Downtown Calgary Walking Tour, Calgary

Downtown Calgary Walking Tour (Self Guided), Calgary

The vibrant heart of Alberta's largest city, Downtown Calgary, is a place "where urban sophistication meets western warmth in the Shadows of the Rocky Mountains." As such, the area has quite a few landmarks that showcase the city's dynamic nature.

One such is the Old City Hall, a historic sandstone building that commands attention with its majestic presence.

A short walk from the Hall, you will find several other notable sites, including the welcoming urban square - Olympic Plaza - the site of the medal presentations during the 1988 Winter Olympics. Nearby, the exemplary Edwardian-style Burns Building showcases the area's architectural diversity.

Further ahead, Arts Commons, a prominent cultural institution, hosts a variety of performances and exhibitions, making it a hub for artistic expression in Calgary. The adjacent Glenbow Museum is a treasure trove of Western Canadian history and art, with a vast collection that spans centuries.

Stephen Avenue, a bustling pedestrian street, offers a delightful mix of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. It's the perfect place to explore Calgary's vibrant culinary scene and cultural offerings. Just a stone's throw away from there, the Calgary Tower (formerly known as the Husky Tower) provides breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the majestic Rockies.

In essence, Downtown Calgary encapsulates the city's past and present, blending historic architecture with modern attractions and cultural experiences. Plan your visit now and enable yourself to experience the charm and energy of this vivacious district with the help of our self-guided walk.
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Downtown Calgary Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Downtown Calgary Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Calgary (See other walking tours in Calgary)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 Km or 0.4 Miles
Author: AnnaO
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Old City Hall
  • Olympic Plaza
  • Burns Building
  • Arts Commons
  • Glenbow Museum
  • Stephen Avenue
  • Calgary Tower
Old City Hall

1) Old City Hall

The Calgary City Hall has been used as a municipal building since it was constructed in 1911. It was designed in a Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style by William M. Dodd. The revivalist style of architecture draws inspiration from 11th and 12th century Romanesque buildings with recessed windows, stone arches and a symmetrical structure.

The building has undergone a number of restoration projects. The most recent took place in 2014 when bits of the stone walls began to crumble from the Old City Hall's exterior. The building was designated as a Provincial Historical Resource in 1978. It was given National Historical Site status in 1984.

The Old City Hall remains in use. It is home to the Calgary mayor's office as well as members of the city council. The Old City Hall is the site of Calgary City Council meetings as well. Visitors to the city can see for themselves how the city has grown around this site. Nearby areas of interest include the Central Library and Olympic Plaza.
Olympic Plaza

2) Olympic Plaza

Olympic Plaza is one of the popular tourist attractions in Calgary. This plaza was constructed during the 1988 Winter Olympics exclusively as a venue for medal presentation. Here you will find a legacy hall that commemorates the winners through display of plaques. Today, Olympic Plaza is used for hosting festivals and concerts.

Olympic Plaza is abuzz with activities during the cheery summer months. There are festivities and music in the air and sparkling water fountains. During lunch hour, downtown patrons frequent the park. The Stampede breakfast and the exciting Latino-fest are held at this plaza. If you think this park is deserted during the chilly winter months, think again. The wading pool is converted to a skating rink and people come in large numbers to enjoy skating.

Many popular events continue to be held at the Olympic Plaza on a regular basis; among them are Canada Day fireworks, New Years Eve celebrations, Pride celebrations and a public thank you rally that took place in June 2004 after the Calgary Flames reached the NHL finals.

Olympic Plaza is the epicenter of Calgary’s culture. Epcor Center of Performing Arts hosts many shows here throughout the year. On your trip to Calgary, do not miss a chance to visit this wonderful tourist attraction.
Burns Building

3) Burns Building

Ask any tourist back from Calgary and he will tell you that no matter what, one should not miss a visit to Burns Building. Located at 237-8th Avenue right across the City Hall and Olympic Plaza, this six storied edifice was constructed by Pat Burns, the meat baron, and was meant to serve as a flagship market and corporate headquarters for Burns Foods. Burns building was constructed during the historically significant year of 1913 when many prominent buildings, such as Lancaster Block, Palliser Hotel, Hudson’s Bay Store and Canada Life Building, came into existence.

Immediately after construction, the Burns Building housed a retail meat market on the ground floor. Enter this level and you will find a dozen towering Doric marble columns that are 25 foot high each. A variety of different tenants occupied the other 35,000 square feet of office space in the Burns.

