Calgary AB vs. Montréal QC: Which City is Right For You?
Choosing between living in the city of Calgary and Montréal boils down to a choice between two beautiful and dynamic Canadian cities. Taking a deep dive into the unique aspects of life in both cities, from the climate and cultural offerings to the economic landscape and lifestyle opportunities, is a great starting point. Calgary, known for its proximity to the Rockies and vibrant energy sector, contrasts with Montréal's rich history and bilingual charm. Understanding the nuances of each city helps in appreciating what they uniquely offer, providing insights for those contemplating which one aligns best with their personal and professional aspirations.
Is it Cheaper to Live in Calgary or Montréal?
Living in Montréal tends to be less expensive than living in Calgary, but Calgary residents may find their money goes further with higher incomes, fewer taxes, and larger homes.
Cost of Living
At an estimated $2,100 per month for one person, the cost of living in Calgary leans slightly higher than Montréal, which comes in at around $1,800. But in some cases, money can stretch a little further in Calgary.
Housing is considerably less expensive in Montréal than in Calgary. Single-family homes in Calgary range from just south of $300,000 to nearly $10 million. Meanwhile, townhomes in Calgary list from around $200,000 to nearly $2 million. Calgary's condos offer the cheapest point of entry, listing from the mid-$100s, but luxury downtown condos can soar to $10 million.
Out east, a single-family home in Montréal ranges from around $400,000 to multi-million sprawling estates. Condos and townhouses follow a similar pricing trend.
Rent is considered more affordable in Montréal, too, with a one-bedroom offered for around $1,700 versus Calgary's $1,850. However, the average price per square metre is significantly better in Calgary, especially in the city centre, where residents can expect to pay about half per square metre versus Montréal.
Finally, Calgary also has fewer taxes because it is part of Alberta, which has the lowest provincial tax rate nationally and no land transfer tax.
Typical Salaries & Income
Calgary boasts some of the highest incomes in the whole country, but Montréal offers relatively high salaries, too.
The average pre-tax household income in Canada is just over $90,000. Calgary and Montréal both offer significantly higher paying jobs, but Calgary edges out Montréal with a slightly higher average household income.
Examining the after-tax income can provide a better picture of how much spending money a household has. According to the StatCan Census, Calgary had the highest median household after-tax income in Canada.
How's the Weather in Calgary vs. Montréal?
Montréal experiences a wider range of temperatures than Calgary, with warmer summers and wetter, snowier winters.
Although Montréal can get colder than Calgary, with occasional temperatures around -20℃, its colder periods are generally shorter. Calgary's temperatures average around -10℃ to -15℃ throughout winter, while Montréal's are around -5℃ to -10℃. Calgary's winter weekend vacation spots are doubly appealing thanks to the city's prairie setting, which produces drier winters that can feel less chilly than Montréal's damp cold.
Calgary also experiences less snowfall annually than Montréal. Luckily, Montréal has developed an extremely effective snow removal program to counter the weather. On the other hand, Calgary gets coastal Chinooks from the Rockies, which melt the snow and give a sense of spring in the middle of winter.
Do You Have to Be Bilingual in Montréal?
While most Montréal residents are bilingual, it's not a necessity, although French speakers will likely find it easier to integrate into the culture than anglophones.
Of the workers in the Montréal census metropolitan area, 80% were at least bilingual. Meanwhile, closer to 70% were English-French bilingual, and nearly 30% were trilingual.
While Montréal has many English speakers and even some Anglo enclaves, French is still the dominant language, especially for business. In fact, 70% of workers primarily used French at work, compared to around 20% who primarily used English and even fewer used English and French equally. French is used more in some industries than others, spoken by:
- 80% in health care and social assistance
- 60% in finance and insurance
- 56% in information and cultural industries
- 56% in professional, scientific, and technical services
The Government of Québec offers free French courses for adults, which can improve one's social and economic opportunities.
Which is Bigger, Calgary or Montréal?
Calgary and Montréal are among Canada's three most populous cities, but Montréal has a larger, more densely concentrated population.
Montréal is the second most populous city in Canada, with around 1.8 million residents. Calgary was not far behind, with a population of 1.3 million. However, Montréal is considerably denser than Calgary, with an area of around 400 square kilometres compared to Calgary's 820. This translates to a feeling of more breathing room in Calgary, even in its best neighbourhoods.
Both Calgary and Montréal offer all the benefits typically associated with a large city, but Montréal has a more famous cultural scene.
Finding a Job in Calgary vs. Montréal
While Montréal boasts a lower unemployment rate, Calgary offers more than twice the number of jobs. Both cities have thriving STEM and financial sectors.
Montréal has an unemployment rate of around 6%. With over 70,000 jobs available, the city enjoys the fastest job growth rate in the country. Montréal's key sectors include aerospace, IT services, software development, clean technology, artificial intelligence, life sciences and health technologies, cybersecurity, and others.
Meanwhile, Calgary's unemployment rate sits around 7%, with just under 190,000 jobs available in the city. Calgary's City Centre is the economic and job centre hub, and the city's economy relies primarily on its aerospace and logistics, agribusiness, energy, and technology industries. The city also offers tax incentives for businesses in key sectors like tourism, health innovation and research, and green technology and energy.
Getting Around in Calgary vs. Montréal
While Calgary experiences less traffic than Montréal, both cities offer excellent public transportation, numerous bike paths, and pedestrian walkways.
