Last-minute escapes across Canada

Last-minute escapes across Canada



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Cheap getaway? Here are our — and our customers’ — picks for great value last-minute flights and city breaks across Canada

You can pick up some incredible deals on right now; in fact, there are bargains to places right across Canada, so if you’re looking for a cheap trip across an amazing country, now’s the time. Below are routes on which our adventurous travelers have gone from booking to departure in under three days, so if you fancy dropping everything and heading out in the off-season, here’s where we — and they — recommend.


Butchart Gardens on Vancouver IslandVancouver is a great city, and you’re never too far away from an impressive green space — Shutterstock

Vancouver, in many ways, represents what a lot of people think a Canadian city looks like. Glass and steel skyscrapers, a lively harbor, mountains on one side, ocean on the other, and a friendly, clean, green feeling that puts a spring in the step and a bracing rush of wind through the hair.

The city shares a lot with its neighbors down the coast in the US when it comes to lifestyle, namely a lively arts scene and a willingness to take advantage of its surroundings. Green spaces throughout the city are great for walking, picnicking, cycling and the like (depending on the season of course!), while venturing out of the city means skiing, hiking, sailing and many more healthsome pursuits. The food scene is one of the best in the country thanks to its laid-back multiculturalism, and the whole place is welcoming, modern, vibrant and fresh. If this really were the single face of a country, you could do a lot worse.


Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton at night in front of colorful fountainsThe Alberta Legislature Building, Edmonton — Shutterstock

Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, although you might not realize it when you’re there. It feels almost accidental, like a small town woke up one morning, discovered a million people lived there, shrugged, and went about its business. Laid-back and liberal, it lacks the zip and vigor of other Canadian cities but, in a way, is all the better for it.

It’s very much tapping into the 21st century North American vibe, with a booming craft beer scene, a mobile dining pass that offers savings on “inventive eateries, local taprooms, cozy cafes, creative cocktails [and] farm-to-table experiences”, mountain biking through the river valley, helicopter rides to the Rockies, segway tours, skiing, ice fishing, music, theater and stand-up festivals throughout the summer, and an application to be a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. There’s a lot going on in Edmonton.


View of Comox town in front of mountainsThe quiet town of Comox makes a good base to explore Vancouver Island — Shutterstock

A small town of around 15,000 people on Vancouver Island, the area around Comox was originally called kw’umuxws by the First Nations people who settled there thousands of years ago. Today, it’s all about parkland, recreation, a local arts and crafts scene, and generally being very proud of the island and all it has to offer.

Indeed, Comox makes a great base to explore the island. Head south to Victoria to see the frankly ridiculous Craigdarroch Castle, an overblown 1880s mansion that can best be described as ‘fever-dream Gothic’. Visit the interior of the island and the wild peaks and forested valleys of Strathcona Provincial Park, Canadian mountain terrain in microcosm. Drive around the coast and visit pretty little fishing villages and pastel-colored towns, all called Port Something-or-Other, and all offering local hospitality, food and drink, as well as plenty of other wholesome diversions.


Street in Old Montreal at duskThe charming neighborhood of Old Montreal — Shutterstock

Over to the eastern side of the country now, and a city built on a series of islands in the St. Lawrence River. With a population of around 1.8 million people, it’s Canada’s second-largest city, and a modern, forward-looking place that regularly places towards the top of the charts in terms of liveability and places to work and study. It’s a mecca for the two opposite worlds of jazz and motorsport, hosting both the Montreal International Jazz Festival and, since 1978, the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, and is also mad for ice hockey, stand-up comedy, tech, fashion, art and food.

This all goes hand-in-hand with Montreal’s knowingly multicultural side; it’s comfortably bilingual and off-handedly cool about its rich European history. Vieux Montreal, the Old Town, is an area of 17th-century stone buildings focused around the Place Jacques-Cartier and a sloping promenade that heads down the rue Notre-Dame to the Old Port. The streets here are lined with pavement cafes, boutiques, and gorgeous little artisan coffee shops and bakeries. Add this to the more modern side of Montreal, its art and music scene, young population and the fact it’s still relatively untouristy, and you’ve got a big city with a genuine heart. 


Niagara Falls on a sunny day with urban buildings in the distanceIt’s worth stopping by Hamilton on your way to see Niagara Falls — Shutterstock

Hamilton sits on the south-western edge of Lake Ontario, and is a popular destination for visitors to Niagara Falls. It’s relatively new when it comes to growth, and while it might not be as diverse and dynamic as Toronto (indeed, virtually nowhere in Canada is), it’s a pleasant, green and spacious city, with lots of public spaces, parks, nature conservation areas and lakeside loveliness.

The area has successfully reinvented itself from being the center of Canada’s steel industry, and alongside the new techie youthfulness of Hamilton, there are scores of attractive villages and attractions in the local area. Discover clapboard houses in national parks, tiny museums exploring aspects of local history, the wonderful Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton itself, and outdoor trails, cycle paths and nature walks through forests and across protected marshland. The combination of a city stay and an outdoor adventure has never been easier or more unexpected.


Bridge in Saskatoon at sunsetOne of Saskatoon’s nine bridges — Shutterstock

Finally, the fact that our customers love the city of Saskatoon means a workout (for this writer at least) for the Ctrl-C-Ctrl-V key combo — at least until I learn to consistently spell Saskatchewan correctly.

It’s the largest city in that province, and also sits astride the South (Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V) Saskatchewan River; a small, neat, modern city, but with a heritage that stretches back over 6,000 years. Indeed, the Wanuskewin Heritage Park (both a National Historic Site of Canada and a Unesco World Heritage Site) gives an impressive and thoughtful look into the culture and history of the North Plains Peoples.

Wend your way from one side of the river and back again across the city’s nine bridges, exploring each neighborhood as you go. Until it became one city in 1906, these were individual small towns, each with its own personality and little slices of history — main streets, historic downtown areas — and this gives Saskatoon a quirkiness and personality that many other North American cities don’t have. It’s a place that, despite the fact that it’s clearly and obviously there, feels like your own discovery: just you and its citizens, sharing the secret, with nothing but vast, empty plains all the way to the sky.

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