Alberta is home to two of Canada‘s most vibrant and lively cities: Edmonton and Calgary. Each city offers a unique blend of opportunities, lifestyles, and experiences, making it challenging for potential residents to decide between the two. This blog series aims to provide a comprehensive comparison of these urban centers to help you make an informed decision. Whether you’re considering a move for work, education, or simply a change of scenery, understanding the key differences and similarities between Edmonton vs Calgary is crucial. 

When comparing Edmonton vs Calgary, it’s essential to understand the basic characteristics of each city. Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, is known for its rich cultural scene and extensive parklands. Calgary, on the other hand, is famous for its thriving economy and proximity to the Rocky Mountains. Both cities boast unique advantages that cater to different preferences and lifestyles.

By the end of this blog series, you’ll have a clearer understanding of which city aligns best with your personal and professional goals.

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Geography and Climate: Contrasts Between Edmonton and Calgary

When considering a move to Alberta, understanding the geographical and climatic differences between Edmonton and Calgary is essential. These factors significantly impact the lifestyle and daily activities of residents.

Geography of Edmonton

Edmonton is located in the central region of Alberta, sitting on the North Saskatchewan River. The city is known for its vast parklands, including the extensive North Saskatchewan River Valley, which is the largest urban parkland in North America. Edmonton’s landscape is characterized by its flat terrain, which provides plenty of space for sprawling parks and residential areas.

Geography of Calgary

Calgary is situated in southern Alberta, near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This proximity to the mountains influences the city’s geography, giving it a varied landscape with rolling hills and elevated plains. Calgary’s location also offers easy access to stunning natural attractions like Banff and Jasper National Parks.

Climate in Edmonton

Edmonton experiences a humid continental climate with distinct seasons. Winters can be long and harsh, with temperatures often dipping well below freezing. However, the city enjoys more sunshine than any other major Canadian city, even during the winter months. Summers in Edmonton are typically warm and pleasant, perfect for enjoying the numerous festivals and outdoor activities.

Climate in Calgary

Calgary’s climate is also classified as continental, but it tends to be more moderate compared to Edmonton. Winters are generally milder, thanks to the Chinook winds that can raise temperatures significantly within a short period. Summers are warm and dry, making it an ideal time to explore the nearby mountains and parks. Calgary also boasts a high number of sunny days throughout the year, contributing to its residents’ active lifestyles.

Edmonton vs Calgary: Climate Preferences

When deciding between Edmonton vs Calgary, your climate preference plays a crucial role. If you enjoy distinct seasons with plenty of sunshine, Edmonton might be more appealing. On the other hand, if you prefer milder winters and the occasional warm Chinook breeze, Calgary could be the better choice.

Here are the notable summary in Edmonton vs Calgary when it comes to geography and climate comparison:

Comparison table of geography and climate differences between Edmonton and Calgary

Economy and Job Market: Opportunities in Edmonton vs Calgary

One of the most critical factors to consider when choosing between Edmonton vs Calgary is the economic landscape and job market opportunities in each city. Both cities offer robust economies with unique strengths, but they cater to different industries and career paths.

Economic Overview of Edmonton

Edmonton is often referred to as the “Oil Capital of Canada” due to its significant involvement in the oil and gas industry. The city is home to many major energy companies and serves as a hub for the province’s oil sands projects. Additionally, Edmonton has a diverse economy that includes sectors such as technology, healthcare, education, and manufacturing. The city’s strong public sector, with numerous government and administrative jobs, also provides stability in the job market.

Economic Overview of Calgary

Calgary’s economy is also heavily influenced by the oil and gas sector, but it has a more diversified economic base compared to Edmonton. The city is known for its entrepreneurial spirit and is home to many headquarters of major Canadian and multinational corporations. Besides energy, Calgary has a thriving finance sector, technology industry, and a growing presence in the film and television production industry. The city’s economic diversity helps cushion against downturns in any single sector.

Job Market in Edmonton

Edmonton offers numerous employment opportunities, particularly in the energy sector and related industries. The city’s strong healthcare and education sectors also provide many jobs, thanks to institutions like the University of Alberta and several large hospitals. The technology sector is growing, with a focus on artificial intelligence and digital innovation. Additionally, Edmonton’s public sector jobs offer stability and attractive benefits.

