5 Best Cities for International Students in Canada

August 25, 2023


  • Sinethemba Phongolo

If you have wondered whether or not you should apply to study in Canada, one of the key questions you may have had to ask yourself is: What are the best cities in Canada for international students? Fortunately, you have a plethora of world-class cities to choose from.

Take the chance to study in Canada today by applying to a university in one of the top 5 Best Cities for International Students in Canada!

To help you get started, here are the 5 Best Cities for International Students in Canada with Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

5 Best Cities for International Students in Canada

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal, Quebec is one of the best cities in Canada for international students. Known for its vibrant culture and rich history, Montreal offers a unique experience for students worldwide.

It’s home to several top-ranking universities, including:

  • McGill University: nr 44 in the world Canada
  • Concordia University: top 600 in the world
  • University of Montreal: nr 111 in the world
  • Polytechnic School of Montreal: nr 87 in the world
  • University of Quebec: nr 617 in the world

Montreal provides a high-quality education that is highly respected globally.

Montreal boasts a multicultural student body, with students from various backgrounds and countries. This diverse environment fosters a sense of inclusivity. It provides students with the opportunity to learn from one another.

The city also offers a supportive student community, with numerous clubs, organizations, and events specifically designed to cater to the needs of international students. The international student services office at Mcgill University provides international students with programs and events e.g. First Friend program that assists them with making helpful social connections on and off campus.

Montreal provides international students with exposure and experience. The city is known for its thriving arts and cultural scene, allowing students to immerse themselves in various forms of art, music, and theater. Montreal also hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, like the renowned Just For Laughs Comedy Festival.

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, Ontario is another top choice for international students seeking a high-quality education in Canada. As the largest city in the country, Toronto offers a bustling and diverse environment that is perfect for students looking for a vibrant city experience.

The city is home to several prestigious universities that consistently rank among the top universities in the world according to the Times Higher Education university rankings. Top-ranked universities in Toronto include:

  • University of Toronto: nr 18 in the world
  • Toronto Metropolitan University: top 1000 in the world
  • York University: top 500 in the world
  • Ryerson University: top 1000 in the world
  • Ontario College of Art and Design University: top 500 in the world

One of the key attractions of studying in Toronto is its multicultural student body. With students from all corners of the globe, Toronto provides a truly international experience.

This diverse environment allows students to learn from different perspectives and fosters an inclusive community. Toronto provides international students with part-time job opportunities. The city boasts a strong job market, with various industries and sectors that offer popular part-time jobs for students in Canada.

This allows students to gain valuable work experience and helps them financially support their education. The student support services in the city include the Centre for International Experience at the University of Toronto, which assists with immigration matters, health and medical services and connecting international students with communities of support.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia is often regarded as one of the most livable cities in the world, making it an excellent choice for international students. Surrounded by stunning natural beauty, including mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver offers a unique blend of an urban city and outdoor paradise.

The city is home to several renowned universities known for their academic excellence, such as the following:

  • University of British Columbia: nr 40 in the world
  • Simon Fraser University: top 300 in the world
  • University Canada West: nr 1288 in the world
  • Emily Carr University of Art and Design: top 1000 in the world
  • Vancouver, City University: top 1200 in the world

What sets Vancouver apart is its vibrant and culturally diverse student body. With a significant international student population, Vancouver provides a diverse and inclusive community.

This multicultural environment enriches the academic experience and promotes cultural exchange and understanding. Vancouver offers a supportive student community, with various resources and services available to assist international students in their transition and integration.

This includes the International Student Advising which provides in-person and online answers to questions about life as an international student in Canada via Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIAs).

Apart from its academic offerings, Vancouver offers international students plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors. The city is known for its outdoor recreational activities, such as:

  • Hiking
  • Skiing
  • Skating
  • Kayaking

This allows students to balance their academic pursuits with a healthy and active lifestyle.

Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada, is an excellent choice for international students seeking a unique and enriching educational experience. Home to several prestigious universities offering high-quality education in a diverse and multicultural environment, which includes:

  • Carleton University: top 800 in the world
  • University of Ottawa: nr 137 in the world
  • Ottawa University: top 300 in the world
  • Dominican University College: top 1300 in the world
  • Saint Paul University Canada: top 1100 in the world

Ottawa offers high-quality education in a diverse and multicultural environment. The city is known for its strong emphasis on research and innovation, making it an ideal destination for students pursuing academic excellence.

One of the key attractions of studying in Ottawa is its supportive student community. The city offers numerous resources and services specifically designed to cater to the needs of international students. From mentorship programs to cultural events, Ottawa ensures international students feel welcome and supported throughout their educational journey. Support service programs include international which provides support in areas such as mentorship training.

The city also provides ample opportunities for students to engage in extracurricular activities, such as sports and clubs, further enhancing their overall experience. From political conferences to cultural festivals, Ottawa provides a unique platform for students to broaden their horizons and gain valuable insights into various fields.

Quebec City, Quebec

Quebec City, Quebec, with its rich history and European charm, is an attractive destination for international students seeking a distinctive cultural experience. Quebec City is home to tertiary institutions offering high-quality education in a picturesque setting. They are the:

  • Université Laval: top 300 in the world
  • National Institute of Scientific Research: top 500 in the world
  • National School of Public Administration: top 700 in the world
  • University of Quebec: top 800 in the world
  • Collège Mérici: top 1400 in the world

The city's French-speaking environment provides students with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the vibrant Quebecois culture and language.

With students from various countries, the city provides an inclusive and diverse community. This multicultural environment fosters cultural exchange and understanding, enriching the educational experience.

