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Beautiful aerial view of downtown Vancouver skyline, British Columbia, Canada at sunset

Vancouver vs Toronto: An Honest Comparison To Help You Choose!

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Heading to Canada? If so, you might struggle to pick between the country’s two most popular cities: Vancouver and Toronto. Countless travelers struggle to decide which of these amazing locations to visit, and there’s so much to love about both of them.

On the one hand, there’s beautiful Vancouver, the gem of British Columbia. Surrounded by shimmering blue waters and towering mountains, Vancouver is a city that feels united with nature. It’s also one of the most diverse and densely populated cities in Canada, with plenty of interesting things to see and do.

Then, there’s Toronto, Canada’s biggest city of all. Famed for its impressive skyscraper skyline, vast parks, family attractions, and cultural landmarks, it’s an exciting, fast-paced, and vibrant metropolis. This is a city that never sleeps, with interesting events, festivals, and lively nightlife destinations to enjoy.

Canadians have been debating the pros and cons of Vancouver vs Toronto for years, and our guide now hopes to put an end to that debate for good!

Here we take an in-depth look at what both cities have to offer, highlighting the key differences in a range of categories, from attractions and activities to nightlife, shopping, food, and more. By the end, we’re sure you will know which city is right for you!


  1. A Quick Overview
  2. Which Has The Best Weather?
  3. Which Is Best For Activities?
  4. Which Is Better For Beaches? 
  5. Which Is Better For Nightlife?
  6. Which Is Better For Day Trips? 
  7. Which Is Best For Shopping? 
  8. Which Has The Best Food? 
  9. Where To Stay According To Your Budget
  10. Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
  11. Which Is Better For Couples?  
  12. Which Is Cheaper? 
  13. Which Is The Better Choice? 
An infographic pitting Vancouver vs Toronto and showing some of the key differences that will be discovered later in the article.

A Quick Overview: Vancouver vs Toronto

Vancouver: A Quick Overview

Vancouver is a large city in the western part of Canada. It’s the biggest city in British Columbia, with a population of over 660,000 people, and more than 2.6 million in the surrounding Greater Vancouver Area.

It’s also known for having the biggest population density of any big city in Canada, as well as being one of the nation’s most diverse cities.

Indigenous people, like the Squamish and Musqueam, lived in the Vancouver area for thousands of years.

Then, in the 19th century, the city itself was founded. It was originally known as Gastown, then Granville, and finally Vancouver, and it swiftly developed into a wealthy, thriving trade hub, with great links to Asia and beyond.

Nowadays, Vancouver is regarded as one of the world’s most livable cities, as well as one of the greenest, with many sustainable buildings and eco-friendly projects.

It’s also a breathtakingly gorgeous city, often used as a filming location for movies and TV shows, due to its distinct beauty and prime location, with mountains, forests, and clean waters all around.

In terms of vibe and culture, Vancouver is renowned for its laid-back, health-focused lifestyle.

Many locals here love to spend time outdoors and are quite fit and active, thanks to the bounty of natural landscapes and fun outdoor activities, along with the many yoga studios and healthy eateries lining the city streets.

A look into the Vancouver downtown and snow mountain across the strait. Chen

Toronto: A Quick Overview

Toronto is the largest city in Canada, with a population of around 2.8 million people, and more than 6.3 million in the vast Greater Toronto Area, or GTA. It’s located in the province of Ontario, of which it is the capital city, in the eastern part of Canada.

It isn’t quite as densely-populated as Vancouver, but feels much busier and more hectic, due to the huge population.

Like Vancouver, indigenous peoples were the first to call the area home, thousands of years ago. Then, in the 18th century, the land was sold to the British crown in an event known as the Toronto Purchase.

The British founded Toronto under the name “York” in 1793. It was renamed in 1834 and rapidly developed, becoming the main destination for immigrant arrivals in Canada.

Like Vancouver, Toronto is now known as a very diverse, multicultural location, with more than 160 different languages spoken among the local population.

It’s also known as one of Canada’s leading cultural, entertainment, and business centers, as well as major tourist destination, drawing in tens of millions of visitors annually.

