Planning to move to or visit Canada, and considering Vancouver or Toronto? You’re in the right place.
I’ve lived near Toronto all my life; I’ve also spent time in Vancouver, where my dad’s side of the family is from. The two cities are across the country (over 4,000 km or 2,500 miles ) from each other. Needless to say, their climate, weather, and terrain are very different.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada (not the capital as many believe) and with 6 million people, its a large metropolitan area. However, its also short drive to many scenic landscapes – from living about an hour north of Toronto, I can tell you there is no shortage to many scenic areas like waterfalls, camping, hikes, cliffs, and UNESCO World Heritage sights.
Vancouver on the other hand, has a population of 2.6 million, which makes it a much smaller city- plus, its surrounded beautiful mountains, and an abundance of nature.
Between the Toronto and Vancouver – which should you move to, or visit? Which is safer, prettier, more affordable or more worth your time? We’re going to go through each of the categories below so you can come to a clear conclusion by the end of this article of which city is better for you, between Vancouver and Toronto.
So let’s jump in!
Tourist Attractions in Vancouver vs. Toronto
Which city, between Vancouver and Toronto has more tourist attractions? It depends what you consider an attraction and what you’re interested in. Lets’ look at some examples below.
The most prominent tourist attractions in Toronto are the CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, the Distrillery District and Ripley’s Aquarium. There are a lot of unique neighbourhoods, such as the Kensington Market and Chinatown. You can take a ferry to Centre Island, where there’s an amusement park. There’s also a big amusement park north of the city called Canada’s Wonderland (the largest amusement park in Canada.)
However, Vancouver has quite a bit to write home about too. Some of its attractions include Stanley Park, (it has a beautiful seawall that I love walking along the ocean coastline) Vancouver Aquarium, Museum of Anthropology, Science World, Gastown (another Victorian neighbourhood popular for cobbled streets, English Bay, a popular beach, and Granville Island. Plus, Capilano Suspension Bridge.
–Capilano Suspension Bridge
-Stanley Park, a scenic trail along the seawall
-Museum of Anthropology
–Gastown, a trendy, colourful neighbourhood known for indie art, souvenirs and good food
-English Bay beach
–Granville Island (12 minute ferry ride)
-CN Tower, over 1500 ft high
–Casa Loma, a 20th century castle
–Distillery District, a Victorian car-free neighbourhood
-Canada’s Wonderland (largest amusement park in Canada)
-Kensington Market, Chinatown
-St. Lawrence Market (a world-famous, historic food market)
-Centre Island (10 min ferry ride that offers scenic view of the city)
Good to Know, if you choose Toronto: Toronto is a an hour train ride to Niagara Falls, and 250 km from Algonquin park, which is majestic in fall. In the summer, there are also a lot of drive-in theatres in and around the Toronto area.
Food in Vancouver vs. Toronto
Here’s how Vancouver and Toronto differ when it comes to food; what kinds of food they specialize in
Vancouver is known for its seafood options. Being right on the Pacific ocean, it has the setting and access for seafood. So if you love seafood, or sushi, then you’re in the right place.
Toronto, however, has a very diverse foodie scene. There are lots of cultural neighbourhoods, like Chinatown, Little Italy, Little India and Koreatown where you can find mouthwatering authentic food from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Of course you can find seafood in Toronto and ethnic food in Vancouver; but these two things are each city’s specialty and what they’re known for. So you can consider that in your choice.
If you like plant based food, Toronto is the place to be – it has more vegan restaurants, and options than any other city in Canada. (I love vegan food and can tell you from experience that the plant based options are endless and very exciting in Toronto.)
Pro Tip: If you have kids and you’re looking for family-friendly restaurants in Toronto, there are plenty of them right in the downtown area.
Which city is prettier?
As someone who has visited both Toronto and Vancouver, I have to admit that Vancouver is the prettiest city (sorry, Toronto.) Toronto, while a nice city, can’t compete with the natural beauty that Vancouver is surrounded with – its right on the Atlantic Ocean, and surrounded by the mountain range.
Toronto is located right on Lake Ontario, which although not an ocean, is a very large body of water. The harbourfront area is nice to walk along, and if you take a ferry to Centre Island, you can get a great panoramic shot of the city.
Its no contest though – if you’re looking for breathtaking natural beauty, Vancouver is the place to be. There is some beautiful scenery in Ontario, but you might have to drive a couple hours north of Toronto to see it. Whereas in Vancouver, you have the beauty right in the city. You can even see the majestic mountain range when you’re flying into the Vancouver airport.
One bonus of Toronto’s beauty though is that it experiences more of winter climate than Vancouver does – so if you love snow, you might prefer Toronto in winter.
