The Top 10 Historic Locations in Canada

There is a national historic site in every territory and province of Canada.  From the Viking settlements in L’Anse aux Meadows to the Kejimkujik National Park where you will still find touches of the Mi’kmaq people in their rock engravings and canoe routes - Canada will offer you a huge range of authentic and fascinating historic sites.

By Tiasha Chatterjee

When you visit Canada, you will find relics of the ancient Canadian culture stored in every nook and corner of the country, whether in form of natural relics, artifacts, or architecture. There are numerous historical sites that represent the lives that the indigenous tribes, European settlers, and even the Vikings led. 

It was only in the 15th and 16th centuries that French and English settlers arrived and laid down their roots in Canada, thus making Canada a relatively new country speaking from an official perspective. However, that does not mean that the land itself is any new - the indigenous people along with other settlers go long before that!

Europeans were the first who settled in this land, namely in Quebec, establishing the oldest settlement in the land. Not long after that did the migrating west come. So join us as we take a look at the rich past of the country, through Canada’s top historical sites. You will also get a glimpse of the dinosaurs that roamed in this land, thus offering tourists excellent venues to discover the rich past of Canada.

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L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland

L’Anse aux Meadows Newfoundland L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland

Vikings were sailing across the Atlantic and set their foot in North America, long before Columbus had boarded his ship. A lasting proof of this early European presence lies in L’Anse aux Meadows. It is an authentic 11th-century Norse settlement that is spread across Newfoundland and Labrador, thus making it the most easterly province in the country. 

First excavated in 1960 by Helge Ingstad, a Norwegian explorer and writer, and his wife Anne Stine Ingstad, an archeologist, this area has made its name in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978. In this extraordinary archeological site you will find eight structures of timber-framed turfs, which were built following the same style as the ones you will come across in Norse Greenland and Iceland, in the same period. Here you will also find several artifacts, such as a stone lamp, sharpening stones, and tools related to iron smithing on display. 

The turfs have thick peat walls and roofs, which can be assumed to be a defense used to protect themselves against the harsh northern winters. Every building, along with their respective rooms has been set up to show the various aspects of Norse lives, and the interpreters dress in Viking garbs to tell you informative tales about their lives.

However, reaching L’Anse aux Meadows can get quite tough. Situated at the extreme north of Newfoundland Island, the nearest airport is St. Anthony airport. You can also take the 10-hour drive from St. John’s capital.

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Ninstints, Haida Gwaii Islands, British Columbia

Ninstints Haida Gwaii Islands British Columbia Ninstints, Haida Gwaii Islands, British Columbia

If you are a lover of adventures who also enjoys a healthy dose of culture and history in your excursions, the Haida Gwaii Islands, or what was earlier known as the Queen Charlotte Islands might be an exciting destination choice for you!

SGang Gwaay, or what is called Ninstints in English, is situated on the West Coast of Canada and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This village site features the biggest collection of Haida Totem Poles, which have not been moved from their original locations. A notable collection of celebrated artworks, they have been allowed to wither and decay right in the heart of the lush temperate rainforest. There is much archeological evidence that has proved that the Haida Gwaii had inhabited this land for thousands of years, until the 1860s, when the smallpox epidemic wiped away the whole population. 

Even today you will find Haida watchmen who guard the land and offer tours to only a limited number of tourists per day.

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Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta

Dinosaur Provincial Park Alberta Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta

Long before the American, European, or even the Viking explorers made their way into Canada, dinosaurs roamed freely in this land. Evidence of this can be found in their remains spread across the dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta.

Located at two hours distance east of Calgary, it is one of the most unique National Parks in the world. Here you will witness the dinosaur history that is spread across a landscape filled with serpentine spires and pinnacles. One of the most extensive dinosaur fossil fields across the globe, here in the Dinosaur Provincial Park you will find remnants of more than 35 dinosaur species that roamed in this world 75 million years ago when the area was a dense rainforest. 

Several touring options are available here, such as on foot, by bus, through expeditions. You can also take part in the various educational programs offered here. Make sure that you visit the closely situated Drumheller Royal Tyrell Museum, where you will find one of the most interesting and comprehensive Dinosaur Exhibits in the world.

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Fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

Fortress of Louisbourg Nova Scotia Fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

A unique treasure hid for tourists in Cape Breton, the Fortress of Louisbourg is a small island that is also a part of the Nova Scotia province. Falling amongst the busiest docks of 18th century North America, it was also one of the most prominent economic and military centers of France in the New World. Today it has made its place as the largest historical reconstruction in North America. 

A busy hub in the 18th century, the Fortress of Louisbourg was abandoned in the 19th century and fell to ruins. However, the Canadian Government picked up the remnants in 1928 and converted them into a national park. Only about a quarter of the original town has been reconstructed to date, and the remaining regions are still being searched for archeological discoveries. 

When you visit this place, you will get a glimpse of what life might have been like back in the 1700s, through the help of displays, the interpreters on-site who tell tales of the time while wearing costumes, and you will also find a restaurant that serves traditional fares. Situated in the town of Louisbourg, the Fortress of Louisbourg is also an integral part of The Parks Canada system of national parks.

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Old Montreal, Quebec

Old Montreal Quebec Old Montreal, Quebec

A part of downtown Montreal, Old Montreal has been preserved to resemble a lot of what it was originally like, and some of the oldest buildings date back as far as the 1600s! Home to a lively community and one of the most famous tourist attractions, this historic neighborhood is filled with restaurants, hotels, residents, and commercial spaces buzzing with life. 

Much like Quebec City, Old Montreal is very much European in its character. Once you take a walk down the cobblestone streets and come across the cafe culture, you will automatically feel the historic 17th and 18th-century architecture coming to life. All these features together contribute to the quaint charm of this vintage city and make it stand out to its North American, as well as global visitors.

