Profile & Gallery of Places in Alberta (Calgary – Edmonton) | Earth’s Face

CALGARY

/KAL-ger-ee/ * /KAL-guh-ree/

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EDMONTON

/ED-muhn-TUHN/ * /ED-min-TIN/

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satellite map of the city of Calgary, Alberta
satellite map of the city of Edmonton, Canada

Name origin

Edmonton: originally Fort Edmonton, a fur trading post, named after Edmonton, England, the birthplace of a founding governor, Sir James Winter Lake

Calgary: named for the hamlet of Calgary, Scotland

Population

Edmonton: City <981,000 – Metro <1,321,000

Calgary: City <1,336,000 – Metro <1,392,000

Location

Edmonton: Central Alberta, aspen parklands region

Calgary: Southern Alberta, foothills/prairies region

Calgary is along the Bow River and the Elbow River. Edmonton is along the North Saskatchewan River.


Cities of Alberta Image Gallery: Calgary & Edmonton

a main square with colonial buildings and horse drawn carriage, Calgary's Heritage Park and village
Heritage Park, Calgary – Bernard Spragg
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the wonderland sculpture in downtown Calgary, Alberta
Wonderland sculpture – Davide Colonna
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a scene with skyscrapers and the wonderland sculpture on the streets of downtown Calgary, Canada
Nataliia Kvitovska
interior view of the Peace Bridge in Calgary
Peace Bridge, Denisse Leon
the Peace Bridge at evening over the Bow River leading to downtown Calgary
Robert Montgomery
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footbridge from Prince's Island Park with view of the Calgary skyline
Prince’s Island Park – Richard Carter
the Calgary Tower at night with lights, Alberta, Canada
Calgary Tower – asweseeit.ca CANADA
riders on horseback holding Canadian flags during the Calgary Stampede
Calgary Stampede – Leif Harboe
bronco riding at a rodeo during the Calgary Stampede
Sean Robertson
exterior of knox united church in downtown Calgary
Knox United Church – Bill Longstaff
ceiling of the chinese cultural centre in Calgary
Chinese Cultural Centre – Ricky Leong
a penguin swimming in water at the calgary zoo
Calgary Zoo – Bernard Spragg
black and white of studio bell centre, a place in calgary
Studio Bell – Michael Brager Photography
an autumn trail in fish creek provincial park, Canada's biggest urban park
Fish Creek Provincial Park – Bernard Spragg
fort calgary exterior in the snow
Fort Calgary – Bernard Spragg
the devonian gardens within the CORE shopping centre, Calgary, Alberta
Devonian Gardens – M Cheung
CORE Shopping Centre exterior and busy street in central Calgary
CORE Shopping Centre – Andres Alvarado
the Central Library in Calgary interior architecture
Central Library – Bilal Karim
view of Calgary skyline from the Bow River
Bow River – Bernard Spragg
stephen avenue in the evening with some light decorations, Calgary
Stephen Ave – Ayrcan
walking bridge over a wetland area in outer Calgary
Ahmed Zalabany
street art designs on a building in Calgary, CANAda
Toni Reed
interesting buildings and skyscrapers from street view at night in Calgary
Ryunosuke Kikuno
Hawrelak Park and Edmonton skyline
Hawrelak Park – Kurayba
neon sign museum at dusk in Edmonton, Alberta
Neon Sign Museum – WherezJeff
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pyramids of muttart conservatory in Edmonton, Canada
Muttart Conservatory – Mack Male
old streetcar and building in Fort Edmonton Park
Fort Edmonton Park – Richard Laperche
west edmonton mall interior with bridge and canal, major place in Alberta
West Edmonton Mall – GoToVan
Art Gallery of Alberta exterior cool architecture
Art Gallery of Alberta – IQRemix
Art Gallery of Alberta interior cool architecture, Edmonton
IQRemix
Royal Alberta Museum exterior
Royal Alberta Museum – Doug Zwick
view of Edmonton skyline from across north saskatchewan river
North Saskatchewan River Valley – Kurayba
North Saskatchewan River Valley at evening with Edmonton skyline
WherezJeff
ice castles exhibition in Edmonton
Ice Castles – Jason Woodhead
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Alberta Legislature Building with lit Christmas Tree and decorations in front at evening, Edmonton
Alberta Legislature Building – WherezJeff
view of downtown Edmonton from under a bridge across the north saskatchewan river at night
WherezJeff
North Saskatchewan River at evening with sun reflecting on the water
North Saskatchewan River – Richard Bukowski
University of Alberta Botanic Garden from bench view across a pond
University of Alberta Botanic Garden – Janusz Sliwinski
central city of Edmonton at sundown with bridge
Alex Pugliese
blue lights reflecting on the inside of a bridge passageway in Edmonton, Canada
Alex Pugliese
snow-covered walkway view from a bridge in the morning in Edmonton
Corey Tran
man on the steps in downtown edmonton, alberta at night with lights and christmas decor
Redd

What makes Saskatchewan unique? – 10 Cool Features 🇨🇦

double rainbows over Lake Diefenbaker, rural Saskatchewan
Lake Diefenbaker – Olivia Kulbida

Heading out to the middle of the prairie, this is Saskatchewan’s time. A Canadian province known for flat open terrain and farming, this place definitely has a lot more specialties than milk and bread. Read a quick profile and then enjoy about 10 cool things that make Saskatchewan a unique place.

SASKATCHEWAN: Quick Profile

Canadian Provinces and Territories map, saskatchewan highlighted in red
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road map of Saskatchewan
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Flag of Saskatchewan
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Cities: Regina is the capital; Saskatoon is the biggest city

Location: the middle of the three Prairie provinces in the interior of central Canada, far from any oceans; it borders the U.S. to the south

Read more: about Canada; about Manitoba

Climate: mostly humid continental (humid hot summers and snowy cold winters) with Subarctic climate in the north and some semi-arid steppe (dry plains) features in the southwest; the weather usually comes in extremes with particularly warm summers and intensely cold winters throughout; weather can be very windy with tornadoes and storms being fairly common, although Saskatchewan gets more sunlight than any other province

Environment: mostly prairies and plains in the south with some highlands; mostly boreal forests and taiga to the north with over 100 thousand lakes, Lake Athabasca is the largest; some tundra in the far north and some large areas of sand dunes

Name: it was once a part of Britain’s North West Territories; named after the Saskatchewan River, from the Cree language meaning “swift flowing river”

1. Because of Grasslands National Park

landscape of Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan
Cypress Hills – Erik Lizee / Eriklizee

What is it?:

Grasslands is a national park in southern Saskatchewan near the U.S. border. It preserves lots of prairies and rolling Great Plains landscapes, as well as the range critters.

