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:
- Explore Small Towns Ontario
- Explore Tourist Towns Ontario
- Explore Ontarios Activities and Adventures
- Explore Beach Towns Ontario
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
- 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.
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
- 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.
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
- 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.
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
JOIN ME TO EXPLORE MORE OF ONTARIO
Explore London, Ontario
- 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.
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
- 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.
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?
SAFE AND HAPPY TRAVELS 🙂