The Oldest Cities in Canada

Colorful home dot the steep slopes around St. John's harbour in Newfoundland.
Colorful home dot the steep slopes around St. John's harbour in Newfoundland.

Canada is a country situated in the northern region of North America. With a size of about 3.9 million square miles, Canada is the world's second-biggest country in terms of size. Ottawa is the capital city while Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal are some of the largest metropolitans. Looking at cities with a population of at least 100,000 people, then St. John’s is the oldest after its establishment all the way back in 1497. Quebec City is in the second position with its establishment coming back in 1608. The other three cities closing the top five are Trois-Rivières (1634), Montreal (1642), and Longueuil (1657). York is the youngest city on this list after its formation back in 1793.

Oldest Cities

St. John's

Aside from being the capital city of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s is also the largest city in the province. On a larger scale, it is 20th in terms of size compared to other metropolitan areas of Canada. This city has a rich history and significance as it is the oldest settlement in Canada and North America that was established by the English back in 1497. For this reason, it is a popular destination for tourists each year. On August 5, 1583, the English, under the Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I, claimed the city. When the British began taking censuses in the later stages of the 1600s, the city had the largest populations as more people migrated to the settlement. St. John’s official incorporation as a city took place on May 1, 1988.


In terms of population, Montreal is position one in the Canadian province of Quebec while it ranks second in the whole of Canada. Located on the heart of the Island of Montreal in the southwestern region of Quebec, the city was previously known as Ville-Marie, which translates to the “City of Mary.” The city was founded on May 17, 1642, as Ville-Marie by French colonists who had set out to establish a mission. After a period of turbulence, the settlements began growing steadily until its incorporation in 1832. By 1860, it was first in terms of size and economic significance compared to all the other municipalities that were located in British North America. This growth saw to it that the city had a brief tenure as the capital city of Canada between 1844 and 1849. This short tenure was because of a rioting mob that set the Parliament building on fire, which led to the queen handing over that role to Ottawa.

Founding of York

Of the 10 oldest cities in Canada, York ranks 10th dating back to 1793. This former city was located within the current Canadian city of Toronto in Ontario. The original town was a simple design with a garrison included for the army. Most of the people who lived there were from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and England. However, there were other smaller populations from Europe such as France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Other people came to the town mainly as immigrants, which expanded its population from 1,000 to 9,000 by the time of its incorporation in 1834 as the City of Toronto.

What is the Oldest City in Canada?

RankCity (Over 100,000 pop) Year of Founding
1St. John's1497
2Quebec City1608

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