Canadians are rightly proud of their country’s cultural heritage. After all, Canada gave the world IMAX movies, The Handmaid’s Tale, Drake, Avatar, Emily Carr’s landscapes and Trivial Pursuit. So we asked recent visitors to Canada where should you go to soak up the best of the country’s culture.*
Montréal in Quebec
The Place des Arts in Montreal
Montreal’s unique cultural output can be attributed to the triple influence of English, French and First Nations artists living in the city. For fine art visits, try the Place des Arts complex in downtown Montréal. This cultural complex has six theatres – including an open-air venue – and hosts ballet, opera, plays and concerts. Take in as many shows as possible by staying at the eco-friendly Boxotel, less than a 1-minute walk from the Place des Arts.
If you are in search of something a bit unusual, visit the atmospheric Ateliers Grover – a former knitwear factory, which now hosts a collection of artist studios and regular open days. After you’ve finished marvelling at all the work, take a walk down Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Saint Dominique to see some of the city’s dramatic street art.
Winnipeg in Manitoba
A rising star in Canada's cultural landscape
Winnipeg is an oft-overlooked destination but the Manitoban city is a rising star in Canada’s cultural landscape. 'Friday art nights' are a mainstay of the local cultural calendar, as venues across the city open their doors to showcase new exhibitions.
Work from First Nation artists is especially popular, so make a trip to Urban Shamen. This Aboriginal artist-run centre features multimedia, sculpture, photography and performance art. It’s also a 4-minute drive from the Graffiti Gallery and the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art. If you’re only in town for a short trip, stay in the Exchange district at the Alt Hotel Winnipeg.
Ottawa in Ontario
The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, photo taken by Chris Parker
Ottawans are fanatical about festivals. The city hosts the annual Winterlude (Canada’s largest cultural festival) and music lovers travel from all over the world to attend the Folk Music Festival, RBC Bluesfest, TD Ottawa Jazz Festival and the electronic Escapade Music Festival. Fill your visit with music by staying at the boutique Brookstreet Hotel and spending an evening in their Options Jazz Lounge.
It is practically impossible to book a visit to Ottawa that doesn’t coincide with a festival, but if you manage it, there’s still plenty of mesmerising culture on offer. The National Arts Centre is home to the NAC Orchestra and independent theatres like The Gladstone, Ottawa Little Theatre and the Absolute Comedy Ottawa run year-round programs.
Toronto in Ontario
Street art at Toronto's Graffiti Alley
Toronto is a city with a bit (or a lot) of everything. Film, fine art, theatre, street art, music, literature – whatever you’re into, you’ll find it here. For a special introduction to the city, start by exploring the network of narrow streets surrounding Queen Street and Spadina Avenue. Known as ‘Graffiti Alley’, this area features over a kilometre of vivid street art and you can stay a short walk away at these advantageously-situated apartments.
If possible, organise your trip to Toronto to coincide with the first Thursday of the month and you’ll be able to attend the Art Gallery of Ontario’s alternative art party. Known as AGO First Thursdays, these events bring together local and international artists to showcase art, music and ideas in a spectacular evening that often trips over into Friday morning.
Québec City in Québec
Rue du Tresor or Art Alley is where local artists sell their work
Named as the world’s leading City of Culture in 2016, Québec’s provincial capital is a cultural playground. In order to understand the Quebecois culture, pay a visit to the French at the Musée de l’Amérique francophone, a museum dedicated to the cultural and historical impact Québec’s diverse population have had upon the city.
Moving from the past to the present, make sure to book tickets to the latest Cirque Du Soleil production. This internationally-adored circus troupe has given Québec City a reputation for thrills and innovation when it comes to performance arts. Experience Québec’s unique brand of opulent luxury at its best and check into the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, or opt for home comforts at Le 235.
*These destinations were the most highly-rated in Canada for ‘culture’ by Booking.com customers.