Great Canadian university towns
Does a great town make a great school, or vice versa? Whatever the case, these Canadian municipalities are inseparable from the top-rated universities that call them home.

Guelph, Ontario

Students in Guelph have a reputation for being nature lovers, and the campus’ proximity to parks, trails and conservation areas makes taking part in outdoor activities easy all year round. On the campus itself, a 400-acre arboretum is home to more than 2000 species of woody plants and trees, as well as gardens and wetlands. For cultural pursuits, the city is home to the Art Gallery of Guelph and a robust calendar of annual of art and music festivals, including the Guelph Jazz Festival, the Hillside folk music festival, and Banjofest.

Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Located on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, Wolfville, Nova Scotia is a university town with plenty of maritime charm. Aside from the university’s scenic, 250-acre campus there’s no shortage of culture and history to be found here. With a weekly year-round farmer’s market and a thriving culinary scene, food and drink are a major draw to the area. The nearby Anapolis valley is home to one of Canada’s best wine regions, and in summertime, visitors board the Magic Winery Bus, a vintage London double-decker, for daily winery tours. Wolfville’s rural setting is also ideal for hikers, who flock to the Cape Split trail for day hikes with stunning views of the Minas Basin.

Kingston, Ontario

Settled in the 1700s, Kingston was the first capital of the British colony of Canada and an important port, a history that’s evident in the stately limestone buildings of the city’s downtown. Kingston remains one of the country’s most important centres for education. Kingston hosts a wide variety of cultural festivals throughout the year celebrating local music, film and visual arts, and has earned a reputation for fostering homegrown musical talent like Bryan Adams, The Tragically Hip and Sarah Harmer, among others. Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, Kingston’s role as a shipping hub in centuries gone by lends it another claim to fame: it’s also home to some of the best freshwater shipwreck diving in the world.

Sherbrooke, Quebec

Home to eight educational institutions and some 40,000 students, Sherbrooke is an intellectual hub surrounded by some of Quebec’s most scenic landscape. Among its cultural institutions is the Sherbrooke Nature and Science Museum, which celebrates the natural ecosystems of the area in its collection of thousands of flora and fauna specimens. Beyond the city, however, even more nature is waiting to be discovered. The nearby Parc national du Mont-Orford is home to some of the best hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and camping in the area, and the mountains of Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch are a short drive across the border in Vermont.

Lethbridge, Alberta

While schools in Calgary and Edmonton may get more attention in Alberta, the province’s third-largest city has a lot to offer the more than 13,000 students who study here. Sciences, trades and business studies attract students from across Alberta, as well as other countries around the world. While Lethbridge doesn’t have its own NHL franchise, hockey fans still have plenty to do here, whether taking to the ice on one of the city’s six indoor rinks or taking in a game between one of several minor and collegiate-league hockey teams.

Nanaimo, British Columbia

Situated amid the lush rainforests and rocky shorelines of Vancouver Island, “The Harbour City” is home to more than 14,000 students. Known for its long, picturesque shoreline, providing easy access to the Strait of Georgia and its many islands, Nanaimo is an energetic city with a diverse culture. The traditional home to the Snuneymuxw First Nation, these indigenous people remain an important part of the community. This makes Nanaimo an ideal place to learn about indigenous culture on Canada’s west coast, through galleries, shops, restaurants and guided walking tour of nearby Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) operated by members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.

Jeremy Freed is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.

Canadian university alumni, start saving with an exclusive Sonnet discount.