conceded gracefully, ‘St. Albert overtakes Calgary as best place to live in Canada.’ The list, which was compiled by MoneySense magazine, ranked communities based on hard data such as home prices, employment, household income, weather, and crime rate.
Four years later, people still love St. Albert. Located only 30 kms from Edmonton, it’s close enough to a big city to offer a myriad of employment, shopping, and recreational opportunities but sufficiently remote to present a more relaxed lifestyle. It has an ample amount of green space, including over 85 kms of bicycle trails along the Sturgeon River, and hosts an annual International Children’s Festival that attracts 55,000 attendees.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Ask anyone to list the best Canadian cities to live in, and you’re guaranteed to find Vancouver among the choices.
Vancouver is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada. Embraced by the Pacific and offering swimming and skiing opportunities within hours of each other, it has a certain mystique that draws nature lovers, adventurers, and dedicated urbanities who also want a close proximity to nature.
In 2016, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking, which scores cities on five key lifestyle categories, named Vancouver as the third ‘most liveable’ city in the world, topped only by Melbourne, Australia (No. 1) and Vienna (No. 2). It ranked in the global top 10 for five consecutive years, despite its ongoing housing crisis and high cost of living. Major industries include tourism, forestry, tech, and film production, the last of which has given it the nickname of ‘Hollywood North.’
Victoria, British Columbia
When it comes to quality of life, Victoria, British Columbia consistently takes top honours. In 2018, Notable Life included it in a list of Canada’s friendliest cities. A 2016 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives also named Victoria as the best Canadian city for women. It had a female mayor, women outnumbered men on the city council, and the employment gap between the genders was lower than average.
Victoria has a thriving technology sector, with close to 900 tech firms (which, in turn, employ more than 15,000 people). Other employment opportunities are available in the provincial and federal government, the CFB Esquimalt navy base, and the growing number of forestry, marine, and agricultural research centres.
Fans of history and architecture love the city for its dedication to preserving its past: Victoria has received the Prince of Wales Prize for protecting its heritage buildings and districts.
Montreal is known as one of the top cities in Canada to live for a number of equally compelling reasons. Dubbed Canada’s unofficial cultural capital, it is a quaint yet energetic combination of past, present, and future. Cobblestone streets and 18th century architecture are within walking distance of its modern and vibrant downtown, and joie de vivre is everywhere.
Montreal enjoys a cost of living that is far lower than in other major Canadian cities. You can buy a house or condo for nearly half the price of a Toronto property and one-third of what you would pay for a similarly-sized property in Vancouver.
This dynamic city is one of North America’s leading economic hubs. Over 40% of Canadian pharmaceutical companies are located there, and the presence of Bombardier and the Canadian Space Agency makes Montreal a leader in the aviation and aerospace industries. Those employed in the arts and culture industry can easily find work at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Montreal World Film Festival, Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, and other celebrations of the performing arts.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
For those who crave big city opportunities without having to navigate through the traffic congestion, Halifax is one of THE best cities to live in Canada if you’re looking for a perfect balance of small-town charm and big city opportunity. It is the Atlantic Canada region’s major economic hub and consistently ranks high on ‘quality of life’ lists for its welcoming attitude, friendliness toward new business, and proximity to the invigorating ocean breezes.
Major employers include Dalhousie University and St. Mary’s University, making it a perfect destination for career academics. The Port of Halifax and the Department of National Defence also offer good career opportunities. As for cost of living, data available on Numbeo indicates that in Toronto you would need around $6,055 to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with $5,200 in Halifax. Rents are also over 60% lower in this appealing Maritime City.
When asked which is the best city to live in Canada, Ottawa is another regular chart-topper. Canada’s capital has also been ranked one of the country’s top 10 cities for retirees. The housing market is affordable compared to Toronto and Vancouver, which is one of the reasons why MoneySense ranked it “the best community in Canada to live in” for three consecutive years.
Being the nation’s capital, it comes as no surprise that the federal government is the biggest employer in Ottawa. In recent years it has also become a leading Canadian tech employer: With over 1,800 companies headquartered there, Ottawa has earned the nickname “Silicon Valley North.”
Despite its reputation as a government city, Ottawa has a thriving visual and performing arts scene, with options for every preference. Fans of culture and history will love the National Gallery, Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of History in nearby Gatineau, and the plethora of boutique-sized art galleries. The National Arts Centre is home to the National Arts Centre Orchestra, classical ballet performances, and contemporary dance troupes from around the world.
So, what is the best city in Canada? It’s such a vast nation, with provinces full of diverse and dynamic cities, that ‘best of’ lists only tell part of the story. There are so many excellent choices that it can be challenging to narrow your search down to a single community. We hope that this article has introduced you to the quality of your options, and feel confident that you’ll soon find the perfect lifestyle destination.
Images attribution: Wikipedia.org