Job Market in Calgary

Calgary’s job market is dynamic and competitive, with opportunities across various sectors. The city’s strong presence of corporate headquarters creates many high-paying jobs in finance, marketing, and management. The technology sector in Calgary is booming, with startups and established companies alike driving innovation. Calgary’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains also supports a growing tourism and hospitality industry, providing diverse job opportunities.

Edmonton vs Calgary: Job Prospects

When evaluating job prospects in Edmonton vs Calgary, consider your industry and career goals. Edmonton might be more suitable for those looking to work in energy, public sector, or healthcare. Conversely, Calgary offers more opportunities in corporate, finance, technology, and creative industries. Both cities provide ample job opportunities, but the right fit depends on your professional aspirations.

Canadian piggy bank symbolizing cost of living comparison between Edmonton and Calgary

Cost of Living: Affordability Comparison Between Edmonton and Calgary

When deciding between Edmonton vs Calgary, understanding the cost of living in each city is crucial. The cost of living can significantly impact your quality of life, influencing everything from housing to daily expenses.

General Cost of Living in Edmonton

Edmonton is known for its relatively affordable cost of living compared to other major Canadian cities. The city offers a range of housing options, from downtown apartments to suburban homes, catering to different budgets. Groceries, transportation, and utilities in Edmonton are generally lower than the national average, making it an attractive option for those looking to maximize their purchasing power.

General Cost of Living in Calgary

Calgary’s cost of living is slightly higher than Edmonton’s but still affordable compared to cities like Toronto or Vancouver. Housing costs in Calgary can vary significantly depending on the neighborhood, with some areas offering more affordable options than others. Calgary also has a higher median income, which can offset the higher cost of living. Expenses such as dining out and entertainment might be a bit more costly, but the city offers a high quality of life.

Housing Costs: Edmonton vs Calgary

In Edmonton, the average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is around CAD 1,100 per month, while a similar apartment in Calgary might cost around CAD 1,300 per month. Buying a home in Edmonton is also generally more affordable, with average prices for detached homes lower than in Calgary.

Calgary’s housing market tends to be more competitive, particularly in desirable neighborhoods close to downtown. However, Calgary offers a diverse range of housing options, from high-rise condos to spacious suburban homes, catering to different preferences and budgets.

Utilities and Transportation

Utilities, including electricity, heating, cooling, and water, tend to be slightly more affordable in Edmonton. Both cities have efficient public transportation systems, but Calgary’s transit network is more extensive, particularly with its Light Rail Transit (LRT) system. Transportation costs in both cities are comparable, but owning a car might be slightly more expensive in Calgary due to higher insurance rates.

Groceries and Dining

Groceries in Edmonton are generally less expensive than in Calgary. However, both cities offer a wide range of options, from budget-friendly grocery stores to premium supermarkets. Dining out in Calgary can be more expensive, especially in popular areas with high-end restaurants and trendy eateries. Edmonton offers a diverse culinary scene at more affordable prices.

Edmonton vs Calgary: Affordability

When comparing affordability in Edmonton vs Calgary, Edmonton tends to be more budget-friendly overall. Lower housing costs and everyday expenses make Edmonton an attractive option for those looking to save money. Calgary, while slightly more expensive, offers higher median incomes and a robust job market that can help balance the higher cost of living.

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Housing Market: Buying or Renting in Edmonton and Calgary

Choosing between buying or renting a home is a significant decision, and the housing market in Edmonton vs Calgary offers various options to consider. Understanding the differences in the housing markets of these two cities can help you make an informed choice that aligns with your financial goals and lifestyle preferences.

When comparing the housing markets of Edmonton vs Calgary, consider your budget, lifestyle, and long-term goals. 

Here’s a breakdown of the housing market in Edmonton and Calgary to help you decide between buying or renting:

Edmonton

  • Market: More affordable and buyer-friendly with a wider range of housing options (condos, detached homes).
  • Average detached home price: Around CAD $400,000 (more accessible for first-time buyers).
  • Rent: Relatively cheaper than Calgary. One-bedroom city center apartment: ~$1,100 CAD/month, three-bedroom suburbs: ~$1,500 CAD/month.
  • Buying Pros: Lower home prices, diverse property selection, stable market with moderate appreciation, reasonable property taxes.
  • Renting Pros: More affordable option overall.