Places and features:

Wildlife and hiking; Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, with some highlands and collections of dinosaur fossils

2. Because of Moose Jaw

mac the moose statue in Moose Jaw, Canada
Mac the Moose – Lisa

What is that?:

While not a literal Moose Jaw, this place is a small city in rural Saskatchewan. Despite its size, it has a nicely infused natural landscape and some unique experiences throughout.

Places and features:

Tunnels of Moose Jaw, tunnel tours that explore parts of the city’s underground past such as prohibition and Chinese immigration; Wakamow Valley, urban park; the Western Development Museum, exploring how the West was won; Mac the Moose, a giant moose statue; Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa, a luxurious spa with a big geothermal pool

Discover: Tunnels of Moose Jaw tours; Temple Gardens

3. Because of Regina

prince edward building in Regina, Canada
Prince Edward Building – Grahampurse

What is it?:

Well, Regina (Reh-jai-na) is the capital and one of the main cultural hubs in the whole province. The city hosts several events and festivals along with some beautiful urban scenery. It may not be the most populous city in Saskatchewan, but it doesn’t miss by much

wascana lake and park in the wascana centre, near central city Regina
Wascana Lake – Tintaggon

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Places and features:

Saskatchewan Legislative Building; RCMP Heritage Centre, dedicated to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with festivals and service ceremonies; the Government House; MacKenzie Art Gallery; Royal Saskatchewan Museum; Saskatchewan Science Centre; Wascana Centre, a huge urban lake with an even bigger park surrounding the city center and provincial buildings; Hotel Saskatchewan, offers historic interactions with a step back into the prohibition era; Victoria Park

4. Because of Saskatoon

Bessborough Hotel & South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon
Bessborough Hotel & South Saskatchewan River – Kyla Duhamel

What is it?:

You know! Saskatoon is the biggest city, or most populous I should say, in the province. Similar to Regina, it offers lots of cultural and culinary attractions mixed in with a beautiful natural landscape.

Places and features:

Forestry Farm Park & Zoo; Remai Modern, a cooly-designed modern art gallery; Western Development Museum, the largest of these in Saskatchewan; Ukrainian Museum of Canada, documenting Ukrainian heritage in the nation and one of the biggest ethnic minorities of Canada; South Saskatchewan River, a scenic river that runs through town, it shelters riverside green spaces like Rotary Park and Kiwanis Memorial Park; the Delta Bessborough Hotel

5. Because of the Trans-Canada Highway

yellow flowers cultivating in the qu'appelle valley, southeast Saskatchewan
Qu’Appelle Valley – Kjfmartin

What is it?:

This is basically what it sounds like. Within Saskatchewan, the Trans-Canada Highway takes drivers across pretty sweeping landscapes and through some interesting towns and provincial parks.

Places and features:

Qu’Appelle Valley, a stunning valley area with lakes and places like Echo Valley Provincial Park and Fort Qu’Appelle; Moose Mountain Provincial Park, several other towns and parks along the way

6. Because of its Unique Lakes

jackfish lake pier, Saskatchewan
Jackfish Lake – Kyla Duhamel

What are they?:

Saskatchewan, like much of Canada, is known for its many, many lakes. With so many of them, this province still has some that stand out from the rest.

Places and features:

Little Manitou Lake, a lake with a high salt concentration that allows for floating, it also hosts a resort and spa nearby; Lake Diefenbaker, an artificial lake or reservoir with interesting rock formations, cliffs, and a long shoreline; Jackfish Lake, with nearby Cochin Lighthouse (in the middle of the prairies!)

7. Because of Historic Towns & Forts

tipis in Wanuskewin Heritage Park near Saskatoon
Wanuskewin Heritage Park – Travis Wiens

What are these?:

Historic towns and sites like forts are important places where the past can be preserved. Saskatchewan has a lot of these places that share its extensive history.

Places and features:

Maple Creek, home to a frontier-themed B&B called Ghostown Blues and Fort Walsh, a historic mounted police fort; Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a cultural historic center near Saskatoon documenting over 6,000 years of First Nations heritage; Batoche, a stronghold town during the Métis rebellion, now a museum; Fort Carlton, a Hudson’s Bay fur trade post; the Battlefords, Battleford and North Battleford were important towns for the mounted police during territory days, home to Fort Battleford and, you guessed it, another Western Development Museum

8. Because of Sand Dunes

athabasca sand dunes near lake athabasca, canada
Athabasca Sand Dunes – Snappy Goat

What are those?:

Outsiders might not know that Saskatchewan is home to the largest sand dunes in the world that far north. Some are in the southern region, but the biggest dunes are a drive up.

Places and features:

Great Sand Hills, Canada’s second-largest; Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park, Canada’s largest dunes along the shores of mighty Lake Athabasca

9. Because of its Northern Wilderness

Sunset on the Waskesiu Lake in Prince Albert National Park Saskatchewan, Canada
Waskesiu Lake, Prince Albert National Park – Viktor Birkus

What is that?:

To the north of this province is a vast area of wilderness. This ranges from dense boreal forests to scattered taiga, from the many lakes to tundra and even sand dunes, as we just saw before.

Places and features:

Clearwater River Provincial Park, with waterfalls, rivers, and rapids; Prince Albert National Park, with controversial conservationist Grey Owl’s Beaver Lodge; Reindeer Lake; Lake Athabasca; Hunt Falls, powerful waterfalls up north

10. Because of its Culture

Saskatchewan is a curious one of the Prairie provinces. It’s smack dab in the middle of them, with its plains and open spaces giving it the feel of a giant field or farm. Sure, the plains played a huge role in the settlement of the region from First Nations down to Eastern European farmers, though English and Anglo-Canadian ID is dominant. And it’s notable how important the mounted police culture has been in this place.

