Canada is a multicultural patchwork of people from 200 nations, with nearly 20 percent of the population representing visible minorities. This is reflected in vibrant neighbourhoods and diverse ethnic communities across the country, communities that feel like miniature versions of cities around the world.
Get to know Canada’s unique neighbourhoods that proudly boast global flair.
Bohemian, artsy, and seductively French — that’s Montreal, a city where one third of the residents are born outside of Canada. Though there are many colourful pockets in this diverse city, you’ll want to spend time in vivacious Little Italy. It’s been an Italiano hub since the 19th century, a place of leafy green parks and quaint architecture. There’s the bustling outdoor cafes in and around St-Laurent Boulevard, the fresco-adorned Church of the Madonna della Difesa, and the famed Jean-Talon public market. Stroll the lively market, which showcases international cuisine, fresh produce, and artisan goods, shop the charming boutiques, and sample Italian fare (hand-rolled pasta, calamari, pizza, espresso), especially at standout Primo & Secondo. Foodies, don’t miss a chance to eat here!
Giving New York and London a run for their money, Toronto is "Canada's Downtown" and its multicultural capital. You’ll hear 140 different languages on the street and more than half of the population is foreign-born, residing in communities like Little India, Portugal Village, Greektown, and Chinatown. Neighbourhoods like Corktown, where many Irish immigrants settled, and family-oriented Roncesvalles Village, a historically Polish district where you can now eat Lebanese, French, Spanish, and Thai, are definitely worth a visit. But Toronto’s Parkdale is a gem that’s still being discovered. Here you’ll find West Indian, Tibetan, and North African enclaves mixed in with nesting hipsters and artsy types. On Queen West near King Street West and the lake shore, this neighbourhood is in transition, meaning it’s unpolished and interesting, with trendy bars and eateries sandwiched between old Victorians, industrial lofts, and diamond-in-the-rough buildings. Dine at trendy Parts and Labour or sample vegan cuisine at the Imperative. Catch live music, go out for cocktails, and shop vintage fashion.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Downtown Vancouver’s east side is home to Canada’s largest Chinatown. It’s a cool area with a vintage feel; gritty, busy, authentic, and colourful with plenty of laundry-lined alleys and eclectic storefronts. Immigrants working to build British Columbia’s railroad settled here in the 1800s and you still feel that history today. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you pass through the elaborate Millennium Gate on Pender Street. Wander the sidewalks and peruse stacks of dried fish and exotic mushrooms, burlap sacks brimming with medicinal herbs, shops lined with exotic teas, painted porcelain bowls, and glossy Chinese silk dresses, and glazed whole ducks roasting in window rotisseries. Sit down with families packed into eateries for some authentic Chinese fare and dim sum, or join the in crowd at trendy restaurants like Bao Bei and Juke. Then, relax at tranquil Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden, host to an annual autumn full moon festival and late winter’s spectacular Chinese New Year parade.
On Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Norse heritage is front and centre in Gimli, one hour north of Winnipeg, where a hulking Viking statue standing watch over Harbour Park welcomes visitors. Dubbed “New Iceland” back in 1875, today Icelandic culture and Viking heritage still permeate everything from the restaurants and the arts to community activities. Go for late August’s annual Icelandic summer festival called Islendingadagurinn and sample vinatarta (a traditional prune torte) or scan the Book of Life, a log of family histories housed at the New Iceland Heritage Museum. Enjoy outdoor winter sports Norse-style, including Nordic skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, or spend a summer day swimming and lounging on the Gimli beach shoreline. Watch movies on a floating screen at the beach at the five-day Gimli Film Festival. Indulge in fresh pickerel on the waterfront (try Lakeview Resort), browse the art galleries, and shop for unusual souvenirs, including Viking helmets, at the wonderfully vintage 1899 H.P. Tergesen and Sons general store.
Though they hail from the Tropics, you’ll find Canada’s largest communities of Filipinos in the North — particularly in Whitehorse. In fact, immigrants from the Philippines make up the largest foreign-born population in Canada’s three territories. In Whitehorse, dine at downtown’s Talk of the Town Restaurant & Bakery, sampling international faves like calamari and quesadillas alongside Philippine specialties: mango rice, Lechon Kawali (deep-fried pork belly with pickled papaya), and Pancit Bihon (Canton stirfry egg noodles with chicken, shrimp, and veggies). Check the Canadian Filipino Association’s website or flyers around town for folk dances, music festivals, and other cultural heritage events.
In the centre of Calgary near the park-lined Bow River, Kensington Village — with its retro brick buildings and tattoo parlours — is home to a mixture of cultures that make it one of the city’s hottest places to spend an afternoon or evening out. Go for outstanding outdoor dining (from Indian to green smoothies), packed bars, retail therapy of the homespun and funky kind, and live music. Favourites include fiesta-vibe Julio’s Barrio Mexican Restaurant for its “fishbowl margarita,” sangria, and tacos on the patio, Peacock Boutique for trendy consignment, and vintage vinyl and cassettes at Hot Wax Records. Share wood-fired Napoletana pizzas on the patio at modern-chic Ristorante Pulcinella, then go for dessert at Amato Gelato with 72 rotating flavors, open late. Kensington puts on 40 events a year, including beer tastings and art crawls.
Near Moncton, New Brunswick
A pretty harbour town at the head of the Bouctouche River, 40 minutes northeast of Moncton, Bouctouche is as famed for its sandy beaches and its Acadian culture. The Acadians are French descendants of colonists who settled in Acadia (Quebec and the Maritmes) in the 17th and 18th centuries. They speak Acadian French and music is central to their culture. Founded back in 1785 by two brothers, Bouctouche celebrates its past at Le Pays de la Sagouine, a recreated historic village with gem-coloured cottages that house music, comedy, dance, and plays inspired by the award-winning book La Sagouine. Golf, stroll the farmers’ market, or hike and cycle through giant sand dunes along the trails and boardwalks at Irving Eco Centre, one of North America’s longest natural sand spits.
You don’t have to look far to find pierogies smothered in sour cream and bacon bits in Saskatoon, on the South Saskatchewan River: nearly 20 percent of residents here have Ukrainian heritage. A recent Ukrainian Day in downtown’s Kiwanis Park drew 10,000 fans for music, dancing, and a market of authentic handmade wares. The Ukrainian Museum of Canada hosts many fun public events along the riverbank, where you can also pick up traditional clothing and textiles at the gift shop. Meet the locals, play pool, and try Ukrainian Nachos at The Copper Mug. Eat like-mom-cooked-it cabbage rolls at no-frills Baba’s Homestyle Perogies, or authentic and exotic dishes at the friendly, thatch roofed Touch of Ukraine.
No need to globetrot to get to know different cultures: Stroll a traditional Chinese garden, eat authentic Italian, Filipino, and Ukrainian, and celebrate Viking heritage — all in Canada!