With a diverse and extensive national history of native civilisations and European colonialisation, the Historic Sites in Canada illustrate a range of cultural influences, architectural styles and intriguing stories.
Among the very best of Canada’s cultural attractions are Kejimkujik National Park, the Canadian National War Memorial and the Canadian War Museum, while for an overview of this nation’s past, museums such as the Canadian Museum of Civilization offer a great insight. Other popular places to visit include L’Anse aux Meadows, The Quebec Citadel and the Fortress of Louisbourg.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Canadian cultural landmarks and monuments, with our top places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Canada, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in Canada?
L’Anse aux Meadows is the only-known site of Viking settlement in North America, these also being the earliest European visitors to the region.
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 as well as viewing finds from archaeological digs at the interpretative centre.
The Canadian National War Memorial commemorates losses from World War I and, since 2000, it has also come to represent those who fell in World War II and the Korean War. A large granite cenotaph located in Ottawa, the Canadian National War Memorial is also home to the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Canadian War Museum is the national military history museum. 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 from the perspective of the personal experiences of those who took part and were affected by historic conflicts, both at home and on the battlefield.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization is a museum of the history of Canada, from the culture and heritage of its Aboriginal people to the Vikings and stories of the leaders and figures who have shaped the nation over time.
The Canadian Parliament Buildings are the seat of the country’s Parliament located in Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.
Much of the Parliament Buildings were destroyed in 1816 and 1852 in two separate fires, but the gothic feel of these buildings still remains, albeit with many a modern addition. There are tours of the various blocks of the Canadian Parliament Buildings.
The Quebec Citadel is a 19th century British fortress and the biggest built by the British in North America. Built between 1820 and 1850, the Quebec Citadel is still garrisoned today as the home of the Royal 22e Regiment.
The Citadel also has a museum dedicated to this regiment which offers tours of the site and the site is the location of the home of the Governor General of Canada.
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.
Restored from 1961, today the fortress is a time capsule of its own past frozen in 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 (available by pre-booking at other times).
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 took Quebec and went on to expand these fortifications, including building the Quebec Citadel, completed in 1831. Later that century, the Governor General of Canada Lord Dufferin, played an important role in preserving the Quebec Fortifications.
Today, visitors can tour the 4.6km Quebec Fortifications including curtain walls, turrets and gates in a 90 minute route as well as viewing a range of the city’s related historic sites. Amongst the things to see are the Saint-Louis Gate, the Quebec Citadelle NHSC and the Quebec Garrison Club NHSC.
The Prince of Wales Fort near Churchill was an 18th century fortified base of the Hudson’s Bay Company, a fur trading business, and is now a National Historic Site of Canada.
Part trading post, part stronghold, the Prince of Wales Fort was begun in 1731, at a time of great tension between the English and the French. It would take around 40 years to complete and was surrendered to the French in 1782.
Today, the picturesque ruins of the Prince of Wales Fort include its star-shaped frame with 12-inch thick stone walls and battery including 40 mounted cannons. There’s also a visitor centre with information on the history of the Prince of Wales Fort and exhibits about the site.
Kejimkujik National Park in Canada is an area containing historical sites covering periods from pre-colonial times to the present day.
Occupied for over 4,000 years, Kejimkujik National Park has been home to several indigenous peoples and the native Mi’kmaq have been living in the area for the last 2,000 years.
A number of rock carvings, or petroglyphs, can be seen today and reflect the life of the Mi’kmaq over the centuries. These can only be viewed as part of a guided walk of Kejimkujik National Park.
From around 1820, European settlers began to arrive in the area and many industries grew up including farming, logging and gold mining. A number of sites from this era can be viewed, including sawmills, pits and mining cabins.