Calgary vs Edmonton, which one is a better city to live in? It can be a hard question to figure out, especially if you’ve never been to Calgary or Edmonton.
If you ask locals, a Calgarian will tell you Calgary is ‘better’, and make a funny remark about Edmonton being ‘Deadmonton‘. While an Edmontonian will say to you Edmonton is ‘better’ and refer to Calgary as ‘Cowtown’. It seems to be a local hobby to fight each other over which city is better.
After living in Alberta as an expat for almost 3 years, I have a pretty good understanding of both cities and their unique pros and cons.
Despite the age-old rivalry between the two cities and the inhabitants of each claiming to be quite different and superior, in my opinion, they share many similarities.
In this guide, I’ll help you compare the two cities and see which one comes out on top for you.
I’ll take into account things such as weather, lifestyle, job opportunities, housing, cost of living and more. Continue reading to find out more.
Living in Calgary vs Edmonton
With breathtaking Canadian Rockies just next door, low taxes, a strong economy, a relatively low cost of living and an abundance of sunny days, it’s no surprise that you might feel drawn to Alberta.
Calgary and Edmonton are 2 major cities in Alberta that attract thousands of newcomers every year.
According to Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 3 cities in Canada (Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto) made it to the world’s top 10 places to live.
In 2022, Calgary gained an impressive 4th spot. Now, that’s a big vote of confidence. It ranked even higher than Vancouver and Toronto. No other cities in North America were in the top 10. EIU considers multiple factors in its ranking system, such as stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
But before I sound too biased towards Calgary, I’ll also highlight some of the main pros of living in Edmonton, the provincial capital city of Alberta.
The main benefit is affordable housing. Edmonton’s real estate and rent prices are much lower than in Calgary.
Edmonton also has amazing river valley parks just steps away from city center, with miles and miles of urban parkland next to the North Saskatchewan River. It’s the largest urban park in Canada.
Calgary vs Edmonton Population
(Source: Statistics Canada)
This comparison shows that the population in both cities is almost the same, but Edmonton has a bit lower population density than Calgary.
Calgary vs Edmonton Size
Calgary – 825.3 km²
Edmonton – 684.4 km²
Calgary vs Edmonton Weather
Being further north, Edmonton is known for having slightly colder and longer winters than Calgary.
In Edmonton, average daily temperatures are a low of −10.4 °C (13.3 °F) in January and 23 °C (73.4 °F) in July. Temperatures can exceed 30 °C (86.0 °F) in summer and fall below −20.0 °C in winter.
Temperatures in Calgary are similar. The average temperatures are in summer at around 23 °C (73.8 °F) and -11 °C (51.8 °F) in winter. The temperatures are rarely below -25 °C (-13 °F) or above 30 °C (86.0 °F).
Summers are beautiful in both cities.
Calgary is the windiest but also the sunniest larger city in Canada. Even in winter, it’s sunny most of the time.
Calgary is known for its warm, dry chinook winds. Chinook winds in winter result in increased temperatures (sometimes up to 20 degrees Celcius in the midst of winter!). The heat melts the snow and ice into slush.
That’s why getting yourself a pair of boots might be a good idea if you’re planning on moving to Calgary.
The sudden temperature rise can confuse trees and make them think that spring has arrived, only to freeze a week later. But locals welcome the warm relief from cold winter weather with open arms.
Calgary tends to cool down more at night than Edmonton due to its proximity to the Rocky mountains.
To sum it up, Calgary is at a higher elevation and closer to the mountains, which leads to more unpredictable weather. On the plus side, you can get unexpectedly warm winter days with Chinook winds.
However, Calgary also tends to have more extreme weather issues, such as summer hail, snow storms, and flooding.
Calgary vs Edmonton Cost of Living 2023
If you’re considering moving to either Calgary or Edmonton, an important factor to keep in mind is the cost of living.
Calgary has much higher rental and housing prices compared to Edmonton.
However, the overall cost of living is similar, slightly cheaper in Edmonton.
The purchasing power in Calgary is better. So although the expenses might be higher, your salary can go further in Calgary than in Edmonton.
Here’s the full breakdown of the latest Calgary vs Edmonton cost of living comparison.
Calgary vs Edmonton Housing
As a first-time home buyer, you’ll find it more affordable to enter the real estate market in Edmonton.
Rent prices are also much higher in Calgary than in Edmonton.
According to Zumper, the average rent for one bedroom apartment in Calgary is about CA$1800 per month (2023), while in Edmonton, the average rent for 1 bedroom apartment is about $1100 per month (2023). (as of the time of writing)
Housing prices can be an important deciding factor in Calgary vs Edmonton dilemma. In this case, Edmonton is a clear winner.
Calgary vs Edmonton Jobs
Edmonton is the political and industrial capital, while Calgary is the commercial, entrepreneurial city.
Calgary seems to have more white-collar jobs, while Edmonton is more focused on blue-collar jobs and trades.
The largest percentage of workers in Edmonton work for the government, in education or oil and gas industry.
