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Ultimate Things to do in Downtown Calgary Itinerary

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We have been to Paris, Prague, Amsterdam BUT, Calgary downtown will be forever SPECIAL. I should admit we equally LOVE Toronto and Vancouver – other Canadian cities and their downtown, but each time we drive to Calgary, we fall in love with it again (and again). Too bad, we have not moved to Calgary (yet!), but who knows.

Our favorite hangout place is the downtown area. So we got all the best things to do in Downtown Calgary for your itinerary, including Calgary attractions, shopping, hotels, and restaurants. Use this guide to get some of the FREE things to do in Calgary.

Things to do in downtown Calgary – Calgary Downtown Attractions

Calgary Alberta Things to do in downtown Calgary - skyline buildings and tips for summer and winter, explore Calgary Alberta beautiful places, places to stay and restaurants and bars guide with shopping ideas #calgary #canada #beautifuldestinations
Things to do in Downtown Calgary

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Calgary Tower

The image of the Calgary Tower actually warms up my heart. It is my very own Eiffel tower! As we arrive in downtown Calgary, the tower with a red ribbon (red tower deck, my imagination is at play here) welcomes you with a BIG smile and it follows you everywhere in the downtown area – in a parking lot, restaurant, park, hotel-like everywhere.

The Calgary Tower is a free-standing observation tower located in Downtown Calgary. It has an observation deck that offers a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the city, all the way to the Canadian Rockies. It is a real treat to see the city from the top – you can view the Calgary Saddle dome, Bow River, and downtown buildings.

We have visited the Calgary Tower and the observation deck at different times of the year. During winters, the city looks like it’s covered in vanilla frosting and during summers, it’s the bright blue hues that delight you.

Downtown Calgary Tower views in winter, on the glass floor
Calgary Tower Views from above

The observation tower has a glass floor and you can walk over it, take photos and if you are like me, you will take 1000000 minutes to muster all the courage to sit this way and not look down! You see, I love sky-rise buildings and city views, but for the love of God, I am TOO afraid to look down, sorry!

On the second floor of the Calgary tower, you can sit back and relax in their restaurant.

Summer also calls for food and fun times, so you will see plenty of summer activities at the foot of the Calgary Tower. This tower gives you great photo opportunities and is iconic to the city of Calgary – so don’t miss it!

Price: Free. (Observation deck admission fee: $18 CAD/adult)

Location: 6 Ave SW

 

Stephen Avenue Walk

Our favorite – favouritest (sorry I ran out of superlatives here) spot in Calgary. Colorful, vibrant, and lively lane – this is the Stephen Avenue Walk. Also my favorite because it is sprinkled with historical facts in every nook and corner of this lane (so watch out for those).

Colorful and vibrant lanes of Downtown Calgary - Stephen Avenue Walk
Stephen Avenue Walk in Downtown Calgary

This all-pedestrian lane is bustling with activities in the summertime – ice-cream, beaver tails, music, food trucks, local art and displays, and more.

Stephen Avenue is also lined with some of the BEST restaurants and pubs in the downtown Calgary area. There is a shopping mall of the same name – Stephen Avenue Place located nearby.

Price: Free.

Location: 8 Ave SW

Glenbow Museum

Glenbow Museum is an art and history museum located in downtown Calgary. It is one of the largest museums in western Canada and boasts of a variety of art displays and historical artifacts, all year round. The museum also conducts art exhibitions and events from artists around the globe.

They are closed on Mondays and are open other days from 09:00 am to 5:00 pm, on Friday they are open till 08:00 pm.

Glenbow Musuem in Downtown Calgary
Glenbow Museum in Downtown Calgary

The Glenbow Museum organizes some of the amazing art and fashion displays as well. Recently they had a Christina Dior exhibition (how cool, Calgary!)

Price: $10- 16 CAD

Location: 9 Ave SW

Wonderland Sculpture

The Wonderland Sculpture is a HUGE wired head sculpture of a young girl located in front of the landmark building – The Bow.  The sculpture is about 12 meters tall and was created by a Spanish sculptor – James Plensa.

