The city, which now boasts 157,840 residents, is located 390 kilometres north of Toronto, east of the strait that connects Lake Huron to Lake Superior. Greater Sudbury was incorporated as a town in 1893 and again as a city in 1930. Amalgamation with five formerly unincorporated townships took place in 2001, further increasing the area and population of the city.

Referred to as the "gateway to northern Ontario," Sudbury is surrounded by the raw beauty of the Canadian Shield. Nestled amongst 330 lakes, forests and solid rock, the area was originally inhabited by Ojibwa natives who now live west of Sudbury on Whitefish Bay Reserve and Wahnapitae. The City of Sudbury began as a small Catholic missionary and lumber camp. The main catalyst for economic development in Sudbury was the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, beginning in 1883. Workers lived in "combooses," which were little more than temporary shacks. When construction of the rail line in the region concluded in 1894, many of the workers headed north following the path of the railroad.

During the railway construction, blasting and excavation work revealed high concentrations of minerals in the ground. Mineral prospecting in the Sudbury Basin revealed the area was blessed with the largest concentrations of mineral deposits in the country. Prospecting grew in popularity and in 1886 an American entrepreneur established the Canadian Copper Mine Company outside of Sudbury. By 1902, 74 percent of the city’s workforce included miners or smelters who worked for the Canadian Copper Company. Most of them lived in Copper Cliff outside of town, which at the time was quite separate from Sudbury, having its own post office, library, and fire and police station. The remaining workers toiled in other natural resource related professions or as merchants. The nickel companies for which Sudbury is now famous emerged after the turn of the twentieth century with the arrival of INCO, now Vale Inco, and Mond Nickel Company in 1902, followed by Falconbridge, (now Xstrata) in 1929.

Early settlers to the region in the 19th century had been primarily of English or French Canadian descent. The railroad and later mining operations brought in new immigrants from different countries and the area became much more ethnically diverse with the arrival of hundreds of Polish, Italian, Ukrainian, Finnish and Jewish immigrants. Today Sudbury is one of the most multicultural cities in Ontario.