Vancouver Or Calgary Which Is Better To Visit?

Are you struggling between Vancouver or Calgary which is better to visit?

Choosing between Vancouver and Calgary for your next trip can be challenging as both these Canadian cities offer different experiences and attractions.

Vancouver has the Pacific Ocean and a reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in Canada. On the other hand, Calgary is known as the gateway to the stunning Canadian Rockies and Western-like heritage.

As a Canadian, I’ll help you explore all the comparison details and information you need to decide which city, Vancouver or Calgary is better for you to visit.

Vancouver Or Calgary Which Is Better To Visit

Before diving into specifics, let us start with a brief overview of both cities.

Vancouver

Vancouver, British Columbia, is a lively city on the West Coast of Canada. It’s known for its natural beauty and cultural diversity. There are many outdoor recreational activities, from the ocean to the mountains and everything in between.

With close to 300 parks, stunning beaches, a diverse food scene, and a cultural mix, Vancouver is a must-visit destination for those seeking a well-rounded experience on the West Coast.

The Vancouver skyline during a cloudy sunset. You can see the trees and homes in the foreground and the city in the middle and the mountains in the background. Deciding between Vancouver and Calgary which is better to visit is typically an easy decision.

Calgary

Neighbours to British Columbia is the province of Alberta, home to the city of Calgary. It embraces its Western heritage and is the closest gateway to the breathtaking Canadian Rockies.

Known for annual events, it offers a mix of outdoor exploration, cultural attractions, and a modern urban skyline. Its distinct Western charm and natural beauty make Clagary a compelling travel destination.

The ScotiaBank Saddledome with the city of Calgary in the background. The Saddledome looks like a flater pringles chip (that's a funny comparison I know)

Differences Between Vancouver And Calgary

These are the key differences between Vancouver and Calgary. I’ll discuss the weather, cost and prices, food, nightlife, and safety.

Weather

Regarding weather, Vancouver and Calgary experience weather on opposite sides of the scale.

Vancouver Weather

Being born and raised in Vancouver, the number one thing all locals mention about Vancouver is the amount of rainfall we get. Vancouver is considered a temperate rainforest, meaning we get ample rain throughout the year, in spring and especially in winter.

However, winter brings mild temperatures (ranging from 1°C to 15°C; 33°F to 59°F), one of the mildest in Canada. So, you don’t have to worry about bundling up in proper winter attire in Vancouver.

There’s also a possibility of snowfall (more in recent years); however, it doesn’t last long as the rain will wash it away.

Summers in Vancouver surprise many with warm and hot temperatures. Rain is less common during these months, making it ideal for outdoor activities. Over the years, summers have fluctuated from 20°C to 35°C (68°F to 95°F).

Calgary Weather

While Vancouver experiences mild temperatures and weather, Calgary can experience extreme weather and temperatures.

Winters are freezing in Calgary and can experience -20°C (-4°F) rarely, but it usually hovers around -10°C to -12°C (14°F to 28°F) with an annual snowfall on average of 134 inches (3.4 metres).

But, because Calgary has a prairie-steppe (or continental) climate, there will likely be sunny weather even during the winter.

Moreover, the summers are more pleasant. Temperatures range from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F), and rain is also less common during the summers in Calgary.

Costs & Prices

Vancouver and Calgary are different when it comes to comparing costs and prices.

Vancouver Costs & Prices

To be blunt with you, Vancouver is expensive. It’s one of Canada’s most expensive cities to live or travel to. However, it’s possible to budget your trip while visiting Vancouver, but keep in mind that Vancouver is an expensive city overall.

In Vancouver, utilities such as electricity, water, and heating can be relatively expensive. Additionally, dining out and groceries are higher than in many other Canadian cities.

British Columbia also has a Provincial Sales Tax (7% PST) and a Goods and Services Tax (5% GST).

Calgary Costs & Prices

Calgary, in comparison, is more affordable than Vancouver. One main reason is that Alberta only has the Goods and Service Tax (5% GST). It’s the only province in Canada that doesn’t have the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) because Alberta relies heavily on the oil and gas industry.