Weather and Temperature in Vancouver vs Toronto
Canada is known for being cold, but the climate in Vancouver vs Toronto is very different. Its worth knowing what the average temperatures in the most extreme seasons (winter and summer) are like
Toronto can get pretty cold in the winter, and also quite hot in the summer. With the humidity in Toronto, it often feels much hotter than it is. Summers can be absolutely gross in Toronto, and you’ll want to stay inside sometimes. The coldest months in Toronto with the highest chance of snow are January and February.
|Average Temperature in January||Average Temperature in July|
|Toronto||High: 0°C |
|High: 27 °C |
Low: 18 °C
In Vancouver, the temperature is typically 0 – 5 ºC (about 45 ºF) in winter, and usually hovers around the mid-20s ºC ( high 60s to low 70s ºF) in the summertime. Overall, the temperature is more mild in Vancouver than it is in Toronto. If the cold or extreme heat would really bother you, then you might enjoy the climate in Vancouver more.
Which city is Safer?
Let’s look at both cities when it comes to crime so you can determine if there’s one you’d feel safer in
Crime Rate in Toronto and Vancouver
The crime rates in both Toronto and Vancouver have increased in recent years. It was reported that there’s been a 12% increase in violent crime specifically in Vancouver, 18.9% increase in all types of crime in Toronto.
According to Statistics Canada, as compiled by Canada Crime Index, Vancouver has a higher rates than Toronto for homicide, child sexual abuse images, arson, robbery, break and enter and drug-related crime. You’re more likely to encounter all of these crimes in Vancouver than you are in Toronto.
Toronto was listed as the second safest city in the world in 2021, (second to Copenhagen) by the Economist Safety Index. As a local, I was a little surprised when I heard this to be honest, but when I think about it, it makes sense – Toronto is pretty safe for a city of its size. We do hear about shootings, and attacks, but Toronto is also up to 6 million people by now. Cities with similar size populations often have higher crime rates. According to these statistics, Toronto is statistically safer than smaller Ontario cities, Ottawa and even Thunder Bay in some regards.
Areas to Avoid in Toronto and Vancouver
Downtown Toronto, where you’d be visiting as a tourist or living as a student, is fairly safe. Most of the crime that exists tends to be in the outskirts of the city. The intersection “Jane and Finch” was notoriously known for crime when I was growing up, and still is. Having said that, as long you’re not involved with drugs or apart of any gangs, you are pretty safe in Toronto!
There aren’t any ‘bad’ neighbourhoods in Vancouver, but Downtown Eastside is considered to be the city’s worst area. Overall, Toronto is a safer city than Vancouver. And yes, this is per capita.
Toronto has the highest homelessness rate in Canada, with somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 people identifying as homeless. While this is only roughly 0.1% of the city’s population, it is something you notice when you walk around. When walking down the streets or in any of the larger main parks during the day in the warmer months (May through October mainly) you will surely see people there who are without homes.
There has been a surge of homelessness in Vancouver too, since the pandemic. In 2020, it was found that just over 3,500 people in Vancouver identified as homeless with about ¼ of them living on the streets. (The rest live in shelters, hospitals and other locations where they have no fixed address.) 2,000 out of a population of 2.5 million is 0.7% – so less than 1% of the total population.
In Toronto, the number of people identifying as homeless falls between 7,000 and 10,000 – which is roughly 0.1% of the city’s population.
Homeless people do not generally pose a threat or a danger to others, but the amount of homelessness in a city might be a reflection of the city in some way. When a city has a high homeless rate, we want to know if it says anything about the city- what services there are in place to support people?
Both cities, Toronto and Vancouver have homeless services; shelters and food banks. There are over 50 city-funded shelters in Toronto, as well as several food banks. Vancouver also has over a dozen shelters, and food banks.
Healthcare in Vancouver vs Toronto
Education and healthcare in Canada are organized by province, so the healthcare and education Vancouver and Toronto are both run completely differently. However, they are structured very similarly.
Most healthcare services are covered for permanentToronto residents under Ontario Health Insurance plan. As long as you show your Ontario health card, there are a lot of services that are accessed free for residents. OHIP is a great plan, and I’m so glad we have universal healthcare.
If you’re not an Ontario resident and don’t have a health card, then you won’t be able to access the free healthcare . You’ll be billed for any services provided.
Fun Fact: The 4 top Canada hospitals are all located in Toronto: Toronto General Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Mount Sanai Hospital and North York General Hospital
It’s important to know that there are plenty of services that aren’t covered under OHIP, such as dental, vision care, ambulance rides, and many medications.
Vancouver residents fall under British Columbia’s healthcare system, which is called Medical Services Plan (MSP) . It works very similar to Ontario – you’ll need to show your card to access the free services. Dental and vision also aren’t covered, and neither are ambulance rides.
Education in Vancouver vs Toronto
Planning to study in Vancouver or Toronto, or move here with your family and you want to know about the schooling options for your kids? Look no further. Here’s the low down on the educational options in both cities.
