Known for its large-city energy, diverse community, and endless opportunities, Calgary, the largest city in Alberta, is one of Canada's fastest-growing cities. It’s also one of the world's cleanest, healthiest, and safest cities. So not surprisingly, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Calgary the third most livable city in the world in 2022. Thinking of moving soon? Calgary may become just the place to delight you, too.
What should I know before moving to Calgary?
To get an overall feel of the city, you should know some of its basic characteristics. For starters, the Calgary population is more than 1.3 million — about 300,000 more than Edmonton, for comparison — with a median age of 38. It’s also the third-most multicultural city in Canada, with over 120 languages spoken.
Despite such a large population, there’s a strong community spirit among Calgarians. In fact, Calgary is a large part of why Alberta has the 2nd highest national volunteer rate of 55%. And it’s a given that in any neighbourhood in Calgary, you’ll easily find people from around the world who are friendly and welcoming.
More defining characteristics? Its wild west landscapes, urban sprawl, and downtown commercial activity.
There are many opportunities for employment in Calgary in industries such as construction, engineering, agriculture, hi-tech, and energy. In addition, many oil companies have their headquarters here.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Calgary’s distinct advantage of being surrounded by stunning natural scenery. World-class ski resorts are just a 90-minute drive from the city, and the dramatic Rocky Mountains provide a stunning backdrop.
Is it expensive to move to Calgary?
Fortunately, the city of Calgary has one of the lowest costs of living among Canadian cities, and the Calgary housing market is more affordable than many of its larger counterparts, such as Toronto and Vancouver.
The lower cost of living in Calgary is due, at least in part, to its location in Alberta. As Canada's only province without a provincial sales tax, Alberta has one of the country's lowest tax rates.
As for Calgary’s housing prices, you can find studio apartment rentals downtown for around $1,300 per month. In the Southwest, the average rent for a three-bedroom property is around $2,000-$2,500. And if you’re buying, the median sale price for a single, detached home is around $596,000.
For an idea about utility costs, the average cost of heating and electricity is between $100 and $350 per month for a three-bedroom property, depending on the season. And monthly phone, internet, and TV costs range from $120-$180.
What makes Calgary unique?
From the Plus 15 to the scrumptious food, neverending activities to the easy commute — there’s plenty to love about living in Calgary.
Did you know Calgary has more sunshine than any other major Canadian city — 333 days per year, in fact?
That’s refreshing, considering when it comes to the winters in the city — especially if you come from a more southern part of Canada — you'll need to prepare yourself. During the deep winter, temperatures often drop to 20 below in the city, and it can quickly get even colder than that.
Winter gear is one of the best investments you can make. That said, winter is one of the best times to explore the nearby Rocky Mountains and some cityscapes. So wear warm clothes and be ready to explore. Calgary is a living snowglobe from October to May.
There are no long-lasting cold snaps in Calgary compared to other cities in Canada, however. Chinook winds are a natural phenomenon that can cause wild temperature increases, ranging from -30°C to +10°C during a Calgary winter. And during the warm, dry summers, these highs can reach 30°C.
|Insider Tip: Don’t fear the frost! Calgary has a solution that keeps you warm! It's called the Plus 15. No, it’s not those pesky pounds you put on in college. This is much better. It’s 18 kilometres of connected walkways about 15 feet above street level that connect buildings in the downtown core, so people can get to where they need to go without going outside. If you’re strategic, you won't have to deal with snow and ice throughout the winter!|
It's no secret that Calgary's impressive dining scene is making national headlines, with restaurants like River Cafe, Nupo & Eight, Lulu Bar, D.O.P., Shokunin, JinBar, and Orchard Restaurant. On Canada's Best Restaurants for 2022 list are Ten Foot Henry and Foreign Concept, as well, with Major Tom taking a top spot.
Calgary's culinary scene is expanding rapidly to bring you new flavours, too. From European fare to Asian dishes and South American specialties to African cuisine, there are hundreds of restaurants and cafes to suit your tastes.
One great way to get a taste of Calgary’s delicious fare? Take advantage of the many Calgary food festivals and events throughout the year! Taste of Calgary, Summer Feast, Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival, the Calgary International Beerfest, and The Mashing combine the best distilleries, breweries, restaurants, artists, and community to create an experience unlike any other.
Even though Calgary isn’t in the mountains, it’s only about an hour's drive to them. As a result, you’ll find a lot of mountain sports-related shops and services, as well as the Western culture that goes along with activities like skiing, snowboarding, and hiking.
And while it isn't as busy as Toronto (which might be a relief for some), you can also enjoy outdoor spaces such as Olympic Park and anywhere along the Bow River. Running, cycling, and hiking are ideal in Calgary because of its close proximity to those Rockies.
Commuting and traffic congestion are some of the biggest problems in many big cities worldwide. But on a scale ranking the world's worst congestion, Calgary comes in 360 (out of 404) — first place is the worst possible.
The city has an extensive network of paved and biking paths that residents regularly use to commute to work, shops, and more. There’s also a well-developed public transportation system. And, of course, driving yourself, you can get wherever you want to go on surface streets and highways.
