What Are the Best Places to Live in Canada?

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Last updated on June 8, 2022 Comments: 21

Whether you’re considering moving to Canada for the first time or changing cities, where you choose to settle down will affect the trajectory your life will take. For this reason, it’s important to do your research and choose the best place in Canada for you and your family.

Fortunately, most places in Canada provide access to beautiful national parks, breathtaking views, and friendly locals. Beyond that, each city in Canada has its strengths that make it best suited for different stages of life. Some cities have very strong job markets, while others offer affordable housing and reasonably priced childcare.

Here’s our list of the best places to live in Canada and which stage of life they are best suited for.

Best Places to Live for Young Singles

If you’re young and single, a city with many universities, a strong job market, and plenty of nightlife should be high on your list of possible places to start your career. Luckily, there are no shortages in locations for you to enjoy the single life.

Calgary

Calgary could be good for young singles

While Calgary may not immediately come to mind when you think of top cities for singles, in reality, this prairie community has much to offer. Unemployment is slightly higher in Calgary at 7.9%. Still, the median household income outranks the other two cities on this list, Vancouver and Toronto, at $99,715 (the other two coming in at $88,884 and $90,809, respectively), so there are opportunities to earn a higher wage. I like recommending Calgary for young singles because the cost of living in this city is quite reasonable, certainly lower than the other two mentioned below. In Calgary, you can expect to pay over $1,100 for a one-bedroom apartment. Finally, cultural events like the Calgary Stampede ensure you’ll never be bored of this western city.

Average Monthly Spend

  • Housing: $1,387 (one bedroom apartment)
  • Phone: $101
  • Internet: $60
  • Transport: $79 (youth pass) – $112 (individual fares)
  • Groceries: $535
  • Entertainment: $612
    (including outings, restaurants/bars, Netflix etc.)
  • Fitness: $85
  • Insurance: $15
BenefitsDrawbacks
High annual income: $99,715High unemployment rate 7.2%
Moderate rent prices ($1,387/month for 1 br apt.)Smaller population 1.3 million
Low monthly costs ($2,918)Concentrated employment in oil & gas
Excellent food and dining

Vancouver

Vancouver might be a good place for young singles

If a vibrant, eclectic city is what you want, Vancouver is an excellent place to start your career. Vancouver is the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada, which means you’ll have easy access to excellent nightlife and diverse communities within the city. For anyone just starting their career, employment is readily available, reflected in the unemployment rate of just 5.4%. Finally, if you’re considering enrolling in post-secondary education, Vancouver is home to five universities. That includes the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University.

Although it boasts many job opportunities and an abundance of great experiences and sights, Vancouver is an expensive city with a low average income. So, I’d caution against moving here before you’ve plugged the numbers into your budget to make sure you can afford to save and make your debt payments after you’re done paying rent.

Average Monthly Spend

  • Housing: $2,334 (one bedroom apartment)
  • Phone: $75
  • Internet: $80
  • Transport: $41 (student pass) – $214 (individual fares)
  • Groceries: $230
  • Entertainment: $450
    (including outings, restaurants/bars, Netflix etc.)
  • Fitness: $80
  • Insurance: $25
BenefitsDrawbacks
Low Unemployment Rate 5.4%Low Annual Income ( $50,271)
Five UniversitiesHigh Rent Prices ($2,334/month for 1 br apt.)
230 parks and hiking trailsHigh Monthly Costs ($2,850)
Excellent food and dining

Toronto

Toronto is attracting young singles

Another top contender for the best city for singles in Canada is Toronto, Ontario. Whether it’s proximity to cultural touchstones like the Toronto Raptors or the Toronto International Film Festival or the competitive unemployment rate of 6.4%, this city of 2.9 million has something to offer everyone. Yes, just like Vancouver, housing is expensive, with the average 1-bedroom costing $2,145, but the easy access to major employers, nightlife, and cultural diversity can offset this extra expense. If you’re considering moving to Toronto for school, you’ll have a choice between three major universities in the downtown core alone.

