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Studying in Canada

What is the Best City in Canada for Students? Our Top Picks

Explore the top Canadian cities that offer the best educational and lifestyle opportunities for students.

Canada boasts world-class educational facilities, breathtaking landscapes, and electrifying student experiences. Living and studying in Canada can be the experience of a lifetime. For many international students, it’s an immensely enriching experience. 

People from countries all around the world travel to Canada to study. From Asia to Africa, Ireland, China, France, Germany, Australia, and the UK. Canada is one of the premier student destinations in the world.

You could be on your way to one of the big cities like Toronto or Ottawa. Maybe you’re about to call Alberta, Manitoba, Calgary, or Edmonton your home. 

You could be into winter sports like skiing or snowboarding. You may prefer big city life -  rich history, monuments and culture. 

In Canada, there are options for everyone. In fact, any of Canada’s remarkable provinces or cities will show you why the country is a perfect study destination!

But in a place so great and with so much to offer, how can you decide where to go? If you’re unsure which city is the one for you, read on because we’ve compiled a list of the best Canadian cities to study in!

In this article we’ll cover:

  • Top cities in Canada for International students
  • Facts, information, and data on cities such as Montreal and Vancouver
  • A guide on how to decide where to go
  • The cheapest city for budget-conscious students
  • Frequently asked questions

Let’s get into it!

Top Cities in Canada for International Students

Canada is a vast country with a lot on offer. It boasts countless activities, amenities, and sources of entertainment. This energy, cooped with strong diversity and picturesque mountains and nature, creates a beautiful living environment. Knowing the ins and outs of what each major city has will give you a better idea of where you want to study.

Many parts of Canada benefit from diversity, with many citizens from various backgrounds. Cities like Toronto and Ottawa are business hubs and cultural centers. We’ll explore everything you need to know on our top picks for students looking to study abroad in Canada.

Montreal

Montreal is the second most populous city in Canada and is the largest city in the province of Quebec. Founded in 1642 by French settlers, Quebec still retains its heritage today. French is the city's primary language, with most day-to-day business undertaken in French. 

Factors that Make Montreal the Most Student-Friendly City

Montreal is one of the most diverse cities in Canada. Its massive variety of international communities brings the city to life. Montreal is lively, with plenty of opportunities for vibrant student nightlife. 

There are six universities in Montreal which offer an array of specialist subjects. Montreal also hosts world-renowned organizations like Bell and Google, so there are opportunities for internships and work experience.

Montreal is one of the safest cities in Canada, where you will feel comfortable and at ease. If you already speak French, you’ll be at home! If not, you will need to learn fast! 

Studying overseas and learning a new language through regular use can be another great benefit of student life in Montreal. Diversity, safety, networking, and employment opportunities make Montreal an excellent option.

Best Universities in Montreal

Montreal is home to six top-class universities, each offering a range of specialist subjects. 

Widely regarded as the best university in Montreal, McGill University is considered by Canadians to be their own Harvard. The 2024 QS Rankings place McGill University at number two in Canada and thirtieth globally. 

McGill University courses are taught in English, but the campus is heavily Francophone. For instance, compulsory internships will likely be conducted in French. McGill University is considered Canada’s second-best University.

The University of Montreal is another premier university in the city. However, courses and campus life are conducted entirely in French. The University of Montreal is one of Canada's top schools specializing in medical sciences and deep learning.

Founded in 1974, Concordia University is an English-language public research university in Montreal. Concordia is one of the three universities in Quebec where English is the primary language of instruction.

Cost of Living in Montreal

Montreal has been named among some of the world’s most affordable Western cities. Montreal boasts an excellent balance between cost of living and quality of living.

Single-person monthly costs in Montreal, including rent, are estimated at around CAD 2,594. However, you can rent with other students or take up university housing or accommodation to lessen your rent costs.

Public transport in Montreal is reliable and affordable. The public transit network is relatively simple. Four lines connect the downtown center to major tourist sites, bus stops, and train stations.

There are plenty of part-time jobs for students in Montreal that you can take on to help pay your way. A healthy source of job opportunities and can with the affordability of living in a popular student city. 

Toronto 

Toronto has the largest population of any city in Canada and is an international business, technology, and arts center. Indigenous peoples have lived in the Toronto area for over 10,000 years. 

The modern city was established in 1793 as York and was renamed Toronto in 1834. Toronto is the capital of Ontario.

Factors that Make Toronto One of the Best Cities for International Students in Canada

Toronto is a hockey-mad city, and students often attend regular sporting events! Toronto also hosts various art and music festivals, concerts, and regular performances. 

The landscape surrounding Toronto is breathtaking and wild, with key locations like Muskoka Lake close to the city. Students can go hiking and camping in the summer in various national parks.

Toronto is also home to a vibrant multicultural community of immigrants and residents. The city’s food scene is second to none.

Best Universities in Toronto

The 2024 QS Rankings place the University of Toronto at number one in Canada and twenty-first globally. The university offers over 700 undergraduate and 200 postgraduate courses. The university is renowned for its medicine, business, and humanities courses.

Founded in 1967, the Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning is another one of the top colleges in Toronto. Humber College is a public College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto that offers specialized programs to students. Humber is a polytechnic school, meaning courses are career-focused.

York University is an experiential university in Toronto focusing on placements, internships, and courses. In addition, York University has satellite campuses in Hyderabad and Costa Rica. Students of the university’s business, technology, arts, and many other courses can study in these locations too.

Cost of Living in Toronto

Toronto is one of the more expensive cities in Canada, mainly owing to high rent prices. The estimated monthly spending of an average single person in Toronto is CAD 3,770, including rent. If you want to live outside student accommodation, renting with other students will be the best way to mitigate costs.

