The top 10 Canadian cities to take walks in are based on a combination of factors. Between safety, scenery, and walkability, it’s more about taking in the best possible experience while traveling by foot. The health benefits of choosing to walk around instead of driving is amplified by the small favor you’re doing for the environment. You don’t need to fuel up the gas tank just to get around, regardless if you’re a local or a tourist. You’re also not stuck in traffic, especially during rush hour when commuters venture back and forth between work and home.
Speaking as a Canadian, some of the cities mentioned are cities I’ve either lived in or visited. So, much of the information comes from first-hand experience. It also comes from the collection of reviews factored in by locals and visitors who’ve come to know the best ways to move around as a pedestrian within the city limits.
Top 10 Canadian Cities to Take Walks In
# 10 – Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province. The beauty of PEI and its capital city, Charlottetown, is the feeling of isolation away from a world that seems too busy for its own good. The people of this island province are extremely protective of their territory and rightfully so. This is the closest thing to a country-style city as its core population sits at about forty thousand residents. It’s eighty thousand when factoring in the connection to its surrounding neighborhoods. It’s not nearly as big of a city as Toronto but in order to get there the entire province of PEI would have to be converted. Even there, the overall population of PEI sits under two hundred thousand residents, each of them determined to keep their home province as evergreen as possible.
Downtown Charlottetown has a waterfront that faces the harbor and Hillsborough River. This is the location of the historic five hundred lots that were surveyed in the mid-eighteenth century by Captain Samuel Holland, a Dutch engineer that served in the British American Army. Today, Charlottetown has grown as an urban development along the waterfront, as well as featuring suburban development sprawling eastward, northward, and westward.
When Charlottetown began as a municipality, it was the hub of the province’s railway network. Since then, highway development connected it to the Trans-Canada Highway. 2005 cited the beginning of Charlottetown Transit as the city reluctantly moved forward in order to keep up with the evolution of motorized transportation. However, as a city, Charlottetown’s determination to stay as evergreen as possible has focused heavily on pedestrian-friendly transportation as a means to get around. There are so many trails within Charlottetown alone that one may never want to use an automobile at all just to get around. The Charlottetown Waterfront Boardwalk, the Hillsborough Park Path, and Victoria Park Waterfront Boardwalk offer the ideal solution to bike or walk around within the city limits that has more to offer than meets the eye.
# 9 – Edmonton, Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta was the city I was born and raised in. I know this city very well, inside and out. Once upon a time, I used to walk an average of thirty city blocks from where I lived to work, up to five days a week. When the weather cooperated, this was my preferred means of travel instead of using public transportation. It was also preferred over using my own vehicle. I worked downtown where one had to pay for parking, so I wasn’t interested in forking out money for something I felt was too expensive at the time to pay. This was quicker than using a bus and it was also a great way for me to stay in shape. Aside from walking from block to block, there are also several scenic trails I was able to travel that conveniently passed through territory that I otherwise would have walked around.
There are very few trails throughout the city of Edmonton I don’t know. I can personally vouch this is one Canadian city that is as walkable as it gets. On one particular day, I took on the challenge to travel by foot from its east side to the west. The goal was to walk from its Hermitage Park to West Edmonton Mall, checking to see if I could pull it off and how long it would take me to do it. I started early in the morning, using the paths and trails I knew would cut down the travel time. Also knowing the city as well as I do, walking alongside the North Saskatchewan River from park to park was the way to make the best experience out of it. During the winter season, one can easily navigate the downtown core without having to step outside for several blocks. I used to do this when the weather wasn’t so favorable but still wanted to walk my way around instead of relying solely on public transportation.
# 8 – Quebec City, Quebec
The charm of Quebec City includes horse-drawn carriages and cobblestone streets in its most historic neighborhood. The capital city of Quebec overlooks the Saint Lawrence River and is a French-speaking city. In areas specializing in tourism, the locals are quite capable of speaking the English language. The city has some great walking tours that teach visitors more about its history. No such tour is complete without visiting the castle-like Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac and the fort at La Citadelle de Quebec. To this day, the fort continues to serve the Canadian military. Both locals and visitors of Quebec City are in agreement the best way to explore the city is by foot. When touring Old Quebec by foot, bear in mind this was the only city north of Mexico that was walled.
Throughout Quebec City, it is incredibly easy to get around as a cyclist and a pedestrian. The focus on maintaining its proud heritage as the birthplace of Canadian Francophones has not once wavered, even as the modernizing trends of society made their mark. According to Walkscore’s website, Quebec City has a near-perfect rating of ninety-seven out of one hundred. It’s also dubbed as a walker’s paradise for commuters who prefer to travel without motorized transportation.
