Cruising from Canada? Find Boatloads to Do in These Port Cities

Many travelers embarking on a cruise choose to bookend a few days in a port city. This presents an opportunity to go deeper into a destination: to see a museum, sample a couple of restaurants, and to move at a leisurely pace. After all, why rush things?

Here are some ideas for what to see and to do in four of Canada’s most popular port cities.

Vancouver

Water and mountains, glass and concrete—there is no city on earth quite like Vancouver. Culturally, Canada’s most western city has more in common with Seattle and Portland than other Canadian destinations. Still, the city is decidedly ‘Canuck’ with its hockey team, politeness, multiculturalism, and indigenous roots.

Plenty of examples of public art by indigenous artists can be spotted across the city, from historic totem poles to the acclaimed jade sculpture at the heart of the Vancouver airport.

A visit to the Granville Island Public Market is a popular first-stop for many visitors. The year-round, enclosed facility presents the perfect place to purchase fresh seafood, cheeses, and other locally sourced products.

When you need to stretch your legs, Stanley Park is one of the world’s most impressive urban parks. Spend the afternoon strolling or jogging around the 6-mile seawall—or rent a bicycle for a more leisurely adventure.

Instagrammers will want to check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge for portraits among towering trees, a dramatic ravine, and a vertigo-inducing wooden bridge.

Grab dinner in the historic Gastown neighborhood at Tuc Craft Kitchen, a mainstay farm-to-table bistro offering a nod to the saloon-and-sawmill heritage of the local neighborhood. Or, if you’re craving soup, get in line at Marutama Ra-men (various locations) for the heavenly creamy chicken broth.

Halifax

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Stay in Halifax and explore its charming waterfront. (Photo: Getty Images)

The de facto capital of Atlantic Canada, Halifax offers small-town charm with big-city restaurant choices and architecture. The city was founded in 1749, and the Citadel—a star-shaped fort perched upon a hilltop—attests to a tumultuous history. Roam the historic grounds with a guided tour.

The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market is the oldest, continuously operating farmers market in North America. It proudly hosts over 250 vendors, which offer everything from fish to art to pet products (and plenty things in between).

When it reopened in 2014, the stunning Halifax Central Library won several design accolades, including the 2016 Governor General’s Medals in Architecture. The library’s upstairs café provides a handsome vantage point to see the city.

When it’s time for dinner, book a table at Edna—named after a Jazz-Age American feminist poet—for the combination of soulful ambience and soul food. Or head to the more industrial North End neighborhood, where Bar Kismet serves sophisticated yet approachable seafood and some of the city’s most inventive cocktails.

Montreal

A hundred years ago during prohibition, Montreal was Canada’s Sin City. Americans crossed the border for a rollicking good time. And while good times are most certainly still available, Montreal has matured into one of North America’s most sophisticated destinations: European flair with North American innovation.

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Montreal’s parks and outdoor spaces are perfect for unwinding. (Photo: Alamy)

First-time visitors should head to the top of Mount Royal, the park in the center of the city, designed by the same landscape architect who created New York’s Central Park. Stop for photos at the Belvédère Kondiaronk, a stately terrace that overlooks the central business district.

Art aficionados shouldn’t miss the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, one of the nation’s finest collections of Canadian art, as well as works by Renoir, Rodin, Rembrandt and others. Alternatively, the multidisciplinary Phi Centre showcases leaders in digital creativity.

Restaurants such as Joe Beef and Europea continue to win international accolades. To dine with a local crowd, nab a table at Agrikol, where elevated Haitian food is served in a jovial home-style interior. Continue the tropical vibes at Le Mal Nécessaire, a cozy basement cocktail bar with Tiki-style décor.

Quebec City

Algonquian peoples had originally named the area around Quebec City as ‘Kébec’—a word meaning “where the river narrows.” Indeed, the Saint Lawrence River constricts near the city, but it was the strategic hill (and the safety it could provide) that caught the eye of early European settlers.

canada cruise port cities
Discover Quebec City’s charms. (Photo: Getty Images)

With hundreds of years of history, Quebec City is one of the most romantic destinations in Canada, largely because of its picturesque, European-influenced architecture.

First-time visitors will want to wander the charismatic streets of Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the early 1600s. Ride the charming funicular cableway to descend into the Lower Town, and then amble along Rue Sous-le-Fort (translation: road under the fort) for boutiques and patisseries.

The Museum of Civilization was designed by prominent architect Moshe Safdie, and it offers a revolving program of forward-thinking exhibits. A short drive east of the city, the impressive Montmorency Falls (84-meters) is much taller than Niagara Falls and equally as picturesque. Adrenaline seekers will want to “tyrolienne” (zipline) across the intense waters.

Rue Saint-Jean is a popular place to dine, offering a smorgasbord of international cuisines. Turn the corner on Rue Scott, and tuck into Buvette Scott for good wines, beautiful shared plates, and eclectic vinyl. Alternatively, Hobbit Bistro is a rustic-chic eatery with classic French meals.

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Cruising from Canada? Find Boatloads to Do in These Port Cities