Average Monthly Spend

  • Housing: $2,145 (one bedroom apartment)
  • Phone: $95
  • Internet: $80
  • Transport: $128 (youth pass) – $156 (individual fares)
  • Groceries: $480
  • Entertainment: $575
    (including outings, restaurants/bars, Netflix etc.)
  • Fitness: $64
  • Insurance: $18
BenefitsDrawbacks
Access to major employersBelow average household income ($52,324)
Three universitiesHigh Rent Prices ($2,145/month for 1 br apt.)
Major cultural events like TIFFHigh Monthly Costs ($4,012)
Excellent food and diningLess access to green space

Best Places to Live for Young Couples

As a young couple, you may be preparing to take the same leap taken by many young couples before you: homeownership. If a home of your own is your goal, choosing to settle down in a city with reasonable home prices means you’ll become a homeowner sooner, and your monthly mortgage payment will be more affordable.


Trois-Rivieres

Trois Rivières has a lot of potential for young couples

Located between Montreal and Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres is the most affordable city on this list, with an average home price of $374,000. Despite these low home prices, this city of 141,417 still maintains a median income of $59,054 and a reasonable unemployment rate of 3.4%. Trois-Rivieres is Canada’s oldest industrial city, and the century-old buildings on the main thoroughfare house shops, cafes, and bars. There are plenty of opportunities for cash-conscious couples to put down roots in this quiet part of Quebec.

Average Monthly Spend

  • Housing: $488 (one bedroom apartment)
  • Phone: $74
  • Internet: $75
  • Transport: $59 (youth pass) – $73 (individual fares)
  • Groceries: $482
  • Entertainment: $463
    (including outings, restaurants/bars, Netflix etc.)
  • Fitness: $36
  • Insurance: $30
BenefitsDrawbacks
Incredibly low housing costs ($488 for 1 br apt.)Slightly elevated unemployment rate of 3.4%
Affordable average home price of $374,000.Smaller population of 141,417
Located between Montreal and Quebec City for commutable employment optionsFewer cultural events than major cities
Excellent food and diningLess access to green space

Nelson

Nelson could be great for young couples

When you think of British Columbia, affordable housing isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind, but the small town of Nelson proves that notion wrong. With an average home cost of $494,608, I chose Nelson for this list because it is one of the few remaining pockets of affordable housing in the province. Boasting a population of just 11,106, this beautifully preserved gold rush town is ideal for anyone with an appreciation for heritage, the arts, and a close-knit community. Nelson does have a slightly lower median income of $56,714, but the housing prices offset that shortfall.

Average Monthly Spend

  • Housing: $1,333 (one bedroom apartment)
  • Phone: $65
  • Internet: $95
  • Transport: $45 (youth pass) – $63 (individual fares)
  • Groceries: $523
  • Entertainment: $607
    (including outings, restaurants/bars, Netflix etc.)
  • Fitness: $113.94
  • Insurance: $26
BenefitsDrawbacks
Housing costs of $494,608 on averageSame living cost as much larger cities ($1,333/month for 1 br apt.)
Small, quaint townNo centralized transit means car ownership necessary
Excellent food, dining, and culture for sizeSmall population means fewer employment options
High cost of living for groceries, entertainment, and fitness.

Kingston

Kingston could be a great place for young couples

If Nelson or Trois-Rivieres is too isolated for you, centrally located Kingston might be a better choice. Kingston is located in Ontario and is a medium-sized city with a population of 132,485. The housing market saw an insane increase in the price of homes. The average price is now at an astounding $700,846. Located midway between Toronto and Ottawa, Kingston is home to Queen’s University, the Royal Military College of Canada, and St. Lawrence College. These institutions, along with manufacturing and research and development industries, mean there are many employment options. The average unemployment rate in Kingston is 6.2%, and the median income is $69,164.

Average Monthly Spend

  • Housing: $1,599 (one bedroom apartment)
  • Phone: $65
  • Internet: $53
  • Transport: $ 60 (student pass) – $80 (individual fares)
  • Groceries: $480
  • Entertainment: $575
    (including outings, restaurants/bars, Netflix etc.)
  • Fitness: $40
  • Insurance: $18
BenefitsDrawbacks
Average Unemployment Rate 6.2%Flat population growth (0.35% growth from 2011 to 2016)
Stable employment opportunities through schools, manufacturing and R&DSmall population of 132,485 means less arts and culture than major urban centers
Low monthly costs ($2,372)Increased average home price of $700,846
Median income is considerably low at $69,164 considering the average home price.

