No matter how well we think we know our nation, Canada is home to numerous gorgeous towns that, while small in size, still boast a large design presence, featuring stunning architecture set within picturesque settings. From the European flair of Paris (Ontario, not France) to the historic charm of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, you’re sure to discover a few new tiny towns worth exploring.
The main street of this tourist town on Vancouver Island – affectionately nicknamed “Ukee” – is lined with distinctive brick heritage buildings that house shops and restaurants, part of the rich history of a town where Captain James Barkley first set foot in 1787. Because of the town’s remote geographical location, Ucluelet managed to create its own unique cultural heritage, free of outside influence, which is reflected in the town’s structures that draw from an array of architectural styles.
A popular tourist destination, located near the vacation getaway of Parksville on Vancouver Island, the historic town of Coombs is famous for its eclectic Old Country Market (pictured), where pygmy goats roam on the grass-topped roof. Surrounding the market are an array of colourful buildings – shops, restaurants and the like – all built in a distinctive style that wouldn’t be out of place in a movie set in the Old West. Fun fact: Coombs hosts more galleries, studios and artists per capita than any other locale in BC.
Founded in the late 1800s during the gold and silver boom, this charming heritage town, located about 70 kilometres from Nelson, and has retained many of its original historic structures. One of the town’s most popular attractions is the Langham Cultural Centre, originally built in the 1890s as a hotel and meticulously restored – even being named runner-up in The Architecture Foundation of British Columbia’s Best Buildings Contest.
Internationally known for its eponymous Shakespeare festival, this charming Ontario town is a hub of arts and culture that also boasts numerous heritage buildings dating back to the town’s founding in the mid-1830s. Some of Stratford’s earliest buildings still exist, including Regency-style cottages that can be identified by their red-brick exteriors and neoclassical features such as sidelight windows and decorative corner bricks. The evolving architectural style of the next few decades can be seen in Gothic structures, featuring gables with decorative wood trim.
France’s famed City of Lights isn’t the only Paris in the world to wow visitors with its architecture. This Southern Ontario town is known for its gorgeous and impeccably well-preserved 19th-century buildings along the Grand River, with shops and restaurants throughout housed in buildings dating back to well over a century, exuding a distinctly European flair.
According to local lore, Goderich has the designation of being named “the prettiest town in Canada” by Queen Elizabeth II – although some claim that moniker came earlier, from Queen Victoria, and others will point out that there was never a royal visit to Goderich. In any case, the town has done its best to live up to that reputation, bursting with picturesque parks and stunning flower gardens. The historic downtown area is designed in an octagon shape, with beautifully preserved heritage buildings surrounding the town square.
Located on Ontario’s Tay River, about 80 kilometres southwest of Ottawa, Perth is one of Canada’s most renowned heritage towns – how many towns can you think of that still employ a traditionally attired town crier? The historic downtown core is chock-full of European-style stone buildings dating to the 1800s, now home to shops and restaurants that continue to attract tourists from all over the world.
A favourite haven of Canada’s famed Group of Seven artists, Baie-Saint-Paul is one of Quebec’s oldest towns. Its narrow European-style streets are lined with historic century-old homes, many of which now serve as charming shops and restaurants, and remain a popular tourist destination. The town also holds the distinction of being the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil. While visiting, check out the spectacular Le Germain Charlevoix, a must-stay boutique hotel.
St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, NB
One of the first seaside resort towns in Canada, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea is also one of the country’s most architecturally significant towns. Founded in the 18th century, there are still about a dozen surviving structures from the town’s early days, along with hundreds more dating back to the late-19th century. The town has done a spectacular job of maintaining the integrity of its historic buildings, and visiting St. Andrews is like taking a trip back in time.
A historic fishing port, Yarmouth is also renowned for its wealth of stunning 19th-century Victorian homes built by ship-owners and captains to display their wealth. These homes were built in various styles, everything from Regency to Gothic to Georgian to Italianate to New England Colonial, Yarmouth is an ideal destination for architecture buffs in search of a glorious walking tour.
This charming seaside town was first settled in 1840 and quickly grew to become a busy seaport. Summerside is also renowned for a wealth of 19th-century architecture, boasting one of the largest concentrations of heritage buildings in Atlantic Canada. In fact, the downtown area hosts numerous Victorian mansions that have been converted into charming B&Bs, and visitors are encouraged to undertake a walking tour to learn about the town’s unique architectural evolution. Looking to escape this summer? Browse these 10 Spectacular (and Affordable!) Canadian Summer Airbnbs.
This picturesque Newfoundland outport nestled around a sheltered harbour in Conception Bay is home to numerous pre-Confederation buildings, including both residential homes and commercial structures. Brigus is one of the few towns on the island’s Avalon Peninsula to preserve its historic architecture, even designating the town’s oldest area as the Brigus Historical Zone, where visitors can enjoy taking in the beautifully preserved heritage homes in a stunning setting. For more small-town Canadian beauty, check out these 10 Tiny Towns with Gorgeous Real Estate.