Elementary and High School
Toronto has four school boards all together – two public, two Catholic, two English and two French. In Ontario, its common for kids to attend either a public school, which is secular, or a Catholic school. Here are Toronto’s four school boards:
- Toronto District School Board (this is the main one, and the largest one)
- Toronto Catholic District School Board.
- Conseil Scolaire Viamonde
- Conseil Scolaire Catholique MonAvenir
The two English school boards are in Toronto only; the two French ones are south-Ontario wide and have schools located hours north of the city as well. Keep in mind, you generally need to be able to speak French or have a good attitude about supporting your child to grow up learning French in order to have your children attend one of the French school boards.
In order for your child to attend a Catholic school in Ontario, you generally need to have paperwork proving yourselves or children to be Catholic (even though the schools are publicly funded.) There have been talks to dismantle the Catholic School board in Toronto, but there’s no plan in place for that to happen as of yet.
If you select one of the English-speaking school boards, there are French programs offered to teach kids French from an early age: Core French generally starts in Grade 1 or 4 and involves 250 minutes of French class per week. There’s also French immersion, which is 100% full-time French starting in Grade 1. I used to teach these French programs (not in Toronto, but in a different school board) and can tell you there are pros and cons to them, but overall, its a great way for your child to be introduced to French from an early age.
FYI – A Local’s Perspective: The government in Ontario has been taking money out of Ontario’s education system for a while now, so most people feel that the elementary and high school education have decreased in quality over the past decade. However, there is a lot of push to put more money and services back into the Ontario education system.
Contrary to Toronto, Vancouver only has one school board: Vancouver School Board (VBS)
The VBS, being the only school board in the Vancouver area, is a public board, so Catholic schooling isn’t a thing like it is in Ontario. French is also not as common in Western Canada. If you want your child to learn French, then there are higher chances of that happening in Toronto.
Post Secondary Education
The three universities are in Toronto are University of Toronto (U of T), Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson), and York University.
Two two main universities in Vancouver are University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University. There are also several smaller institutes and colleges.
FYI: University of Toronto was ranked the #1 university in Canada, while University of British Columbia in Vancouver ranks #2 or #3, depending on which source you’re looking at. So both of them are excellent schools in terms of programs, research, and reputation.
Overall, Toronto has more universities and colleges thanVancouver does, which is partially because its a bigger city. Overall, because of the higher number, you’re more likely to find a program you’re interested in in Toronto, but Vancouver has some very good schools too. I’ve known people from Ontario who moved to Vancouver just so they could attend UBC or Simon Fraser.
Multiculturalism: Vancouver vs Toronto
Curious about which city is more diverse? You can find a mix of cultures in both cities, but Toronto is more culturally diverse than Vancouver.
For multiculturalism, Toronto definitely wins the prize – its the most diverse city in Canada. Having said that, Vancouver’s Chinatown is my favourite – its larger, with huge millennium gate, which is a historical landmark.
Interesting Fact: Toronto is known for being the most multicultural city in the world.
Buying a home in Vancouver vs Toronto
Buying a home in either of these cities is very challenging. The prices for homes has skyrocketed in recent years, at huge frustration to us locals.
Here’s what you need to know about house prices in Vancouver and Toronto, as of 2023:
Average house price in Toronto: $1.1 million CDN
Average house price in Vancouver: $1.2 million CDN
The Toronto area has the capacity to keep building more homes, as its surrounded by farmland. (And greenery, some of which is protected.) Vancouver however, is surrounded by mountains, so there’s less ability for sprawl. In the long run, Vancouver homes will likely become more expensive with supply and demand, since there’s a limit on how many more homes they can keep building.
However, if you want to live in a city that doesn’t have the capacity to get much bigger than it already is, then Vancouver might be more appealing to you.
Renting a Home in Vancouver vs Toronto
Here’s what you need to now about long-term rentals in Vancouver and Toronto. If you’re hoping to stay for at least a year, this is worth looking in to.
In Toronto, a 1-bedroom apartment costs over $2,500 CDN per month to rent, on average.
In Vancouver, the stats for 2023 are showing that the average price to rent a 1-bedroom is around $2,600 per month.
So, like with buying a home, both Toronto and Vancouver are similarly expensive, with Vancouver being only the slightest bit more.
Vancouver vs. Toronto: Transportation
The ease of getting around is apart of what makes a city a good place to live in. Not only how easy those options are, but also, how safe they are too. You want to know that you can get around easily, without risk to your safety.
Getting Around Toronto
You can get to and from downtown Toronto and the international airport easily via an express train. Once you’re in the city, TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is the main way to get around Toronto. It involves the subway (metro) and streetcars. It has fairly good reach around the city.
If there’s a safety issue, they shut down service to that station, which can cause some disruptions in some cases.