Best Places to Live for Young Families

If you’re thinking of moving your family to a new city or starting a family shortly after you move, the cost of housing and childcare should be high on your priority list. Here are three cities with affordable housing, reasonable childcare costs, and family-friendly communities.


Burlington, Ontario

Burlington is a great place for young families to settle

Located close to the Hamilton-Niagara region and Toronto, Burlington, Ontario, is an excellent option for young families looking for affordable housing within a reasonable commuting distance. Burlington is small, with a population of just 196,914. However, despite its distance from Toronto, you’ll pay a little more for housing, $1,270,247 on average compared to $1,233,598 in Toronto. An impressive 47% of families in the municipality have children, much higher than the national average, which means you’ll never have to worry about whether a neighbourhood is family-friendly or not.

Average Monthly Spend

  • Housing: $1,270,247 (single family home)
  • Phone: $65
  • Internet: $53
  • Transport: $75 (youth pass) – $100 (individual fares)
  • Groceries: $994
  • Entertainment: $575
    (including outings, restaurants/bars, Netflix etc.)
  • Fitness: $35
  • Insurance: $50
  • Daycare: $1,600
BenefitsDrawbacks
47% of families in Burlington have childrenAverage home cost is expensive at $1,270,247
Close to major employers in Hamilton-Niagara and TorontoCommutes to Hamilton-Niagara or Toronto may be long
Small population gives close-knit community feelHigh monthly Costs ($3,340)
Average child daycare cost of $1,600

St. John’s

St. John's has beautiful views and is very family friendly

The furthest east option on our list and one that may not be on the radar of many families, St. John’s, Newfoundland, is an excellent candidate city for young families. I like this city by the sea for families because it ticks all boxes: daycare costs average an affordable $933.92 per month, home prices are well below the national average at just $306,419, and 29% of families have children. The median income in St. John’s is competitive at $82,540, but the unemployment rate is also at 7.1%, so don’t make your move unless you already have employment secured.

Average Monthly Spend

  • Housing: $306,419 (single family home)
  • Phone: $66
  • Internet: $86
  • Transport: $53 (youth pass) – $78 (individual fares)
  • Groceries: $712
  • Entertainment: $503
    (including outings, restaurants/bars, Netflix etc.)
  • Fitness: $59
  • Insurance: $17
  • Daycare: $15 a day
BenefitsDrawbacks
Affordable daycare costs $15 a dayUnemployment is at 7.1%
Homes cost an affordable average of $306,419212 days per year have either rain or snow
Memorial University tuition is very affordableExpensive to travel to/from
Strong community identity

Ottawa

Ottawa is becoming a great place for families to settle

Moving further east, we have Ottawa, which has long been a popular place to raise a family due to the many outdoor activities in the area, such as the Rideau Canal. This human-made canal snakes through the city and offers four seasons of outdoor marine enjoyment. Canadians also call Ottawa home due to the affordable average home prices. You can expect to pay an average of $731,306 for a home in Ottawa. This capital city has a population of around a million, and 28% of families have children. I ranked Ottawa as #3 on this list because the childcare costs in this city are much more affordable than other major urban centers, costing around $1,200 per month, which is still a hefty fee compared to the other two.

Average Monthly Spend

  • Housing: $731,306 (single family home)
  • Phone: $65
  • Internet: $57
  • Transport: $92 (youth pass) – $120 (individual fares)
  • Groceries: $800
  • Entertainment: $575
    (including outings, restaurants/bars, Netflix etc.)
  • Fitness: $73
  • Insurance: $18
  • Daycare: $1,200
BenefitsDrawbacks
Reasonable child care costs ($1,200/month)Very expensive home cost of $731,306
Many outdoor activities for familiesExpensive monthly costs (3,568)
Stable government employment opportunitiesFamily oriented culture means less night life
High median household income of $85,981

Need Help Getting Newly Settled?

