From the Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows to Kejimkujik National Park, where the continual presence of Mi’kmaq people is attested in rock engravings and canoe routes, Canada features a wide range of fascinating historic sites.
Here are 10 of the best historic sites in Canada. They include the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, as well as the city’s Parliament buildings and Canadian War Museum. Further east, the Quebec Citadel, and indeed Quebec City’s old streets and fortifications, also make for an exciting historical trip.
1. L’Anse aux Meadows
L’Anse aux Meadows is the only-known site of Viking settlement in North America, which dates to approximately 1000 AD. Located on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland in eastern Canada, the site is evidence of pre-Columbian contact between the Americas and Europe.
Today, L’Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO-listed archaeological site. Visitors to L’Anse aux Meadows can tour reconstructions of a trio of reconstructed 11th century wood-framed Viking structures. Visitors can also view finds from archaeological digs at the interpretative centre.
2. Canadian National War Memorial
The Canadian National War Memorial was built to commemorate the Canadians who died during World War One. It has since come to represented those killed during World War Two, the Korean War, the Second Boer War and the War in Afghanistan. The Canadian National War Memorial is a large granite cenotaph located in Ottawa.
3. Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum is the national military history museum of Canada. With over 2,000 artefacts on display ranging from weapons to vehicles as well as photos, interactive and artistic exhibits, the museum looks at the military history of Canada. It focuses particularly on the personal experiences of those who participated in conflicts, and features high quality seasonal exhibitions.
4. Canadian Museum of History
The Canadian Museum of History is a museum dedicated to the history of Canada. Founded in 1856, it focuses on the human history of Canada, including the culture and heritage of First Nations people in Canada, as well as the stories of people who have shaped Canadian history.
5. Canadian Parliament Buildings
The Canadian Parliament Buildings are the seat of the country’s Parliament located in Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. Located on the southern banks of the Ottawa river, the Gothic revival buildings attract three million visitors every year.
Much of the Parliament Buildings were destroyed in 1816 and 1852 in two separate fires. A $3 billion restoration project has been underway since 2002. There are tours of the various blocks of the Canadian Parliament Buildings.
6. The Quebec Citadel
The Quebec Citadel is a 19th century British fortress in Quebec City. It is the biggest fort built by the British in North America. Constructed between 1820 and 1850, the Quebec Citadel remains garrisoned today by the Royal 22nd Regiment.
The Citadel has a museum dedicated to the regiment, which is mostly francophone. There are tours of the site, which is also an official residence of the Governor General of Canada.
7. Fortress of Louisbourg
The Fortress of Louisbourg was an 18th century French fortified town which has been carefully reconstructed. In fact, this is the largest reconstruction of its kind in North America. It’s located on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
Restored from 1961, the fortress today is designed to recall its heyday in 1744. Visitors can tour the town including shops, homes and defences. From June to mid-October, there are daily guides and costumed actors around the site.
8. The Quebec Fortifications NHCS
The Quebec Fortifications NHCS (National Historic Site of Canada) are the only surviving historic city defences in North America. The origins of the Quebec Fortifications can be traced back to 1608, when the city was founded by Samuel de Champlain as the capital of New France.
However, most of what can be seen today of the Quebec Fortifications was built by the French in the first half of the 18th century. In 1759, the British captured Quebec and went on to expand these fortifications. Today, visitors can tour the 4.6km Quebec Fortifications, which incorporate curtain walls, turrets and gates in a 90 minute route.
9. Prince of Wales Fort
The Prince of Wales Fort near Churchill in the province of Manitoba was an 18th century fortified base of the Hudson’s Bay Company. It is now a National Historic Site of Canada. The fortress began as a a log fort built by James Knight in 1717. Within a few years, it was renamed the Prince of Wales Fort.
The fort is located on the west bank of the Churchill River, where it could protect the fur trade interests of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The fortress today has a star-shaped footprint, 12-inch thick stone walls, mounted by British cannon. A visitor centre includes information on the history of the Prince of Wales Fort.
10. Kejimkujik National Park
Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia is an area containing historical sites that precede Canada’s colonisation by Europeans. Kejimkujik National Park has been home to multiple groups of Indigenous peoples including the Mi’kmaq, who have continually occupied the area for the last 2,000 years.
A number of rock carvings, or petroglyphs, can be seen in the park today. They reflect the culture, history and achievements of the Mi’kmaq and can only be viewed as part of a guided walk of Kejimkujik National Park. European settlers in the 19th century left industrial remains in the area, which can also be seen today.