Seasoned expats know too well that for a successful relocation, knowledge is the key. It’s not just about the country you are moving to; it’s about the exact place you will call home.
So, if you know you’re moving to Canada but don’t know where exactly, here are our top choices for the best places to live in Canada.
There are some essential things to consider when choosing where to live.
Some places in Canada have better opportunities than others regarding jobs, careers, housing and schooling, climate and leisure activities.
Average wages are higher than in many other countries, although expenses can also be higher. Check how much money you need to live comfortably in Canada.
Canada frequently ranks at the top of lifestyle lists because it offers good employment opportunities and has decent standards of healthcare and education.
It’s a first-world nation with a very open immigration policy, and the quality of life can be excellent.
Middle-class Canadians can usually afford to live in detached houses. Property costs tend to be cheaper in Canada than in the UK or in the USA, partly because the country is so vast that there is no space restriction.
Having said that, in the most built-up areas, such as downtown Toronto, where there is high demand for space, costs can be higher.
The one downside of Canada most often quoted is the climate. But despite what many people think, Canada is not covered in snow for 6 months of the year. It’s relatively easy to find a part of Canada where winter isn’t as harsh, and it’s much easier to cope with the cold.
Two things to remember about Canada’s winters are that the nation is fully geared up to cope with snow and ice, and therefore infrastructure does not fail as it does in other countries.
Secondly, life is structured around the winter weather so that sports and community events embrace the conditions.
Need more information on what life in Canada is like? Check out our Lifestyle In Canada guide – you will discover the sides of Canada you never knew!
Canada certainly has more positives than it does negatives. So, if you’re a would-be emigrating expatriate planning on moving to Canada, here’s what you need to know about the best places to live.
Ottawa is a very popular choice for expatriates. The city consistently ranks highly for the quality of life, cleanliness and is one of the best communities to live in worldwide.
Thanks to its cultural diversity and a large number of young people attracted to the city by its two universities – University of Ottawa and Carleton University – Ottawa is a vibrant and youthful city with stunning architecture, a prosperous city centre and lovely neighbourhoods.
Just under 1million people live in Ottawa, but the population is expected to grow by 3% in the next 3 years thanks to new investment and Canada’s immigration drive.
Ottawa is very clean and green. It is bike-friendly and has an abundance of opportunities for an active outdoor lifestyle.
The beautiful Rideau Canal that cuts through the city provides numerous trails, walkways, running paths and bike lanes all the way through. In winter, the canal freezes over and becomes the world’s longest skating rink.
Ottawa has 4 distinct seasons, which provide a nice change of scenery throughout the year: winters are cold and fabulously bright with tons of winter activities available through the city, and summers can get quite hot and humid.
Ottawa is officially bilingual, and many services there are offered in both French and English.
Knowing French helps, but English is understood everywhere. Learning French might benefit you in terms of integrating faster in the community or getting certain types of employment; you don’t really have to be bilingual to have a good life there.
The cost of living in Ottawa, although higher than average, is still quite affordable. Depending on your preferred location, it is possible to rent an apartment from CAN $700-1400 per month.
Dining out and groceries can be expensive, especially imported items. However, salaries are also above the average and unemployment in Ottawa is relatively low at 5.3%.
Top occupations are information systems analysts and consultants, retail salespersons and computer programmers and interactive media developers.
Ottawa is home to Canada’s Federal government and has both provincial government offices and a municipal government as considerable employers. The public sector employs around 20% of the working population in Ottawa.
The most growing areas of employment were natural and applied sciences and related; education, law and community; and management occupations.
Ontario, in general, is one of the most popular provinces for expats. No wonder: there are so many advantages of living in Ontario that the province is impossible to ignore.
Quite a lot of the best places to live in Canada are in Ontario, including Burlington.
Located near Toronto, Burlington sits at the south-western end of Lake Ontario and is the perfect place for those who want a big city living in close proximity to nature and the great outdoors.
Burlington maintains over 580 hectares of parkland and boasts a quality of life second to none.
Residents can enjoy some of the best hiking in the world in the local sections of the Bruce Trail and the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO-designated World Biosphere Reserve, along the Waterfront Trail that skirts the northern shore of Lake Ontario.
The lifestyle available is good, with plenty of schools, colleges and healthcare facilities available to residents. From the 115 parks you can visit across the city to the museums, to the many annual festivals that residents enjoy, Burlington has excellent and diverse opportunities.
Burlington is one of the more expensive cities in the ranking, and the average home costs almost $500,000, which is four and a half times the average family income.
Still, this city earns high marks for low unemployment, pleasant weather, low crime, high incomes, and great transit.
The city has a broad economic base, which adds to its economic stability, and it ensures there are consistently job prospects available across multiple sectors.