The indigenous presence is comparatively big in Saskatchewan’s largest cities. Their cultures are preserved in elaborate galleries, historic sites, and even universities dedicated to them. Beyond that, these cultural centers help to preserve so well the building blocks of the province’s society. They make it clear where the modern place has come from.

Spikes in temperature and the harsh climate have molded its diverse residents into toughness and resistance. Previously a province that suffered hard economical times, Saskatchewan has been turning business around and making things more interesting for all. Whether passing through on the open highway or stopping to slide on some dunes, this grain basket of Canada has a lot of flavor for any taste!

**Thank you all for coming! I hope you enjoyed learning more about Saskatchewan. Tell us what you like about this place, and shout out if you’re from SK. Feel free to look at other posts on Cult-Surf or related posts in the Earth’s Face section. Take care and be awesome! Peace.

What makes Vancouver unique? – 13 Cool Features 🇨🇦

Welcome to Vancouver! This is a city known for activities like hiking and surfing and being ecologically minded with its many preserved forests. It’s also notorious for being one of the topmost expensive cities in the world — like, top 3 — but Vancouver doesn’t stop attracting ex-pats and tourists alike. Come check out a quick profile about the city, then learn about some features that make this place truly special in Canada and in the world.

VANCOUVER: Quick Profile

Location within Metro Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada
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satellite map of Vancouver and surroundings
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Vancouver is the biggest city and urban area in British Columbia, located in the southwest corner. There are over 631,000 people in the city and over 2,264,000 in the urban area. This makes Vancouver the 3rd biggest urban area in Canada and its most densely populated one. It also happens to be the most expensive city to live in, as many of you may know.

In the greater Pacific Northwest region on the Burrard Peninsula, the city has coasts on the Burrard Inlet and Vancouver Harbour to the north, along with a strait of the Pacific Ocean to the west that separates it from Vancouver Island. Most of its southern limits are on the Fraser River. (By the way, Vancouver city isn’t on Vancouver Island. It’s also not that city in Washington, USA.)

Read more: about Toronto; about Montreal

The climate here is comparatively mild by Canadian standards as far as both cold and hot weather goes. They certainly get a lot less snow and a lot more rain than most large cities here. The area is surrounded by wet oceanic forests and swamps that lead up into mountains on the north shores across the harbor. Those mountains do get snow and form an important part of the city’s skyline.

Vancouver was first established as Gastown, a post outside of a mill. Later it was called Granville before major railroad connections were brought in. Its current name is for British Navy officer, George Vancouver, who had explored the region.

Read more: about Canada; other Canadian provinces and Earth’s Face places

So why is Vancouver unique, again? …

1. Because of Neighborhoods like Gastown & Chinatown

What are they?:

Vancouver is stocked with many interesting neighborhoods to hang in, and one of the most famous is Gastown. This is the area originally settled by Europeans and remains as a sort of historic core to the city. Several other areas and points of interest can be found throughout the city.

What do they have?:

There’s the rustic feel of Gastown with hip shops, eateries, and a cool art scene. Don’t forget the famous steam clock! Chinatown here is an elaborate neighborhood with beautiful Chinese-style settings like the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden or the strangely thin Sam Kee Building.

Commercial Drive, aka “The Drive” is a hood better known for its main street that fills with vendors, commerce, ethnic food options, and diverse people and attractions to get caught up in. Another option is the West 4th Ave area with more local shops and restaurants.

2. Because of Granville Island

What is it?:

Well, it’s not an island. Granville Island is a peninsula on Vancouver’s False Creek. Once an industrial center, it’s now open for tourism and one of the most popular spots in the city.

What does it have?:

Granville has an array of activities on it, including public art, restaurants, parks, and a popular public market. One of those is an old factory that’s been turned into a work of art. There’s also the waterfront to get a nice view of Downtown across the water, or to ride a ferry to the other side.

3. Because of Stanley Park

boat cruising by a lighthouse ahead of the seawall in stanley park
the Seawall Luc Tribolet

What is it?:

Stanley Park is one of the biggest urban parks in North America, as well as one of the best-rated parks in the world. It is a huge expanse of largely undisturbed forest and shoreline just at the opening of Vancouver’s inner waterways.

What does it have?:

The park is filled with things to do besides admire the natural setting. Along the shore are numerous sites like lighthouses, totem poles, beaches and pools like Second Beach, and statues like the Girl in a Wetsuit.

There’s also a “gun” or cannon that goes off every day at 9 pm, and the Seawall that functions as a trail for people to wander the park’s coastal edges. Within the park are attractions like a train and the Vancouver Aquarium. And let’s not forget the towering Lions Gate Bridge over the straits.

4. Because of the False Creek Waterfront

What is it?:

False Creek is a kind of harbor that cuts into central Vancouver. It happens to have a really pretty waterfront with lots of amazing urban scenery.

What does it have?:

Besides the already-mentioned Granville Island, other cool attractions to do here include sparking curiosity at the spectacularly designed Science World. Sports games and events are always happening at BC Place with the stadiums and arenas. There are also a number of parks that perfectly mix the urban, natural, and waterside landscapes like David Lam Park.

5. Because of Vanier Park & Sunset Beach

What are they?:

These two public spots are located right at the entrance of False Creek out to English Bay. Both are beachside parks that offer some interesting points to check out.

What do they have?:

Other than the park and beach settings, Vanier is home to cool-looking museums like the Museum of Vancouver and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Just across the water — accessible by street bridge — is Sunset Beach Park, another one of the city’s many coastal hangouts.

6. Because of the Harbor Front

What is it?:

This is the waterfront of Vancouver’s port on the north side. It’s a popular stop for cruise liners in the area, as well as a major civic center.

What does it have?:

CRAB Park at Portside is a nice park right on the water with very scenic views of Vancouver’s many highrises (both manmade and geologically made). In addition to views of the mighty mountains opposite the city, there’s bustling Canada Place. With a cool sail-like roof, the place has a convention center, Vancouver’s World Trade Centre, and some fun attractions to go with them.