Also, Calgary generally has lower utility costs, and the overall cost of living, including dining and groceries, is often more affordable than in Vancouver.

Food

Food is unique to everyone. However, when comparing Vancouver to Calgary with food, overall, Vancouver has a better food scene than Calgary.

Vancouver Food

Vancouver is renowned for its diverse and multicultural food scene. Its location on the Pacific Ocean coast and proximity to fresh bodies of water make the city one of the best places to enjoy seafood.

Besides Japan, sushi is Vancouver's specialty. There are many Japanese restaurants Vancouver. This platter has salmon nagiri, salmon sashimi, and other specialty rolls and slices of cucumber on what looks like to be on a wooden boat.

As a result, the abundance of fresh fish and shellfish results in many sushi restaurants and upscale seafood dining experiences.

Vancouver is primarily popular for its Asian and South Asian influences. There are a variety of authentic foods, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, and more. 

The city also takes pride in its locally sourced, organic ingredients. Additionally, Vancouver is known for its food truck scene, the growing popularity of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, and many dessert places such as bubble tea (boba) and ice cream.

Calgary Food

On the other hand, Calgary’s culinary identity is deeply rooted in Alberta’s ranches and cattle farming traditions. It features top-notch beef and Western-inspired food. As a result, the Calgary food scene is known for high-quality beef, and you’ll find many steakhouses and BBQ joints. 

In addition, Calgary’s food scene has been evolving, with an increasing focus on international cuisines, including Middle Eastern, Mexican, and fusion restaurants.

Crispy fries on the left with a burger with cheese, bacon, pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes.

Nightlife

When it comes to nightlife, Vancouver has an edge over Calgary.

Vancouver Nightlife

Downtown Vancouver offers a dynamic nightlife scene. Gastown and Granville Street are popular hubs for nightlife, with many bars and restaurants, high-end nightclubs, live music venues, and pubs.

Calgary Nightlife

While smaller than Vancouver, Calgary’s nightlife scene is growing. 17th Avenue, also known as the “Red Mile,” is a popular entertainment district in Calgary with numerous pubs, sports bars, and clubs.

Calgary also has a country and Western culture, and you can often find country music venues and bars featuring line dancing and live country bands.

Safety

While no city is truly crime-free, Vancouver and Calgary are generally safe cities to visit. If you’re comparing the statistics of Vancouver and Calgary, crime has gone up in recent years, but nothing is usually aimed at tourists.

Is Vancouver Safe?

Yes, overall Vancouver is safe for tourists to visit. However, like any urban area, the city does experience petty crimes such as breaking and entering, destroying private property and serious crimes (not usually focused on tourists).

However, Vancouver’s crime rate is still relatively lower than that of other cities worldwide, including Canada. 

Is Calgary Safe?

Yes, Calgary is a safe city overall for tourists. Like Vancouver, Calgary experiences similar crime activities, but they’re not usually aimed at tourists.

In addition, safety measures should always be taken, such as staying in well-lit areas, avoiding specific locations at night, travelling with a friend, etc.

Transportation

When comparing transportation between Vancouver and Calgary, Vancouver has the edge over Calgary.

Vancouver’s Transportation

Vancouver’s transit system is efficient and accessible. The SkyTrain, SeaBus, and a comprehensive network of buses make it easy to get around Vancouver without a car. Here’s an overview of each of these transit options:

Skytrain

The SkyTrain is one of Vancouver’s most iconic transit systems. It’s a fully automated, driverless rapid transit system connecting various parts of the city and surrounding areas. There are three SkyTrain lines:

  • Expo Line: The Expo Line connects the Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver to King George Station in Surrey, including stops in between, such as New Westminster and Burnaby.
  • Millennium Line: The Millennium Line connects VCC-Clark Station in East Vancouver to Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station in Coquitlam. It provides access to Burnaby, Port Moody, and Coquitlam with the Evergreen Line (an extension added to the Millennium Line).
  • Canada Line: The Canada Line connects Vancouver and Richmond and serves as a crucial link to the Vancouver International Airport (YVR), making it an essential transportation mode for residents and visitors.
A grey with a yellow strip down the middle and blue on the bottom SkyTrain pulling into the Commercial Broadway Station. Translink operates the majority of the public transit in Vancouver and the lower mainland.
SeaBus

The SeaBus is a unique part of Vancouver’s transit system. It provides ferry service across Burrard Inlet, connecting Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.

