City skyline of Calgary, Canada
City skyline of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

Not as famous as Vancouver or Quebec, the Canadian city of Calgary can easily compete with any of the two when it comes to attractions that appeal to visitors from all over the world. A cosmopolite city, Calgary started its ascension as a booming oil town. The city is currently home to around one million inhabitants and it is visited yearly by numerous travelers who want to discover its history, culture, art and the impressive outdoors. The year-round entertainment keeps its locals and visitors busy every night while the Calgary Stampede celebrates the cowboy culture every year, drawing huge crowds of curious for more than one hundred years.

So, let’s see why Calgary should be included on your must-see Canadian cities list:

Interesting museums

Calgary Chinatown on Downtown Centre Street
Calgary Chinatown in downtown financial district with The Bow and its iconic Calgary Tower in the background. At 774 feet, The Bow is the second tallest office building in Canada outside of Toronto.

It’s true that the museums are no longer as important for travelers as they used to be but they are still relevant. What better way to find out about Calgary’s history and art, battles and heroes, if not by visiting museums like the Military Museum, The Naval Museum of Alberta or Fort Calgary?

However, the number one museum in Calgary is undoubtedly the Heritage Park Historical Village, a 66-acre parkland situated on the banks of the Glenmore Reservoir. Considered a living museum, more specifically the largest living historical park in the country, this is the perfect destination if you want to discover how a late 19th-century village looked like in Alberta. And don’t think you’ll have to settle for recreations of historical buildings. Many of the structures you can find here are authentic historical buildings that were transported to the park. The train exhibit is remarkable while the bread at the baker’s shop will probably be the best you’ve ever tasted.

If you can’t live without music, Studio Bell is definitely your type of museum. Home to five floors of interactive exhibitions, including the Hall of Fame dedicated to Canadian music, this museum will definitely keep you busy for a few hours. You’ll find video tutorials and plenty of opportunities to play a variety of instruments, singing booths for those who want to become the next Justin Bieber, and turntables for mixing your tracks. The superstar of the museum is the Kimball Theatre Organ, of the few remaining theatre organs in the entire world. It is only played twice a day, at 12 and 3 pm.

An abundance of parks

If you prefer to spend your time surrounded by nature, the Calgary parks will not disappoint you. Nose Hill Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the country and, as a matter of fact, in North America. An oasis of greenery away from the bustling city life, this is the perfect place to go for long walks. It is a natural preserve, so it will be easy to find your way around if you follow the trails.

If you go to the city’s northwest district, you’ll discover the furious Bow River that flows rapidly across the city. The southern bank is home to the RiverWalk, a 2-km pedestrian and cycle route that connects the Centre Street Bridge to East Village. The Bowness Park is the place where the locals often gather to skate, hike or canoe.

A 20 hectare-island, Prince’s Island is a great destination for hikers. It is linked by three bridges and has a well-thought hiking trail system that will take you along both sides of the Bow River. While the southern arm looks like a lagoon, the eastern end recreates a wetland environment. This park is often the scene of famous festivals, like the Calgary Folk Music Festival, Canada Day, Heritage Day and Shakespeare in the park. Next to the Prince’s Island, you’ll find Eau Clair Market where over 60 stores and restaurants, as well as 6 Cineplex Screens, await to entertain.

One unique Calgary Tower

Calgary Transit Train Pulling into train Station
Calgary Transit Train Pulling into downtown train Station

No trip to Calgary should come to an end without first going on top of Calgary Tower, the most famous and easiest to spot landmark in the city. Not as tall as CN Tower in Toronto, the Calgary Tower measures only 190 meters but still manages to offer beautiful views of the city that spread all the way to the Rockies.

Initially known as the Husky Tower, the tower was opened in 1968, to celebrate Canada’s Centennial, and at that time it was the tallest freestanding structure in North America. If you’re not afraid of heights, stop for a few moments on the 360-degree viewing deck to look down upon the city through a glass floor. Want to try some fine Canadian cuisine? The Panorama Dining Room is located right above the observation deck and has an impressive menu.

Olympic sports for “civilians”

Calgary hosted the Olympics in 1988 and the Calgary Olympic Park is now open for visitors who want to try some Olympic winter sports. During winter, both athletes and visitors can enjoy ice skating, luge, and cross-country skiing, although most “civilians” come here to enjoy a bobsleigh ride under the guidance of an experienced bobsleigh pilot. Make sure you remember that a bobsleigh can reach a speed of 100 km/hour and up to 4G-forces. Now that you know what you’re getting into, good luck!

In the summer, the Olympic Park is used for cycling on its 25 km of bike trails and also as a stage of various summer festivals.

Kensington Village and DIY beer

Kensington Village is the city’s “urban village”, where lovely brick buildings and chic cafes, restaurants, and boutiques lure in travelers. This is the place to find barbecued meat, craft beer, whiskey-based cocktails, and fluffy cupcakes.

Here you’ll also find Inglewood, the oldest neighborhood in Calgary that dates back to 1875. As expected, it is one of the coolest places to visit in Calgary. It also is the perfect destination for beer lovers because it houses several craft breweries. Visit the High Line Brewery, where the beer goes perfectly with pizza, the Cold Garden, home to a famous tap room, and Dandy Brewing Company, where you can try small batch brews. Of course not all in one day unless you can handle…the excitement!