#7 – Ottawa, Ontario
Situated in Ontario, Ottawa is Canada’s capital city. This is the home of the nation’s federal government and is loaded with culture, history, and scenery. It is also one of the most enjoyable to walk around in, thanks to the pathways and trails that are easily navigatable. From the beginning, Ottawa was designed as a foot-friendly city and remains unmatched as an urban parkland with over sixty square miles worth of territory designated as parks. One such gem includes the walk from Rideau Street to William Street. This features rows of nineteenth-century buildings that house a series of shops and stalls, and even cobblestone courtyards. Along some of the city’s streets are some fantastic patios that offer wonderful invitations to take a breather as you perhaps enjoy some food and drink before continuing on your way.
# 6 – Victoria, British Columbia
The capital city of British Columbia is Victoria. Among the cities that span across Canada, this is one of the most picturesque as it sits on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Separating it from the rest of the province is a ninety-minute ferry ride that takes a commuter from Victoria to Vancouver. In Victoria, you will find the closest resemblance to a British city, even more so than any other city throughout North America. Throughout downtown Victoria, the walkability score is among the highest in the country as an easy commute of choice for locals to go about their daily errands. For visitors, walkable access to the city’s Central Park, Pioneer Square, and Reeson Park make this exploration experience a great way to take in the splendor Victoria has to offer.
Most of Victoria’s border as a city is coastal. It’s also the closest Western Canadian city to the United States border. Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca are the bodies of water that stand directly between Victoria and the state of Washington. Walking in and around Victoria offers awesome views of the same water that extends into the Pacific Ocean. Also, British Columbia and Washington are both known for their mountains, so as you walk around in this Canadian city, you’re also taking in the views of those too. Victoria was designed as a walkable city meant to be enjoyed by pedestrians every bit as much, if not more so, as motorists.
# 5 – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Along the east coast of Canada, Nova Scotia’s Halifax may be classified as a big city but it has a small-town charm that’s too irresistible to ignore. This is one of the most enjoyable cities to walk around in as a local and as a visiting traveler. The beauty of its seaside location offers so much more than breathtaking scenery. This is one of Canada’s most historical cities that has so many tales to tell for the ears willing to listen. Even just walking around in this city with its abundance of pathways and trails is enough to feel like the worlds of today and yesteryear have blended so well together. When doing a walkabout in Halifax, you have the opportunity to take in the splendor of the fishing villages nearby, as well as the incredible architecture, rugged shorelines, and picture-worthy beaches.
# 4 – Toronto, Ontario
In Canada, Toronto, Ontario is the city often referred to as New York City run by the Swiss. This is the Canadian equivalent to the Big Apple as it’s loaded with so much culture, so much history, and so much scenery that bypassing the opportunity to make the most out of Toronto while there would be a crime. At least half the city hosts residents that come from out of the country and has entire neighborhoods dedicated to the ethnic backgrounds they come from. There are areas such as Koreatown, Little India, and Little Portugal, just to name a few.
Connected to the Greater Toronto Area are cities such as Brampton, Hamilton, Markham, Mississauga, and Vaughan. Altogether, there are nearly seven million people who live in this area. Each of the cities within this Greater Toronto Area has also been regarded as some of the nation’s most walkable cities. The Toronto proper has nearly three million residents within its own borders. Because of its size, as well as being one of Canada’s most influential cities, Toronto needs to be able to accommodate as many people with the least amount of traveling issues as possible. It strove to become one of the most walkable cities in Canada and it has been able to accomplish this very well.
Walking around in Toronto gives a pedestrian ample access to architectural wonder, history, and art, as well as parks and shopping experiences. There is no lack of activity for people opting to travel by foot between destinations. The Railpath along West Toronto is a four-mile trek of colorful urban culture at its finest. So are Chinatown and Kensington Market. There’s also Roncesvalles Avenue within Roncesvalles Village, a beautiful boardwalk along Toronto’s waterfront that’s loaded with eclectic charm.
Speaking from experience, no walkabout in Toronto is complete without traveling between the Distillery District and Union Street. Between these two destination points includes walkable access to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Gooderham Building, and St. Lawrence Market, so there’s a good bet you won’t have a boring experience. This is also a favorite trail among the locals as part of their daily commute. However, if you’d rather take in some shoreline that have you staring at coastal water instead of the cityscape, head to Toronto’s eastern beaches and its infamous boardwalk that stretches from Ashbridge’s Bay Park to Silver Birch Avenue. On Queen Street East, you’ll find a wonderful neighborhood that has a small-town atmosphere.