The 12-minute ride offers scenic views of the city skyline and surrounding mountains, making it a popular and faster choice for commuters and tourists.

Buses

Vancouver’s bus network complements SkyTrain and SeaBus services and covers the rest of the Lower Mainland. TransLink operates an extensive bus system that serves both urban and suburban neighbourhoods.

Key bus routes connect areas not served by the SkyTrain or SeaBus, ensuring that public transportation is accessible to many communities. Certain bus routes also stop or start at SkyTrain locations.

Calgary’s Transportation

The Calgary Transit system has two ways of public transportation, including buses and CTrain (light rail transit). Here’s an overview of the Calgary Transit system:

CTrain (Light Rail Transit)

CTrain is known for its reliability and is a popular choice for local daily commuters and those attending major city events.

The CTrain is Calgary’s primary light rail transit system, consisting of two lines: the Red Line and the Blue Line.

  • Red Line: runs from the Northwest to the South.
  • Blue Line: extends from the West to the Northeast.

There’s also a Downtown Free Fare Zone (or the TD Free Fare Zone), where you can ride the CTrain for free, but if you’re travelling outside the zone, you must purchase a fare or pass.

A CTrain stop in Calgary. It's a Northbound train. There is a train pulling in or out of the station.
Bus Services

Calgary Transit operates an extensive bus network that complements the CTrain system. Buses serve areas not accessible by the CTrain, connecting neighbourhoods and providing flexible transportation options.

Tourist Attractions & Outdoor Activities

Both cities are close to many outdoor tourist attractions and outdoor activities. However, Vancouver again will have the edge over Calgary because there are many attractions and outdoor activities near the city. You may need to drive a little further in Calgary to get somewhere.

Tourist Attractions

Here are some top notable tourist attractions in both Vancouver and Calgary.

Vancouver Tourist Attractions

These are some of the tourist attractions in Vancouver that you can’t miss.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Overview of the Cliffwalk in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver. It's attached to the side of a cliff and the metal arms are holding onto the crecent shaped walkway over a forest below. There are people walking on it.
Cliffwalk

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a well-known tourist spot in North Vancouver, BC. It features a 137-metre suspension bridge over the Capilano River. There are also activities on the other side, such as the Treetop Adventure suspended walkways among the Douglas Fir trees.

The Cliffwalk attraction offers an exciting canyon-side walk on the side of a large boulder. The park also provides history about the Indigenous culture at the Story Centre, featuring a collection of Totem Poles.

One of the best things to do in Vancouver in the winter is to experience Capilano Suspension Bridge Park during their annual Canyon Lights festivities. The forest is decorated with hundreds of lights and Christmas displays.

➡️ Check Prices & Availability for Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park is a beloved local park in the heart of Vancouver. It’s a peaceful place to walk while surrounded by the busy city. One of the most notable locations in the park is a glass-dome aviary called the Bloedel Conservatory, which houses hundreds of plants and tropical birds.

The Quarry Garden is also stunning in spring and summer, with well-maintained flowerbeds and lush green pristine lawns. There’s also a restaurant called Seasons in the Park with panoramic views. The park is one of Vancouver’s best places to take Instagrammable photos, especially during the spring.

Stanley Park

The most popular thing to do in Vancouver is visit Stanley Park, a beautiful park covering 404 hectares (1,000 acres) in Downtown Vancouver.

Stanley Park is a beloved destination for locals and tourists, offering many activities, from walking among the many networks of paths inside the park to picnicking and wildlife observation.

