Calgary vs. Montréal: Which City Should You Live In?

Is Calgary Better Than Montreal?

Are you considering moving to Alberta or setting down some roots in Quebec? For anyone deciding between the provinces, the cities of Calgary and Montréal are two likely top choices. To aid in such an important decision, comparing each city's quality of life, affordability, employment sectors, and amenities is a vital step. Whether you're job-hunting, house-searching, or craving cultural vibrancy, we've got the latest on how Calgary and Montréal stack up.

Noteworthy Points

  • Calgary and Montréal offer different urban experiences, with Calgary noted for a sunny climate, expansive trail network, and welcoming community, while Montréal is recognized for its rich cultural heritage, diverse gastronomy, and bustling nightlife.
  • Both cities rely on public transportation and offer distinct transit systems, with Calgary's CTrain and bus networks noted for being quick and affordable, compared to Montréal's more extensive but costlier STM metro and bus services.
  • While Calgary's job market is driven by oil, gas, and finance, Montréal excels in service, manufacturing, and high-tech industries.
  • Housing and rental costs vary, with Calgary having higher home prices and slightly costlier rents than in Montréal. The overall cost of living is also a bit higher in Calgary.

Comparing City Life: Calgary vs Montréal

A Pedestrian Street in Montreal

When it comes to Canadian cities, both Calgary and Montréal offer distinct experiences. Calgary, one of Alberta's best places to live, is celebrated for its easy-going atmosphere and outdoor activities. On the other hand, Montréal, the second-most populous city in Canada, is renowned for its vibrant nightlife and diverse cuisine. Both cities showcase a variety of entertainment options, catering to their unique lifestyles and cultural landscapes.

Lifestyle and Culture in Calgary

The spirit of a closely-knit community infuses Calgary despite being the largest city in Alberta. The city's residents are recognized for their welcoming and inclusive nature, fostering a connected community. As the sunniest major city in Canada, Calgary offers numerous summer outdoor activities, and with the longest trail network in North America, it's a haven for adventure seekers.

From community-focused groups like the Slow and Steady Hikers to organizations like the Calgary Sport and Social Club, residents have ample opportunities to connect over shared interests. For residents who like to spend a weekend away, Rocky Mountain getaways to Banff or Canmore are a breeze, while weekends exploring Edmonton's best neighbourhoods are just a three-hour drive away.

Lifestyle and Culture in Montréal

Montréal stays vibrant all year round. The city hosts major festivals like the International Jazz Festival, FrancoFolies, and Piknic Électronik, offering a cultural feast for residents and tourists alike. The culinary scene in Montréal is a gastronomic delight, with over 5,000 restaurants offering local dishes like poutine and bagels, complemented by a buzzing nightlife.

The city's rich heritage is beautifully showcased through historical city tours, while discount cards like the Accès Montréal Card and Passeport MTL culture provide easy access to cultural experiences.

Public Transportation: Calgary vs Montréal

C-Train Public Transportation in Calgary

Residents in both Calgary and Montréal heavily depend on public transportation in their daily lives.

In Calgary, the public transit system includes the CTrain light rail system and an extensive bus network. Conversely, Montréal's public transit system has buses, trains, and a metro system that operate at different times on weekends and weekdays. 

Calgary's Public Transit System

Calgary's public transit system, operated by Calgary Transit, comprises an extensive bus network and the CTrain light rail service. The CTrain consists of two major routes: the Blue Line and the Red Line. The Blue Line runs from the West Calgary region to Northeast Calgary, while the Red Line runs from Northwest Calgary to the Shawnessy neighbourhood in the South Calgary area.

Passengers have access to various bus services, including regularly scheduled buses and faster, limited-stop rapid transit buses. To make commuting easier, Calgary Transit provides many transit pass options, with the My Fare app supporting contactless payments.

Montréal's Public Transit System

Montréal's public transit system is a network of buses, commuter trains, and subways, operating from early morning until the wee hours of the next day. The system is divided into several pricing zones, with a standard monthly pass costing $97.00, providing flexibility for residents and tourists. STM's daily pass program further enhances this flexibility, integrating access to both metro and bus services.

Job Opportunities and Economy

Job Markets in Calgary and Montreal

Reflecting the economic diversity, Calgary and Montréal offer starkly different job markets. Calgary's economy thrives on industries like oil and gas, financial services, digital media, life sciences, and technology. In contrast, Montréal is recognized for its service sector, manufacturing industries such as aerospace, electronic goods, and pharmaceuticals, and high-technology sectors like aerospace, information technology and biotechnology. Despite these differences, both cities offer higher-paying jobs than the national average, contributing to a robust and dynamic job market.

