Canada has many music cities to its name. The multi-cultural Montreal. The hip-hop base of Toronto. Folk in Vancouver. Country music in Calgary. And surprising diversity in the Maritime Provinces.
Though Canada is highly divided, regionally speaking, the country boasts a number of strong, trendy music cities that deserve to be noticed.
1. Montreal, Quebec
If European-based arts and culture is your interest and you want to get away from the more commercialized forms of music, Montreal is among Canada’s top music cities.
Featuring a range of events and opportunities including the city’s jazz festival, Montreal has long been an epicentre for music on Canada’s east coast. While other cities may be gaining more momentum, Montreal is still a classic in Canadian music and continues to produce some of the most artistically-minded, culturally-diverse music in the landscape.
2. Toronto, Ontario
Toronto has continued to be a strong base of music north of the United States featuring a number of acclaimed and growing music festivals such as WayHome and OVO; a number of music venues to enjoy for smaller acts; and internationally acclaimed artists such as Drake, The Weeknd, and others.
The organizers of SXSW have set up shop in Toronto to establish NXNW these last few years and the city also plays host to Canadian Music Week.
Even though Toronto is perhaps Canada’s most corporate city, it continues to build a strong music scene with lots of momentum behind it.
3. Vancouver, British Columbia
Holding its own against the east coast juggernauts, Vancouver continues to build a strong music scene for itself with a number of pubs, clubs, and exhibits welcoming in artists from all walks of life.
In western Canada, Vancouver continues to be a must-see destination for any bands on tour and is commonly used as a hub for the province’s ever-developing arts scene. Still in its infancy, however, the city has struggled as has the province to build itself with festivals and homegrown artists.
4. Halifax, Nova Scotia
While much of the east coast’s music scene has seen its music cities disappear, with long-time destinations such as Moncton, NB having dried up completely, the City of Halifax continues to survive.
Among Canada’s most popular cities to bar hop, the downtown nightlife is strong and with the amount of venues available, Halifax artists have been able to thrive and build audiences in the past two decades.
5. St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador
St. John’s continues to boast the most pubs per capita than anywhere in Canada, driving a strong university-centric scene of arts and music.
Compared to far larger cities, St. John’s may not compare size-wise. Despite this, St. John’s continues to cultivate its own music scene and has attracted many internationally acclaimed artists to its shores in the past decade, helping to develop the region.
6. Ottawa, Ontario
Ottawa is an unsung gem in Canada’s music history and continues to have a healthy music scene that is worth a notice.
Similar to Montreal, Ottawa features a range of unique acts originating in varying cultures. The city has played its role in providing bands a strong stop along the Montreal-to-Toronto corridor and maintains a worthy place among some of Canada’s biggest music scenes.
7. Calgary, Alberta
The final city on our list is Calgary, a city which continues to boast a strong country scene, and that continues to breed an increasingly multi-cultural arts and culture landscape.
Currently the city might not be much in terms of a tour stop but in the decades to come, Calgary is likely to continue to grow into something very special for Canada’s music scene. Despite being underdeveloped, Calgary finds its place on our list due to its focus on building a thriving scene where homegrown artists can launch and sustain successful careers.