Best architecture in Canada: Seven of the best-looking buildings

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Canadian-born acclaimed architect Frank Gehry once said that architecture should speak of its time and place but yearn for timelessness. Here are seven buildings across Canada that live up to that ideal.

1. Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg

From the outside, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is impressive enough. A swirl of glass, stone, steel and concrete is faintly reminiscent of folded dove wings, while the 100-metre-high Tower of Hope, which is illuminated at night, stands as a symbol of enlightenment. Yet it's the interior experience that's truly awe-inspiring: climbing the walkways of the museum that opened in the Manitoba capital in 2014 is designed as a poignant journey from darkness to light.humanrights.ca

2. Habitat 67, Montreal

There's no way to miss Habitat 67 – a 12-storey jumble of 354 stacked concrete "boxes" that dominates a man-made peninsula jutting into Montreal's St Lawrence River. The Brutalist housing complex was presented at the 1967 World Expo as a vision for the future of cities. The landmark design began as Moshe Safdie's thesis project while studying architecture at Montreal's McGill University. His thesis advisor later suggested he submit the design for the Expo. Safdie bought "all the Lego in Montreal" to model his ground-breaking design. habitat67.com

3. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

It's fitting that Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry's first work in Canada should be in his home town. Gehry – whose most famous creations include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles – was asked to expand and revitalise the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2008, the results were unveiled. The space now includes a redesignedentrance, dramatic sculptural staircases, swathes of glass to allow in plenty of natural light, and the warmth of Douglas fir timber. ago.net

4. Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello

Between Montreal and Ottawa is a hotel billed as the world's largest log cabin. Fairmont Le Château Montebello – a red-cedar log château – is on the Ottawa River in the pretty village of Montebello, 130km from Montreal and 80km from Ottawa. Guests can spend their time cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter and canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding in warmer months. Up to 3500 craftsmen cut and set the 10,000 logs in the three main buildings, which opened as a private club in 1930. fairmont.com

5. Jellybean Row, Saint John's

Jellybean Row.

Saint John's, capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, is famous for its brightly painted downtown Victorian houses. Jellybean Row isn't a particular street but the nickname for any cluster of these homes. There are plenty of stories about how the colour scheme came about – such as the paint jobs helping fishermen to find their way home through the fog – but morepractical types say it started with a 1970s revitalisation scheme. World Heritage-listed Lunenburg, on Nova Scotia's south shore, also has colourful historic homes. discoversaintjohn.com, novascotia.com

6. Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

The Canadian Museum of Nature's home boldly blends old and new. The fanciful Victoria Memorial Museum Building, which opened to the public in 1912, is a castle-like Scottish baronial structure incorporating Canadian animals and plants into its design. Two carved moose heads guard the main entrance while a staircase features a fox head, acorns and oak leaves. In 2010, a six-year renovation and expansion project culminated in the Queen naming a bold new glass-and-steel tower the Queens' Lantern, honouring both herself and Queen Victoria.nature.ca

7. Marine Building, Vancouver

Vancouver's Marine Building is one of the world's great art deco skyscrapers. When the 21-storey building opened in 1930, it was the tallest building in the British Empire. The exterior features carvings of lobsters, seahorses, pufferfish and starfish floating through stylised seaweed. Above the main doors, a flock of Canada geese is set against sunrays. Inside, more marine creatures decorate a lobby clock. The building is a popular film location: it starred as the Daily Planet offices in the TV series Smallville.vancouverhistory.ca

Going there

See the colourful houses of Saint John's and Lunenburg during Insight Vacations'12-day Landscapes of the Canadian Maritimes tour. APT's 18-day Eastern Canada and New England tour includes two-night stays in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. See insightvacations.com, aptouring.com.au

Four more cool things about Canada

HOTELS Stay in a bold island inn that's singlehandedly reviving a local economy or snuggle into a cosy nook within a boutique Toronto hotel that's a magnet for the neighbourhood.

FOOD Canada's best new restaurants are in surprising places. One's tucked within the woods on an island between Vancouver and Victoria in British Columbia; another is in Calgary.

DESIGN Browse avant-garde designs in Canada's only Monocle magazine store in Toronto or pick up a piece of bold statement jewellery fashioned from bison horn in Yellowknife.

CULTURE Want to hang with the cool kids? Head out for the night and you could find yourself squeezing into a tiny jazz club, a country-music bar or a much-loved rock venue.

Tip: Toronto's CN Tower is home to the world's highest 'hands-free' walk.

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See also: Canada's coolest stays

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