The sculpture speaks of the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of young Albertans (like me!)

Wonderland Sculpture pictures from Downtown Calgary, in front of the Bow Building
Wonderland Sculpture

You can actually walk inside the “neck” of the sculpture head. It is NOT allowed to climb on the sculpture. Definitely an awesome sight in Downtown Calgary – also one of the Instagrammable spots in the city.

Price: Free

Location: 110 6 Ave SE

The Bow Building

The Bow is the stunning (office) building, located in downtown Calgary. It is easily the most recognizable skyscraper in the Calgary skyline.

The office space is the headquarters of Encana Corporation and Cenovus Energy. The Bow building is ONE of the tallest buildings in Calgary, and it is characterized by a curled or “C” shape.

This skyscraper has 58 floors, including an observation deck – on the 54th floor- for visitors, with a beautiful garden. There are retail and dining floors as well. The + 15 skywalk system allows pedestrians to access other buildings in the vicinity.

Price: Free

Location: 110 6 Ave SE

Prince Island Park

Prince’s Island Park is located on the north end of downtown Calgary and along the Bow River. This is a stunning green space in the middle of the city and a perfect place to relax, take a stroll or hang out with friends and family.

For a long time, I was actually confused about why this park was called Prince’s Island Park and the Eau Claire Park, which is located very close to this place. So the island park is named after a businessman named Peter Anthony Prince. He founded the Bow River Lumber Company and the Eau Claire Lumber Company.

In the late 19th century, the Eau Claire mill was established along the Bow River and a channel was dug to transport logs to the mill. Over the years, this channel separated from the mainland and now became the Prince’s Island Park.

Looking at the Calgary Skyline from the Prince's Island Park.
City of Calgary – tosomeplacenew

Prince’s Island Park is a beautiful oasis and a great spot to admire the city’s skyline. This park also hosts music festivals (Calgary Heritage Festival, Calgary Folk Island Music Festival) and other events in the city. We were here during the 150th celebrations of Canada Day and just fell in love.

Prince’s Island Park is a dear favorite as the city loves its legacy – the founder, Peter Anthony Prince was credited to be one of the early pioneers of Calgary’s development. (He is also credited to have founded Calgary Water Power Company – used sawdust to power street lights)

The park also has a riverfront café and unique (name) bridges over the Bow River, including a Jaipur bridge.

Price: Free

Location: 698 Eau Claire Ave SW

Eau Claire Park

The mill area that was built by the Prince’s Island Park, is now known as the Eau Claire area. As you walk away from the Island Park and towards parking lots, restaurants, and the Sheraton hotel – that’s the Eau Claire area. It also has a market space of the same name – the Eau Claire market.

Price: Free

Location: 698 Eau Claire Ave SW

Peace Bridge

The Peace Bridge is a foot traffic bridge located over the Bow River in downtown Calgary. It was built by another Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. The bridge is stunning at all times of the year. Our favorite time is during fall, as the red color of the bridge, shines brightly and warmly against the fall foliage.

Calgary downtown Peace Bridge
Calgary downtown Peace Bridge

The bridge was built and opened recently in 2012.

Price: Free

Location: On Bow River, west side of Prince Island’s Park

View of Peace Bridge on Bow River
Peace Bridge

China Town

Calgary Chinatown is located in the northeast part of downtown. The Chinese community arrived here in 1880 and this neighborhood is a testimony to their contribution and legacy.

The Chinese Cultural Centre located here has a lot of traditional art and decor, which makes it one of the unique centers in the whole of North America.

Visit Chinatown to admire the quaint Chinese neighborhood and for some DELICIOUS food!

Downtown Calgary China Town
Calgary China Town

In Chinatown, there is a New Art Gallery, which is worth visiting. It is a contemporary art display gallery, operated by a non-profit organization since 1975.

Price: Free

Location: 2 Ave SW

Famous 5 Statue

The Famous Five are the five (5) prominent Canadian pioneers who fought for women’s suffrage – the right to vote, be a part of the senate and participate in public matters (Person’s Case led by Emily Murphy).

