British Columbia consists of a vast area of mountains, forests, lakes, and cities – each with their unique character and culture. The cities of British Columbia are some of the most vibrant and diverse in the country, offering visitors and residents alike a taste of the Pacific Northwest lifestyle.
B.C. is a province located in the westernmost portion of Canada. Yukon is to the north, Alberta is to the east, the United States is to its south, and the Pacific Ocean flanks its west.
Although on the bucket list for nearly every outdoor enthusiast thanks to this province’s incredible nature, there’s more than just adventures to the lakes and mountains that awaits you in B.C. With stunning natural beauty, top-rated attractions, and thriving cultural scenes, it’s easy to see why this scenic province draws so many visitors every year.
Here are the top cities in British Columbia that you won’t want to miss:
Vancouver: The Urban Jewel of British Columbia
One of the most recognizable cities in British Columbia is Vancouver. This vibrant cosmopolitan city is surrounded by mountains and water, making it one of the most scenic cities in the world. As the largest city in British Columbia, it’s known for its bustling urban center, picturesque coastal views, and vibrant arts and culture scene. Vancouver is also a melting pot of different cultures, languages, and influences.
Municipalities within Metro Vancouver include: Vancouver itself, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey, Abbotsford, Delta, and White Rock to name a few.
Here’s what you need to know about this urban jewel:
- Geography: Vancouver is situated on the west coast of Canada, nestled in between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains. This location offers stunning views of both land and sea, and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure.
- Population: With a population of over 675,000 people, Vancouver is a diverse and multicultural city. The city is known for its welcoming atmosphere and inclusive attitude, making it a great place to live or visit.
- Economy: Vancouver has a robust economy, with industries ranging from technology to natural resources. The city is home to several of Canada’s largest companies, including Telus and Lululemon.
- Culture: Vancouver has a rich arts and culture scene, with several museums, galleries, and theaters dotting the city. The city is also known for its vibrant music scene and annual festivals, including the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
- Attractions: There is no shortage of things to see and do in Vancouver. From exploring the Stanley Park seawall to shopping on Robson Street, there’s truly something for everyone. Don’t miss the chance to visit Granville Island, a unique shopping and dining destination that’s popular with locals and tourists alike.
- Climate: Vancouver has a mild and temperate climate, with average daytime temperatures from 5°C (41°F) in the winter to 22°C (72°F) in the summer. While it does rain frequently, the city is known for its lush greenery and thriving gardens.
Overall, Vancouver is a dynamic and exciting city that offers the perfect balance of urban sophistication and natural wonder. Whether you’re a city slicker, outdoor enthusiast, or culture buff, Vancouver has something to offer.
Victoria: The Capital of British Columbia
Victoria, located on the south end of Vancouver Island, is the capital city of British Columbia. With a population of just over 92,000, it’s a relatively small city. Known for its beautiful architecture, colorful gardens, and excellent dining, Victoria is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway or a family vacation. Once you visit, you’ll quickly see why this city is also known as, “The Garden City.”
Victoria has a long and fascinating history that dates back to 1843, when the Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post in the area. Named after Queen Victoria, the city has played a significant role in the province’s development and is now a vibrant and modern center for government, commerce, and tourism.
Here are some highlights of what Victoria has to offer:
- Stunning architecture: Victoria’s downtown area is full of beautiful historic buildings, many of which have been designated as heritage sites. The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, Parliament Buildings, and Christ Church Cathedral are just a few examples of the architectural gems you’ll find in the city.
- Picturesque scenery: Victoria is surrounded by majestic mountains, picturesque harbors, and pristine beaches. You can take a relaxing stroll along the Inner Harbour or explore the rocky coastline and hidden coves of nearby parks.
- Cultural experiences: The city has a rich and diverse arts community, with numerous galleries, theaters, and museums offering a range of exhibits and performances. Visit the Royal BC Museum to learn about the history and culture of British Columbia, or catch a show at the renowned Belfry Theatre.
- Outdoor adventures: Victoria is the perfect base for exploring the great outdoors. You can hike, bike, or kayak in nearby parks and waterways, or head out on a whale-watching tour to see orcas, humpbacks, and other marine life in their natural habitat.
Where to Stay in Victoria
If you’re visiting Victoria, we recommend you book your stay for Downtown Victoria to have all of the city’s main attractions right at your fingertips. If you’re more interested in a quieter getaway, don’t miss these small towns in Greater Victoria:
Overall, Victoria is a must-see destination for anyone visiting British Columbia. Its mix of history, culture, and natural beauty make it a unique and unforgettable city to explore.
Whistler: The Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Destination
If you’re a nature lover and extreme sports enthusiast, Whistler is the ultimate destination for you. Nestled in the heart of British Columbia, Whistler offers a vast array of outdoor adventure activities no matter the season.