No single employer or job sector dominates Burlington’s economy. Finding a job is pretty easy in Burlington, and the low unemployment rate is linked to the diverse economy of the prosperous Golden Horseshoe region.
Toronto is conveniently accessible from Burlington by commuter train, which connects central Burlington to downtown Toronto. It takes one hour by train to commute. So many professionals choose to commute daily to work in Toronto and live in Burlington.
Oakville, a lovely suburban town in southern Ontario, also boasts a brilliant location in Halton Region on Lake Ontario, which gives residents easy access to natural wonders on the one hand and to a bustling city of Toronto on the other hand.
Oakville is just 30 minutes from downtown Toronto and an hour’s drive from Niagara Falls and the United States border.
With a population of just under 200,000 people, this thriving town provides all the advantages of a well-serviced urban centre while successfully preserving its cosy small-town feel.
It deserves its place on the list of the best places to live in Canada for its outstanding catering for families and children.
There is plenty to do for those who love arts, culture and music, from performances at the local Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts to museums and galleries to fantastic festivals, including Oakville’s annual Waterfront Festival, Festival of Classics and Jazz Festival.
The community also provides plenty of recreational opportunities. Golfers can play at seven golf courses, including the PGA-recognized Glen Abbey Golf Course, which has hosted the Canadian Open for many years.
There are over 2,400 acres of park space, many with groomed hiking trails. For boaters, Oakville features two picturesque harbours with docks and slips for sail and powerboats.
Oakville is a base for Siemens and The Ford Motor Company Canadian offices as well as manufacturing facilities operated by UTC Aerospace Systems and General Electric, meaning jobs are easy to find.
Oakville is a popular location for life science companies, specialising mainly in pharmaceuticals and eldercare. However, just like Burlington, Oakville is a Toronto suburb, and many residents commute to work in Toronto, where employment opportunities are numerous and diverse.
4. St. Albert
Alberta has been climbing up the list of the best provinces in Canada for several years in a row.
With its strong economy and abundance of high-paying jobs, it is attracting more Canadians and expatriates than ever as people are starting to discover there is more to living in Alberta than just oil.
Previously, St. Albert earned the top spot on the annual Best Places to Live in Canada list in a small-town category, and for good reason.
It has all the amenities such as schools, health care and recreational facilities and also boasts several parks and facilities to promote a healthy lifestyle.
St. Albert has ample green space, an abundance of outdoor rinks and more than 85 km of bike trails along the Sturgeon River.
It is also home to an International Children’s Festival that draws 55,000 people every year.
Crime rates are steadily falling, and while winters there can be freezing (averaging 28 days a year with a minimum temperature below -20˚C), there’s plenty of sunshine all year round.
St. Albert is located just 30 km away from Edmonton – the regional capital – and is a preferred place for those who choose a more relaxed pace of life.
The St. Albert Transit system offers convenient commuter services to Edmonton. If living in Edmonton doesn’t appeal to you, but your job is there, choosing St. Albert can be a better option.
St. Albert has a low unemployment rate of 4.3%, and incomes are among the highest in the country, with most people commuting to work in Edmonton.
Although St. Albert has a much lower exposure to the oil and gas sector, it cannot totally escape the region’s trend. Nearby Edmonton is a major oil and gas centre, with the most prominent industry being petrochemicals.
The region is rich in oil and natural gas, which has given Edmonton the title of “Oil Capital of Canada”. So many residents of St. Albert who commute to Edmonton work in oil-related industries.
However, the area offers a wide range of other employment sectors. There are opportunities in information technology, banking and biotechnology.
Boucherville is one of the oldest municipalities in Québec, with a community of around 43,000. The city’s median household income is $92,253, and its unemployment rate sits at an impressively low 2.88 per cent.
Situated very near Montreal, its population growth is high, so with bike-friendly streets and a strong arts and sports community, Boucherville is hugely attractive for expatriates.
The great outdoors is definitely a prominent feature in Boucherville.
The Iles-de-Boucherville National Park is one of the most amazing parks in Canada, with snow hiking, volleyball on sand, sea kayaking, wildlife viewing, biking and more.
It’s a perfect location for a family who loves outdoor activities, golf, nature and beautiful scenery while still needing the amenities of a big city at hand.
Boucherville residents are mostly French-speaking – about 90% of the population speak French, while only 2% can speak fluent English. Therefore, knowing French is an essential factor if you want to move to Boucherville.
From the point of view of employment, those who are bilingual get better chances to be employed.
In general, the city has a very low unemployment rate, and employees receive relatively good salaries. Boucherville’s industrial park is home to around 575 businesses which provides employment to 23 000 people.
Boucherville is just 18 km away from Montreal, Canada’s second-biggest city, so it is common for many Boucherville residents to commute to work in Montreal.
