Published on January 17, 2023
Parks, plazas and landmarks help us deepen our connection to place. Here are some spaces across the country that really excite us.
Public spaces have been called the living rooms, gardens and corridors of urban areas.
Great public spaces — from parks, to squares to public buildings — are essential to our wellbeing. The benefits of public spaces span economic, social and environmental. Cities with vibrant, multi-use public spaces are more livable and attractive for diverse groups of people.
“Canadian cities and communities are resilient, but they are also vulnerable,” says Lois Lindsay, Evergreen’s Chief Program Officer. “Green and welcoming public spaces represent golden opportunities to ensure that cities are truly inclusive, thriving and sustainable at their core.”
The way that a community or individual connects to public space can even have an impact on the resilience of these spaces. A deep bond can foster a increased respect and sustainable relationship with our environment.
There’s no better way to connect to place than by visiting some of the best public spaces. From coast to coast, Canada boasts amazing examples of historic, functional and dynamic spaces. Here are our favourites in every province.
Vancouver’s Granville Island is a peninsula and former industrial manufacturing area. In the 1970s, the space began its transformation to one of the city’s most popular public spaces. Today, Granville Island is one of Canada’s top public spaces and an artistic and cultural hub, and includes a public market, marina, community centre and several performing arts theatres.
Multi-use spaces can be the most dynamic and interesting public spaces in Canada. In Calgary, PARK PARK is a pilot project that took a parking lot and turned it into a public gathering place. Architects set to rethink a regular neighbourhood parking lot and the way land use is designated in cities. The space — which still partially acts as a parking lot during peak teams — also features seating, a charging station, a bike pump, a Little Free Library, a basketball hoop and even a hand-warming area.
Just outside Saskatoon is Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a non-profit cultural and historical centre of the First Nations and the longest running archeological dig site in Canada. The land has long been a meeting place for Nations of the Northern Plains, which continues today, while welcoming guests from all over the globe. The park includes a renovated Interpretive Centre, restaurant, gallery spaces, playground, hiking trails and a variety of programming.
Situated at the intersection of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, The Forks in Winnipeg has been a meeting place for more than 6,000 years. That tradition continues today, with four million people visiting the vibrant downtown space every year. The year-round landmark is home to events, dining, shopping, entertainment and unique attractions across the site’s natural and built environment.
Ottawa is one of the top cities to visit in Ontario, with Parliament Hill, museums and Rideau Canal all standout destinations. But don’t skip the ByWard Market, one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. Established in 1826 by Lieutenant-Colonel John By — builder of the Rideau Canal — many of the original buildings still stand today. The ByWard Market is one of Ottawa’s top destinations for shopping, dining, arts and entertainment, drawing an average of 50,000 visitors per weekend in the summer months.
Place Jacques-Cartier is a public square in the heart of Old Montreal, known for its European style and architecture along cobblestone walkways. Lined with cafu00e9s and restaurants, the space becomes a car-free zone during the summer months, hosting numerous festivals and performances. While there are no shortage of interesting places to visit in Quebec, this square was named one of the most beautiful public spaces in the entire world, according urban designers.
On the east coast of New Brunswick is Kouchibouguac National Park, an all-season public space established in 1969 to preserve a section of the Canadian Maritime Plain region. The park is a blend of bogs, salt marshes, freshwater estuaries, lagoons and sand dunes. The space is popular among bird watchers, and was declared a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. In the winter, visitors enjoy snowshoeing, cross country skiing, tobogganing and more.
Comprising an entire block of the downtown core, the Halifax Public Gardens is a Victorian-era garden established all the way back in 1867. Officially a National Historic Site of Canada, the Public Gardens features 16 acres of flower beds, tropical displays, heritage trees and more. The grounds include ponds, fountains, stone bridges and a bandstand, which is host to free Sunday afternoon concerts in the summer.
In the heart of Charlottetown, the Great George Street Historic District begins at the waterfront and extends for six wide blocks. The area was designated a national historic site due to significance in Canadian history and for its Confederation-era architecture. Visitors can join guided walking tours to learn about the birthplace of Confederation or walk unaccompanied to take in a mix of residential, commercial and government buildings.
Signal Hill offers much more than incredible views of St. John’s and the Atlantic Ocean. The site was designated as a National Historic Site in 1951 due to its significance to the military and communications history of Canada.In addition to its hiking trails, the landmark is known for Cabot Tower, where, in 1901, Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi received the first radio transmission sent across the Atlantic Ocean.
A unique green space in the heart of Toronto’s ravine system, the Brick Works is a transformed industrial brick factor and an internationally renowned showcase of green design, award-winning public space and test site to pilot ideas that can be scaled across the country. The space offers a public art series, Saturday Farmers Market, free public skating, Children’s Garden and a diverse selection of programming and events.
There are too many great public spaces in Canada to fit on one list. Don’t see your favourite here? Send us a note. We’re always eager to learn more about great spaces.