Calgary

  • Market: More competitive, especially near desirable areas. Higher average detached home price (~CAD $500,000) but still affordable compared to major cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
  • Rent: More expensive than Edmonton. One-bedroom city center apartment: ~$1,300 CAD/month, three-bedroom suburbs: ~$1,800 CAD/month.
  • Buying Pros: Strong market growth (potentially good for long-term appreciation), vibrant economy, desirable location near mountains.
  • Renting Pros: Wide range of rental options (luxury condos to affordable suburban homes).

Choosing Between Edmonton and Calgary

  • Budget: Edmonton is more budget-friendly for both buying and renting.
  • Lifestyle: Consider Edmonton if affordability is a priority. Calgary offers a more competitive market and proximity to mountains.
  • Long-term goals: Edmonton offers stability and moderate appreciation. Calgary might have higher long-term appreciation potential due to market growth.

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Education and Healthcare: Comparing Services and Facilities

Access to quality education and healthcare services is a crucial factor when choosing between Edmonton and Calgary. Both cities offer excellent facilities, but there are some differences that might influence your decision.

Education in Edmonton

Edmonton is home to several renowned educational institutions, ranging from primary schools to universities. The Edmonton Public School Board and Edmonton Catholic School District manage a vast network of schools providing quality education. The city also offers numerous private and charter schools, catering to diverse educational needs and preferences.

The University of Alberta, located in Edmonton, is one of Canada’s top universities, offering a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs. The university is known for its research excellence, particularly in health sciences, engineering, and business. Additionally, MacEwan University and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) provide excellent post-secondary education options.

Healthcare in Edmonton

Edmonton boasts a robust healthcare system with several major hospitals and specialized medical facilities. The city is home to the University of Alberta Hospital, one of Canada’s leading teaching hospitals, and the Royal Alexandra Hospital, known for its comprehensive care services. The Stollery Children’s Hospital offers specialized pediatric care, making Edmonton a strong choice for families.

Education in Calgary

Calgary also offers excellent educational opportunities, with a wide range of public, private, and charter schools. The Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District manage the majority of public schools, known for their high standards and diverse programs. Private schools and specialized institutions provide additional options for parents seeking tailored education for their children.

The University of Calgary is a major research institution offering a broad spectrum of programs and is renowned for its innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives. Mount Royal University and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) further enhance Calgary’s post-secondary education landscape.

Healthcare in Calgary

Calgary’s healthcare system is well-developed, with several leading hospitals and medical facilities. The Foothills Medical Centre is the city’s largest hospital, offering advanced medical care and serving as a teaching hospital for the University of Calgary’s medical school. The Alberta Children’s Hospital is renowned for its pediatric services, providing top-notch care for young patients. Calgary’s healthcare infrastructure ensures residents have access to high-quality medical services.

Edmonton vs Calgary: Education and Healthcare

When comparing education and healthcare in Edmonton vs Calgary, both cities excel in providing top-tier services. Edmonton’s University of Alberta and Calgary’s University of Calgary are both prestigious institutions, each with unique strengths. In terms of healthcare, both cities offer comprehensive services, but your choice might depend on specific medical needs or proximity to certain facilities.

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, representing education and healthcare comparison between Edmonton and Calgary

Culture and Entertainment: Vibrancy in Edmonton vs Calgary

Cultural and entertainment options can greatly influence the quality of life in a city. Edmonton and Calgary both offer rich cultural scenes and diverse entertainment options, each with its own unique flavor.

Cultural Scene in Edmonton

Edmonton is often referred to as the “Festival City” due to its year-round lineup of festivals and cultural events. The city hosts over 50 festivals annually, including the renowned Edmonton International Fringe Festival, which is North America’s largest and oldest fringe theater festival. The Edmonton Folk Music Festival, another major event, attracts music lovers from all over the world.

The city boasts a vibrant arts scene with numerous theaters, galleries, and museums. The Art Gallery of Alberta showcases contemporary and historical works, while the Royal Alberta Museum offers exhibits on the province’s natural and cultural history. Edmonton’s live theater scene is thriving, with venues like the Citadel Theatre and the Varscona Theatre offering a variety of performances.

Entertainment in Edmonton

Edmonton offers a plethora of entertainment options, from sports to nightlife. The West Edmonton Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in the world, features a waterpark, amusement park, ice rink, and numerous shops and restaurants. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy watching the Edmonton Oilers (NHL) and Edmonton Elks (CFL) play at Rogers Place and Commonwealth Stadium, respectively.