Calgary is a hub for many international companies. So if you work in business, finance, engineering or consulting, then it might be easier for you to find a job in Calgary.
Here is the list of the most in-demand jobs in Alberta:
- courier service drivers
- retail assistants
- truck drivers
Calgary vs Edmonton Lifestyle
When my partner and I first arrived in Edmonton, we heard there was nothing to do except shop in West Edmonton Mall. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Speaking of West Edmonton mall, it is the largest North American mall. Believe it or not, it even has a waterpark with slides inside.
Edmonton’s nickname is ‘the Festival City’ as each summer weekend has some festival taking place.
I love the Edmonton Heritage Festival, a three-day event in August that celebrates Canada’s diversity. It features over 60+ different countries, from Cuba to Croatia and India, plus many cultural activities. Each nationality has a dedicated stand where you can stop by and sample delicious food, see creative performances, and learn more about specific cultures.
In addition, Edmonton has an incredible art and culture scene. It is home to many concert halls (the Edmonton Symphony orchestra), theatres, operas and art galleries such as the Art Gallery of Alberta.
If you love skiing or hiking, it is only a four-hour drive to Jasper National Park.
For sports enthusiasts, Edmonton’s popular sports teams are the NHL Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Elks in the CFL (Canadian Football League).
Whyte avenue and Old Strathcona Neighborhood are great for dining or a pleasant stroll.
There are many fantastic restaurants in these areas with diverse cuisines – from Indian to Thai, and of course, good old Canadian food.
If you love BBQ, check out MEAT. El Cortez is a popular Mexican restaurant, and vegetarians shouldn’t miss out on cozy cafe Mosaics.
In cafe Hexagon on Whyte, you can even play board games while sipping your favorite hot or cool drink. (side note: there is also Hexagon cafe in Calgary on Kensington road)
If you like food trucks, then you’ll be happy to know that both Edmonton and Calgary have one of the highest densities of food trucks per capita in Canada.
On Saturdays, the weekly Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market takes place.
Popular Festivals in Edmonton
- Edmonton Heritage Festival
- Fringe Festival
- Edmonton Folk Music Festival
Popular Tourist Attractions in Edmonton
- West Edmonton Mall
- Fort Edmonton Park
- Muttart Conservatory (Botanical Garden)
- Royal Alberta Museum
- Art Gallery of Alberta
- Edmonton Valley Zoo
- Whyte Ave
- Telus Spark Science Centre
- Jasper (4h drive)
Calgary is a buzzing city and a great place to live if you enjoy outdoor activities due to its proximity to national parks.
The Banff National Park is only an hour and a half drive and offers great opportunities for skiing, wildlife watching, hiking, camping and fishing.
You can also go river rafting or kayaking on the Bow River.
Fish Creek Provincial Park in the SE quadrant of the city is a fun place for a picnic or a bike ride.
If you’re into shopping, Calgary has many shopping streets and malls. For example:
Stephen Avenue Walk
Eau claire market
- CF Chinook center
Calgary is known for its cowboy culture, and there are many ways to experience this – from attending the Calgary Stampede (a world-famous rodeo festival) to visiting Heritage Park Historical Village (an open-air museum).
Stampede is held annually in July. It is a 10-day rodeo event full of cowboys and cowgirls wearing their cowboy boots and hats. This world-famous event is not to be missed. There is endless food, live music, a rodeo show and even an amusement park.
Additionally, Calgary is home to the Alberta Ballet. The city also has concert halls, theatre, opera and Calgary Symphony orchestra.
Calgary is represented in the NHL by the Calgary Flames and the CFL by the Calgary Stampeders.
Calgary’s food scene is incredible. It has a large number of restaurants with diverse cuisines.
17th avenue and Kensington Road are great for cool funky eating options.
Prince’s Island Park area is one of Calgary’s top dining spots, especially because of its pleasant atmosphere. For a romantic date, River cafe is a great option. It’s right next to the Bow River, surrounded by trees.
Craft Beer Market has one of the best outdoor patios and a selection of craft beers in town.
Santorini Greek Taverna is also worth checking out.
Popular Festivals in Calgary
- Calgary Stampede
- Sled Island Music & Arts Festival
- Calgary International Film Festival
- Taste of Calgary
Popular Tourist Attractions in Calgary
- Calgary Tower
- Calgary Zoo
- Heritage Park Historical Village
- Banff National Park (1h 30 min drive)
- Drumheller (1h 4o min drive)
It is fair to say that you won’t be bored in either city!
Calgary vs Edmonton Universities
Both cities have great educational facilities and a large selection of study programs to choose from.
Studying in Edmonton might be more affordable compared to Calgary. However, Calgary has better nightlife for young professionals. So it depends on your priorities.
Edmonton has numerous renowned post-secondary education universities and colleges. The University of Alberta is world-class. It is ranked as top 6th in Canada and 118th worldwide as per ‘The World University Ranking’, 2023. It is well known for its research work.