7. Because of VanDusen & Queen Elizabeth

What are they?:

These two green areas sit right next to each other in the inner part of Vancouver, further away from what we’ve been looking at so far. They are Queen Elizabeth Park and the beautiful VanDusen Botanical Garden.

What do they have?:

Both parks are noted for their exquisite naturally-made and manmade designs. Enchanted and royal gardens mix with pretty structures like the Bloedel Conservatory filled with exotic species. There’s also a prominent hill in Queen Elizabeth Park to view the city from up high.

8. Because of the area around UBC

What is that?:

The University of British Columbia itself is one of the oldest and best-ranked universities in all of Canada. Located a ways on the outskirts of town, the university lies at the heart of several natural and historical wonders.

What does it have?:

UBC has a famous Botanical Garden with open spaces, treetop activities, and mazes all near the coastal waters. There’s also the Museum of Anthropology which looks very unique, at the site of a former protective fort. Also among the many forested areas is Pacific Spirit Regional Park with its towering groves and coastal trails.

9. Because of Robson Street & Central Vancouver

What are they?:

Robson is a street that rides straight through Central Vancouver, the Downtown neighborhood. This part of town has a lot to do and see, being part of the city’s urban and entertainment core.

What do they have?:

Up and down the streets can be found major shopping centers and entertainment venues, especially around Robson Square. Around the square are major cultural centers like the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Commodore Ballroom, among other popular performance halls. There are important architectural feats like the Christ Church Cathedral with its gorgeous interior and the Harbour Centre, one of Vancouver’s most iconic towers.

10. Because of its Beaches (& Events)

What are they?:

Well, frankly these are the urban beaches of Vancouver’s long coastline. I can’t promise the water will be warm (it honestly won’t be) but there are some events and locales to enjoy next to these beaches.

What do they have?:

Besides the beaches we’ve already talked about, other ones with nice city views include Spanish Banks Beach, Jericho Beach, and English Bay Beach. Kitsilano is also a popular one with some great skyline views and a commercial area right near it.

Some of these places host a couple of Vancouver’s many festivals and events. English Bay Beach hosts a great view for the Celebration of Light with tons of fireworks, and Hastings Park near the coast hosts the fun Pacific National Exhibition.

11. Because of the North Shore Mountains

What are these?:

These are the general mountain range lying across the inlet from Vancouver. They are home to many natural sights and wonders for urbanites to immerse into the region’s pre-colonial past.

What do they have?:

Several pretty parks and natural areas can be found like Cypress Falls Park, Mount Seymour Provincial Park, and the Cove Forest, to name a few. Some places offering spectacular vistas of Vancouver would be Cypress Provincial Park and Grouse Mountain.

Deep Cove seems to be a great place for boating and water sports inside the harbor. A bit further from these other spots is Golden Ears Provincial Park with its amazing waterways, mountain views, and splashing waterfalls. Another feature is the Sea to Sky Highway which takes a scenic coastal route along the mountains and up to Squamish.

Read more: Southern British Columbia

12. Because of the Sunshine Coast

What is it?:

Following the Strait of Georgia, this is a large coastal region outside of Vancouver. It’s completely outside the reach of the city but close enough to be on this list.

What does it have?:

Sunshine Coast has a lot of coastal towns and villages like Gibsons to provide a quiet rural feel to the Vancouver region. There are also pretty beaches and islands like Bowen with a sort of secret exclusive vibe. Offering markets and fairs, there are also inland beauties like the rugged Tetrahedron Provincial Park.

13. Because of its Suburbs

What are they?:

These are the cities surrounding Vancouver, some of them among the biggest cities in all of British Columbia. They offer cultural experiences with the metro’s diverse inhabitants while preserving lots of natural spaces and parks. The main cities are Richmond, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Surrey, and Burnaby.

What do they have?:

Richmond is home to many Chinese cultural spots like the International Buddhist Society, among other temples. With different kinds of markets, including a night market, the region was also an important wharf and industrial center, showing at places like Steveston and the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. The park around the Olympic Oval is also very pretty with some cool architecture and waterside gardens.

North Vancouver has a nice waterfront with markets at Lonsdale Quay, as well as a cool Polygon Gallery. Attractions mixing the environmental landscape with the thrill of heights include Capilano Suspension Bridge, Lynn Canyon (and suspension bridge), and the Cleveland Dam. Among Surrey’s features is Peace Arch Park on the U.S. border. All of these suburbs boast beautiful parks and green spaces, especially Coquitlam and Burnaby.

14. Because of the Culture

Vancouver is a city known for its super diverse identity. Most of the residents come from a visible minority and about as many speak languages other than English (or French for that matter) at home. The urban area has a huge East Asian and Asia-Pacific influence as can be noted throughout, though the indigenous peoples and cultures are represented in many ways too.

Pushes for technological advancements, preservation of its nature, and the struggles of dealing with an astronomical cost of living all pose constant motivations for the city to develop. I mean, logging is still the main business in Vancouver, and the city has its own style of urban design with elements of conservation and the native landscape in mind.

A bit crowded in some places and a popular tourist destination, the city is used to constant cruise ships on its waters or visitors that flock in for its many events like TED Talks or sports competitions. Vancouver is also one of Canada’s main film industry hubs and a major place for the nation’s TV and film culture.

There’s so much art, history, sports, and excitement going on, but one never feels too far from nature. Forested parks and snow-capped mountains all form a part of the nature-minded concepts of this city. Vancouver is Pacific Northwest at its heart (or just west, if you’re Canadian), and it truly is a one-of-a-kind city.

**Did you like reading about Vancouver? For those that have been there or are from there, please share more with us about your amazing city! Read more posts here on Cult-Surf, and check my email to contact or collaborate; tietewaller@gmail.com. Thanks again, and be great! Peace.

Other info:

What makes Montreal unique? – 11 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Well, it doesn’t take much to see how special of a city Montreal is in Canada, let alone the world. A big city, one of the safest big cities, a popular spot for students and travelers looking for a one-of-a-kind corner of North America. Montreal is French but the English presence is apparent. Are you aching to learn some more? Take a journey into the royal city.