Find a Home

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At the same time that Properly is doing their work on your current home, you can begin using their services to find your new home and get pre-approved for a mortgage. Properly will offer you a backup purchase contract, which covers you if you can’t find a buyer in 90 days – Properly will buy it from you!

Get a Mortgage

If it’s your first time purchasing a home, applying for a mortgage can seem daunting. But, with the right broker on your side, it doesn’t have to be a struggle. Two great options are Homewise and Breezeful.

Homewise is a modern digital solution that offers approval, pre-approval, refinancing, and solutions for switching over your mortgage. It’s a free service that helps you find the best rates and features available on the market, all online and in 5 minutes.

Breezeful is an online mortgage broker that makes it quick and easy to get personalized quotes from over 30 different lenders. If you don’t have the time to meet a broker personally, Breezeful will help you find the best rate and then help you through the entire process, from negotiating to signing and then closing the deal, all entirely online.

Compared to a traditional bank, Homewise and Breezeful simplify the process by eliminating multiple credit checks and providing you with more flexibility to choose from multiple mortgage options.

Conclusion

It’s important to keep your financial priorities in mind when choosing a new city for your lifestyle. The top factors to consider are home prices, childcare availability and costs, proximity to employment opportunities, and amenities that are important to you. These are also important factors to consider if you’re looking for an investment property, though you might want to consider where you’re investing in real estate a little differently. Still, at the end of the day, make sure that you can afford your monthly expenses, and maybe get a helping hand from a company like Properly that can take the stress out of the process.

Whether you are planning a short-term stay in a new city or looking to put down roots for a long-term future in a new community, where you choose to live your life matters. You may also consider forgoing urban centers like many other Canadians in favour of smaller areas with more affordable housing. The cities listed above are excellent choices in their respective categories, but many more quaint, idyllic, vibrant, and diverse communities in Canada are just waiting to be discovered.

 

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Author Bio

Jordann Brown
Jordann Brown is a freelance personal finance writer whose areas of expertise include debt management, homeownership and budgeting. She is based in Halifax and has written for publications including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and CBC.

Article comments

21 comments
Samuel says:

En Canadá me gustaria vivir en Toronto, Ontario. Me parece una ciudad hermosa.

Aaron Broverman says:

Ola Samuel,
Estoy de acuerdo en que solía vivir allí y es el centro del universo de Canadá.

Matt says:

Vancouver is a depressing overall. Nice to travel and see the views….thats what its good for. Thats the truth of it. Many miserable and unhappy reaidents. Hard to get a straight answer about thIngs. Met my wife from there and moved back East to Ontario with me and now wouldnt go back…I didnt feel vibrant at all when I lived there…quite the opposite…Too many flakes and weirdos for me. I guess in Ontario where I am from we run different….If you want conveniences and down to earth straight up no nonesense then do not choose Vancouver…

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Matt,
I’m from Vancouver and I gotta say that hurts a little bit. Every province has their pluses and minuses but year after year Vancouver consistently rates as one of the world’s most livable cities by every objective metric. The Economist’s Intelligence Unit consistently places Vancouver in the top 10 of it’s annual livable cities survey every single year and Vancouver is usually the highest ranked Canadian city. Actually, a lot of the things you hate about Vancouver (high real estate prices, weird and aloof social scene) is because the city itself has become so desirable internationally and a wealthier class has changed the fabric of what the city used to be to a large degree. Like it or not though, Vancouver objectively needs to be on our list, even if the city is not part of your personal preferences. As much as you encourage people not to live in Vancouver, people keep coming and that’s why the real estate market is so competitive and the prices are so high. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Jim Busch says:

Hi Aaron,

You may want to check Environment Canada statistics for weather across the country. Can Edmonton have cold days in the winter, absolutely. The point is, there is not a single place in the country I would consider to be a tropical oasis and go to for a winter vacation if it is exemplary weather you are looking for. Politically, Edmonton tends to be left of centre which is typically not the case for the rest of the province. If it were not for Edmonton, Alberta would not have an official opposition to speak of. As for your views on Edmonton’s cultural scene, you may want to educate yourself before painting the town “red”. Let’s see, an arts district with beautiful and well attended venues such as the Winspear Centre for Music (another expansion currently under progress), the recently opened Royal Provincial Museum of Alberta, Citadel Theatre and an extraordinary, state of the art library recently reopened as well. Check out the Art Gallery of Alberta if you are into visual art . All of these incredible venues are centred around Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton not to mention a vast array of private cultural venues throughout the city. Edmonton has also consistently been ranked as one of the best cities in Canada for foodies. The city is also called Festival City for a reason. Check out the Fringe Festival for alternative theatre….second largest such festival in the world second only to the original fringe festival in Edinburgh not to mention the largest multicultural celebration anywhere in North America called Heritage Days. Are there people in Edmonton that like country music? For sure, just like anywhere else in the country. Alternatively, we do have a world class symphony orchestra and Edmonton is one of Canada’s best cities for concert tours. Speaking of music, next time you come to Edmonton, you may want to find out more about the International Jazz Fest, Folk Music Fest and Blues Fest to list just a few.

You may also find it interesting that there is a very young workforce in Edmonton…in fact amongst the youngest in Canada, and many young and old alike can and are very progressive, liberal minded and greeted Greta Thunberg with great enthusiasm. Just saying….time to stop with the stereotypes. By the way, I lived in Vancouver for a time and found the damp cold bone chilling. I am sure your maternal family will appreciate hearing about your very limited understanding of Edmonton.

Aaron Broverman says:

I understand Jim, everyone has a bias for where they are from, There is one place in Canada that doesn’t snow however and that’s the lower mainland of British Columbia (It only snows maybe one week a year) so maybe that’s Canada’s Shangri-la in terms of weather. A lot of cities have festivals and Jazz Fests (but I’ll give it to you that Edmonton’s Fringe is the largest outside of Edinburgh). Anyway, the bottom line is anyone can make a case for where they are from but we can’t include every city on the list. Otherwise, it would be a mile long.

Jim Busch says:

I lived in the lower mainland and would hardly consider that to be a Shangri-la weatherwise. Anyhow, to your point, most everyone can make a case for where they are from. This I suppose is why these types of lists, particularly when they predicatably have Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver each and every time regardless of the criteria are meaningless. I know each of these cities enough, in fact my spouse grew up in Toronto, that I can safely say they have some good qualities, but not so many that they should get mentioned as “best” every time there is a list like this. Perhaps it is time to look a little further afield when doing research, or are the authors of these lists afraid they will be at the receiving end of criticism from the almighty Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver. Edmonton doesn’t deserve to be mentioned on every list either, but some recognition that there is life outside of these perennial favorites would be much appreciated by other cities who work hard to provide an equally impressive quality of life for young and old alike.

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Jim,
You’re right that every list is subjective, but every list is also determined based on whatever criteria the writer chooses to emphasize. Since I didn’t write this particular article, I’m not sure what went into including one city over another, but I can tell you we’re not thinking of other city lists that may have excluded Edmonton in the past. The writer was likely only focused on this list and their own criteria, so each list has to be evaluated individually. If you’re seeing Edmonton not featured on city lists like this a lot, it’s either that we’re all missing something or there’s somewhat of a consensus that try as they might Edmonton just can’t compete with the scale of opportunity in Canada’s larger cities no matter the metric or criteria a writer is using. You know that expression, “if you look around and you can’t see the problem, then you’re the problem?” I think that’s a little harsh myself, but if Edmonton isn’t making so many lists (as you say) maybe they objectively just don’t rate high enough to be on one when compared?

Still, even though it might be an uphill battle for Edmonton, I appreciate you out there fighting for it. It’s passion like yours that may one day get it on a “Best places to live in Canada” list. Besides, there’s always next year and I’m sure our discussion has prompted many at Greedyrates to give Edmonton a second look. Anyway, keep reaching for that rainbow. I’m sure your vigorous championing will get Edmonton a mention one day. Go Oilers!

Jim Busch says:

Have no fear, greater Edmonton, 1.3 million strong, is a resilient community and despite the outcomes of these lists, will continue to be one of Canada’s fastest growing cities and for good reason. Opportunities abound in this entreprenurial, capital city and at least our biggest claim to fame is not a rodeo as it is in the city to the south. Cureous considering we were branded in your earlier comment as a “truck driving country music lover” kind of place.