With its impressive skyscrapers, bustling and diverse districts, a rich performing arts scene, exciting nightlife, and vast array of museums, galleries, festivals, and historic sites, Toronto is an unparalleled vacation destination, appealing to every kind of traveler.

It’s often compared to New York and is a fabulous place for couples, families, and backpacking adventurers of all ages.

Toronto Skyline at sunset with reflection - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Which Has The Best Weather?

More than 2,000 miles separate Vancouver and Toronto and they’re at totally opposite ends of the country!

Not only that, but Vancouver is right by the coast, while Toronto is much further inland, around the Great Lakes region, as well as being further south compared to Vancouver.

All of these factors add up to give these two cities dramatically different weather conditions.

Toronto, for example, is famous for having very extreme weather, fluctuating from hot and humid conditions in the summer to icy colds and snowy streets in winter.

In contrast, Vancouver’s weather is much more predictable and consistent, with only gradual changes in temperature from one season to the next.

It has milder summers than Toronto, but warmer winters, with less chance of snow. However, it’s quite a wet city, even nicknamed “Raincouver” by the locals, with rainy days taking up almost half of the year, on average.

What does all of this mean for travel and vacations?

Well, if you love the heat and want to walk around comfortably in a T-shirt and shorts, Toronto is the better place to spend a summer, and it’s also the best city if you want to see snow.

However, many travelers may appreciate the milder and gentler conditions of Vancouver – just remember to bring an umbrella!

Winter skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square Toronto Mintz

Which Is Best For Activities?

Next, we’ll look at arguably the most important factor of all: the activities and attractions available in both of these cities.

This is one of the main areas in which Vancouver and Toronto differ; even though they both have the usual activities, like shopping, and dining, the general range of things to do is very different from one city to the other.

In Vancouver, there’s a big focus on outdoor activities. Many people come to this city not just for the city itself, but for the surrounding natural areas, which offer amazing hiking trails, world-class ski resorts, places to paddle and kayak, rock climbing, and more.

In contrast, Toronto is much more oriented around urban activities, with iconic landmarks like the CN Tower and fun family attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium, along with many museums, galleries, a zoo, and live entertainment venues.

There’s a lot of fun to be had in both of these locations, but the experience of visiting Vancouver is very different from a vacation in Toronto.

With that the case, let’s take a closer look at some of the best things to do in both of these Canadian cities.

Vancouver: The Activities

With Vancouver being such a green and beautiful city, most visitors will want to spend as much time as possible outdoors, and Stanley Park is a great place to get started.

Bigger than NYC’s Central Park, this 1,000 acre expanse has walking and bike paths, fun family beaches, kids’ play areas, a swimming pool, sports courts, and more. It’s also home to all sorts of wildlife.

Speaking of wildlife, another fun thing to do in Vancouver is head out on a whale-watching tour. Various boats will take you out onto the water, with expert guides to tell you all about the marine life you discover along the way, including humpback whales, orcas, and more.

Or, on a rainy day, head to the Vancouver Aquarium to meet even more denizens of the deep up-close.

For something a little more urban and cultural, visit Granville Island. Once an industrial site, this place has been thoroughly revamped and renovated into one of the coolest spots in the city, with bars, restaurants, galleries, and more.

The trendy Gastown neighborhood is another must-see, along with Richmond Night Market, the biggest in all of North America.

But, as previously mentioned, arguably the very best things to do in Vancouver are out in nature.

Outdoor enthusiasts can have the time of their lives hiking, ziplining, and skiing on nearby Grouse Mountain, riding the Sea to Sky Gondola over Shannon Falls, braving the jaw-dropping Capilano Suspension Bridge, or soaking up the sun on one of the area’s many beaches.

A humpback whale fluke, Sutil Channel in the Discovery Islands near Quadra Island, BC Canada

Toronto: The Activities

While Vancouver is all about the outdoors, Toronto offers more of a typical big city experience, with many museums, galleries, and landmarks.