More than a million people come to Calgary each year to attend the Calgary Stampede: The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. It includes a ten-day festival, rodeo, and exhibition — and basically a nonstop party atmosphere for two weeks straight. If you’re one to yeehaw over equestrian debauchery, you’ll basically be in hog (nay, horse) heaven!
What are the best Calgary neighbourhoods?
Calgary has over a million residents, all living within the city's four quadrants — northwest, southwest, northeast, and southeast.
The northwest quadrant of Calgary has a very college-town atmosphere, with many students, parents, and young professionals living there.
Arbour Lake, Hamptons, and Edgemont are some of the best neighbourhoods in Calgary and are well suited for commuters looking to travel to the Rockies frequently.
With the Red Line offering easy downtown access for residents near the University of Calgary, Kensington, and further into the suburbs, the Northwest is slightly better served by the C-Train than the Southwest. There is also a charming country vibe to Nose Hill Park in the Northwest, a welcome escape from the busy city.
There are a variety of cafes, pubs, bistros, boutiques, and arts and crafts shops in Kensington. And, along with the nearby neighbourhood of Crescent Heights, Kensington is becoming increasingly popular with young residents and newcomers to Calgary. It’s a fun place to hang out for a few hours and is just a short walk from downtown.
The southwest quadrant is home to Mount Royal University. Singles and childless couples may find the downtown city center a good option.
The Southwest quadrant of Calgary, including Bankview, Killarney, and Mount Royal, has the highest rents and home values of any part of the city. However, the northern part of the Southwest quadrant offers more accessible access to the C-Train Blue Line, making commuting downtown much easier. In addition, several downtown accommodations, including the Beltline, are located in the Southwest quadrant. Yes, you'll pay a bit more for housing in a place like this, but it's one of the best places to stay if you want to experience the nightlife buzz more often.
With its proximity to 17th Avenue and downtown, 17th Avenue in the southwest is also a popular area for singles and couples. Similarly, 12th Avenue to 30th Avenue is a popular area for young singles and couples.
You can find many popular Calgary neighbourhoods outside of downtown, including Haysboro and Chinook Park, which have ample amenities and excellent access to downtown via Macleod Trail and the C-Train.
Access to a car becomes increasingly crucial as you move west or south in the Southwest quadrant. In this area, there are many new, popular neighbourhoods, places more suitable for young families rather than Calgary newbies seeking more excitement.
The Calgary Airport is located relatively centrally in the northeast of the city.
Due to the proximity to these commercial facilities, the Northeast Calgary neighbourhoods aren't often considered the best areas in Calgary. There are also higher crime rates and gang problems east of Deerfoot Trail.
The NE is not all like that, of course, but it is known as the area where petty crime is most prevalent.
One perk of the Northeast quadrant is that lower rent has attracted young couples and new immigrants who buy their first homes, intending to relocate later.
And several more excellent areas in the Northeast, such as Bridgeland, are closer to downtown, making it easy for keen shoppers to find great deals.
Many factories, warehouses, and commercial buildings operate in Calgary's southeast quadrant. As such, the Southeast is Calgary's primary industrial hub, but a few neighbourhoods are still worth exploring. Calgary's areas adjacent to commercial and industrial zones are not considered prime housing areas but tend to be cheaper.
The far south part of the SE quadrant, far removed from the commercial and industrial zones, is just as popular as any other residential zone, for example. Unfortunately, the Southeast isn't as well served by public transportation as the Southwest and Northwest. McKenzie Lake and Midnapore have good reputations, but a car is almost a necessity in these areas.
A little north, near downtown, you have the likes of Inglewood. A vibrant young population is growing in this area, with many breweries, antique shops, and funky shops making fun weekends. In addition, it's close to the Scotiabank Saddledome, the home of the city's NHL team, the Calgary Flames, and some of the city's biggest concerts.
Is moving to Calgary a good idea?
Absolutely! And if you're ready to move to Calgary and start living there, you have options regarding how to make that happen.
Full-Service Calgary Movers
Do you want to enjoy the exciting aspects of moving while someone else takes care of the hard work? Then it's best to look into full-service movers. They will pack, load, and unpack everything — but probably charge a hefty price when it’s all said and done.
DIY Truck Rental
Are you looking to save as much money as possible? That's where a DIY move can come in handy. Rent a truck and convince your buddies to do all the hard work. Will you end up saving that much money? You may want to consider all the fees associated with that rental, including insurance and gas costs, before signing on the dotted line.
PODS Portable Moving Containers
When you’re ready to make your move to Calgary, consider making it a flexible one with PODS portable moving and storage containers. You can have a container delivered right to your driveway, where you can take your time packing and loading at your own pace. Once you're ready, PODS will pick it up and take it directly to your new Calgary home, or you can keep it in a local PODS Storage Centre until you’re ready.
Karen Bodkin is a Canadian freelance writer who is a frequent contributor to the PODS blog. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring the great outdoors.