There is a statue of the Famous 5 located in the Olympic Plaza area of Downtown Calgary. This sculpture was designed by Edmonton sculptor Barbara Paterson depicting the five women, celebrating their victory (of women’s participation in public affairs) over a cup of coffee (which is very Canadian)

The Famous 5 statues have citations inscribed on them.

Stature of Famous 5 Calgary Downtown
Statue of Famous 5

Price: Free

Location: Women are Persons, 8 Ave SW

Olympic Plaza

The Olympic Plaza is a beautiful park and “hang out” space for locals (especially downtown workers) and tourists alike for a quick rest or a lunch break. The plaza was built in 1988 for medal ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

During summers, it is a great place to enjoy some cool breeze, music and watch kids play. Wintertime, bring your skates in to enjoy the ice rink here. “Skate Hut” at the Olympic Plaza is a beautiful outdoor rink, which is the perfect way to ring in the holiday season.

Price: Free

Location: MacLeod Trail & 7th Ave SW

CORE Shopping Centre & Devonian Gardens (Calgary Downtown Mall)

Calgary’s CORE Shopping centre is a popular shopping arena in Downtown Calgary. It spans over 3 city blocks and boasts of Holt Renfrew’s flagship store along with 160 other retail stores.

The CORE Shopping centre consists of 4 floors – of retail bliss and cuisines (restaurants and food court), but also a delightful indoor botanical garden, called the Devonian Gardens.

Devonian Gardens at CORE shopping centre
Devonian Gardens at CORE shopping centre

We accidentally happened to drop by the CORE shopping centre and explored the beautiful indoor oasis. This place has so much greenery – tons of plant variety (over 550 kinds) and a pool with colorful fishes (koi pond).

There are designated children’s play areas and dining/seating tables as well. Devonian Gardens also conducts exhibitions and art displays. Their living wall is a beautiful creation – a MUST visit! This will surprise you, pleasantly.

Price: Free

Location: 324 8 Ave SW

Mario Armengol Statue

Armengol Statues are tall (and naked) statues of men and families in a small park, located on the 1st Street and 6th Avenue SE in downtown Calgary. These statues are about 6.5 meters tall and are 10 in number. The images are known to be depicting the “Brotherhoods of Man and the Family of Man”.

The statues look like a happy family – with adults and kids enjoying themselves together and in harmony. It was built by a Spanish artist of the same name – Mario Armengol (in 1968. It was built as part of the Montreal Expo in 1967).

The statues were then transported to Calgary and donated to the city in 1968 and it has been standing tall since then. (pun intended)

Price: Free

Location: 1st Street and 6th Avenue SE

Fairmont Palliser Hotel

Most Fairmont hotels in Canada are sort of a landmark in their city and the Fairmont Palliser hotel in Downtown Calgary is no different. This iconic hotel is a historical landmark – it was built in 1914 when railways were developing and engulfing western Canada. What was then a “mere” resting place for travelers and workers is now a luxurious hotel with stunning interiors and architecture.

Where to stay in Calgary Alberta? Guide to Calgary Canada city and downtown hotels, with all budget options. Easy access to Banff National Park for day trips and adventure, restaurants and other things to do by day or night including special events like Stampede and more #Calgary #canada #hotelsincanada
Where to Stay in Calgary Alberta Canada

During winters, there is a giant gingerbread on-site (lobby) that visitors come to see and photograph. The Calgary Tower and other tourist sights can be seen from the balconies of the Fairmont.

You can photograph the Calgary Tower and the hotel next to each other, or take a peek at the Canadian Railway sign close by, which is a reminder of the past days of industrial growth.

It’s like living a piece of history.

Price: Luxury hotel

Location: 133, 9 Ave SE

Fort Calgary National Park – Historic site

The Fort Calgary Park historical site is located on the edge of downtown Calgary. Although not in the downtown core, we thought this place needs a mention in this post. The Fort Calgary is located a 10-minute walk from downtown, at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers (or a 4-minute drive from the Glenbow Museum)

Fort Calgary site was founded by the Northwest Mounted Police to curb the illegal whiskey trade. It was founded in 1875. The fort today is a national historic site and houses a museum with many remnants of the by-gone days.