There are also many things to do in Stanley Park, such as the Vancouver Aquarium, the Seawall, Prospect Point, Totem Poles, the Nine O’Clock Gun, and more.

Biking is one of the most popular things to do at Stanley Park. The city has some of the best Stanley Park bike tours that will take you along the Seawall, throughout the park, and other locations in Downtown Vancouver.

Overview of Stanley Park and the city of Vancouver in the background. You can also see the inlet and boats all docked in the marina.
Day Trip To Whistler

A day trip to Whistler is worth visiting from Vancouver, as it’s one of the most fantastic things to experience. One of the best scenic routes in Canada is the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) corridor.

And if you’re wondering if the drive from Vancouver to Whistler is safe, yes, it’s safe.

Whistler is a world-renowned ski resort where you can stroll through the village, take the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola ride for stunning mountain views, dine at restaurants, and explore the village’s shops and art galleries.

There are many stops and viewpoints along the Sea to Sky Highway with incredible views of Howe Sound; you can also see the Sunshine Coast peaking through some of the islands.

Some notable stops along the way to Whistler:

Porteau Cove Provincial Park is a popular rest stop along the highway. It’s home to two stunning log cabins called the Olympic Legacy Cabins, campgrounds, an old dock (used in case of emergencies), and known as a popular scuba diving location.

The port dock at Porteau Cove Provincial Park. There are benches to sit on along the middle and there are look out points on either side.

Britannia Beach would be an excellent spot to take children as you can learn about the Britannia Copper Mine. The best attraction is the mine tour, where they will take you into the once-active copper mine and learn more about the town.

The white staircase building on the side of a small mountain is the Britannia Mine. Converted into an outdoor museum with informational buildings.

➡️ Check Prices & Availability for Britannia Mine Tour & Admission

Squamish is excellent for outdoor adventures like hiking the famous Stawamus Chief “The Chief,” taking the Sea to Sky Gondola for panoramic views, or a coffee or lunch break. Squamish is the perfect spot before the continuous drive to Whistler.

The Stawamus Chief or "The Chief" is a massive granite rock that you can hike or rock climb.

Calgary Tourist Attractions

Here are some tourist attractions and a popular local attraction in Calgary.

Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede is a celebrated rodeo and exhibition festival held every July for ten days. It has become a global attraction, deemed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” featuring rodeo competitions, lively parades, entertainment, agricultural exhibitions, concerts, and more.

The Calgary Stampede is one of Calgary's biggest annual events with thousands of people attending the event yearly. The outdoor stadium is full of people watching an event.
Calgary Tower

The Calgary Tower is a prominent landmark in Calgary, Alberta. It was constructed in 1967 and stands at 190.8 metres (626 feet). The tower’s design is modern and distinctive, and it features an observation deck at the top, providing visitors with a 360-degree view of Calgary.

One of the tower’s main attractions is its revolving restaurant, Sky 360, which rotates once per hour. You can also dine at the tower’s base at Ruth’s Chris Stake House.

Other experiences include a theatre room, a shop, and LED light shows each morning before sunrise and from dusk to midnight.

The Calgary Tower is lit up in red and white and is in the middle of Downtown Calgary.
Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo

Established in 1929, the Wilder Institute Calgary Zoo is one of Canada’s well-loved family spots and a leader in global conservation efforts. Home to over 4,000 animals, the zoo is an excellent place to visit if you have children.

They’re known internationally for their animal care and habitat practices. Their goal is to teach the importance of biodiversity and conservation. The institute houses various facility exhibits and educational programs for visitors of all ages.

Day Trip To Banff

Established in 1885, Banff National Park is Canada’s first and oldest national park. It’s recognized as part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its outstanding natural beauty and ecological significance.

Banff National Park is among Calgary, Alberta’s best places to visit. The approximately hour-and-a-half journey leads through the stunning Rocky Mountains.

When you arrive in Banff, explore its main street, Banff Avenue, which is lined with shops, cafes, and galleries—perfect for a breakfast stop.