Vancouver

Founded around a local tavern in 1867, Vancouver is a city in Western Canada. Located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia, as of 2021, Vancouver has a population of over 662,000. 

Vancouver is a green city with strong urban planning philosophies. It’s an excellent place for international students due to its multicultural and multilingual population.

Factors that Make Vancouver One of the Most Student-Friendly Cities

Vancouver has an excellent public transport network and is an exceptionally walkable city. Vancouver has a vibrant art and culture scene. It’s a great place for students to experience various exhibitions and performances. 

Vancouver is a safe city, too, and consistently ranks highly in quality of life measures. Vancouver has beautiful scenery and opportunities to explore the great outdoors like much of Canada.

Best Universities in Vancouver

The best university in Vancouver is the University of British Columbia. This English-language university offers a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The 2024 QS Rankings place the University of British Columbia at number three in Canada and thirty-fourth equal globally.

Established in 1965, Simon Fraser University is another renowned university in Vancouver and is one of Canada’s top research universities. Either of these options is an excellent place to apply your studies.

Cost of Living in Vancouver

The cost of living in Vancouver is relatively high. The estimated monthly spending of an average single person in Vancouver is CAD 3,749, including rent. Of course, spending varies between individuals, with students spending more frugally than the average resident.

A relatively high cost of living means it will be hard to survive without a well-paying part-time job or support. Renting in Vancouver can be expensive, and you often compete with working professionals and families for a home. Banding with other students to rent a house is your best bet for getting ahead in Vancouver.

Ottawa

Ottawa is Canada's capital city and home to parliament and other key government buildings and organizations. Founded in 1826, Ottawa is Canada's fourth most populous. Expectedly, Ottawa is home to many civil servants and government employees.

Factors that Make Ottawa One of the Best Cities for International Students in Canada

Because Ottawa is the capital of Canada, there is a lot of interaction with international travelers and other students. Studying in the seat of power is a fantastic opportunity for students interested in public service or politics. 

Ottawa plays host to many international events and festivities. Ottawa hosts regular festivals and concerts and has a selection of museums and galleries. There’s something for everyone in Ottawa which enjoys a lively nightlife to suit all tastes.

Best Universities in Ottawa

Ottawa is home to several well-regarded universities, including the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, and Saint Paul University, Canada. 

The University of Ottawa is the most prestigious and renowned school in Ottawa. The university is best known for its medicine, law, and social sciences courses. 

Carleton University is populated mainly by international students, and its courses are in English. It focuses on public affairs, international affairs, and journalism. 

Cost of Living in Ottawa

Ottawa is not the most expensive place to live in Canada. However, rent will be the most significant cost you will need to pay. 

Student accommodation can make that less of a headache. Your college provides cost-effective living quarters, or you can rent with other students in a private home.

Quebec City

Quebec City is the capital of the Francophone province of Quebec. Founded in 1608 by French settlers, the city gets its name from the Algonquin name for the area. 

Factors that Make Quebec City One of the Best Cities for International Students in Canada

Quebec City is French-speaking, like Montreal, so you must speak or learn French daily. Quebec City boasts beautiful European-style architecture, and its old town area is full of unique stone buildings. Quebec City is well-known for its food scene, culinary festivals, great restaurants, regular music festivals, and other key cultural events.

Best Universities in Quebec City

Laval University is a French language research university focusing on dentistry, philosophy, pharmacy, and other courses. It offers a program for teaching French as a second language. It’s the only university in Canada that trains forestry engineers.

Cost of Living in Quebec City

Quebec City is one of the most affordable cities in Canada for students. Quebec City enjoys local markets for food and reasonable rent costs.

How to Decide Among the Best Student Cities in Canada

The best city to study at in Canada will largely depend on the university you want to attend. The course you want to study, the resources you have, and the languages you speak will also influence your decision. Scholarships and performing well on your exams and TOEFL or IELTS will also dictate which institutions are right for you.

Of course, a French-speaking school is a great choice if you speak French!  Still, if you’re looking at a specific course, you may only be able to study it at certain universities.

Where is it Cheapest to Live in Canada?

Based on our observations, Montreal is the cheapest city to live and study in on our list. Montreal enjoys lower rental prices, food prices, and robust public transport compared to other Canadian cities.

Key Takeaways

Each of the major cities in Canada on our list is a fantastic location for international students. Most major cities in Canada have a perfect mix of student life, employment opportunities, recreational activities, and natural beauty.

Ensure you understand the language of the city you want to study. Courses may be offered in one language, but day-to-day business may be conducted in another.

Montreal and Quebec City are our two choices for cheaper cities to study in. All of the top cities in Canada have functional buses around convenient bus routes and access to essential student services. 

Your choice of university may be dictated by the courses you want to study.  Tuition fees and apartment and housing costs differ between universities and cities. Ensure you know what you want to study before you explore living arrangements in a city.

Hopefully, this has been one of those articles that have offered all the answers. We’ve provided reasons to choose each city, so now it’s up to you! Whatever your aspirations, Canada will likely have the perfect place to suit your needs!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which City has Canada's Best Universities?

The highest-ranked university in Canada is the University of Toronto in Toronto. Montreal is home to McGill University, another top-ranked university in Canada.

Which is the Safest City in Canada for Students?

Vancouver would be our bet for the safest city in Canada. It boasts people-focused planning, public transportation, and a relatively small population.

Which City is Considered the Best for Work Post-Study in Canada?

Any city in Canada will have decent post-study work opportunities. If you want postgraduate work in technology, try Bell in Montreal. Ottawa might be a good fit for work if you're studying public policy.

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