The gleaming city of Calgary, no longer just a prairie cow town rises up over the flat farmland of south-central Alberta. To the west, just in view, are the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and the grassy farmlands of the prairies spread out east for over 1,500 kilometres.
With almost a million people now living in the metropolitan area, Calgary has made a firm place for itself in Canada’s economy. Calgary is home to hundreds of oil companies, the Calgary Stampede (one of Canada’s biggest annual events) and is still the national centre for cattle trade.
Banff National Park and the Rocky Mountains are only 120km away and with the wide selection of visitor attractions, events and year-round activities within the city, Calgary is a popular tourist destination among Canadians and also attracts tourists from around the world.
The population of Calgary is 1.27 million
Calgary is in the Mountain Standard Time / MST time zone (GMT -7)
Elevation: 1077 m
Map of Calgary, AB
Discover Dinosaur Provincial Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Southern Alberta's true wild west.
How to get to Calgary
The Trans Canada Highway runs just north of Calgary giving it a good east – west connections to the rest of Canada by road.
Greyhound operates this route which heads east to Regina (764km / 11 hours), and west to Banff (120km / 2 hours) and Vancouver (1057km / 15 hours).
A highway also connects Calgary to the north, to the capital of Alberta, Edmonton (299km / 3.5 hours). Greyhound and Red Arrow operate buses on this route.
The national, government owned VIA Rail does not run to Calgary. The only passenger train which uses Calgary train station is the privately owned Rocky Mountaineer Railtours train. The route heads west from Calgary stopping in Banff then continuing through the Rockies to Kamloops and Vancouver.
This is a much more expensive way to travel the route (about 5 times more than the bus) but it is a very scenic, comfortable and relaxed way to experience Canada from a different perspective.
Air and flights
Calgary International Airport is 25 minutes drive northeast of downtown. WestJet and Air Canada connects Calgary to destinations across Canada, the USA and the rest of the world.
Many US airlines and European charter flights fly to Calgary.
Getting around Calgary
Calgary ‘s award winning public transport system is very comprehensive, clean and reliable. Calgary Transit operates buses and the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) rail system known as the C-Train.
The C-Train along 7th Ave between 10th St SW and 3rd St SE is free to use. Beyond this you must be a ticket.
Buses run frequently minutes but do not run very late. Check the times for your destinations before just to be sure.
Tickets cost $3.30 for adult and $2.30 for a child for both buses and the C-Train.
There are also many local and international car rental firms in Calgary . Most are at the airport or can deliver to your hotel. Some hotels arrange car rental for their guests.
Getting to Calgary Airport
There are a number of airport shuttle bus services which stops at all the main hotels downtown and most typically run every 30 minutes during the day and evening.
The C-Train also runs to the airport but takes about an hour, compared with a taxi which takes about 25 minutes but can cost about $50.
History of Calgary
Named after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, Calgary means ‘clear running water’ in Gaelic. Originally home to the Blackfoot First Nations, the site of Calgary saw rivalry when the Blackfoot were joined by the Stoney and the Sarcee in the 1800s.
The Northwest Mounted Police built Fort Calgary in the late 1870s to make way for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Once connected to the rest of Canada by rail, Calgary saw a huge jump in population, spawned from the free land give away by the government.
Farms and cattle ranches began to grow in numbers and Calgary quickly became the cattle centre of Canada and maintains this important status even today.
In the 1960s Calgary saw a huge change. Cow town became a gleaming metropolis of high-rise office buildings. This was due to the discovery, in vast quantities of oil across Alberta. Over 450 oil companies set up base in Calgary employing 70% of the population. During an economic slump in the 1980s this caused huge unemployment and hardship amongst the city residents. Fortunately the 1988 Winter Olympics boosted the economy and the oil market picked up again.
Calgary has learnt its lesson the hard way and has now invested in a lot of other industries to broaden its economic base. Particular emphasis has been put into tourism making Calgary a delightful and eventful city to visit.