Calgary vs Edmonton: Choosing Where to Live in Alberta

Whether you’re headed across Canada to take advantage of Alberta’s economic opportunities and relatively low cost of living, or you’re thinking about making a move from one part of Alberta to another, there’s an important question to answer: should you live in Calgary or Edmonton?

Alberta’s two largest cities each have a lot to offer. They have a lot of striking similarities, but they also have some big differences.

#1 Rent and Cost of Living

Rent and real estate prices are big factors in choosing a place to live, especially with so many cities in Canada becoming untenable for average people.

Prices in Alberta have been surprisingly low, even in Calgary and Edmonton, but they are beginning to creep up.

When it comes to cost, Calgary apartments for rent do tend to be more expensive than Edmonton, but both places are among the cheaper big cities in Canada.

The average rent in Edmonton is only $1,229 for a one-bedroom. Calgary, on the other hand, recently saw a jump up to $1,718, making Edmonton the right choice for a deal hunter.

#2 Jobs and Economy

Calgary’s higher cost of living comes with an upside, though: higher salaries and wages. The median household income after tax in Calgary is $87,000, while in Edmonton it’s $73,000. Calgary tends to have more white-collar jobs, while Edmonton is one of Canada’s bigger manufacturing cities (the largest outside of Toronto, in fact). Edmonton’s white-collar jobs tend to be government-oriented, as it is the capital of Alberta, while Calgary is oriented more towards corporate headquarters and branches.

#3 Arts and Culture

When it comes to arts and culture, both cities have tons to offer. Calgary has a much more diverse culture thanks to its larger immigrant population, and its biggest event is, without a doubt, the Calgary Stampede.

Edmonton offers much more of an alternative arts scene, and with Canada’s largest Fringe Festival, it’s known for its independent theatre.

When it comes to sports, both cities are hockey towns, with each home to an NHL team. Both cities also have their own CFL teams, and the CFL has a lot of supporters in Alberta.

#4 Transit

If you don’t want to rely entirely on a car, you can get by surprisingly well in both Calgary and Edmonton. Both cities are home to LRT networks, with Edmonton boasting one of the largest LRT networks in North America, in addition to a robust bus network.

#5 Outdoor Activities and Nature

Part of the appeal of living in Alberta is that it’s big on outdoor activities and nature. Between the Rocky Mountains, the Canadian Badlands, the Athabasca Sand Dunes, and the boreal forests of the north, Alberta is home to a lot of diverse natural attractions.

However, there are some big differences when it comes to what’s easily accessible for a weekend getaway. Calgary is just a skip and a jump from Banff and the Rockies, only about an hour and a half’s drive away. Jasper is a bit further from Edmonton, with the ride clocking in at 4 hours.

Both cities have some great parks in town, but if it’s the mountains that are calling to your heart, Calgary is a lot closer.