Typical areas of employment in Montreal are aerospace, software, electronics, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and transportation.
The city is one of the largest aerospace centres in North America; over 40,000 people are employed in Quebec’s aerospace industry at companies like Bell Helicopter Textron, Bombardier Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, and CAE.
Vancouver repetitively tops lists as one of the best places to live in the world, and it’s no surprise.
The city has everything from mountains to beaches, islands, coastline, an urban centre and beautiful residential suburbs.
Vancouver really does have everything. The only drawback if you plan on moving to Vancouver is the property market.
Prices for a family home in the suburbs can reach over CA$1million very quickly, and properties that come up for sale get snapped up fast. Even rent can be very high, making finding somewhere to live complicated.
However, once your housing situation is sorted, you can enjoy the best Vancouver has to offer.
It has incredible connections internationally as well as to the surrounding islands, so getting out of the city and into nature is often easier than crossing downtown.
Vancouver’s economy is diverse and thriving.
Film and television are huge employers in the area as the city is the most popular filming location after New York and LA.
With investment thanks to the recent 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver jobs are easy to find and pay very well. Which makes finding a house easier!
The general cost of living in Vancouver is also very high. Following Singapore, it’s one of the most expensive cities globally.
But on the flip side, it offers the best of the best.
Vancouver has the best schools, best hospitals and medical care, best public transport, best shopping districts, best harbour and maintained parkland – Stanley Park is world-famous – in most of Canada.
Even the weather in Vancouver is milder than in other places making outdoor activities more accessible year-round. If you can afford it, Vancouver is truly incredible.
If you are moving to Alberta, there’s a big chance you are choosing between Calgary and Edmonton.
Calgary, the largest city in Alberta, has a lot to offer anyone moving to Canada.
Home to 1.5million people, it’s a bustling city that is always full of life but is hugely connected to nature and the surrounding landscape.
As the city is located at the meeting point of two rivers – the bow and the elbow – at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, life in Calgary is certainly picturesque.
Calgary initially grew from a small town into a city as the railway expanded out west. As such, it has all the charm of a mountain village with all the amenities of a fast-paced city.
When the Winter Olympic Games chose Calgary for the 1988 games, the whole area received massive investment. Residents in Calgary still benefit from the financial boost with some of the country’s best sporting facilities and transport connections.
The city is separated into 180 distinct neighbourhoods, each with its own history and culture, making Calgary one of the most diverse cities in Canada.
Redevelopment in some of the older neighbourhoods is ongoing, meaning there is always something new to explore. Parks and outdoor spaces are very well maintained, especially Prince Island Park, used for many of the city’s festivals, including a music festival and cowboy stampede.
Thanks to the excellent facilities and ongoing redevelopment, housing prices are on the rise. A condo starts at around CA$300,000, while a house starts at around CA$500,000.
Despite high property costs, Calgary is reasonably inexpensive for day to day living costs. It is also supported by fantastic employment opportunities.
There are plenty of jobs in the tourism, film, manufacturing, aerospace, health, financial services and transport sectors, making Calgary a straightforward place to move to if you are looking for work.
Based out on the Atlantic coast, Halifax is the regional capital for Nova Scotia. The city is the second fastest-growing in Canada in terms of population, with just under 6,000 expatriates arriving last year.
The stunning coastline and leisure lifestyle make it the ideal location for people looking to get away from city life for a quiet retirement.
The city of Halifax sits on one side of the Bedford basin facing the town of Dartmouth on the other side. As such, life in Halifax means having access to the amenities of two cities.
The choices for education, healthcare, public facilities and employment are doubled thanks to the two bridges connecting the two cities.
Like most of Canada, much of city life revolves around nature and the outdoors, meaning Halifax offers an excellent lifestyle for anyone who likes being outdoors.
Thanks to its coastal position, the area gets a fair amount of snow, but temperatures are less cold in winter, and snow melts faster.
Winters are long but feel shorter than the intense cold in other places like Toronto. It is relatively remote, so winters can feel lonely, and many people feel unconnected to the mainland.
In terms of job opportunities, the significant employer in the area is the services sector which makes up 85% of all employment. The healthcare sector is also growing and providing more opportunities. Halifax is Nova Scotia’s economic powerhouse, so jobs in the city are highly sought after.
Unemployment here is higher than in other areas because of the high demand for work, so many expatriates that move to Halifax can either work remotely or are retired and don’t need employment.
Salaries in Halifax tend to be pretty high, with an average annual salary of just over CA$60,000.
Surprisingly, the cost of living in Halifax is relatively low. House prices, rent, and general bills tend to be lower than average, meaning people have high disposable incomes. The area is generally very affluent and a wonderful place to live.
9. Quebec City
Quebec City is one of the oldest existing cities in the entire North American continent.