Thanks for your feedback.

Aaron Broverman says:

No problem, happy to help.

John says:

How can a city be rated as , best places to live , if the traffic, crime inability to own or rent is first and foremost ?

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi John,
One person’s best city is another person’s worst, it all depends on the criteria you’re using to evaluate. I think the criteria used in this article is quite clear. Perhaps you would’ve preferred a list that prioritized amount of traffic, crime rate, and affordability of real estate, but this time, it was not to be. Maybe next article.

M Pa says:

You got it right on with Kingston. Really one of the most livable cities to live in, and amazing for young families, with one of the best public school systems in the world. Also, if you’re a single guy 18-40, it’s amazing with a safe, fun, nightlife, and way more females than males, and lots of sports clubs to join. Also one of the safest cities in the world for female travelers, so in the summer the bars are great. The one caveat, if you’re a young single woman looking to get married, probably not the best place in Canada. The dance clubs are terrible, there are no real pick up bars, and the single men have the advantage, and they know it. Guys have a strange culture to drink without single female distraction in this city, even when their female friends are joining them.

Also Halifax is also way better than Burlington for young families, as housing costs have made the GTA prohibitive. And why would you live anywhere near a big city in Canada, when the medium size cities in this huge land are maybe the best in the world, from coast to coast?

Aaron Broverman says:

M Pa,
As someone who recently moved from a big city in March (Toronto) to a medium city, (Waterloo) I will say that though I really like it here, there’s just some cutting edge things that a medium city is missing. It’s missing the hustle, the bustle, the rush of lots of people all trying to co-exist at once, the innovation that comes from competition and some of the cutting edge foods, goods and opportunities that are more readily available in a large city like Toronto. Of course, right now with COVID-19, living outside the big city is more to my advantage but that doesn’t make Waterloo any less slow, mundane and milktoast. There’s less variety, opportunity and options. Just generally, less abundance.

LInda says:

The article failed to address transportation. Nelson has no reliable airport and no bus service and its a 5 hour drive to the closest center of Kelowna. Its also isolated and has very very limited health care services. People who write article like this should include other factors necessary for life.

Aaron Broverman says:

I agree Linda. Perhaps our writers need to take a more holistic view of what could influence where someone would want to live. However, of course they also have to take into account the typical editorial constraints such as word count. It’s also hard to be all things to all readers. You’re right though, the article would’ve been better with some on the ground perspective from people who actually live there.

Daniela says:

What about Halifax?

M LI says:

We like to move from Edmonton to Ottawa. Is Ottawa weather better than Edmonton? We have 2 very young kids as well so definitely we want to see better for kids . One reason we want to move is it is close to the State so its easy for us to see our relatives who live in the state.

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi M LI,
I don’t necessarily think the article is asserting that the weather is necessarily better in Edmonton than it is in Ottawa, but of course, to each their own. I am glad you are a fan of your new situation in Ottawa and happy you will be able to more easily visit your relatives in the U.S. when the pandemic is over.

Jim Busch says:

How unfortunate Edmonton has been overlooked again! One of the most youthful cities in the country. Great job prospects, access to North Americas largest continuous urban park system and recreational activities galore, five major educational institutions and surronded by amazing smaller cities like St. Albert and Sherwood Park. Beautiful 3 hour drive to Jasper National Park. The largest mall in Canada also calls Edmonton home and to this day draws more tourists per year than anything else in Alberta. By the way, Edmonton now has claim to the tallest building outside of Toronto with many others in the planning stage. World class cultural facilities and events not to mention a very active professional sports city. Yeah, it can get cold here in the winter but honestly there is no place in Canada I would necessarily like to be for weather in the winter…. bar none.

Aaron Broverman says:

Hi Jim,
My entire maternal extended family lives in Edmonton. They are lovely and I love them very much, but I avoid seeing them very often because it’s not just cold in Edmonton it’s freezing. Only Winnipeg and Iqualuit are colder in the entire country. Also, if your a progressive, environmentalist, young liberal anywhere, but the downtown core is a bit of a no go zone. If you’re conservative, truck driving country music lover who is dubious on doing anything about climate change, Edmonton is definitely in your top cities.