Explore Big Cities Ontario

Ontario is made up of many small towns, but it does have large cities as well. Have you ever wondered what Ontario’s largest cities are? Until now I haven’t given it much thought either, so join me and let’s explore the big cities of Ontario together!

Since international travel has come to a complete halt for the unforseeable future, now is the perfect time to start exploring areas in our own Province (Ontarians or visitors to Ontario, the Explore series is for you).

If you have been following me for a while, you may remember that I had previously written about various towns in Ontario, including:

The previous posts in the Explore series introduced you to many of the small towns throughout Ontario.  Even though I am definitely a small town girl, I recognize that many prefer the hustle and bustle of the big city life, so let’s get started as we explore Ontario’s largest cities.

Explore Toronto, Ontario

When in Toronto, visit one of the most iconic buildings in the world, the CN Tower
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Population:   6,196,731

I know that it will not come as a surprise to learn that Toronto is the largest cities in Ontario.  In fact, it is the largest city in Canada.  You will see from the map that Brampton and Mississauga are located just outside of Metropolitan Toronto, and they are considered to be Ontario’s second and third largest cities.  Since they are considered to be part of the Greater Toronto region, I will be including them as part of Toronto.


Ontario is the capital of Ontario and is located along the northwestern shores of Lake Ontario.  Toronto was established in the 18th century and has since become a world leader in technology, entertainment, finance and culture.  Over 40% of Toronto’s residents are immigrants, making Toronto one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world.

When in Toronto, visit one of the worlds most iconic buildings, the CN Tower
Explore Toronto’s CN Tower – climb to the top, and dine while you are there

Explore Toronto Activities

Toronto is home to so many activities and adventures, that I couldn’t even begin to list them all.  Whenever I visit Toronto, I am so overwhelmed that often I will park my butt on a patio and just simply watch the world go by.  If people watching is not your cup of tea, I recommend that you take in some of the following activities:

  • Shop!  If you are looking from trendy, Queen Street is where it’s at, or visit Yorkdale area for a more upscale shopping experience.  A visit to the Eaton’s Centre will keep you busy while checking out its 330 stores and restaurants
  • Climb the CN Tower
  • A visit to the St. Lawrence Market is a must
  • Tour Ontario’s parliament buildings
  • Live theatre performance offered at Princess of Whales Theatre, Royal Alexandra Theatre, Ed Mirvish Theatre, Elgin Theatre, or Winter Garden Theatre
  • Have some laughs at Second City
  • Eat with the knights at Medieval Times
  • Visit an abundance of animals at the Toronto Zoo
  • Explore the Distillery District
  • Hunt for an abundance of street art
  • Attend a professional sporting event
  • Visit at least one of many museums (the Hockey Hall of Fame and Science Center are interactive museums and fantastic if you are visiting with children)
  • If you area foodie, satisfy your taste buds at one of Toronto’s 16,649 restaurants

For the outdoor enthusiast, you are not to be left out.  There are many outdoor activities right in the heart of the city:

  • Take a bike tour
  • Walk, bike, rollarblade along the waterfront
  • Enjoy a sailing adventure
  • Brave the Edge Walk high up on the CN Tower
  • Enjoy a harbour cruise
  • Enjoy the beauty and smells of one of Toronto’s many gardens
  • Spend the day at the beach
  • Rent a canoe or kayak at the Toronto Harbour
  • Hike one of the many trails in Toronto and surrounding area

Explore Ottawa, Ontario

Map of Ottawa, ON, Canada's capital city
  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • Population:                                  1,393,086
  • Distance from Toronto:             404.3 kilometers (251.22 miles)

The second largest city in Ontario is Ottawa, our nation’s capital.  Ottawa is quite a distance from the majority of Ontario’s population and borders with the Province of Quebec.


Ottawa was founded in 1826 and is located in the eastern southern part of Ontario along the Ottawa River.  It is a white collar city full of politicians and is home to the most educated population throughout Canada.

Ottawa is Canada's capital and is full of history, architecture and the Canadian Parliament Buildings
Tour the parliament buildings in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa.

Explore Ottawa Activities

While the parliament buildings are the main attraction in Ottawa, you will find many other activities to keep you busy:

  • Tour the parliament buildings
  • Grab some goodies at the Byward Market
  • Cruise down the Rideau Canal
  • Watch the changing of the guards at Rideau Hall
  • Skate along the Rideau Canal in the winter
  • Enjoy a professional sporting event
  • Go on a guided haunted walk
  • Visit the Prime Minister’s home
  • Soak in the sun for a day at the beach
  • Enjoy the culinary scene
  • Explore one of the many museums
  • Visit the Canadian Mint
  • Go white water rafting
  • Hop in the car and cross the bridge into Gatineau, Quebec (there is an amazing art gallery as soon as you cross the bridge)

Explore Hamilton, Ontario

Map of Hamilton, ON, the waterfall capital of Ontario
  • Hamilton, Ontario
  • Population:                              766,688
  • Distance from Toronto:       68 kilometers (42.25 miles)


Hamilton is a port city that was established in 1816 and is fondly known as steel town, as it is home to two of Canada’s largest steel plants.  It is located along the western shores of Lakes Ontario in the Golden Horseshoe.   Because of the escarpment, Hamilton is graced with some of the best hiking trails and waterfalls in the Province.

