Living in Calgary vs Vancouver

Deciding between living in Calgary or Vancouver involves weighing various factors, from the cost of living and job opportunities to climate and lifestyle. Both cities offer unique advantages and challenges, making them attractive for different reasons. Whether you're seeking the vibrant cultural scene and mild climate of Vancouver or the booming economy and stunning natural vistas of Calgary, understanding these differences is crucial.

In this article, you will learn:

  • How the cost of living varies between Calgary and Vancouver.
  • What can you expect from the climate and natural environment in each city?
  • Insights into the job markets and cultural offerings of both locations.

Join me as we examine a comprehensive comparison to help you decide which city best suits your lifestyle and career aspirations.

Cost of Living

Regarding the cost of living, Calgary and Vancouver present distinctly different landscapes. Vancouver is renowned for its high real estate prices, with housing costs significantly above the national average, making it one of the most expensive cities in Canada. In contrast, Calgary offers more affordable housing options for purchasing and renting properties, thanks partly to its more expansive land and less pressure on housing markets.

Beyond housing, Vancouver also tends to have higher daily expenses like groceries, dining out, and public transportation. By benefiting from Alberta's no provincial sales tax policy, Calgary generally sees lower prices in these areas, offering a bit more bang for your buck. This economic difference can be decisive for many looking to stretch their earnings further in Calgary.

In addition to housing and daily expenses, transportation costs also play a crucial role in comparing the cost of living between Calgary and Vancouver. Calgary's transportation system primarily centers around its expanding light rail network and bus services, offering affordable commuter options. Meanwhile, 

Vancouver's transit system, which includes the SkyTrain and SeaBus, is more extensive but also comes with higher fares that reflect the city's overall higher cost of living.

Climate and Natural Environment

Climate is another critical factor when choosing where to live. Calgary experiences a dry continental climate with long, cold winters and short, warm summers. The city boasts more sunny days than most other major Canadian cities, which can be a significant plus for those who prefer clear skies. Winters can be harsh, but Calgary's proximity to the Rocky Mountains provides exceptional winter sports opportunities.

Conversely, Vancouver offers a milder maritime climate, with less temperature variation throughout the year. Winters are typically rainy and much less severe than in Calgary, which can appeal to those adverse to extreme cold. This weather supports lush landscapes and outdoor activities year-round, making Vancouver attractive to outdoor enthusiasts.

Each city's environmental aspect contributes significantly to its appeal. Calgary, known for its proximity to the pristine Banff National Park, invites nature enthusiasts to explore its countless hiking, biking, and skiing trails. On the other hand, Vancouver's proximity to the mountains and the Pacific Ocean allows residents to enjoy a unique blend of outdoor activities, from skiing at Whistler to sailing and whale watching in the Strait of Georgia.

Educational Opportunities

Educational opportunities are a vital factor when considering relocation, particularly for families. Vancouver boasts several high-ranking universities, such as the University of British Columbia (UBC), renowned for its research innovations and diverse programs. 

Calgary is not far behind, with institutions like the University of Calgary providing cutting-edge research opportunities in energy, engineering, and health disciplines. Both cities offer many primary and secondary education options, making them ideal for growing families.

Recreational Activities

Both cities offer a wealth of recreational activities catering to various interests. Calgary's residents enjoy their proximity to the Rockies, perfect for weekend getaways and day trips involving hiking, mountain biking, or rock climbing. 

In contrast, Vancouver's residents frequently engage in maritime activities at locations like Kitsilano Beach or English Bay, such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and beach volleyball.

Job Market and Economic Opportunities

The job markets in Calgary and Vancouver are influenced by their dominant industries. Calgary's dominant economy is around the oil and gas sector, which provides abundant energy opportunities but is also susceptible to global oil price fluctuations. Economic booms and busts can affect job security and availability.

Vancouver's economy is more diversified, with a strong presence in technology, film and media, tourism, and retail. This diversity offers a more stable job market less prone to the ups and downs seen in commodity-dependent economies. Vancouver might provide more opportunities for professionals in tech or creative industries, while Calgary could be more appealing for those in energy and related sectors.

Cultural Scene and Lifestyle

Both cities boast vibrant cultural scenes but with distinct flavours. Vancouver is known for its multicultural population, diverse culinary scene, festivals, and cultural events. Its coastal location enhances its appeal, with plentiful water-related activities and settings for relaxation and adventure.

While slightly less diverse, Calgary has a strong sense of community and tradition, particularly during events like the Calgary Stampede, showcasing the city's Western culture. It also offers a thriving arts scene, with numerous theatres and museums, and its proximity to the Rockies makes it ideal for nature lovers.

Exploring the cultural diversities, Calgary's growing food scene is notable, featuring everything from traditional Canadian cuisines to innovative fusion restaurants. The city’s cultural diversity shines at events like GlobalFest, which showcases international cultures and fireworks. 

Vancouver’s cultural tapestry is enriched by its significant Asian influence. It offers authentic culinary experiences ranging from Chinese dim sum to Japanese sushi, celebrated during the annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival and the Richmond Night Market.


In conclusion, choosing between Calgary and Vancouver involves balancing various factors that affect everyday life. Calgary offers affordability and a connection to nature that is hard to beat, while Vancouver provides a mild climate and a rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Each city holds distinct advantages depending on personal and professional needs. 

Whether it's the mountains, a booming energy sector in Calgary, the ocean, and a diverse economy in Vancouver, both cities promise a vibrant and fulfilling lifestyle. To honestly decide, consider engaging with locals or exploring each city to feel their unique energy and opportunities.

Find Your Dream Home in Calgary with Expert Guidance

Are you ready to explore Calgary's vibrant neighbourhoods and find a place you can call home? Whether you're attracted to the city's dynamic economy, affordable living, or the stunning natural beauty nearby, your journey to finding the perfect home in Calgary begins here.

As your dedicated Calgary real estate agent, I am here to guide you through every step of the process. From understanding the local market to finding a property that suits your unique needs and budget, my goal is to make your home-buying experience smooth and successful.

  • Personalized Service: Tailored searches that align with your lifestyle and preferences.
  • Market Insights: Access the latest market trends and data to inform your decisions.
  • Full Support: I will be with you at every turn, from property viewings to negotiations and paperwork.
Take the first step towards your dream home in Calgary. Contact me today, and let's make your homeownership dreams a reality.

*This blog post provides information only and is not legal or financial advice. It does not substitute professional counsel. No professional relationship is formed. Consult a qualified professional before making any decisions based on this information. Farrah Khoja assumes no liability for actions taken based on this blog post.