Filled with a rich history that dates to 1642, Old Montreal is the town where French settlers first landed, on the shore of St. Lawrence River. They then started to design a model for the town built around a catholic community. Soon the town was converted into a bustling trading center and military post, surrounded by fortifying walls, and it was the home for Canada’s Parliament for quite a few years back in the 1800s. This waterside community has now become the Old Montreal we see today.

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Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia

Halifax Harbour Nova Scotia Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia

A corner for all economic activities to take place in the city, region, as well as for the province since the 1700s, the Halifax Harbour is located strategically. This makes the Harbour the perfect getaway for a military stronghold, and for all settlers and shippers to come into North America.

Today tourists are free to explore numerous historical points of interest through the port and its surrounding regions. For instance, when you visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, you will get an interesting glimpse into events that have shaped histories, such as the Titanic’s doomed voyage and the Halifax explosion. Not only that, but you will also get a fascinating look into Canada’s immigration history at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, and even get a copy of the original landing documents, for only a small price.

If you take a 10-minute walk from the boardwalk you will come across Citadel Hill and get an opportunity to look into the rich colonial history of Halifax’s military. When you stand high over the city, you will get a mesmerizing view of the wide-open waters, and easily understand why Citadel Hill was chosen to be the military post site in 1749 when it was the home of a few thousand British colonists. The citadel has today become a part of Parks Canada and offers numerous guided tours and activities to tourists. This also includes cannon blasts and musket documentations. 

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Quebec City, Quebec

Quebec City Quebec Quebec City, Quebec

When you visit Quebec City, embrace yourself to get an experience unlike any other you have had in North America. This old town, filled with historical networks of cobblestone pathways, has been preserved notably well. The beautiful 17th-century architecture along with the only North American fortress wall that is situated outside Mexico, gives the city the prestigious status of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Initially founded back in 1608 as the capital of New France, Quebec City has maintained its authentic composition, architecture, and ambiance to this day. The top attraction in Quebec city will convey to you the many interesting tales of both Quebec’s, as well as Canada’s rich history. It was on these lush green Plains of Abraham that the English and French fought for power back in 1759. The little picturesque town of Place-Royale was where the indigenous people of Canada stopped to trade fish, fur, and copper.

Reaching Quebec City is quite easy with its international airport and a huge network of luxury hotels, thus making it the destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists per year. If you want to immerse yourself in the rich history of this history, it is recommended to take a walking tour around!

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Fairmont Historic Railway Hotels, Numerous Locations across Canada

Fairmont Historic Railway Hotels Fairmont Historic Railway Hotels, Numerous Locations across Canada

If we go back to the late 19th or early 20th century, you will find that traveling through railways was the most efficient way to travel across the country. Dozens of cities in Canada that fall in the Canadian railway route thus built-up luxury railway hotels in order to accommodate the passengers traveling via railways. The historic grandeur that revolves around these hotels in Canada is still unsurpassed to this day, and a few of these Hotels, such as the Fairmont Banff Springs, have maintained their luxury hotel status by today’s modern standards. They are famous to have hosted major Hollywood stars, politicians, and celebrities from all over the world. 

The Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, who is the present owner of this hotel chain, have successfully restored most of them to their former glory and offers a sprawling combination of architectural style from various sources, such as the French Gothic and the Scottish Baronial. You are free to take a stroll across the hallways and immerse yourself in its rich history through the paintings, photos, and artifacts that illustrate the walls. 

Even if you are not able to able to stay there overnight, the Historic Railway Hotels are worth your afternoon tea visit. If you visit the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, you might even get a chance to take a tour.

Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario

Fort Henry Kingston Ontario Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario

Initially built to defend Canada against a potential attack from America in the War of 1812 and to monitor traffic in Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River, Fort Henry was an active military post till the 1930s. But at the end of its period, it only served the purpose of holding prisoners of war. It was in 1938 that the fort was converted into a living museum, and today it has become a buzzing tourist attraction, looked after by Parks Canada. 

When you visit Fort Henry, you can take part in the engaging dramatic reenactments of the historic British military life, which will include various battle tactics and military drills. In the evening you can enjoy the year-round tour that will highlight the haunted past of the fort. Earning recognition of being a Fort Henry was also hailed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

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Parliament Hill, Ontario

Parliament Hill Ontario Parliament Hill, Ontario

While it is true that Canadian politics is not as sensational as the one in the United States, nevertheless, the Canadian Government system is definitely worth exploring. By this, we mean the beautiful Parliament Hill in Ontario, where you will be offered an opportunity to marvel at the fascinating Gothic revival architecture of the three buildings, that are the home of the Canadian government, sitting impressively on the Ottawa River. 

Parliament Hill was initially built as a military base in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, whereas the area surrounding it slowly began to develop into a government precinct, especially in 1859 when Queen Victoria decided to make Ontario the capital of the nation. 

The tickets for Parliament Hill are free, and you can take part in the 20-minute tour that starts at 9 am at 90 Wellington Street. However, you must make sure to reach there early to avoid tickets getting sold out. This tour will also take you up the Peace Tower, from where you can take in an incredible view of the whole city around.

Even though a relatively new country according to official documents, if we take in the grand scheme of things, Canada is a wonderful tourist destination in terms of its rich historic significance. Most of the tourists visit Canada to get a taste of its diverse, expansive, and exquisite landscape, and it is for good reason - Canada is indeed the dwelling of some of the most stunning untouched splendors across the globe. However, Canada also has a rich and significant history, which you would definitely not want to miss out on. So why wait anymore? Pack your bags and wake your inner history buff to get a look at the top historical sites of Canada!

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