Downtown Calgary Walking Guide

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When we planned a week to visit Calgary and Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, I had no idea what to expect. We had heard that Banff was beautiful, but no one talks about Calgary much.

I think the mystery of this city helped me keep my eyes and opinions open to all it has to offer.

 

*This post contains affiliate links which are meant to help you enjoy your vacation to Calgary. If you choose to purchase through these links I will receive a small commission, which helps me continue to create great content for you!*

Read on for our recommended Downtown walking guide for things to do in Calgary!

 

The Calgary Tower

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The first thing we always do in a new city is try to get an understanding of where we are. This means seeking out a viewing platform or city tour. There are lots of fun tours around Calgary, but I’m glad we chose the viewing route and took a trip to the Calgary Tower.

The Calgary Tower was a surprisingly fun place to visit. I was afraid it would be too touristy, but it wasn’t crowded at all! Not only that, but I feel like it has the rare quality of actually deserving it’s touristy trademark. The Calgary Tower is seriously cool! Yes, you get the standard 360-degree view of the city (which is legitimately beautiful thanks to the interesting feature of the Bow River along one side) but you also get quite the thrill. As soon as you head off of the elevator you’re met with a Plexiglas floor that makes you feel as if you’re about to plummet into downtown traffic. It’s terrifying and oh-so-fun!

 

Olympic Plaza

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http://comeflywithlindsay.com/holiday-guides/calgary

The Calgary Tower is conveniently located in a great pocket downtown! Heading East from the Tower you’ll soon run into Olympic Plaza. Olympic Plaza was a venue at the 1988 Olympic games hosted by Calgary, and has been re-purposed to serve the city. How cool is that?

Olympic Plaza now features an incredible water installation, public art, and cafe tables.

The fountain is breathtaking, but our favorite part is a low brick wall with brightly-colored beavers sticking out from missing bricks. At least I think they’re beavers.

I mean, Why, Calgary? It’s just too weird not to love.


 

East Village Junction

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Head northeast from Olympic Park a couple of blocks to 8 Ave SE and 4 St. SE.

At this corner you’ll find a great example of what Calgary is good at: Re-purposing something into a beautiful, expressive way to bring the community together and support local businesses.

Here is a small commerce park you’re bound to love! Shipping containers have been painted and turned pop-up shop for local entrepreneurs. The containers line the perimeter of an outdoor seating area. A stage at one end completes the scene, making it the perfect spot to hang out and people watch, shop, or just be entertained.

This is one of the most popular Instagram stops in Calgary, so be prepared to find fashion and travel influencers craning for the perfect selfie. Go ahead and take one, yourself- it’s a beautiful spot!

Note: Keep an eye on the city website for the stage schedule. Shops only open on the weekend, but the seating area is available week-long. 


On a romantic trip to Calgary? Check our list of the most unique date nights in Calgary!


4th St. Bridge

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Since you’re basically already there….

Walk down 4th st. for a block to a bridge. This overpass bridge has a walking path that leads you to Victoria Park. You should keep going to see the park, but this bridge is what we found really special.

Artist Michelle Hoogveld has painted the corridor with colorful blocks and patterns. Called “Corridor of Correction”, it’s definitely not to be missed!

This is another popular Instagram stop. Come and get your picture taken soon before the wall paint wears away!

Downtown Public Art

Make your way west back to Olympic Plaza.

There you’ll find tons of public art to enjoy! One thing I deeply appreciated about Calgary is it’s dedication to the arts. In fact, 1% of the city’s annual budget is committed to a yearly art project! One percent may not sound like much, but it definitely adds up.

Keep the 1% rule in mind when walking around the city and you’ll soon notice beautiful statues, wall murals, water features, etc. everywhere.

If you’re on the public art scavenger hunt (like me) look out for stunning pieces scattered down 7th avenue. There are a few pieces actually on 7th Ave, but many are just above or below it. Follow >this handy map < of permanent and temporary art installations along 7th Ave for precise locations, or just play Where’s Waldo: Calgary Public Art Edition on your own.

Note: The most dense area to look for public art is the east side of downtown, where you conveniently are when visiting Olympic Park. Stick to the streets in this neighborhood to see some incredible pieces if you aren’t interested in walking through downtown. 

Our Favorite Downtown Calgary Art:

Just in case you feel like skipping around, here are our top places!

Women are Persons!

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https://explore150.tigweb.org/en/famous-5-statue-calgary

This piece is a square of 5 towering statues: all women in different everyday positions. It represents the Famous Five; a group of women who worked tirelessly to bring equality to women in Canada in the early 20th century.

I love Women are Persons! because it’s a stunning, overwhelming piece and also quite meaningful.  I hadn’t heard of the Famous Five before coming to Calgary, but learning their story and seeing how Calgary has embraced their power makes me love it even more.

Located at 8th Ave and 1st St. SE

Conversation

I love the simplicity of Conversation. I also find it quite entertaining. Something about seeing the (to me) heated debate between two businessmen immortalized is just ridiculous, in an awesome sort of way that I’m really glad people have access to.

Located at 8th Avenue and 1st St. SW

Wonderland

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This one is my favorite. You don’t have to be an art historian to recognize the obvious contrasts between this piece and it’s surrounding. It’s the head of a young girl, shaped by a white metal frame. The piece is set in the middle of the business district downtown. It’s color, transparency, and innocence appears to be a statement on the contrasting values of society. She reminds us that people, youth, are watching. We must protect and care for them in all that we do which, in turn, keeps our own values strong.

