TC Global Insights

Global Ed

Top 5 Student Cities in Canada

If you are researching global ed in Canada, this one is for you. Life as an international student goes beyond university and assignments. It is also about immersing yourself into the local culture in a way that best suits your personality.

On that note, let us dive into the top five student cities in Canada.

The QS metric to choose best student cities is based on several indicators such as university rankings, student mix, inclusivity, desirability, employer activity, affordability and student perspectives.

Canada Ranking World  Ranking Cities
1 9 Montreal
2 13 Toronto
3 18 Vancouver
4 53 Ottawa
5 113 Quebec city

Source: QS Rankings, Best Student Cities, 2022

If you find yourself heading to one of these cities, here is a guide that will help.


An affordable city with pioneering educational institutions, Montreal sees an immense influx of international students each year. A well connected public transportation system, a safe atmosphere and a rich cultural scene makes this city a haven for students. If you can learn some French, you can navigate through Montreal like a pro.

Student Friendly Neighbourhoods:

  • Downtown Districts, McGill Ghetto, or Concordia area if you want to be closer to the universities, Côte-des-Neiges if you study at the HEC or the University of Montreal
  • Hochelaga, if sports, athletics and/or fitness is your thing
  • Parc La Fontaine for the socialite in you
  • Milton Park for the shopaholic
  • Little Maghreb, if you are looking to save a few dollars

A word of advice: Do not be in a hurry to sign a lease for accommodation until you have actually seen the place. Plan your trip in such a way that you reach Montreal a week or two in advance, stay in a temporary accommodation as you search for a place that will become your home for the next couple of years.

Cheap Eats: Le Saint-Houblon near UQAM and University of Montreal, Pushap Restaurant on Rue Pare (if you want to satisfy your craving for Indian food), Boustan, Cinko, Wilensky’s Light Lunch where you get sandwiches for under $5

Local Culture: Montreal is home to one of the largest jazz festivals of the world. If you keep up with the local news, you will realise that there is year-round festivities, days dedicated to art, music, food, sports and comedies. The night life is vibrant, with budget friendly bars. Safety-wise, Montreal is the 17th safest city in the world. The Notra-Dame Basilica, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Biodome are worth the visit.

Top Universities: University of Montreal, McGill University, Concordia, HEC University.


A multicultural city with a population of over 3 million, Toronto attracts more students than any other city in Canada. Subways, streetcars and busses make travel simple and affordable. Students flock to this city as it leads in economic growth and employment opportunities. Located in the English side, language is certainly no


Student Friendly Neighbourhoods:

  • Seaton Village (Koreatown) if you are a student of University of Toronto
  • York University Heights
  • Garden district, if your university is downtown
  • Bloorcourt
  • Baldwin Village, if you are looking to socialise regularly

Cheap Eats: Pattie’s Express on Elm Street, Frankie’s for “Toronto’s best burgers”, Square Boy, Mean Baos, El Furniture Warehouse, Melt Grilled Cheese, Rose City Kitchen

Local Culture: Toronto is the cultural hub of Canada with its diverse population and inclusive ethos. Art, music, fashion, theatre and food abound. Here are some things you can check out––The Distillery District, St Lawrence Market, Kensington Market, Evergreen Brickworks, Dundas Square and of course, Niagara Falls.

Top Universities: University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson


With its stunning natural beauty and supportive work environment, Vancouver ranks eighteenth in the list of top student cities, despite being one of the most expensive cities in Canada. The city is committed to a green and sustainable future while retaining its position as an innovation hub in the tech industry.

Student Friendly Neighbourhoods: Main Street, UBC, Dunbar Southlands, Killarney

Cheap Eats: Viet Sub on Robinson Street, Jack’s Place at Army and Navy (you can get sandwiches for $1.75), Lucy’s which is open 24 hours, Wakwark burger truck, Laksa King, Warehouse on Granville Street

Local Culture: Besides the festivals (jazz festivals, fireworks competition, mountain bike festival and so on) and night life, you can visit Granville Island, Stanley Park, Grouse Mountain, Whytcliff Park and the suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon.

Top Universities: University of British Columbia, University of Canada West, VCC, Emily Carr University, Columbia College, Simon Fraser University


Considered to be the safest and one of the most liveable cities in Canada, this cosmopolitan centre welcomes international students with its top-notch universities,

great employment opportunities, diverse communities and modern architecture. Check out these places if you are living in the nation’s capital city.

Student Friendly Neighbourhoods:

  • Centre/ Lower Town, if you want to be in the thick of the action
  • Byward market for easy access to all amenities
  • Vanier and Sandy Hill, if you are looking for areas typically populated by students

Cheap Eats: Tavern on the Hill, Il Vicolo, Burgers n Fries Forever, The Green Door Restaurant (to satisfy the vegetarian in you), El Camino, Shawarma Palace,

Local Culture: The Winterlude,Maple Sugar Festival, Rideau Centre, the National Gallery, Gatineau Park and Omega Park will give you a feel of the local culture. You can also catch an ice hockey or a baseball game. Be warned, winters in Ottawa can be extreme. Be fully prepared with thermals and a choice to stay home on extremely cold nights.

Top Universities: University of Ottawa, Carleton, St Paul University


Soak in the beautiful architecture and European vibe as you step into Quebec. With its low unemployment rates, excellent education and economic lifestyle, Quebec is a student’s paradise. However, over 80% of students in Quebec speak French. You

better pick up the language if you are headed there.

Student Friendly Neighbourhoods: Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Laval

Cheap Eats: Bachir, La Fabrique Du Smoked Meat, William J Walter, Chez Gaston, Chocolato

Local Culture: Visit the Montmorency Falls, Walk down Dufferin Terrace and explore Old Quebec, spend some time at Musée Palace Royale, get your fill of poutine, explore Wendake,

Top Universities: Laval University, University of Sherbrooke, University of Quebec (multiple campuses)

Living within a tight budget in Canada

Finance and budgeting can be a great source of stress to international students. But, there are ways for you to celebrate and enjoy your life abroad without being extravagant. All it takes is a little bit of research.

Carry your student id with you wherever you go. Quite a few stores in Canada offer a student discount, even though it is not advertised. It is also worth considering student saving cards such as ISIC or SPCthat will give you specialised discounts on shopping, travel and entertainment.

As you plan for your life and stay abroad, spend some time to figure out places near you that offer the best discounts for students. Check out this list for a comprehensive set of deals an international student can avail in Canada.

Happy exploring!

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