A good place to get started is at CN Tower, which was once the tallest tower on Earth. It has multiple observation areas with stunning views across the city, and brave thrillseekers can actually walk around the outside edge.

Toronto also has many museums and galleries. The Royal Ontario Museum is one of the best, showcasing an array of artifacts and exhibitions on the subjects of natural history and cultures from around the world.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is another gem, with a huge collection of art from Canada, Europe, Africa, and beyond.

Live entertainment is another key part of Toronto culture. You can catch amazing performances at venues like Roy Thomson Hall, admire the wonderful work of the National Ballet of Canada, visit one of the many theaters or comedy clubs in downtown Toronto, or even catch a sporting event at various arenas – Toronto has pro hockey, basketball, soccer, and baseball teams.

Despite not being as outdoorsy as Vancouver, Toronto still has much to offer for those who love to spend time in nature.

It’s right beside Lake Ontario, with various sandy spots down by the shore, along with nearby hiking and cycling trails.

There are also the wonderful Toronto Islands, which are easy to reach by ferry and offer a charming, tranquil escape from the city’s chaos.

Overall, there really is a lot to do in both of these cities.

Vancouver is a genuine haven for outdoor and nature lovers, with the parks, gardens, and mountains integrating seamlessly with the cityscape, while Toronto is a terrific city for exciting events, entertainment, and memorable museum tours.

Panoramic view of Toronto skyline and CN Tower and ferry at sunset, Ontario, Canada

Which Is Better For Nightlife? 

If you prefer to stay out after dark, rather than rushing back to your hotel bed, you’ll love the nightlife scene in Toronto.

While many of Canada’s other cities sleep, Toronto remains lively and vibrant, late into the night, boasting a huge and eclectic mixture of bars, clubs, and evening entertainment venues.

Whether you love cozy jazz bars, trendy craft bars, lively nightclubs, underground lounges, or rooftop hangouts, this city has it all.

Districts like King West and Queen West are some of the best places to go after dark, with everything from rowdy dance clubs to funky arcade bars. Ossington Ave, Little Italy, and The Annex district are also exciting after-hour areas.

In contrast, Vancouver’s nightlife scene is more subdued. Many locals and tourists here prefer to get a good night’s rest, ready for the next day of adventure.

However, there are still some great places to grab a drink, dance, or listen to music in areas like the Granville Entertainment District, which has everything from cabaret bars to improv comedy and British-style pubs.

Crowd applauding at club

Which Is Better For Day Trips? 

There’s more than enough in both Vancouver and Toronto to keep you busy for a full week, but you might like to take a day away from either city to see a little more of Canada. 

Vancouver is surrounded by breathtaking natural areas to explore. Islands like Bowen Island and Salt Spring Island are less than an hour away, perfect for romantic hikes, family picnics, vineyard tours, and gentle relaxation, while the Fraser Valley is a wonderful spot for fine food and wine. 

Squamish is another top spot to visit, with forest hikes and fantastic restaurants.

Or, you could continue on to Whistler, one of Canada’s favorite ski towns, which also offers plenty of fun activities in summer, like golf, zip lines, and hikes.

For a big city experience, you might also like to do a day trip to the BC capital of Victoria, home of gardens, museums, and more.

Not to be outdone, Toronto also has a myriad of dreamy day trip destinations to choose from. The most famous and iconic of all is Niagara Falls, only a couple of hours away.

These legendary waterfalls have wowed travelers for centuries, and you can easily spend a full day taking in the majesty of nature or touring the charming local towns.

For an escape into nature, Toronto tourists could plan a trip to Algonquin Provincial Park, which is a super spot for kayaking, camping, hiking, and more – it’s best to visit during the fall to see the wonderful changing leaves.

Skiing fanatics could also try a trip to Blue Mountain, while families with kids may want to visit the Canada’s Wonderland theme park.

Clearly, both cities offer excellent day trip potential. Vancouver is once again the better choice for nature and outdoor activities, while Toronto is well-placed for must-see landmarks and family attractions.

Niagara Falls Aerial View, Canadian Horseshoe Falls from the top, Ontario, Canada

Which Is Best For Shopping? 

