Calgary vs. Edmonton AB: 7 Things to Know BEFORE Moving
Deciding between Calgary and Edmonton for a new home is a significant choice for many, as both cities offer unique lifestyles in Alberta, Canada. The city of Calgary, known for its proximity to the Rockies and vibrant city life, contrasts with Edmonton's rich cultural scene and expansive parkland. Homebuyers weigh the pros and cons of living in each city, considering factors like climate, employment opportunities, recreational activities, and cultural offerings. Understanding the distinct characteristics of Calgary and Edmonton is key to making an informed decision that aligns with personal preferences and lifestyle needs.
Is it Cheaper to Live in Calgary or Edmonton?
Overall, Calgary is slightly more expensive than Edmonton. However, there's not a major difference in cost for those considering these two most prominent cities in Alberta as their new homes. So, while the cost of living is much more of a factor for those comparing living in Calgary and Toronto, there are still some important distinctions worth considering for would-be residents.
Cost of Living
Real estate is the single most significant difference between the cost of living in Calgary and Edmonton, two cities that share many other qualities. Condos for sale in Calgary list from the high $100s to more than $3 million, while Calgary’s townhomes typically sell from the mid-$200s to just over $1.5 million. Detached homes can be found in the $500s, but the majority list from the $800s to $1.3 million. For those considering luxury homes in Calgary, options start just north of $1 million and can soar to $10 million.
In Edmonton, condos are found around $100,000, townhomes around $300,000, and single-family homes anywhere from $400,000 to multi-million-dollar estates. Renters will find a similar trend reflected between the two cities. However, it's important to note that both cities are substantially more affordable than other major Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.
Utilities are closer in price, though Calgary residents generally pay a bit more. This is the case for most other areas of spending with regard to Calgary’s cost of living, including food, transportation and gas, entertainment, and more. Residents of both cities pay similar costs for medical treatment through the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan.
Typical Salaries & Income
Any discussion of affordability has to factor in the earnings that residents of each place can expect. Households in Calgary typically have a slightly higher income than Edmonton households, helping ease some of the higher cost of living.
Although the number has waivered in past years, both Calgary and Edmonton see an average household income above the national average. Many of the highest-paid jobs in Alberta can be found in Calgary’s Downtown Commercial Core, and Downtown Edmonton has abundant employment opportunities, too. Residents of both cities are assured a provincial minimum wage of $15 per hour, with limited exceptions for students, salespeople, and live-in domestic employees.
Both Calgary and Edmonton also offer the benefit of some of the lower provincial income taxes (especially for higher earners) and no provincial sales tax to help residents' dollars go further.
How's the Weather in Calgary vs. Edmonton?
Separated by about three hours within Alberta, there are relatively few differences between the climate in these two cities outside of typically slightly warmer temperatures in Calgary. In winter, temperatures in Edmonton range from -14°C to -1°C, while summers rarely see temperatures over 24°C. In Calgary, the weather in the winter ranges from -11°C to 2°C, with similar warm weather highs as in Edmonton.
Edmonton also has more pronounced differences in daylight between long summer days and short winter ones. Both cities see a rainy season between May and August, typically receiving 1.5–3 inches of rainfall per month during this time. Significant snow is possible in both cities as early as October and as late as May.
However, Edmonton typically receives more total snow than Calgary from November through March. Calgary is also the beneficiary of the unique weather phenomenon known as Chinook winds, which are warm, dry winter winds that can help quickly raise temperatures and eliminate snow on the ground.
Which is Bigger, Calgary or Edmonton?
By any metric, Calgary is the bigger of the two cities. About 1.4 million people live in Calgary, making it one of the largest cities in Canada. It’s worth noting, however, that there’s plenty of open space throughout Calgary’s best parks. In comparison, Edmonton is home to around 1.1 million people. Calgary is also bigger geographically, spanning 825 square kilometres compared to Edmonton's 684 square kilometres.
This means Calgary residents should also expect a slightly higher population density. However, those looking for all the amenities of big city life will be sure to find them in both spots. They're also far larger than any other Alberta city.
Finding a Job in Calgary vs. Edmonton
Calgary and Edmonton offer some of the province and nation's best job opportunities. They typically have similar unemployment rates, slightly but not significantly higher than the rate for all of Canada.
The two cities also share one major source of jobs: the energy industry, a dominating economic force within Alberta. Beyond this, Calgary often leans toward sectors like finance, insurance, and technology—especially in the Downtown Calgary economic hub—while Edmonton has a large number of government jobs as the provincial capital, as well as thriving education and health fields from top universities and medical facilities.
Calgary's slightly larger economy may also make it easier to find more diverse positions supported by the more sizeable population. On the other hand, Edmonton has a more extensive blue-collar workforce employed in manufacturing and similar fields. Of course, both provide ample employment opportunities in retail, food service, and hospitality.
Getting Around in Calgary vs. Edmonton
Calgary and Edmonton are easy to get around, whether those considering moving there will get around on public transit or in their own vehicles. Both are broadly similar, though Calgary may have a slight edge.
