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5 Best Canadian Cities for International Students

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5 Best Canadian Cities for International Students

Sep 03, 2022Date Published
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Canada is the second-largest country in the world. With its three provinces and ten territories spanning diverse landscapes, no two cities are quite the same. You’ll find busy urban hubs, vibrant nightlife, laidback suburbs, breathtaking natural landmarks and so much more. So, which are the best Canadian cities for international students?

The answer depends on what you’re looking for! Are you keen to experience a lively city or something slower-paced and closer to nature? Are you looking for the most affordable option or is being close to employer activity more important to you? Would you be okay with long, cold winters, and hot summers, or did you have something milder in mind? All these factors affect what the best cities in Canada are for you to study in.

Best Cities in Canada to Study

1. Montreal

Montreal is home to one of Canada’s top three globally-ranked universities, McGill University. Other top universities in the city include Université de Montréal and Concordia University. Montreal is the best city for students in Canada, and the 9th best student city in the world, according to QS Top Universities! It’s not surprising, therefore, that Montreal has one of the world’s largest student populations.

Montreal is Quebec’s biggest city. But don’t be intimidated! Most universities, colleges, and vocational schools here offer programs in both English and French. You may need a little bit of conversational French to get around. But Montreal has a large international student population, and you can get by with English, too!

One of the reasons Montreal is Canada’s most student-friendly city is its diversity. An estimated 35,000 international students arrive in Montreal every year. This makes the city a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities! If you’re worried about getting homesick, you’re sure to find people and places to remind you of home here.

It’s also more affordable than counterparts like Toronto and Vancouver! In fact, according to QS Top Universities, Montreal is the most affordable city in Canada for international students. If affordability is an important consideration for you, Montreal is one of the best Canadian cities for international students!

Montreal is a charming mix of historic landmarks and modern architecture. Known as Canada’s culture capital, there are plenty of theatres, concert halls, museums, galleries, and more to explore. It holds world-famous events throughout the year, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and the Just for Laughs comedy festival.

With a lively yet comforting atmosphere, Montreal also has a high degree of employer activity. As an international student, it’s easier for you to work while studying or find post-study opportunities in Canada!

2. Toronto

This is Canada’s largest city, and home to its highest-ranking university, the University of Toronto. The University of Toronto is also one of the best universities in the world, ranking in the top 30 of several global university rankings! The city is also home to the top-ranking York University and Ryerson University.

As the capital of Ontario, Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. In fact, almost half of the city’s population is foreign-born! Thanks to a rich history of immigration from different parts of the world, Toronto is a cultural mosaic. There are plenty of neighbourhoods to explore to taste cultures from different parts of the world, be it Little Italy in downtown Toronto, or Chinatown in the Greater Toronto Area.

Toronto is absolutely one of the best Canadian cities for international students. The inhabitants of Toronto are friendly, welcoming, appreciative, and respectful of people from all over the world. And you’re also likely to find a place that reminds you of home in this multicultural haven!

Toronto is also Canada’s financial capital. Major banks, along with other business leaders, operate here. Toronto is also home to a thriving creative, media, and entertainment industry! It’s occasionally nicknamed Hollywood North for its film production industry. Unsurprisingly, Toronto ranks first place as one of Canada’s best student cities in terms of employer activity.

This is the perfect place to be if you want to experience the bustling excitement of city life. Though Toronto is one of Canada’s more expensive cities, costs of living vary depending on where in the city you live. There’s plenty to do – from museums and galleries to concerts and festivals like the Toronto International Film Festival and Toronto Pride.

3. Vancouver

Vancouver is one of the top 20 best student cities of 2022, according to QS Top Universities! A major city in Canada, it also hosts one of Canada’s top 3 universities, the University of British Columbia! UBC alone has over 18,000 international students from 166 countries. Vancouver ranks as the student city with the highest student mix in Canada! Along with UBC, the city’s top universities include Simon Fraser University and University Canada West.

Vancouver comes second only to Toronto in terms of desirability for the best student cities in Canada. It’s at an impressive 8th place globally for this indicator! Vancouver is also only second to Toronto in having the highest employer activity in Canada.

Along with a vibrant city life, Vancouver is the perfect place for those who love the great outdoors. With stunning natural landscapes from beaches to mountain ranges, you have a perfect balance between urban and outdoor life. Vancouver has its own Hollywood North, thanks to its thriving film production industry! If you’re an aspiring student in the creative, entertainment, and media fields, Vancouver might be one of the best cities in Canada to study for you!

And if you’re looking for a city with a milder climate than Montreal and Toronto? Vancouver is one of the best Canadian cities for international students not willing to brave long, snowy winters and humid summers.

It is, however, one of the most expensive cities in Canada for international students. But again, costs of living vary within the city, and depend on various factors! 

These are the top 3 best student cities in Canada. But they’re not the only contenders for this list!

4. Ottawa

Not up for bustling city life? Why not consider Canada’s capital city, Ottawa? Despite being a flourishing city Ottawa also offers a charming sense of neighbourhood and community. It ranks 53rd out of the best student cities from all around the world!

Ottawa has a steadily growing multiethnic community, welcoming more and more students and foreign nationals every year. It’s the second most popular destination for immigration in Ontario, after Toronto! The city is home to the University of Ottawa, one of Canada’s top 10 universities according to several global university rankings.

Looking for a more affordable place to study? Ottawa is one of the best Canadian cities for international students on a budget. Alongside its vigorous economy, Ottawa has a thriving knowledge-based sector, with high levels of employment in this field!

5. Quebec City

The capital of the province of Montreal, Quebec City is one of the most affordable best cities in Canada for international students. This beautiful city is a combination of historic haunts and modern marvels. In fact, 37 of the National Historic Sites of Canada are in Quebec City!

With its unique and charming atmosphere, Quebec City is also home to events like the Winter Festival. So, if you’re a fan of winter sports and cold weather in general, you’ll be right at home here! The city also has some of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada, making it a very attractive hub for students looking to find work.

Note, though, that Quebec City is primarily francophone. So, if you are from a French-speaking country you’ll have no trouble adjusting here! Among Quebec City’s top universities are Laval University and the University of Quebec.

Concluding Thoughts: Best Canadian Cities for International Students

We’ve barely scratched the surface of what each of these cities has to offer. And there are even more cities across Canada to consider depending on your preferences! Remember, each city hosts great universities, ranking impressively for specific programs, levels of study, and so on. The right one for you will depend on what your particular requirements are.

The same goes for the city you hope to live in. What type of climate would you prefer? What’s your budget like? Do you want to be right in the heart of activity, or the quieter fringes? Considering how big some of these cities are, there’s plenty of diversity within each city, too.

Be thorough in your research when considering the best Canadian cities for international students! Hopefully, this article has given you a good idea of where to get started and what to look for.