Canada offers up unique experiences that you won’t find in any guidebook — you just have to know where to find them. To help you explore like a local, we’ve asked friends from across the country to share their top spots and experiences from the cities they call home. Bundled by interest or passion, consider this your local’s guide to travelling through the country’s vibrant cities and boundless wilderness.
Thanks to Tamara Elliott, Jason Fitz, Julia Weber, Jeff Frenette, Stoked for Saturday, and Kael Rebick for their local tips.
Canada might be known for its picture-perfect landscape and natural wonders, but our cities also offer an explosion of world-class galleries, incredible public art, and urban panoramas.
Vancouver Mural Fest - Vancouver
Where art takes over
In 2016, Vancouver brightened up its streets with the first of many mural festivals. In the Mount Pleasant area of the city, you’ll find beautiful art around every street corner. Roam the area and find murals tucked away (this map is a good place to start), then grab a coffee or beer at a local brewery to make an afternoon of it. Our inside recommends Cartems for an artisan donut and Brassneck (right next door) for a tasty craft brew.
The Wonderland Sculpture - Calgary
The power of public art
At the foot of Calgary’s tallest skyscraper, the Bow Tower, is the Wonderland sculpture, a perfectly exceptional exhibit of public art. The 11-metre-tall sculpture of a young girl’s head by famed Spanish artist Jaume Plensa is just one visible sign of the city’s recent urban transformation. With the skyscraper in the background, it’s an exceptionally photographable scene.
Kensington Market - Toronto
The art of good living
It might show up in most tour guides, but Kensington Market is a straight-up must for all travellers. The culture, art, music, and food is simply exceptional and unlike anywhere else in North America. It is truly Toronto’s most diverse and exciting atmosphere.
Inkwell Modern Handmade - Halifax
Local art that can hang
Inkwell Modern Handmade is an awesome local boutique that specializes in handmade print and letter presses for thoroughly original paper art. It’s a great spot to grab unique cards or wall prints.
Bank Street Art - Ottawa
The mural mile
Throughout Ottawa you’ll find stunning urban murals created by talented local artists. Our local tipster’s favourite stretch runs down Bank Street. Start at Bank and Wellington to follow Bank Street through downtown to see the eclectic mix of street art.
Art in the Open - Prince Edward Island
Art on island time
One week each summer, Prince Edward Island’s capital city, Charlottetown is treated to a veritable buffet of art. Throughout the downtown, visitors and locals are invited to explore Art in the Open. This festival highlights the vibrant art of the island and brings the local arts community together. Taking place downtown, it’s a great way to explore the neighbourhood while checking out performances. Grab a booklet and check it out.
Artgang - Montreal
Edgy gallery and boutique
Artgang Montreal hosts the city’s best indie art shows. When there’s no show on the schedule, enjoy their constantly rotating exhibits. Some of Montreal’s raddest clothing can even be found in the shop.
Argyle Fine Arts - Halifax
Halifax boasts a strong (but admittedly modest) art scene. Argyle Fine Art is the city’s most progressive modern gallery, showcasing established and emerging Canadian artists.
The Power Plant Gallery - Toronto
Unmistakably modern art
The Power Plant is one of Canada’s leading public galleries. The Harbourfront Centre venue is devoted to groundbreaking contemporary art at Toronto’s waterfront cultural hub. Many of the exhibitions use installations and multi-compositional approaches to immerse, challenge, and inspire visitors. The Power Plant has made a name for itself hosting independent solo shows of seminal and emerging artists from all over the world.
Leo Mol Sculpture Garden - Winnipeg
On the banks of the Assiniboine in Manitoba, you’ll be treated to a garden full of sculptures by Leo Mol. The surroundings are almost as beautiful as the art, so take some time to explore all the bronze statues around the grounds. This is the perfect place to relax after exploring Winnipeg’s best food and coffee.
Graffiti Alley - Toronto
Art for art’s sake
There’s nothing quite like Toronto’s Graffiti Alley anywhere else in North America. Our local tipster is constantly amazed by the talent of Toronto’s street artists. The breathtaking alleyway is a public art gallery in its own right and don’t let rain stop you from checking it out — it’s even more breathtaking to capture the colours in the reflection of a puddle.
Vancouver Biennale - Vancouver
Art and seek
More open air art in Vancouver can be found around the city thanks to the Vancouver Biennale. No matter what neighbourhood you’re in, chances are you’ll see one of the sculptures that this initiative brought to the city. Besides the art that exists year round, Vancouver Biennale hosts events so you can discover even more of Vancouver’s art scene. Check out the exhibition map and see what spots are nearby on your next visit.
Queen Street West Galleries - Toronto
Authentic and unconventional
The trendy (but not too trendy) Queen Street West neighbourhood is full of tons of galleries to explore. There’s a reason so many local designers and artists call Queen Street, one of the world’s most authentic artistic enclaves, home.
Canada’s thriving art scene is noticeable across the country, accenting picturesque vistas with distinctly Canadian creations. Stop by a gallery, public art avenue, or viewpoint and take it all in.