Young guns head for Canada

An expanded working holiday visa scheme will attract 10,000 young Irish visitors to Canada. But it’s a vast country, with a diverse selection of cities to choose from, so where to go?

Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 01:00

Photograph: Getty Images

Vancouver (British Columbia)
Located on the Pacific west coast of Canada, with the sea on one side and mountains on the other, the laid back city of Vancouver will strike a chord with many a Dubliner, except that it has 10 beaches, 220 parks and, just half an hour away, three ski resorts.

The ethnically diverse city (almost half of the city’s residents don’t speak English as a first language), it has a relaxed vibe and regularly scores highly in worldwide “most liveable” awards.

Expect to spend your down time strolling the seawall around Stanley Park, visiting the city’s Aquarium and Art Gallery and enjoying its good variety of ethnic restaurants. Shop the boutiques along Main Street for one-off pieces by local designers, check out the produce at Granville Island public market, or just wander the high rise marina-side developments at upmarket Yaletown.

Here, too, there are plenty of adventure activities to keep adrenaline junkies fired up, including an opportunity to zipline down Grouse Mountain at speeds of up to 80km per hour. A ski resort, the mountain is just a 20 minute drive from the city and is also home to Eye of the Wind – a glass pod set over the mountain peak.

Or take the Cliffwalk, a cantilevered path almost a mile out over a granite precipice at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, and don’t miss the chance to see baby grizzly bears at play in the orphaned bear sanctuary on Grouse Mountain.
Weather Average daily July temperatures of 17.5 degrees. Winter here is considered the mildest of any big Canadian city, at around 3 degrees in January, and wet, with snow in the mountains but less so in the city.
Economy The Economist Intelligence Unit last year found the cost of living in Vancouver to be the highest of any city in North America. A major port city, it offers diverse employment opportunities, including in biotech, green energy and software development. One bedroom apartments to rent from around CAD 1,000/€660.

Photograph: Getty Images

Halifax (Nova Scotia)
This western tip city has more pubs and clubs per capita than almost anywhere else in the country, and almost as many Titanic exhibits, being the city where many of its passengers were buried.

Must dos for tourists here include an amphibious city tour, shopping on Spring Street, and visiting the 18th century home of a Quaker barrel maker in Dartmouth – gentle pleasures.

Take a wander around the Hydrostone neighbourhood, whose cinderblock shops and houses were built in 1917 to house those displaced by the great Halifax Explosion, the collision between two ships in its port, one of which was packed to the gills with war-bound explosives.

Now gentrified, it’s a great place for shops and restaurants. There’s more military history at the Halifax Citadel, with panoramic views of the city below plus a raft of year-long events too, including the Halifax International Tattoo, a busker festival and the acoustic Dead of Winter Music Festival. Halifax is also home to Pride, Canada’s biggest LGBT cultural festival.

Take a tall ship cruise, walk across the McDonald Bridge between Halifax and Dartmouth and take the ferry back, enjoy the white sandy beaches at Crystal Crescent or see how many whales have the hump on a sea safari.
Weather Summer can hit 20 degrees, but winter is a mix of snow, ice and rain. November is the wettest month.
Economy A small city, with a population of less than half a million, unemployment here is around 6 per cent. But that might all change – the city is about to rebrand itself with a new city slogan “be bold”, to help promote both tourism development and inward investment. Rents are cheaper here, at around CAD 800 (€530 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Photograph: Getty Images

Ottowa (Ontario)
With a population of 1.2 million, Canada’s capital is only its fourth biggest city, but undoubtedly its cleanest.

Situated on the border with Quebec, it’s also one of the country’s bilingual cities and one with a good stock of heritage sites and landmarks, including Parliament Hill, plus great museums and galleries and, of course, the Rideau Canal, a Unesco World Heritage Site.

It’s a great city to explore on foot with self-guided walks such as Street SmART and Decoding Art to help guide you through its rich cultural seam. In the neighbouring, mainly French speaking city of Gatineau, a short walk-on ferry ride away, don’t miss the Canadian War Museum and Gatineau Park, which has lakeshore beaches plus hiking and cycle trails.

Pack a picnic at Byward Farmers’ Market and head up Major’s Hill Park to enjoy the view. On Sundays, the city’s most scenic coastal and parkway roads are closed to cars and given over entirely to pedestrians, cyclists and rollerbladers.

In winter the locals enjoy the world’s biggest skating rink, the frozen Rideau Canal. At almost 8km long, with snack vendors providing sustenance along the way, the Skateway runs right into the heart of the city, ending just steps from Parliament Buildings. Winterlude is the city’s big winter festival. May sees the city enjoy the world’s largest Tulip Festival, when Gatineau Park is a riot of colour, thanks to a gift from the Dutch government for having harboured its royal family during the second World War.
Weather Sunny and warm from late May to late September, it can get hot and humid so bring your Deet. Winter sees temperature drops to -15 degrees and lots of snow.
Economy With more than 100,000 civil servants, government is the biggest employer here. Unemployment stands at just over 6 per cent. Two thirds of the city’s population are native English speakers, 15 per cent French and 21 per cent other languages. The city is four and a half hours’ drive from Toronto and two from Montreal.

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