Some parts of Toronto are very walkable, especially the downtown core. I wouldn’t recommend driving around Toronto if you have other options, it can be very congested with bad traffic. There are also a lot of one-way streets, which can be confusing.
Getting Around Vancouver
Vancouver is has walkable downtown, so if you’re staying in the city as a tourist, you’ll be able to walk to most of the attractions.
TransLink manages the transit system in Vancouver, which includes buses, the Skytrain and the Seabus. Taking the Skytrain is a neat experience; it was built just for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and you have a nice view of the city as you ride it.
Which city is for you – Vancouver or Toronto?
Keep in mind, that many of these attributes apply to both cities (Toronto has a lot of access to nature, and Vancouver has ethnic food too.) But this is based on what the two cities do better
Vancouver might be better for you if:
- You like the idea of living in a smaller city
- You want to be near the ocean, and you love mountains
- You want easier access to nature activities
- You love seafood
- You want to be closer to places like Banff, Seattle, California, etc
Toronto might be better for you if:
- You love the idea of living in a big, cosmopolitan, multicultural city
- You’re a foodie who enjoys different ethnic foods, and/or plant based food
- You want more schooling options, or the options you want can’t be found in Vancouver
- You’re interested in learning French (while French isn’t hugely spoken in Toronto specifically, there are French speakers in Ontario)
- You want to be closer to places like New York City, Montreal, or Quebec City
Affordable Places to stay short-term in Vancouver vs Toronto
Planning to stay for a short while to visit, or while looking for a place to live? Here are some affordably prices options in Toronto and Vancouver
Places to Stay in Downtown Vancouver
- YMCA Downtown Vancouver Stay in this comfy, high-funcioning place with your a desk, fridge and other amenities right downtown
- Llt Fraser Homeaway This sunny, airy residence is close to quite a few major attractions, as well as the Skytrain station
- Vancouver Traveller B&B Wake up to a nice breakfast each morning, before heading off to explore the Vancouver’s beauty and the surrounding areas
Places to Stay in Downtown Toronto
- Cute Townhouse in Liberty Village – Stay in a 1-bedroom apartment right downtown, and close to attractions
- Pembrook Inn – Comfy hotel with everything you need right downtown, roughly a 30-minute walk from downtown Toronto
- Victoria’s Mansion Guest House Stay in this cosy guesthouse, just a short walk from the universities and shopping areas
Vancouver vs. Toronto: FAQ
Here are the most frequently asked questions about Vancouver vs. Toronto.
Is Toronto or Vancouver more colder?
Toronto is a colder city than Vancouver. The summers are also hotter, and much more humid.
Which Canadian city is warmest?
Victoria, BC is the warmest Canadian City (in terms of year round average.) Victoria is located on Vancouver Island and about 3 hours away from Vancouver by car and ferry.
Is Toronto more expensive than Vancouver?
No, Vancouver is more expensive than Toronto, but only slightly more expensive. You can expect to pay an extra $100,000 CDN for a house, or an addition $1,000 CDN per rent per month to live in Vancouver.
Is Vancouver or Toronto better?
Vancouver is smaller, with a warmer climate and a more picturesque view of the mountains. Toronto is the larger, more cosmopolitan city. Vancouver is probably considered ‘better’ by the rest of Canada, but in reality, it depends what kind of environment you’re looking for.
Is Vancouver the coldest city in Canada?
No, Vancouver one of the warmest cities in Canada. (The #1 warmest is Victoria, which is 3 hours from Vancouver.) The coldest city in Canada is Eureka, Nunavut which has an average temperature of −19.7 °C (−3.5 °F.)
Which province in Canada has best weather?
British Columbia has the most mild weather in Canada, so if you’re looking for summers that aren’t too humid and winters that aren’t too cold, then you might want to consider locations in British Columbia. When you travel in-ward (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) the winters become much harsher and the summers can be uncomfortably humid.
Conclusion: Vancouver vs. Toronto
I don’t think you can go wrong with either Vancouver or Toronto. Whether you’re studying, visiting as a tourist, or hoping to live here, both are great, depending on what you’re looking for.
Vancouver is the more beautiful of the two. I know someone from Ontario who went on their honeymoon to Vancouver, and explored the surrounding areas. The mountains are not something we get out here in Ontario.
I love Toronto, but if I wasn’t from Ontario – I might pick Vancouver, just because of the beauty. But as I mentioned above, it will depend on what your priorities are.
It’s not to say that Ontario isn’t pretty – we just can’t compete with the landscape that exists out in beautiful BC. Toronto is well worth a visit on a trip to Canada, regardless of whether you choose it as destination. In the summer, consider heading outside the city to other locations such as Tobermory, the scuba diving capital of Canada.
Have I missed anything, about either city? Feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.