Hamilton is know to be the waterfall capital, offering the nature lover over 100 waterfalls to seek out
Chase some waterfalls in Hamilton, Ontario

Explore Hamilton Activities

Hamilton is not only a hiking enthusiasts dream, it offers many other activities especially for the outdoor lover:

  • Smell the flowers and take in the beauty of the Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Take a tour of Dundurn Castle
  • Enjoy a Hamilton Tiger Cats football game
  • Hike one of the many trails or chase some waterfalls
  • Spend the day at Confederation Park:
    • laze on the beach
    • walk, bike or rollerblade along Lake Ontario
    • fish & chips at Hutches on the Beach is a must!
  • Cool off at Wild Waterworks
  • Visit the Farmer’s Market
  • Grab a drink at a bar/cafe in the trendy Locke Street area and do some people watching
  • Take a stroll along the Hamilton harbour
  • Go Wild at African Lion Safari, just a short drive outside of Hamilton


Explore London, Ontario

Map of London, ON, home to many medical teaching universities and hospitals
  • London, Ontario
  • Population:                                           404,699
  • Distance from Toronto:                    191.5 kilometers (118.99 miles)

The city of London is substantially smaller than the first three Ontario cities, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less appealing.


The City of London (known as the Forest City) is located in southwestern Ontario along the mighty Thames River, and was founded in 1826.   It has since grown to be the largest city in southwestern Ontario.  London is home to the University of London and is most well known for its medical treatment, education, and research.

London is well know for its extensive medical research and universities
London is well know for its health care and medical research

Explore London Activities

While London isn’t a city that tourists are known to flock to, there are still enough activities to keep you busy when visiting:

  • Laze and picnic at Springbank Park
  • Bring out the child in you at Storybook Gardens
  • Take a step back in time at Fanshawe Pioneer Village
  • Take a Labatt Hometown Brewery Tour
  • Stroll through one of London’s many museums.  I highly recommend the London Children’s Museum
  • Cheer on the London Knights hockey team
  • Ski, go tubing, mountain biking or ziplining at Boler Mountain

Explore Kitchener, Ontario

Map of Kitchener, ON, where you will find Octoberfest in Canada
  • Kitchener, Ontario
  • Population:                                      260,636
  • Distance from Toronto:               107.4 kilometers (66.73 miles)

The fifth and final of Ontario’s largest cities is Kitchener.  This is also where I am currently living.

While Kitchener on its own has a small population, it forms part of the Tri-Cities, which consists of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.  When all three cities the total population is approximately of 523,894.


Kitchener’s history dates all the way back to 1784 when the land was given to the Six Nations.  Eventually the German Mennonites purchased the land and by the year 1800 the first building was built and immigration sky-rocketed, mostly with German Mennonites.  In 1833, the city was named Berlin but was forced to change its name after WWI due to conflict.  In 1916 Kitchener was born.  When visiting the area today, you will still find a vast population of Germans, and it will not be uncommon to have a siting of the Mennonites and their horse and buggies.

You will be taken back in time when exploring Waterloo Region.  See the culture of the Mennonite Community
Experience the Mennonite culture in Kitchener, Ontario

While Kitchener is not a major tourist city, except for the month of October, you will find many activities to keep you entertained throughout your stay:

  • Spend the day browsing the stalls at the St. Jacobs Farmers Market
  • The foodie will love shopping at the Kitchener Farmers Market
  • Keep the little ones busy swimming, bowling, or playing arcades at Bingemans
  • Enjoy the peace and quiet strolling through Victoria Park
  • Be entertained by live theatre at the Center in the Square (there isn’t a bad seat in the house)
  • Take a hike on one of the many trails (my favorite is Huron Natural Area)
  • Take a leisurely drive through Mennonite Country on a Sunday and marvel at the German Mennonite Culture, many of whom still use the horse and buggy as their primary means of transportation and farming equipment
  • Take a step back in time at Doon Heritage Village
  • Relax at one of the many (and I mean many) coffee shops throughout the city
  • Ski or tube the hills at Chicopee Ski Hill (rentals and lessons are available)
  • A visit to Octoberfest in October should be a must on everybody’s list when visiting Kitchener
  • Cheer on the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League “Let’s Go Rangers”. This is a fun and energetic outing for the entire family
  • Browse the Kitchener Museum or the very large Kitchener library
  • Visit just before Christmas to take in the magic of St. Jacobs Sparkle.