The city’s river valley parks provide outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, biking, and skiing. Edmonton’s nightlife is diverse, with many bars, clubs, and live music venues offering entertainment options for all tastes.

Cultural Scene in Calgary

Calgary is known for its dynamic cultural scene, blending Western heritage with modern urban culture. The Calgary Stampede, dubbed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” is a world-famous rodeo and exhibition that draws visitors from around the globe. This event encapsulates the city’s Western spirit and includes rodeo events, concerts, and parades.

Calgary’s arts scene is vibrant, with numerous galleries, theaters, and cultural institutions. The Glenbow Museum features extensive collections of art and historical artifacts, while the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the Alberta Ballet offer world-class performances. The city also hosts various music festivals, including the Calgary Folk Music Festival and Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.

Entertainment in Calgary

Calgary offers a wide range of entertainment options. The city’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains makes it a gateway for outdoor adventures such as skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. Calgary’s sports fans can cheer on the Calgary Flames (NHL) and the Calgary Stampeders (CFL) at the Scotiabank Saddledome and McMahon Stadium.

The city’s dining scene is diverse, with numerous restaurants offering international and local cuisine. Calgary’s nightlife is vibrant, with a plethora of bars, pubs, and clubs, especially in areas like 17th Avenue and the Beltline district.

Edmonton vs Calgary: Cultural and Entertainment Preferences

When comparing the cultural and entertainment options in Edmonton vs Calgary, your choice may depend on your interests and lifestyle. Edmonton’s extensive festival calendar and arts scene might appeal to those who enjoy diverse cultural experiences. Calgary’s blend of Western heritage and modern urban culture, combined with its proximity to the mountains, offers a unique mix of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and culture lovers alike.

Interior view of West Edmonton Mall representing cultural and entertainment options in Edmonton and Calgary

Outdoor Recreation: Natural Beauty and Activities in Each City

The natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities in Edmonton and Calgary are significant factors to consider when choosing between the two cities. Both cities offer a range of activities that cater to outdoor enthusiasts, but their landscapes and recreational options differ.

When comparing outdoor recreation in Edmonton vs Calgary, your choice will likely depend on the type of activities you enjoy. Edmonton’s extensive urban park system and river valley provide a variety of year-round activities, making it ideal for those who appreciate urban green spaces and local outdoor adventures. Calgary, with its close proximity to the Rocky Mountains, is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who love hiking, skiing, and exploring mountainous terrains.

Let’s take a look at the breakdown when it comes to outdoor recreation opportunities between Edmonton vs Calgary:

Edmonton

  • Urban Green Oasis: North Saskatchewan River Valley – largest urban parkland in North America with over 160 km of trails perfect for hiking, biking, jogging, and cross-country skiing.
  • Park Variety: Hawrelak Park, William Hawrelak Park, Elk Island National Park – offer picnicking, canoeing, wildlife viewing, and more.
  • Water Activities: Numerous lakes and nearby campgrounds for fishing, boating, and camping.

Calgary

  • Rocky Mountain Gateway: Proximity to Banff and Canmore – world-renowned destinations for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing
  • Urban Trails: Bow River pathway system – extensive network for walking, biking, running.
  • Large Urban Parks: Fish Creek Provincial Park (one of Canada’s largest) – trails, picnic areas, bird watching, fishing. Glenmore Reservoir – popular spot for sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding.

Winter Activities

  • Edmonton: Cross-country ski trails within the city limits.
  • Calgary: Quick getaways to premier ski resorts like Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, Nakiska. Outdoor skating rinks and local cross-country ski trails.

Choosing Between Edmonton and Calgary

  • Urban Explorer: Edmonton’s extensive river valley and park system offers year-round activities.
  • Mountain Enthusiast: Calgary’s proximity to the Rockies makes it ideal for skiing, hiking, and exploring majestic landscapes.
  • Consider the Activities You Enjoy: Research specific trails, parks, and outdoor attractions in each city to see which aligns best with your preferences.

Transportation and Infrastructure: Getting Around Edmonton and Calgary

Transportation and infrastructure are vital aspects to consider when choosing a city to live in. Both Edmonton and Calgary offer robust transportation systems and infrastructure, but there are differences that might influence your decision.

