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Canada Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Canada

You’ll have no trouble buying large vats of maple syrup or cuddly polar bears galore. If you’re looking for something more original, check out the extensive range of fine Canadian crafts available, such as art woodcarvings, leather goods, pottery, jewellery and native artworks.

Sports lovers might enjoying kitting themselves out in an ice hockey strip: take your pick from NHL teams the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers or Vancouver Canucks.

Outdoors enthusiasts meanwhile will find a vast selection of stores selling all the must-have gear and clothing. Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has branches across the country, sells everything you could possibly need for trips into the backcountry, and is something of a Canadian institution.

Canada boasts a strong tradition of microbreweries, and a few bottles of the local ale make for a unique and consumable gift. Edible treats include salmon candy (chewy strips of smoked salmon steeped in honey and spices), fireweed honey and a smorgasbord of specialist chutneys, pickles and sauces.

This being North America, shopping malls are everywhere; if you’re a mall fanatic, make a pilgrimage to the country’s (and previously the world’s) largest, the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta. With more than 800 shops, a water park, ice rink, amusement park, aquarium, cinemas, restaurants, clubs and even two hotels, there are no shortage of outlets to splash your cash.

There are three different forms of sales tax throughout Canada; these are added onto the price of goods at the till. A 5% goods and service tax (GST) is levied on most goods and services in Canada. In addition, most jurisdictions (except Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon) levy a provincial service tax (PST) of 5 to 10% in shops, restaurants and short-term accommodation.

In the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario, a harmonised sales tax (HST) of 12 to 15% has replaced the GST and PST. Note that visitors may no longer reclaim GST or HST on accommodation and any goods purchased and taken out of the country.

Shopping Note

Some countries have restrictions against the import of endangered animal species products, such as products made from polar bear, seal, walrus or whale, so you should check entry regulations in your home country before departure; some of these products may also require a Canadian export certificate.

Shopping hours

Mon-Sat 0900-1800, with late-night shopping in some stores Thurs-Fri, up to 2100 (malls in large cities are often open until 2100 Mon-Fri). Some shops and stores are also open on Sunday, and some are open 24 hours a day.

Nightlife in Canada

Canadian nightlife isn’t solely oriented around boozing. But if you’re up for a few drinks, most cities have a pleasant selection of casual brewpubs and hipster lounges. In many cases, the most popular bars are connected to stylish hotels. The major cities have at least a handful of nightclubs playing music to suit most tastes. Live music’s popular too – try Nova Scotia for traditional Celtic music with a Canadian slant or Alberta for boot-stomping cowboy tunes.

A night out in Canada is just as likely to be centred around eating, and the country’s considerable ethnic diversity means you’re in for a treat, with an enormous variety of food available. Vancouver is the place to head for sushi, while Montreal is renowned for poutine - a stodgy dish of fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy.

Canadians also love hanging out at coffee bars and these tend to stay open late, making a nice alternative to sitting in the pub.

Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg are centres for ballet, opera and classical music, with visits from leading orchestras and internationally renowned performers.

Entertainment in the more remote towns is scarce, but it’s always worth having a few beers in the local bar where you’re likely to encounter a few characters.

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