Montréal and Calgary boast hundreds of kilometres of bike paths, and Montréal even has an annual bike festival. As for pedestrians, Downtown Calgary offers the Plus 15 enclosed walkway system, while Montréal features several permanent and seasonal pedestrian streets.
Calgary and Montréal both have robust public transportation networks with quick and affordable service, but Montréal's is generally more expensive.
Public transportation is the best way to get around Calgary. Calgary Transit offers light rail and bus services across the city, with single-ride and day passes available. The CTrain is free downtown. Patrons can even bring their pets, provided they are leashed or in a carrier or cage.
The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) operates buses, trains, and a métro system with four lines connecting downtown Montréal to major tourist sites, bus stops, and train stations. The métro runs daily, with different operating hours on weekends versus weekdays. STM divides its service area into several zones for pricing purposes. Patrons can purchase daily passes with passes also available.
Driving & Traffic
While Calgary experiences less traffic than Montréal, Montréal offers a familiar grid layout and more consistent parking options.
Using floating car data from various sources to determine which cities experience the most traffic, the TomTom Traffic Index ranked Calgary #268 globally and #10 in Canada, and Montréal #80 globally and #4 in Canada.
Calgary drivers spend about 110 hours driving yearly, with an average travel time of 12 minutes and 40 seconds per 10 kilometres. The morning rush around 8:00 a.m. adds three minutes per 10 kilometres, while the evening rush from 3:00–6:00 p.m. adds five minutes.
Meanwhile, Montréalers spend about 180 hours driving yearly at an average rate of 18 minutes and 50 seconds per 10 kilometres. Montréal's morning and evening rushes tend to last longer and be more intense, with the morning rush from 8:00–10:00 a.m. adding eight minutes per 10 kilometres and the evening rush from 2:00–6:00 p.m. adding 12 minutes.
Does Calgary or Montréal Have Better Things to Do?
As large cities, Calgary and Montréal both feature plenty of things to do, but Calgary tends to have better recreational opportunities, and Montréal boasts more impressive cultural and nightlife scenes. Calgary's best winter festivals are can't-miss events, while Montréal's museums are wide-ranging and plentiful.
The Flames, Stampeders, Roughnecks, and Cavalry FC are the teams that make up the brunt of the sports in Calgary, though Montréal has the Canadiens, Alouettes, and CF Montréal.
While both cities offer excellent recreational opportunities year-round, Calgary's best parks are large and varied, and the city benefits from proximity to the Rockies.
Calgary boasts over 8,500 hectares of parkland and natural areas, including the world's two largest urban parks, Fish Creek Provincial Park and West Nose Creek Park. The city is also just over an hour east of Banff National Park, home to serene lakes, relaxing hot springs, and the majestic Rocky Mountains. Calgary's neighbourhood dog parks are spread throughout the city for canine residents.
These parks provide the perfect backdrop for hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and horseback riding. Calgary is also great for water sports like rafting along the Bow River Weir rapid system, swimming at Sikome Lake, or sailing, canoeing, and kayaking at the Glenmore Sailing Club.
Meanwhile, Montréal features over 2,000 hectares of parks and Space for Life, a complex featuring the world-renowned botanical gardens, an insectarium, and Biosphère, a unique museum focused on the environment.
With the St. Lawrence River surrounding Montréal, the area is excellent for kayaking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, boating, and fishing. Residents can also reach over a dozen ski hills, including Mont-Tremblant, in just over an hour.
Arts & Culture
Calgary and Montréal have an abundance of cultural attractions, from art galleries and museums to theatres and festivals, but Montréal tends to offer even more options.
Calgary is known for its festivals. The city boasts year-round celebrations ranging from one of Calgary's best summer festivals, the Lilac Festival, to the Calgary International Film Festival in the fall. Attractions like Heritage Park and Fort Calgary and museums like Glenbow delve into Calgary's rich history, while local theatres and symphonies put on contemporary performances.
Meanwhile, Montréal boasts dozens of theatres, art galleries, and museums, including the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Cinéma du Musée. Cobblestone pathways in Old Montréal welcome visitors to step back in time as they pass historic sites like the Notre-Dame Basilica. Montréal also hosts its fair share of festivals, like the Mural Festival, Montréal International Film Festival, and Just For Laughs.
Food & Nightlife
Montréal has more world-class restaurants and better nightlife destinations, but Calgary's best breakfast restaurants and global culinary options give Montréal a run for its money.
Over 120 cultures contribute to Montréal's culinary scene, featuring over 5,000 restaurants. The city has produced several famous dishes, including poutine, the Montréal-style bagel, and smoked meat from Schwartz's Deli. Montréal also has numerous microbreweries, an elaborate natural wine scene, and a vibrant nightlife centred on St. Laurent and Rue St. Denis.
Meanwhile, Calgary originated ginger beef and the Caesar cocktail, with classic versions and new twists on the drink available at bars and restaurants across the city. Many Calgary restaurants also use high-quality Alberta beef, providing the city with excellent steakhouses and numerous eateries with delectable shawarma and donair.
Is Calgary or Montréal Your Future City?
Comparing life in Calgary and Montréal unveils two urban communities, each with its own appeal. Calgary offers a blend of outdoor adventure and a dynamic economy, while Montréal is celebrated for its cultural vibrancy and historical richness. Choosing between these cities is not just about geographical preference but also about aligning with each city's distinct lifestyle. Both Calgary and Montréal offer unique experiences and opportunities, making them attractive options depending on individual preferences for city living in Canada.