Travel Guide to Canada
SHOPPING: MORE THAN SOUVENIRS
Savvy travellers should arrive in Canada with a bit of empty space in their luggage, since the country is full of shopping opportunities—whether one’s taste runs to historic farmers’ markets, dealpacked fashion outlets, lively neighbourhoods, spacious malls or sleek museum shops.
As for what to buy, the choices range from maple syrup and saskatoon berry jam to Inuit soapstone carvings and high-end fashion. Perhaps a second suitcase would be wise.
HIT THE MALL
Many urban malls aim themselves squarely at fashion-conscious shoppers. In Ottawa, the CF Rideau Centre recently completed a three-year, $360-million expansion and welcomed Nordstrom and Québec fashion retailer Simons, among others. At the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in northwest Toronto, a $331-million expansion in late 2016 brought the mall’s total size to 185,806 sq. m (2 million sq. ft.). Downtown, the CF Toronto Eaton Centre offers more than 250 stores and services in a multi-storey atrium; the complex is so big that it stretches across two subway stops
Even larger is the West Edmonton Mall —with more than 800 shops and services, it is Alberta’s top tourist attraction and Canada’s largest shopping centre. More than a mall, it also offers a National Hockey Leaguesized ice rink, the world’s largest indoor amusement park and indoor wave pool, a zip-line, and an aquarium.
One of Canada’s most unusual malls is the Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, a Vancouver suburb. Customers can shop for Asian herbs and Korean cosmetics, browse through a branch of Japan’s Daiso bargain and novelty chain, enjoy Asian cultural performances, and sample treats such as congee, bubble tea and noodles in the 800-seat food court.
SEEK AN OUTLET
Outlet malls—featuring a huge range of retailers, as well as restaurants and services —are excellent options for visitors who want to spend the whole day shopping.
Vaughan Mills on Toronto’s northern outskirts—one of 28 Ivanhoé Cambridge retail centres across the country—offers a complimentary shopping shuttle service
from downtown Toronto during peak travel seasons, as well as savings booklets, gifts with minimum purchase, coat and parcel checks, free WiFi and discounts at nearby hotels. The mix of full-price and discount retailers includes Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Tommy Hilfiger, Sephora, Vans and many more.
The company’s newest outlet mall is the Outlet Collection in Winnipeg, a 37,100-sq.-m (400,000-sq.-ft.) destination with more than 100 retailers, slated to open in late spring.
There are many other outlet malls across the country well worth a visit. In Richmond, British Columbia, McArthurGlen is a five-minute drive from Vancouver International Airport and is easily accessible by the SkyTrain rapid transit system. The complex is home to international names such as Coach, Armani and Fossil. In Québec, the Premium Outlets complex near Montréal attracts shoppers with promises of discounts of 25 to 65 percent on brands such as MaxMara and Gucci.
Across the country, historic sites and pedestrian-scaled neighbourhoods are home to one-of-a-kind stores.
Along False Creek in Vancouver, Granville Island is a one-time industrial site that was reclaimed and redeveloped in the 1970s. Today, it features a farmers’ market, bakeries, restaurants, and artisans crafting everything from pottery to sake.
Dating back to the 1870s, Calgary’s Inglewood has recently evolved into a hip hub of galleries, music venues, cafés, and boutiques specializing in everything from bedding to spices. Its counterpart in Saskatoon is Riversdale, once home to carriage makers and furniture stores and now the site of two theatre companies, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, a fashion design school and scores of quirky shops. For vibrant street life in retail-rich Montréal, the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood is a good bet.
The Forks in Winnipeg, a former rail yard at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, has been reclaimed and is now a hive of activity. One of the city’s top tourist attractions, it is busy with restaurants, specialty retailers, a farmers’ market, outdoor performance spaces and the landmark Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Speaking of farmers’ markets, several across the country date back to the 1700s or early 1800s, including the Saint John City Market in New Brunswick, the ByWard Market in Ottawa, the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.
Also in Halifax, a district of shipping warehouses built in the early 19th century is now a popular waterfront destination called the Historic Properties, where visitors can explore a range of boutiques and enjoy premium ice cream, craft beers and fresh seafood.
Finally, one of Canada’s most picturesque shopping streets is the narrow rue du Petit-Champlain in Québec City. In December, when it is decorated with Christmas trees and usually at least dusted with snow, it is like something out of a Dickens novel—if Dickens had been French-Canadian.
ONLY IN CANADA
For many travellers, the highlight of a trip is finding a unique item to bring home and proudly display or give as a gift. Fortunately, Canada has no shortage of those.
Since the country is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the Royal Canadian Mint is selling a wide variety of beautiful commemorative coins. The 12-coin anniversary collection features a painted 25-cent piece and a glow-in-the-dark $2 coin, both emblazoned with designs from the “My Canada, My Inspiration” contest. They are available on-line and through the Mint’s boutiques in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
Museum shops are ideal spots to find Canadian artworks, such as Inuit prints and soapstone carvings, and First Nations and Métis paintings, carvings and sculptures. Craft galleries abound across the country; one hotbed is Fredericton, New Brunswick, home of the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design.
Many visitors return home with some of Canada’s distinctive foods, such as B.C. salmon, saskatoon berry jam from the Prairies, maple syrup from Central Canada, or bakeapple tea or pickled fiddleheads from the East Coast. The final touch? A bottle of Canada’s famous icewine. Brave visitors can also pick up a bottle of Newfoundland screech, a hearty rum popular in the easternmost province.
From outlet centres and funky neighbourhoods to malls and museum shops, Canada has a wealth of choices for visitors looking to indulge in a bit of retail therapy.