Student support services in the city include the office for international students at Laval University which offers help with questions about training programs and training internships that can lead to gaining experience in the Canadian workplace.

The city is known for its rich history and architecture, offering students a glimpse into the province's past. Quebec City also hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year, allowing students to engage with the local community and explore different aspects of Quebecois culture.

How Can I Study In Canada?

Studying in Canada as an international student is an exciting opportunity that opens doors to a world-class education and a multicultural environment. To study in Canada, international students must obtain a study permit.

Study Permit

A study permit is a document issued by the Canadian government that allows foreign nationals to study at designated institutions institutions (DLI) in Canada. A study permit is mandatory for most international students, with a few exceptions that enable students to study in Canada without a study permit.

International students must be accepted into a DLI in Canada before applying for a study permit. Once accepted, they can apply for a study permit through Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) online portal or at a Canadian visa office in their own countries. The application process requires various documents, such as:

  • Proof of acceptance
  • Valid passport or travel document
  • Proof of financial support
  • Medical exam

Please Note:

A study permit is not a visa. This means you can’t enter Canada with only a study permit. You must get a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) to do so. Once your study permit application is approved, IRCC will grant you an eTA or visitor visa.

Learn how to apply for a student visa in Canada.

What The Top Cities Offer International Students in Canada

Studying in Canada not only provides international students with a high-quality education but also offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities. The top cities in Canada for students offer unique experiences that go beyond merely educating students and providing academic opportunities. They also offer the following benefits.

Top Ranking Universities

One of the key attractions of studying in the best cities for international students in Canada is the presence of top-ranking universities. The top institutions in each of the best cities for international students in Canada rank in the top 200 universities list according to Times Higher Education and QS World University Rankings.

Each of Canada’s top-ranked universities is known for their academic excellence and research contributions, attracting students from all around the world. Qualifications from Canadian institutions are some of the best in the world, enabling graduates with Canadian degrees, diplomas and certificates to access job opportunities worldwide.

Multicultural Student Body

Another advantage of studying in the best cities for international students in Canada is the multicultural student body. Universities in Vancouver, like the University of British Columbia, have large numbers of Asian-Canadian students reflective of the large immigrant Asian community in British Columbia.

Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and its flagship university, the University of Toronto, reflects that cultural diversity in its student body. There are currently 27,130. Most international students in Toronto are from the Asia-Pacific region. Students from this region are well-versed in scientific fields such as Information Technology, subjects that teach skills and knowledge highly sought after by Canadian employers.

In Montreal and Quebec City, you have the opportunity to become bilingual by immersing yourself in the French-Canadian culture present at McGill or Laval University. There are approximately 35,500 international students in the greater Montreal area, most of whom also come from the Asia-Pacific religion and parts of Europe.

Interacting with students from different cultures and backgrounds allows international students to broaden their perspectives, learn from one another, and develop lifelong friendships. This helps to combat homesickness by helping internationals find people from the same or similar backgrounds so they have a home away from home.

The Canadian Lifestyle

Studying in the best cities for international students in Canada provides students with exposure to a lot of unique experiences. Toronto is Canada’s biggest popular entertainment center, with many establishments catering to international students who desire to experience the city’s nightlife.

Vancouver is nestled among many beautiful National Parks of Canada’s South Pacific West. Ottawa, the national capital, is dotted with many federal government buildings and other politically significant venues that glimpse Canada’s formation as a nation.

Quebec City, the provincial capital of Quebec, has a wide range of cultural, artistic, and recreational activities that allow students to explore different aspects of French-Canadian cultural life. For an immersive experience.

Liveable Cities

The best cities for international students in Canada are known for their livability. These cities offer a high standard of living, with excellent healthcare, transportation, and infrastructure.

Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, and Vancouver are some of the largest cities in Canada, with world-class social, economic, environmental, and political institutions that ensure each city is well-governed and maintains its livability.

Canada is the only city in the world with three cities in the Fortune top 100.

Canada’s best cities for international students provide a safe and secure environment, ensuring the well-being of international students. From vibrant city life to beautiful natural landscapes, these cities offer a well-rounded experience for international students.

Part-Time Work Opportunities

International students in Canada have the opportunity to work part-time while studying. The best cities for international students in Canada are highly urbanized and have a strong job market, with various industries and sectors that often hire students for part-time positions in service positions.

Working part-time not only assists you with gaining valuable work experience but also helps finance your education.

Find out more about popular part-time jobs for students in Canada.

Safety and Security

Safety and security are essential factors to consider when choosing a city to study in. The best cities to live in Canada for international students are known for their low crime rates and safe environments.

These cities have well-established safety measures and policies to ensure their residents’ well-being, including international students. According to, the levels of crime in each city for international students are as follows

Best Cities For International Students in Canada  Crime levels Index (0 -100 ; Very Low - Very High)
Toronto 47.23: Moderate
Vancouver 42.62: Moderate
Ottawa 28.65: Low
Quebec City 12.98: Very Low
Montreal 29.79: Low


Can You Study in Canada Without a Study Permit?

In most cases, international students need a study permit to study in Canada. However, there are a few exceptions. You can study in Canada without a study permit if::

  • Your study program duration is less than six months
  • You are a student taking a short-term course or program that is not part of a degree program
  • If you’re from a family of foreign representatives
  • If you’re a registered Indian in Canada

Learn more about studying in Canada without a study permit.

How can I Study in Canada For Free?

While studying in Canada may not be entirely free for international students, there are several scholarships, grants, and funding options available to help offset the costs. International students can explore scholarships offered by Canadian universities, government-funded scholarships, and external scholarships from various organizations.

Some universities offer work-study programs that allow students to work on campus while studying, providing financial support.