So what makes Montreal so unique, then?

Map of Montreal highlighting Montreal Island
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MONTRÉAL: Quick Geography

First off, Montreal is Canada’s second-biggest city by population and the biggest in Quebec province. It’s got over 1,704,000 people in the city and over 1,942,000 in the urban area. The city is located on a group of islands, mainly the Île de Montréal (Il-de-Mon-trhey-all) or Montreal Island. The big island sits between the mighty St. Lawrence River and the smaller Prairie River, also standing at the head of the Ottawa River.

Once called Ville-Marie, 16th-century French came to name the city after a three-hill point called Mount Royal or Mont-Réal back in those days. In Ojibwe, the city is known as Mooniyaang after a “first stopping place” in their migration legend. Otherwise, it’s called Tiohtià:ke Tsi in Mohawk meaning “a place where nations and rivers unite and divide.” That fits the city pretty well.

Montreal is divided into 19 boroughs with their own mayors and councils too. Let’s look at some features!

1. Because of the St. Lawrence Riverfront

Jean-Drapeau Park and the Biosphere on the Île Sainte-Hélène
Jean-Drapeau Park, Île Sainte-Hélène – by Guillaume TECHER

Montreal’s main riverfront is home to a couple of core attractions, including a few islands. The Île Sainte-Hélène (Il-Sent-Eh-len) or “Saint Helen’s Island” is right in the middle of the river. It is home to a major theme park called La Ronde, as well as the famous Jean-Drapeau Park with the giant Biosphere globe.

Just next to it is the Île Notre-Dame which has the prettily designed adult playground known as Montreal Casino. There’s also the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a major track used for the Canadian Grand Prix. It’s also great for casual strolls to take in a view of Old Montreal.

Montreal's Old Port at dusk with the clock tower and bridge in the background
Old Port of Montreal – by Walid Amghar

On the main island is the Old Port where old boats still sail like they did back in colonial times. There’s also a promenade with the pretty Montreal Clock Tower looming above the water. Out on a little strip by the port is Habitat 67, a building complex with unique box-shaped sections that looks like a giant Tetris game. That’s different.

2. Because of Old Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica interior, Old Montreal
Notre-Dame Basilica – by Annie Spratt

Old Montreal is the classic cobblestone and horse carriage image of the city that visitors love. The place is stocked with beautiful old architecture like at City Hall and the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in North America.

There’s also the famous Notre-Dame Basilica with the extremely beautiful interior appreciated by both pro- and non-Catholics around the world. The Château Ramezay is an old hotel establishment and one of several places that offer an experience to go back in time to Quebec’s good olden days. That’s why Old Montreal is a national historic site in Canada.

3. Because of Ville-Marie

a view of Ville-Marie, downtown Montreal with the riverfront
view of Ville-Marie – by Annie Spratt

Ville-Marie is basically the main core of Montreal being one of its boroughs. Besides Old Montreal, there are a number of really nice cultural centers like the Redpath Museum and the Museum of Beaux-Arts.

Besides the many squares and skyscrapers, the queen of them is the 1000 de la Gauchetière which stands at the height of Mount Royal. They would build it taller, but the city doesn’t allow for buildings any higher than those hills. The top has an awesome aerial view of the city and its surroundings, and it holds a big skating rink for those who want a less lofty adventure.

On the sub-ground level, Ville-Marie has an Underground City full of shops and eateries. It’s a popular place to do some shopping and escape the bitter Montreal winters.

4. Because of the Entertainment

the Quartier des Spectacles square at evening with colorful decorations
Quartier des Spectacles – from QuartierdesSpectacles.com

One of the main spots near downtown is this big square called Quartier des Spectacles. It’s a very interestingly designed locale that lights up with parties and festivals all throughout the year. Especially around the Place des Arts, the area is also full of galleries and theaters of all kinds, as well as the Grande Library.

Montreal, in general, is famous for its big festivals, some of them being the biggest or only of their kind in the world! To list a few you have the:

  • International Jazz Festival
  • Nuits d’Afrique (African Nights)
  • Circus Festival
  • International Fireworks Festival
  • Igloofest
  • Canadian Grand Prix
  • Just for Laughs (comedy fest)
  • Les Francos de Montréal (French music festival)

5. Because of the Food & Neighborhoods

Poutine with a thicker beef gravy, plate originated from Quebec
Poutine, a Quebec original – By Jonathunder

Montreal is very famous for its food and drink scene, having some of the most unique cuisines in North America for a number of reasons. World-famous restaurants and good wine or craft bars are found throughout, and you can’t go without the poutine!

Read more: Food & Culture tours

colorful graffiti and street art at a corner around Saint Laurent Boulevard, Montreal
graffiti art around Boulevard St.-Laurent – by Benoit Debaix

Other cool neighborhoods to explore shops and historic architecture are Mile End and Rue Saint-Denis. In this area is the Jean-Talon Market, Montreal’s biggest open-air market to get your eat on. Lastly, Boulevard Saint-Laurent is another quirky hood to explore with tons of weird and cool street art, as well as some shops of its own.

6. Because of Mont-Royal

view from a belvedere on Mount Royal, Montreal
view from Mont-Royal – by Matthias Mullie

The city’s namesake isn’t just some mountain but a massive park space with lots of serene nature. With tons of natural space and activities year-round, Mont-Royal also has a number of monuments, major cemeteries, and belvederes to take in the view of Montreal.

The views alone are enough to make you grateful they don’t build skyscrapers higher than the mountain. One of the main sights to take in the park’s beauty is Saint Joseph’s Observatory.

7. Because of the Islands & Nature Parks

Despite being one of Canada’s biggest cities, Montreal has left plenty of room for nature to stay in play. This shows in places like the lush Bois-de-Liesse Nature Park along the Prairie River, or the Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park.

This big park has cool activities like maple shacks to extract syrup, livestock farms to interact with animals, and even some decent beaches for the summertime. Much of the park is undeveloped and remains a quiet wood area.