At least that’s what I think.

Also, it’s just really pretty.

Located at Center St and 6th Ave 


See our #1 recommendation of what to do in Calgary here!


China Town

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Get back to Center St (where the Calgary Tower is) and follow it to the Center St. Bridge to head into Calgary’s China Town.

The sidewalk of Center St. turns into a charming walking path down one of Calgary’s many decorative bridges, Center St. Bridge. Center St. Bridge’s walking path features a large stone archway with a decorative Lion on top, marking your entrance and exit to China Town. This is one of the most popular Instagram stops, in case you’re interested!

China Town isn’t a huge district, but it’s fun and cultural. Center St. and the roads that shoot off of it are full of Chinese restaurants, shops, and artwork. Meander through to find some unique places in Calgary!

 

Walk Down the Bow River

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The northern end of Calgary is full of unique bridges and walking paths that line the Bow River. Take the Center St. Bridge back across the river and walk west along the nature path to get some incredible views of downtown against the water.

The walking path down the Bow River will take you past some unexpected parcels of nature in the middle of town. Prince’s Island Park (in the middle of the Bow River) is a popular destination for walking, picnics, and biking.

Keep your eyes open while walking (or biking or running or whatever) for wildlife on the river. We saw a brand new baby goslings, flocks of Canadian (or Local, I guess?) Geese taking off and landing, and … drum roll, please… BEAVERS!

Neither Ben or I had ever seen beavers in person. It felt fitting that our first time was in Canada! We’ve seen beavers grace local business logos, eaten the popular pastry, Beavertails, seen their handiwork, and heard of their fame and were excited to finally see them in person. They’re big!

We followed a set of beavers up and down a section of the Bow River as they collected sticks. It was so fun to watch them navigate quickly in the water and then waddle their fat little bodies once on land. Hehehe!

The Peace Bridge

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http://www.carsandtrains.com/travel/calgary/calgary1.html

At the other end of the walking path you’ll find our favorite bridge, the Peace Bridge. Known to locals as the Chinese Finger Trap Bridge (for obvious reasons) it feels like a piece of functional art. Come back at night to see the bridge lit up!


 

4th Street

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Cross the Peace Bridge through Eau Claire Park and walk 4 blocks to 4th Street.

4th St. is the perfect place to complete your walking tour. Wander down this road to find incredible restaurants and shops to end your day!

There’s more public art, wall murals, and a small decorative park on this street so it’s a great way to combine all of the wonderful things you’ve seen from individual places.

 

We hope you find Calgary as unexpectedly interesting and beautiful as we did!

More of a visual person? Watch our adventures in Calgary, instead!

And subscribe to our YouTube channel >here< to follow us on our crazy adventures abroad!

Planning a trip to Calgary? Pin this article to save it for later!

Visting Calgary, Alberta? Family travel to Canada? Here is a complete downtown walking guide with all the best stops in Calgary! See the Calgary Tower, East Villiage Junction, ChinaTown, walk the Bow River, and more! Summer is the best time to go to Calgary. We hope you enjoy your stay!

 

 

 

*This article was sponsored by Calgary Tourism and participating businesses. All opinions are my own.*

13 comments

  • Geraline Batarra

    Never been in this Calgary but many of my friends says that it is a nice place to visit and it have a lot of beautiful scenery and places that can be explore. I hope to be there someday!

  • Explore The 6

    I love Calgary, but I can honestly say I haven’t been to any of these locations. Next time I visit I will think about a walking tour 🙂

  • Lindsay

    This brings back memories! One of my favorite cities in Canada is Calgary. My husband and I love it so much we promised to go back for a romantic weekend. Hasn’t happened yet, but we are planning a return! Did your family do summer bobsledding at all? It was super fun!

  • Nicole

    Who knew Calgary was such fun?! Those container shops sound pretty neat, I’m sure you can find all sorts of neat goodies at the various shops. That fingertrap bridge is super cool too, a must see if we ever make a trip there!

  • Nicole

    I have never been to Calgary before, but it looks like a really fun and interesting place. I loved the photo of the Peace bridge, I would love to see that one day. Defiitely a place to put on the destination bucket list, thanks for sharing!

  • Ann Snook-Moreau

    I never realized Calgary had so much cool art! I really want to visit just for the finger trap bridge now haha.

  • Lisa Rios

    This looks like so much fun! I’ve heard great things about Calgary. I love Canada downtowns 😉

  • Elizabeth O

    Wow this looks like such an incredible place to visit. It would make a lovely romantic getaway or vacation with the family. There is so many great things to see and explore.

  • Nina

    I have never been to Calgary, looks like a fun place 🙂 i love all the photos you shared and i will put this on my travel bucket list

  • elle

    Calgary is beautiful. I especially liked seeing the sculptures. I’d love to travel there in the near future.

  • Rachel

    Great walking guide and pics! Love the look of Bow River. The pics are so colourful – lush!

  • Cindy Gordon

    Wow, I need to be checking this place out! I love going on walks, but there is so much more to see there!

  • Cindy s.

    Wow i never knew there is so much to see and do in calgary! Also so much art too! I def need to pay a visit.

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