Residents of either city looking to do daily travel without a car will have several options.
Edmonton Transit Services (ETS) serves a wide-ranging network of bus routes and stops spread throughout the city. ETS also runs Edmonton's Light Rail Transit (LRT), which provides three lines that serve central, northeast, southeast, and southwest Edmonton. Daily, multi-ride, and monthly passes are also available for lower per-ride costs, while seniors and students enjoy reduced fares.
However, Calgary Transit is even more comprehensive in its service, with over 200 bus routes and 6,000 widely spread stops. Calgary residents can also hop on the C-Train, the city's light rail service. Two lines serve over 50 stops on the popular system. These trains run from the Tuscany neighbourhood in Northwest Calgary to the Shawnessy area in the south; and from Saddle Ridge in the northeast to the exclusive Springbank Hill neighbourhood in the west. Daily and monthly passes provide discounts for frequent riders, while seniors and younger people are also eligible for reduced fares.
Both cities offer numerous ride-sharing services and taxi options, which can help residents travel to areas less easily reached with public transportation.
Driving & Traffic
Both Edmonton and Calgary have an extensive road network and convenient connections to some of the country's major travel routes like Highway 1/Trans-Canada Highway in Calgary, Highway 16/Yellowhead Highway in Edmonton, and Highway 2 connecting the two. The Trans-Canada Highway connects Vancouver and Winnipeg, and in addition to running through the heart of Calgary, it also provides easy access to the city of Chestermere, the Strathmore community, Banff, and much more.
Each city also enjoys highways ringing much or all of the area for easy travel around the region, like Anthony Henday Drive in Edmonton and Stoney Trail in Calgary. Traffic patterns are fairly typical, peaking during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
Despite Calgary's higher population, traffic still tends to be a bit worse in Edmonton. Traffic data shows Edmonton residents spend around 135 hours in rush hour traffic per year on average, compared to just 110 hours for those who live in Calgary. Still, both are far less than Toronto and Vancouver, which see about 200 hours of rush hour traffic per year.
Does Calgary or Edmonton Have Better Things to Do?
To be sure, residents of either city won't struggle to find ways to have fun and keep themselves busy. However, their preferred type of activities may help them decide between these two fun, cultured places to call home.
Alberta's gorgeous natural environments shine in Edmonton and Calgary alike, with different emphasis. Calgary is well-known as the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, which begin about 80 kilometres west of town. That makes it easy to take day trips to popular spots like Banff and the town of Canmore, top outdoor adventure areas for hikers, bikers, campers, rock climbers, and more. Closer to home, city green spaces like Prince's Island Park (in the Eau Claire neighbourhood) and Nose Hill Park in Northwest Calgary provide peaceful escapes and fun amenities.
Meanwhile, Edmonton also offers many diverse, gorgeous parks along the North Saskatchewan River Valley, which weaves through the city centre. These include the history and heritage of Fort Edmonton Park and the unique, breathtaking displays of the botanical gardens at Muttart Conservatory. Edmonton is also just a short drive from Elk Island National Park, east of the city, home to incredible wildlife and preserved landscapes.
Arts & Culture
Calgary residents enjoy all of the cultural perks one would expect from a major city, including extensive art galleries, music venues, and educational spots like the Glenbow Museum. Of course, there's no cultural event bigger in town than the city's famous, activity-filled Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo and festival. This is just one of the numerous events Calgary hosts every year, including festivals for all sorts of music.
Many find Edmonton to have a more pronounced artsy vibe in some areas of the city. It's also home to North America's oldest and largest Fringe Theatre Festival and numerous museums like the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Royal Alberta Museum. In addition, the Winspear Centre hosts concerts and other live performances.
When it comes to entertainment, sports lovers will also be able to cheer on the local pro teams in both cities. Calgary’s professional sports include the NHL’s Flames and the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders, while Edmonton hosts the NHL Oilers and CFL Eskimos.
Food & Nightlife
Calgary may be best known for its high-quality, grain-fed Alberta beef, but also provides one of the country's most diverse dining scenes when it comes to cuisine and price. It offers a thriving nightlife scene, especially along the city's bustling 17th Avenue corridor, and Calgary’s best pizza parlours are all worth a visit. Edmonton also boasts popular nightlife and dining nears, particularly near downtown and the Old Strathcona neighbourhood. Dining options are also plentiful and varied and focus on locally sourced food.
Calgary vs. Edmonton: Coming Home to Alberta
Choosing between Calgary and Edmonton for a home depends largely on individual preferences and priorities. Calgary's best neighbourhoods, scenic beauty, and dynamic urban atmosphere appeal to those seeking an active lifestyle, while Edmonton's cultural richness and community-focused environment attract those who value arts and green spaces. Ultimately, whether drawn to Calgary's mountainous backdrop or Edmonton's vibrant arts scene, both cities promise a fulfilling living experience in their own distinct ways.