Just One Tip: For the outdoor enthusiast, Ontario is the perfect place to visit during the Winter months. Just be prepared for the cold

Whatever city you decide to explore in Ontario, you will find diverse cultures, extensive history, amazing architecture, and an abundance of recreational activities for the entire family.  I also recommend setting aside a day or two to take a road trip to any of the Beach Towns Ontario or Small Towns Ontario for the perfect Ontario getaway.  You won’t regret it. Which big city in Ontario do you want to visit?


Kelly xoxo


68 thoughts on “Explore Big Cities Ontario

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  2. lensofjen17

    Wow, you have been busy! I have been following your backyard series and you are definitely inspiring me to both see my own backyard and to get back to Ontario and go beyond Toronto. Thank you for your writing and safe travels!


  3. ariellekurtze

    I love this list! I have family in Toronto and we all love to hike. I think we would definitely take advantage of your hiking suggestions and then of course we’ll be starving so your food suggestions are perfect. Thank you for sharing!


  4. Kelly

    This is a great guide for what to see in all the bigger cities in Ontario. I’ve actually only been to Toronto a couple of times before, despite living in Vancouver my whole life so I would love to explore more of Ontario πŸ™‚ Thanks for all the ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Agnes

    Such an excellent guide! I hope I will use it. Unfortunately, COVID interrupted my long road trip, and I didn’t get to Ontario. BC and Vancouver charmed me. So, now it’s time to visit Ontario. Toronto’s CN Tower is on my bucket list! I would like to see parliament buildings in Ottawa also. Waterfalls in Hamilton looks fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just One Passport

      Unfortunately COVID has changed all travel 😦 I hope you will be able to make it to Ontario one day. I have to warn you that it’s completely difference than Vancouver and BC (my absolute favourite place)


    1. Just One Passport

      Chicago is my favourite city after Vancouver! I drove there. Its 5 hours so not too bad. You could cross at either Windsor or Port Huron. Hit London then kitchener then Hamilton then Toronto. But ottawa is another 6 hours from toronto


  6. Jay Artale

    Cities can sometimes be so overwhelming, and as travellers we put ourselves under a lot of pressure to see and do everything we can within the time … but I don’t think we should underestimate the power and benefit of just people watching. It gives you a glimpse of the day to day lives, and the vibe of a city. As I get older I do a lot more slow traveling and a lot more people watching.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rachel Heller

    I’ve never visted any of these, and not heard of most of them! Toronto, though, is definitely on my bucket list; I’ve heard such good things about it! Your description of Kitchener makes me want to add that to the list as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. bye:myself

    I’m doing the same in Europe: Starting in Prague, I’ll visit places visitors from other continents cannot go to at this moment. I don’t expect it to be empty, but at least there won’t be Americans and Asians which will certainly reduce the crowds.
    Regarding your post, at this moment, all I can do is reading it with great interest – since I cannot cross the Ocean to explore Ontario by myself.


  9. Sandy N Vyjay

    I guess when travel opens up for us too, it will initially be exploring within our state and country, international travel seems a long way off. The cities of Ontario are all sounding lovely with so much to see and do. I never knew that there is a London in Canada too. I love the looks of Hamilton and of course, Toronto is a city we would love to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Kendra

    Great introduction to these cities! I hope to make it to them someday–Toronto has been on my short list for awhile. I’ll definitely come to you for Canada travel tips once I can go there again!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Arnav Mathur

    As someone who hasn’t ever been to that part of the World, really loved this post, briefing aptly about the major cities in Ontario, that should be on the travellers radars. The thing thats on the top of my list has to be visiting the picturesque waterfalls in Hamilton, as i prefer the outdoors as compared to the cities.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. sarah

    Would love to spend some more time in Canada. Loved my time there. I’ve only been to Toronto in Ontario, not familiar with some of the others but I do love to visit cities and real towns when I travel πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Michelle

    These all sound so great. I would especially love to do some of the outdoor activities you mentioned like the white water rafting and the hiking! Thanks for another great post! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Freya Lundgren

    I LOVE Canada and really to go back and explore the eastern provinces. Hamilton and Kitchener sound lovely to me as it seems they both still have plenty of natural green spaces to explore. Seems like you live in a great town!

    Liked by 1 person

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  16. Travel See Write

    First of all Happy Canada Day! Such a great country. Your post is so informative and really makes me want to hop on a plane to Canada right away. But unfortunately, that seems like a distant dream now. Hamilton looks great with those activities. I would love to explore the Royal Botanical Gardens


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