Other isolated parks located on islands are Île-Bizard and the Îles-de-Boucherville National Park. These places are ideal for exploring the waterways and natural landscapes around the city. Île-Perrot offers similar parks with a few historic structures to add to this quaint setting.

8. Because of Urban Parks

fountain and tranquil pond setting at La Fontaine Park, Montreal
the fountain at La Fontaine Park – By Jeangagnon

Other than Mont-Royal, the city is also stacked with nice urban parks. This includes La-Fontaine Park with its pretty ponds and forest scenery. A similar park with tranquil settings is Agrignon Park on the south side.

Frédéric-Back Park is a former quarry / landfill that’s in the process of becoming one of Montreal’s biggest urban parks. As of now, it’s got a few cool works of art in it, and it’s dotted by a bunch of weird scattered spheres. These things are a part of the biogas cleanup in the park and make for an interesting sight even if they’re not intended to be.

9. Because of the Botanical Gardens & Olympic Park

Montreal Botanical Garden and the Japanese Garden section
Japanese Garden, Botanical Gardens – by Hansel Wong

Montreal’s Botanical Gardens are some of the most awarded and revered gardens in the world. They are actually a group of gardens with international themes, and whether it’s the Japanese, Chinese, or First Nations, you can’t really go wrong. They’re also really nice because the gardens stay remarkably pretty no matter the season of the year.

Read more: Jardin Botanique

Olympic Stadium and Leaning tower at Olympic Park in Montreal
Olympic Stadium – By Tolivero

Next door at the Olympic Park are a few attractions like the Montreal Biodome and the park itself. Over here is the Leaning Tower which allows visitors to get a more “slanted” view of the city from above. There’s also the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, a popular place to learn about astronomy and make crafts or watch movies, among other fun activities.

10. Because of the Suburbs

the Rivière-des-Mille-Îles or thousand islands river in the suburbs of Montreal, Laval
Rivière-des-Mille-Îles – By Pierre Bona

Another cool thing about Montreal is its suburbs which add their own mix of nature and history to the urban area. Mont-Royal (the city) has a few of these places, centered nicely on a main square and the interesting Connaught Park.

Further from the center are places like Pointe-Claire with several nice parks, historic architecture, and art galleries on the St. Lawrence riverfront. Terrebonne has lots of nature and provides venues for skiers and snow sport lovers, as well as the historic Île-des-Moulins (Il-de-Mu-lunn). This area was a hotspot for Quebec’s noble landowners and houses several historic sights like 18th-century mills still standing in place.

Terrebonne-Ecluse des Moulins, church in Terrebonne, Quebec
Terrebonne – By Pierre Bona

Laval is another suburb popular for its nature and beautifully-built University of Laval. There’s also the Rivière-des-Mille-Îles (He-vyehr-deh-Mill-Il) or “Thousand Islands River” where explorers can walk or boat through the forested waterways and many isles.

Read more: What makes Northern & Southern Quebec special?

11. Because of its Culture (+ closing thoughts)

Often the name Montreal speaks for itself. This city stands alone in all the world for its impressive array of cultural sights, festive events, and beautifully preserved buildings. That speaks to a city that hasn’t lost its origins. Often split between French and English influences, Montreal has been able to balance these nicely into its identity.

It’s the second biggest city where French is the majority language, but English can be heard by a large portion of the people too. This even makes it unique within Quebec, since more rural areas are almost entirely French-speaking. A haven for students and art lovers, the cuisine and shopping alone could attract people from all over. And they do.

Strong religious roots have sculpted some of the most beautiful structures in Canada while new traditions create an impressively modern and entirely unique feel to the city. Montreal is diverse, a world leader, a trend-setter, and a genuinely standalone place in this world. Thank you for reading, and I hope this opened the door to your discovery of this spectacular world city!

Why is Toronto Special? – 13 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Yonge Dundas Square Midtown Toronto in winter, special place in Toronto
Yonge-Dundas Square – by Kim Kaye

Toronto is a special city not just for Canada, but for the entire world. But what makes this place so unique? Here are 13 sort of clustered reasons why, even though there are many many more. Still, anytime is a good time to appreciate the Earth’s places. Let’s start with some quick geography. Where on the planet is it?

map showing toronto's location in canada and in ontario
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TORONTO: Quick Geography

As you may know or have read in my post about Southern Ontario, Toronto is not only the capital of Ontario province but is also the biggest (as in most-populous) city in all of Canada. With over 2 million 700 thousand in the city and over 5 million 400 thousand in the urban area, it is one of the biggest cities in North America too. Its land area is about 630 square km (391 sq mi). It’s about 21 km (13 mi) at the max top to bottom and about 43 km (27 mi) across.

Like most of the big cities, it is located in the southern part of Ontario on the northwest edge of Lake Ontario. Originally known as York, Toronto comes from Iroquoian languages meaning “place where trees stand in water” and/or “plenty” or “abundance.” The Iroquoian name was popularized by the name of a passage route in the region. The city has 6 larger districts that got sucked together to form the current city:

  • Old Toronto
  • Etobicoke
  • East York
  • North York
  • York
  • Scarborough

The city has a long coastline with offshore islands that create a protected harbor. Toronto is cut by several rivers and ravines, most notably the Don River, Humber River, and Rouge River. Despite this, the city is generally flat with more hilly terrain as you go inland. Let’s take a little tour.

1. Hoods + Squares – shopping & exploring

the garden car covered in graffiti art on a street in kensington market, Toronto
Garden Car, Kensington Market – By Suwannee.payne

The most popular and most visited part of Toronto is Old Toronto. Coincidently, it is the district that I’ll be focusing the most on, but by no means is it the only important part of town. When traveling to any city, some of the best things one can do is to tour the neighborhoods and buy something to remember the place by.

winter ice rink scene at evening in the nathan phillips square, Toronto
Nathan Phillips Square – By Benson Kua

One of the most popular hoods by far is Kensington Market, an old Jewish area that turned into an overall hip place to visit. There are all sorts of local shops, street art, and diverse food options. It’s famous for being a marketplace and hotspot for the city’s diversity.