Burns Building was constructed in Edwardian Classical architectural style. You will find ornamental sculpted moldings including lion heads on the terracotta exterior. The main corridors and stairways of the building are finished with green and white Italian marble. Even back then, this structure featured conveniences such as ventilation and steam heating. Every single office had natural gas lighting apart from electricity. Pay a visit to this historically significant building on your trip to Calgary.
Arts Commons

4) Arts Commons

Located in the Olympic Plaza cultural district, Arts Commons is a popular arts center in Calgary. The center occupies a total of six levels in the building and is among the top three largest art centers in Canada. Apart from vast performance spaces, Arts Commons features offices, theatre workshops, rehearsal halls, radio station, a café, meeting rooms, gift store, salon spa and galleries.

Each year, at least 1800 events and performances such as children’s events, reading and spoken word, dance, live theatre, art exhibits, experimental theatre, training sessions, weddings, public forums, arts education activities, award ceremonies, sporting competition and events and folk, jazz, symphony, rock, world and blue concerts are held here attended by 400,000 people.
Glenbow Museum

5) Glenbow Museum (must see)

A trip to Calgary is certainly incomplete without a visit to Glenbow Museum. This museum features a total of 20 galleries with 93,000 square feet of exhibition space. As this largest museum in Western Canada displays over one million objects, it is recommended to keep an entire day for your visit here.

You will find four permanent collections here including Ethnology, Cultural history, Mineralogy and Military history. As you browse through the collections, you will learn a lot of interesting things about Canada and its rich history.

Over 100,000 objects from all over the world are on display at the cultural history collection. Right from the 1800s, you will gain a deep insight into the life, culture and history of Western Canada.

This museum also features the largest military collection in Western Canada. Displaying over 26,000 items, this collection features Asian, European and North American firearms and other interesting artifacts spanning five centuries.

Browse through the Glenbow ethnology collection to find at least 48,000 items that take gives you a peek into those indigenous people of North America’s Northern Plains. Glenbow Museum also features Canadian medals, decorations and orders and Japanese arms and armor. Browse through the mineralogy collection to find interesting semi-precious and precious stones as well as minerals from across the world.
Stephen Avenue

6) Stephen Avenue (must see)

Downtown Calgary is where all the action is and this is the hub of Calgary shopping and sightseeing. On your trip to this city, you must not miss a visit to the major pedestrian mall Stephen Avenue.

This street features some of the best cafes, bars, pubs and finest restaurants. If you love shopping this is where you must be. Stephen Avenue is a shopper’s delight with its high end retail stores and exclusive boutiques.

Some of the major shopping centers here include The Bay Department Store, Scotia Center, Fashion Central, Bankers Hall and The Core Shopping Center. Other attractions located on this street include hotels such as Calgary Marriott and Hyatt Regency Calgary and the famous Telus Convention Center.

Stephen Avenue is also where you can find many ancient, historic buildings. In 1992, the Canadian government declared this street as a Canadian historic site. Stephen Avenue got its name from the first Canadian Pacific Railway president and the first Baron Mount Stephen, George Stephen.

As you walk around the street, you will be impressed by the majestic, sandstone buildings that were built specifically to withstand fire following the 1886 fire that damaged most of the city. Remember to enjoy a visit to this popular street on your trip to Calgary.
Calgary Tower

7) Calgary Tower (must see)

Located in downtown Calgary, Calgary Tower stands 191 meter tall. Originally known as the Husky Tower, this observation tower came into existence in 1967 as a part of the urban renewal plan. It was constructed in joint cooperation between Husky oil and Realty Company Limited. The tower was also built to celebrate the 1967 centennial of Canada. It was in 1971 that this World Federation of Great Towers founder member was renamed Calgary Tower.

Calgary Tower was designed and constructed by W. G. Milne & A. Dale and Associates. It took fifteen months to complete building this tower. It can withstand winds up to 161 kilometers per hour and earthquakes.

On your visit to this tower, check out the column that was built in a unique manner by pouring concrete continually for 24 days. Enjoy a delicious meal at the revolving restaurant here. Called Sky 360, the restaurant offers an amazing view. +15 Skyway network connects the base of the tower to Fairmont Palliser Hotel, One Palliser Square and EnCana Place.

Walking Tours in Calgary, Alberta

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