Founded in 1833 but with even older history, this fortified city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has some of the most beautiful architecture in Canada.
Quebec City is a hub of culture, art, and history with cobbled streets, historical landmarks, plenty of parkland and museums.
While it is smaller and has fewer amenities than other major cities in Canada, you’ll never struggle to find healthcare, schools or work. Many expatriates move to Quebec City because it’s closer to a European city than anywhere else in Canada.
Language is the primary consideration for anyone planning to move to the city. Fewer than 2% of inhabitants speak English fluently, and French is definitely the dominant language for work. There are several major employers in the area, thanks to the thriving port.
Most residents work in the timber, pulp. Aerospace and hydropower industry. Unemployment is low, but there are limited opportunities for fast-paced, modern office-based jobs.
In general, life in Quebec City is cheaper than in other similar-sized cities. Everything from rent to groceries sits below average making it an inexpensive place to emigrate to. The reason for the low costs is the winter isolation.
Connections in and out of the city in the depths of winter aren’t fantastic, and the long, cold winters are harsher here than further south.
Most winter days sit at around -7 with plenty of snow and short dark days. But if you can stand the cold, summers are warm and bright, and the city is very welcoming to newcomers.
If you’re looking for a city that seriously acts like one giant village, Saskatoon is easily one of the top choices.
Home to around 275,000 people, Saskatoon in Saskatchewan doesn’t feel like a city. The downtown area and surrounding suburbs are very community-based and are very welcoming to anyone who moves in.
Much of Saskatoon is based around communal living.
There are huge numbers of public parks, playgrounds and public sports grounds. There’s even a hugely successful weekly farmers market for local produce as well as public swimming pools in the summer and many festivals including comedy, Shakespeare, music and agricultural events.
Agriculture is a major employer in the area, including livestock and mineral mining. However, the job market has expanded into IT, biotech and manufacturing in recent years, meaning jobs are easy to find and well-paid.
Thanks to local agriculture and the wide-open plains, the cost of living in Saskatoon is fairly low compared to the rest of the nation.
House prices are on the way up as the area becomes more popular, but they are generally lower than average.
Everything from houses to cars to public transport is lower than the rest of the country and even commute time sits below average at just 20 minutes.
The downside is the weather.
Saskatoon experiences freezing winters. This fosters a very neighbourly attitude where everyone will help you out if you need it. However, the winter weather is so extreme that Saskatoon is one of the few cities where life can grind to a halt during storms.
Saskatoon completes our list of the 10 best places to live in Canada. However, there is one more destination we would like to mention. It’s growing rapidly in popularity and could very soon climb into our top ten:
An up and coming expat destination – Charlottetown
Looking to get ahead of the trend and move to someone on the rise?
Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island is fast-growing, attracting many new expatriates and has massive redevelopment projects with low prices.
Bang for buck, it’s one of the most affordable places to live without compromising on facilities and amenities.
Charlottetown consists of several distinct, vibrant neighbourhoods with a considerable amount of history. The entire Canadian nation was actually founded in Charlottetown in 1864.
The city isn’t large, with just 35,000 residents, but this gives it the feeling of a large market town. The old town is stunning while newer built-up neighbourhoods are popping up everywhere with all the modern facilities.
Real estate in Charlottetown remains some of the cheapest in the country, with a good family home on the market for around CA$200,000 making life very affordable.
Local farmers mean grocery bills are low, and the only time you’ll notice high costs is importing items during the winter months. Although the busy port means prices aren’t exorbitant, most items can be easily located and shipped in.
Economically, the job market is dominated by the public sector.
The educational sectors, healthcare, social workers and government roles off plenty of work. And the manufacturing and tech companies that are setting up in the area in recent years are growing in popularity thanks to a range of new roles with good salaries.
Charlottetown is the island’s economic and cultural hub, meaning there is everything from local sports events to cultural festivals, museums, art shows, and more all year round with a steady stream of visitors.
As more people discover the city’s delights, it is growing steadily and is set to become one of Canada’s nicest places to live.
If ever you wanted to invest before a city becomes expensive, now is the time to move to Charlottetown.
Final say on the best places to live in Canada
It’s not difficult to see why Canada is such an exceptionally popular choice with would-be expatriates. The country is ripe with opportunities, and the lifestyle it offers is pretty good if a little cold at times!
The only real ‘problem’ with Canada is that it’s such a vast nation with so much to offer that you have to spend time researching the different provinces to find your favourite area.
We hope the above list of the best places to live in Canada has introduced you to some of the most promising lifestyle destinations in this fabulous nation. Your next step should be visiting parts of Canada where you feel you could make a new home abroad.
- Canada Visa – How To Move To Canada As A Skilled Person
- Living In Canada As An Expat Guide
- Visit our Canada Country Guides page for more information on living in Canada.