Other quirky hoods good for spending that cash are Queen Street West and Yorkville. Chinatown is also very popular, and a great place to find unique items and foods, let alone get immersed into a different culture.

street scene in chinatown toronto
Chinatown – By The Canadian Roadgeek

Toronto is full of other ethnic neighborhoods to explore too. If you like big shopping centers, places like the Toronto Eaton Centre and the Scarborough Civic Centre are right on the mark.

Another big one is Dundas Square, something like Times Square or LA Live in the heart of Old TO. And Nathan Phillips Square is the main square that turns into a big ice rink in the winter. These spots are excellent for feeling the big city vibe.

2. Bricks + Castles – history & art

winter at casa loma castle, Toronto
Casa Loma – By Casa Loma

One really unique place in Toronto is the Casa Loma. This big Gothic Revival-style castle is a really popular place to visit. It’s somewhat of an urban getaway since it’s surrounded by gardens and rests on a hill. The views of the Entertainment District from here are really pretty, and it’s a nice contrast to the main area of the city.

ruin-like structures at Guild Park and Gardens
Guild Park & Gardens – By Jeff Hitchcock

Another neat place is Guild Park and Gardens, a former artists colony set in the woods down in Scarborough. Just off Lake Ontario, there are several relics that were piled together to look like old ruins. It really gives an ancient feel to this New World city.

Speaking of Casa Loma, the bricks used to build it were brought from the Evergreen Brick Works. This is a special site that functioned as a brick factory for about a hundred years. It’s been turned into a park and is now dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability. Now that’s a cool turnaround!

3. Parks + Greens – nature

oaks at high park, toronto
High Park – By Chen Feng (Damn Lee)

Toronto has a ton of parks, and locals are never too far from nature. Probably the most iconic one is High Park, a huge area with lakes, trails, touring trains, and a tranquil atmosphere. The park is especially popular in the spring when tons of cherry blossoms burst into bloom.

fall foliage at the rouge national urban park, Toronto
Rouge National Urban Park – by Jeffrey Eisen

Other notable parks are Riverdale Park East and Trinity Bellwoods Park, the latter being super popular among locals. On the outskirts of town is the Rouge National Urban Park, a massive natural space to just get lost in nature.

creek and waterfall at edwards gardens in toronto's botanical garden
Edwards Gardens – by Toronto Botanical Garden

Nearby is the Toronto Zoo, one of the biggest and best zoos in the Americas. In a similar vein, there are the Edwards Gardens, a beautiful section of the city’s Botanical Gardens to explore and get immersed into TO’s floral side. Urban nature: check.

4. Arts + Museums – culture

royal ontario museum in toronto at night with full yellow moon
Royal Ontario Museum – by Lotus Raphael

So Toronto is stocked with museums and galleries. I mean, just infested with them. The cool thing about several of these is the really flashy, almost futuristic design of the buildings. Two museums in particular that fit this description are the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Not just beautifully designed, these two museums are among the biggest and most renowned in North America (ROM is actually the biggest in Canada).

pink curvy exhibit inside art gallery of ontario, toronto
Art Gallery of Ontario – by Tony Reid

One incredible museum dedicated to Islamic and Persian art is the Aga Khan Museum. The site holds a pretty building with gardens and waterways around it. Probably the most unusual is the Bata Shoe Museum. That’s right, a museum dedicated to shoes! It looks a lot more interesting than it sounds, mounting shoes anywhere from ancient Inuits to more recent basketball players.

horse graffiti art in graffiti alley, special place in Toronto
Graffiti Alley – by Dylan McLeod

One special mention goes to Graffiti Alley, a section of the city with tons of street art. This popular part of town can be observed on your own or with a guided tour, but several parts of the city boast their local artistic talent.

5. Eastside Old Town – marketplaces & architecture

crosswalk in east Old Town, Toronto with view of the Gooderham building and more modern buildings in the background
Gooderham Building – by Lotus Raphael

Old Town is Toronto’s historic core and one of the most popular neighborhoods. Of course, owing to an awesome contrast of old and new architecture like the Royal Bank Plaza and Gooderham Building, there’s more to it than that. The most famous and most traditional market is St. Lawrence Market. It’s a nice place to see the traditional side of TO while getting your grub on.

Christmas market and lighted christmas tree in the distillery district, Toronto
Christmas Market, Distillery District – by Jessica Lam

One extremely important place is the Distillery District, a neighborhood considered the biggest collection of Victorian-era brick buildings in North America. It’s full of shops and eateries amidst the historic buildings. It also happens to be an area for holiday magic. The Christmas Market and Light Festival are held here when the streets are all decorated with lights and Christmas trees. The whole thing just looks like a magical place to be.

We also can’t talk about Canada without mentioning hockey, and guess what? The Hockey Hall of Fame is on this side of town! Check out some Stanley Cups and famous jerseys for all the sports lovers.

6. Ontario Place – history & attractions

Ontario Place and the cinesphere on the harbor
Ontario Place Cinesphere – By Raysonho

A unique part of Toronto on its own is Ontario Place. It’s a big complex that houses all kinds of parks, an amphitheater, exhibits, museums, stadiums, and a marina. One could spend a good part of their day just roaming around this waterfront area.

There are also some important historic sites here like the Princes’ Gates, a majestically arched gateway, or Fort York. This place is a fort that was used by the British back in the early 1800s. It still stands there today to show just how awesome Toronto really is.

7. Pubs + Temples – miscellaneous attractions

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto, special Hindu temple
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto – By Ian Muttoo

I also couldn’t mention Toronto without talking about pubs. The city was very popular for its pubs and breweries, such as the Mill Street Brew Pub. The Madison Avenue Pub, or the “Maddy,” is made out of the joining of manors that morphed into a house now popular to the pub-lic.

half house in Toronto, unique place in Ontario
Half House – by Atlas Obscura

Another weird place that has turned into a kind of landmark is the Half House, an old home whose owners on one side refused to let it be demolished. Now it sits as an old relic practically cut “in half” and surrounded by more modern buildings. It’s a pretty wacky feature of the city.

One last random landmark is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple. It’s this really big and beautifully designed Hindu temple dedicated to this specific branch of the religion located out on the edges of Etobicoke. It’s really beautiful inside and out, worth a visit no matter what your faith is.