# 3 – Calgary, Alberta
For six years, I lived in Calgary, Alberta. During that time frame, I learned how to navigate the city very well as a cyclist and a pedestrian. Spanning from east to west is Memorial Trail. This lengthy walkway stretches across the city, mostly parallelling itself with Bow River and its multitude of parks. This river behaves like a divider between Calgary’s downtown core and the eastern and northern halves of the city. Along the southern border of Calgary’s downtown area is the Elbow River. This does the same as it snakes its way south to the Glenmore Reservoir.
One of the most walkable neighborhoods in Calgary is the downtown core. This is made possible by its Plus 15, which is a network of paths and trails designed with cyclists and pedestrians in mind. With over sixteen kilometers of walkable territory, this is one of the world’s most extensive pedestrian pathway systems on record. As a city, Calgary is broken into four quadrants and has gone to great lengths to make it as easy to navigate as possible. Speaking as someone who visited Calgary for the first time, it was more confusing to get around by car than it was by foot. When I moved to the city and worked as a courier driver, I came to know the city very well. Other neighborhoods that are easily the most enjoyable to walk in include East Village, Inglewood, Kensington, and Music Mile. There’s also 17th Avenue SW if you want to take in the nightlife on foot. Much like Music Mile on 9th Avenue SE, it’s loaded with entertainment as you venture along on foot.
# 2 – Montreal, Quebec
Montreal, Quebec is Canada’s second-largest city, sitting right behind Toronto, Ontario. This is also regarded as Canada’s most culturally diversified city in the nation. Although technically a French-speaking city, if all you know is the English language you’ll be fine. The majority of the city’s residents are bilingual, so there shouldn’t be any communication issues there. Like every other major city, it also has strong Asian, European, and Middle Eastern influences that have molded Montreal into an energetic community that’s truly worth visiting.
I’ve personally been to this city at least three times. As a traveler, this is an easy and fun city to explore on foot. My husband is from Montreal, so between the two of us, we know exactly how walkable this city is. This is a city that has cobblestone streets and grand buildings, which are located in Vieux-Montreal. This is where you go for an old-world European experience, especially when traveling by foot. There are also boutiques and cafes in the Plateau Mont-Royal district. If you’re going to go there, taking in the Mont-Royal Park loop is a must. There’s also Olympic Park, plus the trails along the Lachine Canal.
Walking around in Montreal, regardless if it’s taking in the park trails or traveling from one city block to another, it’s an easy enough city to navigate by foot. Even if you don’t know a stick of French, this is one of the most enjoyable cities to roam around as a pedestrian. Some of the best walking tours can trek you through Old Montreal, the International Quarter, Chinatown, the Entertainment District, and the Plateau-Mont-Royal District in less than three hours. Of course, if you’d rather slow down and really take all that history and scenery in, this walking adventure alone could easily take a good portion of your day.
There’s also Longueuil, which is on the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River. This is a Montreal suburb of Montreal that is an absolute must to tour around by foot. Its northern edge has Boise du Tremblay, a nature trail that feels like you’re not even in a city at all. This is an incredible community that has so much going for it, adding even more charm to one of Canada’s best-loved cities.
#1 – Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada’s west coast features the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s located just north of the country’s border with the United States of America. In less than three hours, one can reach Seattle, Washington when driving along the major highways along the coastline of the infamous Puget Sound. This is the body of water that connects to the Pacific Ocean. As a city, Vancouver prides itself as one of the greenest cities in Canada. Because of this, tremendous effort has been poured into it as one of the most walkable. Vancouver is Canada’s equivalent to the Californian cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. The focus has been to make the walkability of Vancouver as accessible, comfortable, and safe as possible.
Stanley Park at Coal Harbour is Vancouver’s best-known community as this downtown waterfront continues to pump as the city’s primary hub of activity. Stretching along English Bay and the Vancouver Seawall, there are scores of awesome trails that cater to cyclists and pedestrians as they take in the benefits of a healthy and scenic commute. There’s also Devonian Harbour, False Creek City, Harbour Green Park, and the beaches that make it too tempting to bypass as a walker. When going further into the city, there’s also Queen Elizabeth Park and friendly neighborhoods that focus heavily on making the experience of walking in Vancouver as kid-friendly as possible. The city has excelled with its dedication to making it as walkable as possible for the entire family. There are so many trails and loops that one can literally travel from one end of Vancouver’s cityscape to another with ease.
What also makes Vancouver so wonderful as a pedestrian’s paradise is this city not only has a majestic shoreline. It also has a view of the mountains, which is the pride and joy of British Columbia as a province. This is a city that takes the issues of climate change and environmental protection very seriously. It has since the beginning, despite growing by leaps and bounds as much as it has.
Top 10 Canadian Cities To Take Walks In article published on BigCityReview.com© 2023
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