Why is Whistler a must-visit destination? You’ll get to enjoy the best of the best here:
- A winter sports haven: During winter, Whistler showcases some of the best skiing and snowboarding destinations in North America. It boasts of over 8,000 acres of skiable terrain, 200-plus marked trails, and receives up to 40 feet of snow annually. Additionally, it has the longest continuous skiing season in North America, which starts from late November and extends to late May.
- Summer outdoor fun: The fun doesn’t stop when winter ends; there’s plenty of outdoor adventure activities to join. Whistler’s mountain bike park is one of the best in the world, and the courses accommodate all levels of bikers. You can explore the beautiful alpine and valley trails, which provide stunning panoramas and an opportunity to encounter wildlife – black bears, cougars, and deer.
- Zipline tours: For adrenaline junkies who enjoy flying through the air, Whistler offers an array of exciting zipline tours that will leave you breathless. For instance, the Sasquatch line is currently the longest zipline in Canada and the USA combined! You can ride across beautiful valleys and lush forests up to speeds of seventy miles per hour.
- Food & drink: With over one hundred restaurants, bars, and cafes, Whistler has some of the finest cuisines in British Columbia. Whether you want to experiment with local flavors or stick to your favorite dishes, there is something for everyone. The village has a lively nightlife scene that caters to all tastes, from relaxed and cozy to wild and crowded.
Whether winter or summer, Whistler provides an array of outdoor adventure activities to cater to your interests. From skiing and snowboarding to exciting zipline tours, there are loads of activities to match your interests. Make your way to Whistler and see why it’s a must-visit destination.
Kelowna: The Heart of the Okanagan Valley
Nestled in the heart of the Okanagan Valley lies the bustling city of Kelowna. Known as the largest city in British Columbia’s interior, Kelowna is home to over 132,000 residents, making it a vibrant and dynamic hub for locals and visitors alike.
Unlike Vancouver and Whistler which are very well-known cities across the globe, paying a visit to Kelowna is the perfect idea for those that prefer to get off the beaten path and visit somewhere less touristy.
Here are a few reasons why this British Columbia city is a great place for you to visit:
- A thriving cultural scene: Kelowna boasts numerous galleries, museums, and art installations. The Kelowna Art Gallery has a unique collection of Canadian and international contemporary art, while the Okanagan Heritage Museum showcases the rich cultural history of the region. For those interested in live performances, the Kelowna Community Theatre hosts a variety of concerts, plays, and dance shows throughout the year.
- Nature’s playground: Surrounded by picturesque orchards, vineyards, and rolling hills, Kelowna is a nature lover’s paradise. The city has over 30 beaches and parks, including the beautiful City Park, which sits right on the shores of Okanagan Lake. There are also many access points to local trails that offer a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and bird-watching.
- Food & wine haven: Kelowna is a foodie paradise with a rich farm-to-table culinary scene. Some of the best restaurants are nestled in the city’s downtown core, offering a range of international cuisine that utilizes the region’s fresh produce. Additionally, Kelowna is known for its award-winning wineries, which specialize in producing distinct varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.
- Fast economic growth: Kelowna has a diverse economy with significant contributions from the tech, tourism, and agriculture sectors. According to the Kelowna Economic Development Commission, Kelowna is the second-fastest growing city in Canada and is projected to become Canada’s fourth-largest tech hub, with a $2.5 billion dollar tech sector. Additionally, Kelowna is a popular tourist destination, attracting over 1.9 million visitors annually and generating over $578 million in tourism revenue.
Kelowna is a vibrant city that offers a plethora of cultural, outdoor, and culinary experiences. Whether you’re exploring its scenic natural beauty, tasting local wines, or immersing yourself in the local arts scene, this Okanagan gem has something for everyone.
Nanaimo: The Gateway to Vancouver Island
If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver Island, you’ll likely find yourself passing through Nanaimo. This bustling seaside city is known as the gateway to Vancouver Island, drawing visitors in with its gorgeous natural scenery, rich cultural heritage, and wide range of fun activities.
Here are some of the things you can expect to find when you visit Nanaimo:
- Spectacular natural beauty: With its prime waterfront location, Nanaimo boasts a plethora of stunning views. Take a stroll along the Harbourfront Walkway, a beautiful three-kilometer path that takes you past historic landmarks, bustling boat docks, and glittering ocean views. Or, head out to nearby Neck Point Park, which offers a wealth of hiking trails and quiet coves.
- Thrilling outdoor activities: Whether you’re looking to hike, bike, paddle, or snorkel, Nanaimo has something for everyone. Take a guided kayak tour of the shoreline, or rent a bike and explore the city’s many trails. You can also go diving, fishing, golfing or simply have a picnic at one of the city’s numerous parks.
- Fascinating cultural attractions: If you’re a history buff, you’ll love exploring Nanaimo’s many cultural and heritage sites. Start at the Nanaimo Museum, where you can learn about the city’s coal mining past, or head to the Bastion, a historic wooden fort that has stood since the 1800s. The city is also home to a lively arts scene, with frequent festivals, concerts, and art shows.