Edmonton Transportation

  • Public Transit: Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) offers buses and LRT (Capital & Metro Lines) connecting major areas. Valley Line expansion underway. Known for affordability and reliability.
  • Roads: Well-developed network with major highways (Anthony Henday Drive, Yellowhead Trail). Traffic congestion generally manageable.
  • Cycling: Growing popularity with investments in bike lanes and multi-use trails.
  • Air Travel: Edmonton International Airport provides domestic and international flights.

Calgary Transportation

  • Public Transit: Calgary Transit operates an extensive bus network and CTrain (Red & Blue Lines) connecting key areas. CTrain known for efficiency and free fare zone downtown. Reliable and easy to use.
  • Roads: Well-maintained infrastructure with major highways (Deerfoot Trail, Crowchild Trail, Stoney Trail). Can experience traffic congestion, especially during peak hours.
  • Cycling: Robust infrastructure with numerous bike lanes, pathways, and the Bow River pathway system.
  • Air Travel: Calgary International Airport is a major hub with numerous domestic and international flight options.

Edmonton vs Calgary: Transportation and Infrastructure

When comparing transportation and infrastructure in Edmonton vs Calgary, both cities offer excellent options, but your choice might depend on your commuting preferences and lifestyle. Edmonton’s expanding LRT system and less congested roads might appeal to those looking for a more relaxed commute. Calgary’s efficient CTrain system and extensive cycling infrastructure might be more attractive to those who prioritize public transit and active transportation.

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Community and Lifestyle: Finding Your Fit in Edmonton or Calgary

Choosing the right city to call home involves more than just practical considerations like cost of living and job opportunities. The community and lifestyle offered by Edmonton and Calgary play a significant role in determining which city is the best fit for you and your family.

When comparing the community and lifestyle in Edmonton vs Calgary, your choice will depend on your personal preferences and social needs.

Let’s take a look at the breakdown when it comes to community and lifestyle between Edmonton vs Calgary:

Edmonton

  • Friendly and Welcoming: Known for a “small-town feel” despite being a major city.
  • Diverse Communities: Edmonton prides itself on inclusivity, making it welcoming to newcomers.
  • Vibrant Lifestyle: Emphasis on community events and festivals.
  • Active Lifestyle: Numerous parks and green spaces encourage outdoor activities.
  • Thriving Arts Scene: Galleries, theaters, and live music venues.

Calgary

  • Dynamic and Entrepreneurial: Youthful energy driven by a strong economy.
  • Open and Friendly Community: Easy for newcomers to integrate.
  • Outdoor Enthusiast’s Paradise: Proximity to the Rocky Mountains for adventure.
  • Active Lifestyle: Commitment to maintaining parks and pathways.
  • Calgary Stampede: Celebrates Western heritage and fosters community spirit.
  • Bustling Arts and Entertainment: Theaters, galleries, live music venues.
  • Diverse Dining Scene: Reflects multicultural population.

Edmonton vs Calgary: Community and Lifestyle Preferences

  • Community Focus: Edmonton’s friendly atmosphere and community events might be ideal for those seeking a close-knit environment.
  • Outdoor Adventure: Calgary’s proximity to the mountains and focus on outdoor activities could be a better fit for nature lovers.
  • Social Scene: Both cities offer arts, entertainment, and dining options. Research specific venues and events to see which aligns with your interests.
  • Consider Your Needs: Think about how you like to spend your free time and the kind of community you thrive in to make an informed decision.
Group of people painting in an art class representing community and lifestyle in Edmonton and Calgary

Conclusion: Making Your Decision Between Edmonton and Calgary

Choosing between Edmonton vs Calgary involves weighing various factors that impact your quality of life. Both cities offer unique advantages and cater to different lifestyles and preferences. 

Ultimately, the decision between Edmonton vs Calgary comes down to your personal preferences and priorities. If you value a more affordable living environment with a strong sense of community and a rich cultural scene, Edmonton might be the better choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a lively, outdoor-oriented lifestyle with greater economic diversity and proximity to the mountains, Calgary could be the right fit.

Consider what aspects of city life are most important to you—whether it’s the job market, cost of living, cultural events, or access to outdoor activities. Both Edmonton and Calgary have much to offer, and either city can provide a fulfilling and vibrant place to call home.


Julce

Julce is an expert content writer specializing in topics about Canada, adept at blending practical advice with engaging stories that capture Canadian life.

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