8. Entertainment District – attractions & landmarks

neon streets at dusk in Toronto entertainment district
Entertainment District – by Elza Kurbanova

Like I said earlier, this is probably the most visited and most popular part of Toronto. It’s the site of the famous CN Tower, after all, the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. Besides going to the top and taking in the wide views, daredevils can go a bit higher and take a walk around the edges of this lofty tower.

Home to other popular places like the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and the Rogers Centre, lots of events are held on this side of town. A great place to find entertainment (as the name promises) there are several popular theaters and event halls.

Shiny buildings in Toronto, Roy Thomson Hall in entertainment district
Roy Thomson Hall – By Benson Kua

These include places like the Four Season Centre and Roy Thomson Hall. Some even come with fancy names like the Royal Alexandra Theatre or Princess of Wales Theatre. An important movie theater is the TIFF Lightbox that hosts all kinds of movie events throughout the year, including the International Film Festival.

9. Festivals + Events

fireworks at night over entertainment district in Toronto
Party in Toronto – by Stephen H

The Toronto International Film Festival is a very special local event, by the way. Others include the Taste of Danforth Greek festival, Canada Day, Pride Week, and the Caribbean Carnival. Yeah, enjoy that sun!

caribana caribbean festival in Toronto
Caribana Festival – By Loozrboy

In the dark though is an all-night festival called Nuit Blanche dedicated to artwork and getting people to Scarborough. Another creepy event is the Ghost Walk that happens around Halloween time. People can dress up in costumes and roam around Old Town decorated like a big haunted house. If you’re into that.

10. Bluffs + Waterfronts – coasts & nature

view of downtown Toronto from a park in the Toronto Islands, Ontario
view from Toronto Islands – by Scott Webb

Since Toronto is on a huge lake, you can bet there’s a ton of waterfront to enjoy. Canada’s not particularly famous for having beaches, but Toronto does have a few decent ones. There’s even a neighborhood called The Beaches with a few to lie on.

Closer to Old Town there’s Cherry Beach and the tiny Sugar Beach. It is small but that adds to its unique getaway feel. The umbrellas splayed out on the sand make it seem like a little tropics of the north.

sunny day at Cherry Beach, small beach in Old Toronto, Canada
Cherry Beach – by Ian Kirkland

As far as actual waterfront, there is the Harbourfront area next to the Entertainment District where one can enjoy the harbor, walk around, catch a boat ride, or even ice skate in the winter. Just ahead of that are the Toronto Islands, a set of isles right off the city’s coast. The most popular is Centre Island with its own calm beaches and urban park. Some of the best views of T Dot’s skyscrapers are from these islands.

cliffs and blue waters at the Scarborough Bluffs in Toronto, Ontario
Scarborough Bluffs – by Meri Vasilevski

Next to the harbor is the Music Garden which hosts live classical performances and was designed based on one of Bach’s compositions. Getting a ways out of the busy center, Scarborough has a somewhat isolated area called the Scarborough Bluffs. These are a series of forested hills and cliffs overlooking the lake. The colors are spectacular in summer and the place even shelters a few nice beaches. Didn’t expect that one from Canada.

11. Mississauga – city

iconic Marilyn Monroe buildings in Mississauga, near Toronto
Marilyn Monroe Buildings – by Aaron Ledesma

Toronto’s got a lot of suburbs, but its biggest one is Mississauga. The international airport getting into TO is here, but there’s more to this city than that. Mississauga is coastal just like its larger anchor, so there are some lakeside parks with great views to explore.

Port Credit on the Credit River, Mississauga near Toronto
Port Credit on the Credit River – By Jjj84206

There’s also the Credit River and port which is like a peaceful nature getaway that takes hikers into the woods. First and foremost is Celebration Square. This place is “celebrated” as one of the best squares anywhere and is home to many events year-round.

It’s close to pretty buildings like city hall and the famed Marilyn Monroe Towers. These babies look like giant curvy blob-morphs from another planet and are some of the most striking things you’ll find in the Toronto area.

12. Suburbs – nature & attractions

roller coaster at Canada's Wonderland theme park, fun in the Toronto area
rides at Canada’s Wonderland, Vaughan – By Jeremy Thompson

Continuing that thought, the city is surrounded by ideal suburbs. Whether it’s Brampton or Oakville or Oshawa, these places really add to the appeal of Toronto overall. Filled with conservation areas like Heart Lake Park and hiking trails, most of the suburbs are a great way to explore the more natural, rural side of the urban area.

Heart Lake Conservation Area, Vaughan near Toronto, Canada
Heart Lake, Brampton – By Mykola Swarnyk

Adding to its conservation parks, Vaughan is also special for being home to Canada’s Wonderland, Canada’s largest and earliest major theme park. And of course, Burlington has the enchanted Royal Botanical Gardens with some mountainous scenery around Mt. Nemo. Visitors can get hyped at a theme park and chill out at a heart-shaped lake afterward. What could be more fun?

centerpiece at Canada's Wonderland theme park, Vaughan, Ontario
Canada’s Wonderland – By Jeremy Thompson

13. Culture (+ Closing)

We all know (by now) that Toronto is the biggest city and probably the most diverse in Canada. This city is famed for having open arms to the world’s people and allowing for so many cultures and nationalities to coexist. The city’s people don’t just reside here but are celebrated by the many festivals, events, and exhibits dedicated to them every year.

It’s a massive metropolis that has often been ahead of the pack with its culture, music, film industry, and economic might. Still, in all its growth, Toronto remembers to protect its natural environment and to promote sustainability in a lasting way. This city, like many places in Canada, doesn’t let the cold get to it. Whether it’s ice skating, snowboarding, or hockey, locals know how to make the most of the cold dark months with a face-full of lights … and some good brew.

**Okay world lovers, that’s it for Toronto! I hope you enjoyed this post and learned something about this incredible city. I also hope I showed you part of why Toronto is a special place. Are you from Toronto or ever visited there? Let us know what you would add (or take away) from this little list. I appreciate your readership, and take care of yourselves. Peace.