- Delicious eats: Foodies, rejoice! Nanaimo is renowned for its culinary delights, from fresh seafood to gourmet baked goods. Make sure to sample a slice of the city’s eponymous Nanaimo Bar, a delicious treat made with chocolate, custard, and coconut.
Overall, Nanaimo is the perfect starting point for your Vancouver Island adventure. With its breathtaking views, thrilling activities, rich history, and tempting eats, you’ll find plenty to love about this lively city.
Kamloops: The Hidden Gem of British Columbia
Located in the interior region of British Columbia, Kamloops is another hidden gem that offers a perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and stunning scenery. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or someone who enjoys a peaceful vacation, Kamloops has something for you.
Here are some reasons why Kamloops should be on your list of places to visit in British Columbia:
- Outdoor activities: Kamloops is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts with its abundance of hiking, biking, skiing, golfing, and fishing opportunities. The city is situated amid several lakes, hills, and parks that offer endless possibilities for adventure.
- Vibrant culture: Kamloops is not only known for its stunning natural beauty, but also for its vibrant cultural scene. The city has numerous museums, art galleries, theaters, and music festivals that showcase the local culture and history.
- Wine tasting: Kamloops is home to many wineries where you can taste and purchase some of the finest wines produced in British Columbia. The city’s warm climate and fertile soil make it an ideal place for winemaking.
- Easy access: Kamloops is easily accessible by road, rail, and air. The city is located at the junction of two major highways (Trans-Canada and Yellowhead) and has its own airport with frequent flights to major Canadian cities.
Kamloops is a hidden gem that offers a perfect balance of outdoor adventure, cultural experiences, and relaxation. If you’re looking for a destination that is off the beaten path, Kamloops is the perfect choice.
Prince George: The Northern Capital of British Columbia
If you’re looking for an adventure in the north, Prince George should definitely be on your list. As the largest city in northern British Columbia, Prince George serves as a hub for the communities in the region. Here are some of the reasons why Prince George stands out:
- Access to Nature: Prince George is known for its access to nature. The city is surrounded by beautiful forests, mountains, and lakes, making it a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The spectacular scenery and abundance of wildlife provide endless opportunities for hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, and more.
- Vibrant Culture: Prince George is home to a diverse range of cultural events, festivals, and attractions. If you’re interested in history, head to the Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre, which features exhibits on local natural and human history. Art lovers can enjoy the Two Rivers Gallery, showcasing the work of local and regional artists. Additionally, Prince George is host to a variety of musical, theatrical, and dance performances throughout the year.
- Economic Hub: As the largest city in northern British Columbia, Prince George serves as an economic hub for many sectors, especially in the forestry, mining, and agriculture industries. The city is home to an airport and a busy rail terminal, making it a key transportation hub in the region. In addition, the University of Northern British Columbia attracts students from around the world, contributing to the economy and culture of the city.
- Community Spirit: Prince George prides itself on its strong sense of community. The city has a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, making visitors feel at home. The residents work together to create a safe and livable environment for all, leading to a vibrant and unique community culture.
Whether you’re interested in exploring the great outdoors, immersing yourself in local culture, or contributing to a strong and welcoming community, Prince George is an ideal destination.
Squamish: The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada
Nestled in the midst of an impressive mountain landscape, Squamish is a vibrant town located on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, just 50 minutes from Vancouver and an hour’s drive from Whistler. Known as the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada,” it is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
Here are some things you might love about visiting Squamish:
- Outdoor Activities: Squamish offers a wide variety of outdoor activities that cater to all ages and skill levels. Some of the most popular activities in the area include hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and water sports on the Howe Sound.
- Wildlife and Scenery: Squamish is also home to an incredible array of wildlife, including bald eagles, black bears, and cougars. One of the best places to observe bald eagles is in Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, where thousands of eagles gather every winter to feed on the salmon that run up the Squamish River. Squamish also boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in Canada, with towering mountains, dense forests, and crystal-clear lakes.
- Events and Festivals: Squamish hosts several events and festivals throughout the year, including the Squamish Wind Festival for the Arts, Squamish Logger Sports, and Squamish Mountain Festival. These events showcase the town’s vibrant culture and friendly community spirit.
- Dining: The town is home to a diverse range of restaurants, cafes, and bars, serving up everything from gourmet cuisine to hearty pub fare.
Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-fueled adventure or a relaxing escape in nature, Squamish is the perfect destination for your next outdoor adventure.
Which British Columbia City Will You Visit?
British Columbia is a stunning province in Canada that is home to some of the most beautiful cities you will ever see. From Victoria in the south to Prince George in the north, each city has its own unique charm and attractions that make it a great destination for visitors and locals alike.
No matter which city you choose, you are guaranteed to have an amazing experience in British Columbia. So, pack your bags and get ready to explore the beauty of British Columbia cities.
Featured Image Credit: Engel Ching