Toronto is, without a doubt, one of the best places to shop in all of Canada. In fact, it’s one of the best shopping cities in the whole of North America, with an astonishingly wide mixture of stores to suit all tastes and budgets.

Queen West is one of the best shopping areas in the city – you’ll find everything here, from indie boutiques to designer brands.

The Distillery District and Chinatown are great places to hunt down treasures and quirky buys, while Downtown Toronto’s Yonge Street has no less than 600 different stores! There are also multiple malls and markets, catering to every kind of shopper.

Vancouver can’t quite compete with Toronto in terms of the number or variety of shops, but it’s still a fine city for some retail therapy.

Shopaholics can spend hours in the massive CF Pacific Center or Metropolis mall (the biggest in BC), and Vancouver’s Chinatown district has some fabulous tea shops and speciality stores.

There are also some terrific regular markets in Vancouver, like the famous Granville Island Public Market – perfect for snapping up some fresh farm produce at fair prices. The so-called “Little India” area is also a nice spot for picking up some fancy fabrics and exotic foods.

Overall, Toronto has the better and bigger shopping scene, but you can have a good time shopping in either city.

View of Toronto City from above - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Which Has The Best Food? 

One of the best things about Vancouver and Toronto is the food. Thanks to their multicultural populations, both of these cities have really diverse restaurant scenes, with a super mix of menus from all over the globe. Both locations also offer excellent Canadian classics, like poutine.

Toronto’s food scene is particularly exciting and at times unpredictable!

You can walk down any of the big downtown streets and find all kinds of eateries along the way, from Asian sushi and curry bars to Mexican restaurants, American-style steakhouses, Italian pizzerias, and more. Thanks to this, it’s easy to find any kind of food you like.

Vancouver’s food scene isn’t quite as vast or varied, but it’s still got a lot to offer.

No matter what you’re craving, you should be able to find it here, and Vancouver especially excels when it comes to seafood, street food, and healthy food, with lots of food trucks parked up and ready to serve everything from salad bowls to burgers.

Overall, you’re sure to eat well in either city, but Toronto just has a slight edge, with even more options than Vancouver.

Assorted dishes top view pork ribs, beef steak, salmon steak, chicken wings, Burger with meat, squid Rings Krisanov

Where To Stay According To Your Budget


Budget: Set in a perfect location in the city, Hotel le Germain Maple Leaf Square has everything you’d need for a Toronto stay, and at a very reasonable price for a four-star hotel in this location. See photos and rates!

Luxury: For a taste of luxury, think the Ritz-Carlton, Toronto. This five-star hotel is located in downtown, and has gorgeous views overlooking Lake Ontario and the city. It has all the facilities you’d expect and more, including an indoor salt water pool, spa, hot tub and sauna. See photos and rates!


Budget: Quaint, cozy and budget-friendly sums up O Canada House. The rooms are stylish, it’s near many of the main sights, and the outside garden is the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring. See photos and rates!

Luxury: With a full-service spa, sauna, fitness centre and celebrity service, it’s hard to beat the five-star Wedgewood Hotel & Spa. The location is pretty unbeatable too. See photos and rates!

Beautiful aerial view of downtown Vancouver skyline, British Columbia, Canada at sunset

Which Is Better For A Family Trip? 

If you’re planning a family vacation to Canada, both Vancouver and Toronto are great choices. They both have fun things for the whole family to do.

However, you might find that one city is a little more suitable for your family, and this will mainly depend on the ages and preferences of your children.

For outdoor-loving families, there are few places in all of Canada that can rival Vancouver. It’s an active family’s dream, with so many hiking trails, cycling paths, wildlife areas, beaches, islands, and more.

Kids can have tons of fun in places like Stanley Park or at Vancouver Aquarium, but very young children may get worn out with all of those outdoor activities.

Over in Toronto, there are more typical family attractions, like the massive Toronto Zoo and Ripley’s Aquarium, as well as the nearby Canada’s Wonderland, with all of its rides and games.