Other universities in Edmonton are MacEwan University, NAIT, Concordia University and King’s University College.
The University of Calgary is also highly regarded, ranking number seven in Canada and 242nd as per ‘The World University Ranking‘ for 2023.
Other universities in Calgary are Mount Royal University, SAIT, Ambrose University College, and St. Mary’s University College.
Calgary vs Edmonton Safety
Edmonton nor Calgary aren’t especially dangerous. Overall, Canadian cities are safe compared to many other major cities worldwide.
However, as in any large city, there are areas that you should avoid late at night.
According to Crime Severity Index, Calgary is safer than Edmonton. The violent crime rates per 100 000 inhabitants were 1.41 murders in Calgary, while in Edmonton, the rate was 3.43 in 2021.
Calgary vs Edmonton Public Transit
Calgary is more of a hub for international air travel.
It has a better light rail transit system. Calgary transit consists of buses and two Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines, known as the C-Train.
Edmonton has better train connections. You can travel from Via Rail Edmonton station to the rest of Canada.
Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) offers both buses and a Light Rail Train (LRT) service to get you around the city.
Just to give you a comparison. A day pass in Edmonton costs CA$10.25 and grants you unlimited full-day ETS access. In Calgary, a day pass costs CA$ 11.25. The monthly pass in Calgary is CA$112, while in Edmonton, it costs CA$100.
Both cities are bike friendly.
Uber is accessible in both Calgary and Edmonton.
As Canada is such an extensive country, it makes sense to own a car, especially if you travel long distances.
Interestingly, Calgary residents spend less time in traffic jams during rush hour compared to Edmontonians.
On Poparide, you can often find there much cheaper deals compared to traveling by bus. On top of that, it’s much more convenient. You can find many great options for rides between Calgary and Banff.
The drivers can reduce the cost of their petrol by sharing a ride with someone, while the passengers can have a more convenient and affordable option to travel between cities. It’s a win-win!
If you’re indecisive between Calgary and Edmonton, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Calgary is known for its diverse economy and its proximity to scenic mountain views. It has a lower crime rate than Edmonton.
However, Calgary’s housing market is significantly more expensive than Edmonton’s, making it less affordable for first-time buyers or those on a tight budget.
Edmonton, on the other hand, offers a more affordable cost of living. The city also has a thriving arts and culture scene, and its residents enjoy easy access to many parks and recreation areas.
Edmonton’s winters are a bit colder, but overall, Albertans enjoy soaking up the sun more than other Canadian provinces.
So, which city is the right fit for you? Only you can decide. But by considering all these factors involved, you’ll be one step closer to making your decision.
As a mountain lover, I’d go for Calgary mainly because it’s closer to the Rockies.
Your choice might also depend on your job opportunities. If you have a good job offer in Edmonton, then go for it. The cities are more similar than you might think.
Is Edmonton safer than Calgary?
Edmonton can be dangerous, just like any other city, but for the most part, it’s a pretty safe place to live. Big cities will always have a little more risk than small rural towns. According to the crime severity index, Calgary is safer than Edmonton.
Is Edmonton cheaper than Calgary?
The cost of living is very similar in both cities. However, the rent and real estate are more expensive in Calgary compared to Edmonton.
Which is colder, Edmonton or Calgary?
While both Edmonton and Calgary experience long, cold winters, Calgary has dry, warm Chinook winds, which result in a few unusually warm days in winter. Overall, Edmonton has colder winters than Calgary due to its more northern location.
Is Calgary bigger than Edmonton?
Calgary and Edmonton are the two biggest cities in Alberta. Calgary is bigger in size and population.
Calgary’s population is about 1.6 mil (2023), while Edmonton’s population is 1.5 mil (2023).
Calgary’s size is 825.3 km². Edmonton’s size is 684.4 km².
Is it worth moving to Edmonton?
Life in Edmonton provides great value for money with lower monthly rent than Calgary, another big city in Alberta. Although oil and gas is the main industry, there are also other great job opportunities in education, trades, health & medical field and the public sector.
Is Edmonton better than Calgary?
Although Edmonton is Alberta’s capital city, Calgary is larger in size. As per the Economist Intelligence Unit, Calgary has ranked higher than Edmonton as one of the top 10 most livable cities worldwide. But determining which city is better ultimately depends on your personal preferences.
What is Edmonton known for?
Edmonton is known for having the largest mall in North America. Edmonton is also known for its festivals, sunny weather, and abundance of urban green space. With one of the highest wages and lowest taxes in Canada, Edmonton offers some of the top quality of life in the country.
What is Calgary known for?
Calgary is known for its popular rodeo festival, Stampede, warm chinook winds, proximity to the Rocky mountains and oil industry. It was also hosting Winter Olympics in 1988. Alberta is sometimes referred to as ‘Texas of Canada’ and Calgary as ‘Cowtown’ due to its cowboy culture.
How far is Edmonton from Calgary?
The distance between Calgary and Edmonton is about 300km, and it takes 3h by car.