You can also experience the Banff Gondola with scenes through six mountain ranges and Bow Valley. From the summit of Sulphur Mountain, you can experience panoramic views and informational stations to learn about Canada’s first National Park. 

Notable Place to Stop:

In the Canadian Rockies, Canmore, Alberta is known for its mountain scenery and outdoor activities. The town offers hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing for outdoor enthusiasts.

Canmore’s arts scene, dining options, and welcoming community make it a destination for mountain adventures and small-town charm.

Outdoor Activities

Vancouver is known for year-round activities, drawing in many outdoor enthusiasts. On the other hand, Calgary has many winter activities.

Vancouver Outdoor Activities

These are a couple of the best outdoor activities in Vancouver.

Whale Watching Tour

One of the best unique things to do in Vancouver is to do a whale-watching tour. British Columbia is part of the whales’ migration path (they often feed along the coast) from Alaska to warmer waters such as California, Hawaii, and Mexico to breed and raise their young.

An orca breaching the surface of the water. The black and white mammal is popular the see off the coast of British Columbia during whale watching season.

Whale watching allows you to observe various marine life, including orcas, humpback whales, seals, and seabirds. This is the best half-day whale-watching tour, as you’re guided by experts who emphasize responsible and ethical practices that ensure the well-being of the animals and the marine environment.

Tour Includes:

🐳 Two washrooms on board
🐳 Free photo package of your trip, wildlife, and you and your family

🐳 Lifetime whale sighting guarantee
🐳 Complimentary tea, coffee, and hot chocolate

➡️ Check Prices & Availability for Half Day Whale-Watching Tour

Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain is one of the three mountain ranges in the North Shore Mountains. It’s also one of the best places to do outdoor activities in Vancouver and a top tourist spot.

The mountain is a hub for outdoor activities year-round. In winter, it’s a popular skiing and snowboarding destination.

In the summer, you can hike the famous Grouse Grind, explore the Grizzly Bear habitat, zipline, and more. In addition, Grouse offers dining options, from fine dining to casual eateries.

Calgary Outdoor Activities

Here are a couple of outdoor activities in Calgary.

WinSports

WinSport is a prominent sports and training facility. Initially constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics, it continues to be a hub for sports and recreation.

The facility offers various winter and summer sports activities for individuals of all skill levels, including skiing, snowboarding, hockey, learning to skate and more.

WinSport is also a crucial training ground for Canadian athletes, supporting Olympic-level talent development. In addition, they actively engage with the local community, hosting events and programs for people of all ages.

Nose Hill Park

Nose Hill Natural Environment Park is located in Calgary’s Northwest, encompassing 11 square kilometres. Named for resembling a nose from certain angles, it offers a unique landscape of Rough Fescue grasslands on the plateau, providing views of the Rocky Mountains to the East.

As you venture into the coulees, you’ll encounter different trees and shrubs, notably the Trembling Aspen and willows.

The park is home to various wildlife, from large mammals like deer and coyotes to smaller creatures such as mice and voles, porcupines, ground squirrels, and northern pocket gophers. While not typically a threat, coyotes should be treated with respect and shouldn’t be approached

Vancouver Or Calgary Which Is Better To Visit – FAQs

These are some frequently asked questions on Vancouver or Calgary which is better to visit.

Is Vancouver Or Calgary Best For Families?

Calgary does have some locations and places that are good for families. However, Vancouver will be the best for families as there are more options and things to do.

Is Calgary Or Vancouver More Expensive?

Vancouver is more expensive. When comparing utilities, groceries, etc., Calgary is a cheaper place to visit and stay.

Which City Is Bigger Calgary Or Vancouver?

Vancouver is a bigger city than Calgary in terms of population and generality. However, while Vancouver is ranked the third largest city in Canada, Calgary comes in fourth.

Conclusion

So, Vancouver or Calgary which is better to visit?

Overall, Vancouver wins. But you should also still visit Calgary as it has much to offer. Ultimately, the decision may come down to the type of experience you want, whether it’s exploring a coastal city or the culture of the Canadian West. Either way, both cities have unique experiences.

Have a good day 🙂