Kids can also marvel at the panoramic views from the CN Tower or learn more about the world in living museums like Black Creek Pioneer Village or the interactive Ontario Science Centre.

Overall, Toronto has a wider range of things for families to do, and your family might also appreciate the extra warmth here in summer or the chance of magical snow in winter.

However, if your family is all about the outdoors and prefers hiking to roaming around museums, Vancouver may be the better choice.

Best friends walking together in Toronto. Two girls studying holding hands and looking each other at park. Friendship and lifestyle concepts.

Which Is Better For Couples? 

For couples, it can be a very tricky choice between Vancouver and Toronto. Luckily, there’s not really a wrong answer, and you and your partner can make many happy memories, no matter which city you choose.

In terms of romance and scenic beauty, Vancouver is the clear winner. Toronto is a pretty city too, but Vancouver is on a whole other level of aesthetics.

It’s a very charming and enchanting place where couples can enjoy romantic walks in the park, rests at the beach, or more thrilling outdoor adventures, before retiring to a cozy and comfortable hotel.

Toronto doesn’t quite match Vancouver in the beauty department, but it’s got a busier, livelier vibe and more things to see and do, which may appeal to couples who want to fill their days with museums and cultural experiences.

Whether you want to catch a hockey game, shop till you drop, eat fine food, or find out more about Canada’s history, you can do it all here.

Once again, it’s very tough to pick a winner here.

Vancouver is the more traditional, romantic destination for couples looking to share lovely moments together, but if you want more activities and attractions, as well as livelier nightlife, Toronto is the place to be.

A panoramic drone view of Vancouver downtown. Chen

Which Is Better For Backpackers? 

For backpackers and budget travelers, traveling around Vancouver and Toronto can be tricky, due to the somewhat high prices of accommodation, food, and activities.

However, you can save money by planning ahead, and there are lots of free things to enjoy in both cities.

Vancouver should appeal to most backpackers. There aren’t too many hostels here, but there are still a few, and they’re generally very clean, safe, and low-cost.

Street food is cheap and accessible, and with so much nature to explore, it’s easy to simply pack your bag and set off exploring the forests, mountains, and trails without having to spend much at all.

Toronto has a few more hostels and cheap hotels to choose from, mostly in good areas close to major landmarks and attractions.

Many of the city’s best museums are free, and there are multiple parks, beaches, and intriguing areas to check out, like the Distillery District and Chinatown. However, it’s a slightly more expensive city overall.

To sum up, both cities can work for backpacking, but most budget travelers and explorers will probably prefer the slightly cheaper and greener city of Vancouver. 

Backpacker using her phone in a hostel

Which Is Cheaper? 

You may also want to know the average costs of visiting these two cities, especially if you’re traveling on a budget and looking to get the best value for money.

So, which city is more expensive, and which one is more appealing to budget-conscious travelers?

Well, the average cost of a trip to Vancouver isn’t too different to the cost of visiting Toronto. Both cities have similar accommodation rates.

However, there is a slightly difference in food and public transportation costs, with Toronto costing a little more overall.

This means you’ll probably spend more, on average, on a few days in Toronto than you would in Vancouver.

evening glow, Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver vs Toronto: Which Is The Better Choice?

Overall, this is a very close comparison, and it’s easy to make arguments in favor of both of these fantastic cities. That’s why you should try to see both, if you can.

But, with them being so far apart, it’s usually not an option to see Vancouver and Toronto on the same trip. If you’re only able to visit one, which should you choose?

Taking everything into account, Toronto just about edges this battle. It’s got the better shopping scene, livelier nightlife, more family attractions, and a slightly better food scene, too.

All of those factors add up to make Toronto one of the best cities to visit in all of Canada for almost any kind of traveler, from families with kids to groups of student friends, couples, and more.

At the same time, Vancouver absolutely deserves a spot among the prettiest cities in all of North America.

It’s a lovely place where urban construction blends beautifully with nature, as well as being a genuine haven for anyone who loves the great outdoors.

And if you’re an active person, a camper, hiker, cyclist, or wildlife-watcher, you won’t want to miss out on Vancouver.

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