The fort has some of the structures in their original state and some are re-created. When you explore the museum living quarters and walk from one room to another, it is like living the history itself.

And if you are like me, who LIVES, BREATHES, and WEARS history, you will find a cheeky girl with red mounted police uniforms!

Fort Calgary National Historic Site
Fort Calgary – National Historic Site

Price: $12/adult (parking rates are additional)

Location: 750 9 Ave SE

Downtown Calgary Tourist Map

Here is a handy map with Downtown Calgary Tourists spots and restaurants

Hotels Calgary Downtown AB

Downtown Calgary has some of the finest and luxurious hotels. The location is on-point, with quick access to the city’s TOP highlights, restaurants and pubs, shopping, and the river valley. We have an awesome guide to hotels in Calgary up on this blog and we will pick 3 favorites from the downtown area here for you.

We recommend using  Booking.com  to find accommodation. It is our favorite hotel website for quickly comparing the prices of multiple hotel booking sites at once.

  • Fairmont Palliser Hotel  – One of the luxurious and iconic hotels in the whole of Calgary and located in the downtown area is the Fairmont Palliser Hotel. The location of the hotel is very convenient to access all the tourist highlights, including restaurants and bars. The hotel also has 2 restaurants and a spa on-site. This hotel is perfect for couples, individuals, and small families. FUN FACT: Salil and I were engaged here.
  • Sheraton Eau Claire Hotel – Sheraton Eau Claire is located by the Eau Claire market and hence will be very close to Prince’s Island Park. Just outside the hotel, you will find breakfast and coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. We stayed here a couple of times (summer and winter) and their staff is very friendly and the accessibility to nearby restaurants is just amazing (you can just walk down)
  • ALT Hotel East Village – This is a new hotel located in downtown Calgary (Confluence Way). This is budget to a mid-range hotel offering modern amenities and location convenience. The exterior design of the hotel is very eye-catching and you will probably notice it when you drive to the downtown area.
Ultimate things to do in Downtown Calgary- Girl soaking in views of Downtown from Scotsmen Hill
Downtown from Scotsmen Hill

Recommended Top Downtown Calgary Restaurants

Calgary has multi-cuisine restaurants and DOWNTOWN Calgary is full of them. Other than the food, we feel ambiance is key and these restaurants do live up to the hype (without a hefty price tag). All the listed restaurants are added to Google Maps in this post.

  • SALTIK – Upscale restaurant, popular for steak, sandwiches, cocktails, and wine. Modern clean eating
  • Vero Bistro Moderne – Bistro-style French cuisine
  • Ten Foot Henry – Rustic style restaurant interiors and theme, serving brunch and full course meals
  • Native Tongues Taqueria – Mexicana bliss in your month. Love the décor of the restaurant and the quality of Mexican food here.
  • Sky 360, Calgary Tower – Food, with AWESOME views. Perfect for special occasions

Best Bars in downtown Calgary

  • Barcelona Tavern (cocktails) 501 8 Ave SW
  • Escoba Bistro & Wine Bar at 624 8 Ave SW
  • CRAFT Beer Market on 10 AVE SW
  • Milk Tiger Lounge (mixed drinks, late-night snacks) 1410 4 ST SW

Vegan Food Restaurants

  • Tamarind Vietnamese Grill & Noodle House – 1111 6 Ave SW
  • Veg-in YYC – 216 6 Ave SE
Scotsman's Hill
Scotsman’s Hill Viewpoint Calgary

 

Additional Resources

Pin: Things to do in downtown Calgary – Calgary Downtown Attractions

Glimpses from Calgary with Things to do in downtown Calgary
Things to do in downtown Calgary
Calgary Downtown Itinerary
Calgary Downtown Itinerary

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4 Comments

  1. Love this post! Finally something more elaborate on Calgary, with some historical explanation. I’ll definitely use this on my upcoming trip.

  2. Found this when research what to do when I have a short stay in Calgary and now I’m overrun with ideas! Thank you sooo much, this is incredibly helpful

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