Job Market in Calgary

Calgary's job market is influenced by its dominant industries, which closely reflect the industries that drive the overall economy in Alberta. Its financial services sector forms one of the largest industries, driving high-capital transactions and investment activities. Agribusiness, extending beyond farming to include various agricultural business activities, is another significant industry. Major employers in the city, such as the Alberta Securities Commission, AltaGas, and Shaw Communications, offer diverse opportunities in regulatory, energy, and telecommunications sectors.

With a 5.5% population increase between 2016 and 2021, Calgary's job market shows potential for dynamic growth.

Job Market in Montréal

Montréal's job market is vibrant and diverse. The city is a hub for the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, employing over 93,000 people across more than 5,000 companies. The presence of major companies such as Facebook AI Research, Microsoft Research, and Google Brain underlines its status as a hub for artificial intelligence research.

The rapid expansion of the video game industry, with major studios like Ubisoft and EA, positions Montréal as a global center for video games. The aerospace industry also forms a significant part of the city's economy, making Montréal the third-largest aerospace center in the world.

If you're a French-speaker, you'll likely have an easier time getting hired in Montréal. It's the primary language of business, and the majority of the workforce in Montréal speaks French while on the job.

Housing and Rental Costs

Suburban Houses in Calgary

Calgary and Montréal show contrasting market dynamics regarding housing and rental costs. Calgary's housing costs are higher on average compared to Montréal: homes for sale in Calgary average in the $600s, while Montréal's homes hover in the $500s. That said, luxury homes in Calgary top out at around $10 million, while Montréal's most expensive properties can reach nearly $15 million.

However, when it comes to renting, Calgary is only slightly more expensive, with the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment being $1,850 compared to around $1,700 in Montréal.

Housing Costs in Calgary

In Calgary, the housing market has seen increases in median sale prices for single detached homes, townhouses, and apartment units. The city offers various neighbourhoods, each providing different living experiences. Mount Royal—one of Calgary's most expensive neighbourhoods—offers peaceful parks, including Mount Royal Park, and stunning views over Point McKay's wetlands, while Eagle Ridge is known for its outdoor activities and close proximity to attractions.

Aspen Woods and Elbow Park also offer vibrant communities and a blend of heritage homes and contemporary new-construction Calgary homes.

Housing Costs in Montréal

In Montréal, the housing market has demonstrated significant growth that reflects a high demand for living in this vibrant city. Prices for all types of properties have gone up, and in some areas there are low vacancy rates for those looking to rent. 

The city offers a number of excellent neighbourhoods ranging from Ville Marie, the downtown core, and Plateau-Mont-Royal, known for its street life and artistic community.

Cost of Living Comparison

Cost of Living in Calgary vs. Montreal

Calgary's cost of living is slightly higher than Montréal. The estimated monthly cost of living for one person is $2,100 in Calgary and approximately $1,800 in Montréal.

In Montréal, consumer prices, including rent, are 5% lower than in Calgary. This indicates a notable difference in the cost of living between the two cities.

Cost of Living in Calgary

In Calgary, public transportation is affordable with Calgary Transit's single-ride and day passes. Residents pay an average monthly cost of approximately $280 for utilities, including electricity, gas, and water. Monthly internet service charges vary between $50 and $150, depending on the service provider and plan.

Basic groceries like milk, bread, and eggs cost $2.50, $3, and $4 respectively, while dining out at an inexpensive restaurant averages about $25 per meal.

Cost of Living in Montréal

In Montréal, the average monthly cost of groceries is $330.56. For a 915 sq. ft apartment, the average monthly utility cost is $169.75. Additional monthly costs include health insurance, averaging $63.00, and gym memberships, costing approximately $41.14.

It's worth noting that, similar to costs in the cities, the cost of living in Alberta is higher across the board than in Quebec.

Education and Schools

Student Working on French Vocabulary Homework

Calgary and Montréal both provide education systems funded by the public. In Calgary, the emphasis is on specialized programs, while Montréal is home to world-class universities and the unique CEGEP system.

Education in Calgary

Calgary's education system provides:

  • A standardized curriculum
  • Comprehensive education, backed by government funding
  • Special emphasis on students with diverse learning needs and disabilities, with specialized programs and support implemented by the Calgary Board of Education.

Calgary offers private and international schools for parents seeking an alternative to the public system, although these come with higher tuition fees.

For those pursuing higher education, Calgary is home to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), Mount Royal University, the University of Calgary, and several others.

Education in Montréal

Montréal boasts internationally recognized universities, including McGill University and Université de Montréal, which rank high in global university rankings. Concordia University is renowned for its excellent fine arts programs and dynamic research environment.

The city's unique CEGEP system connects secondary school education to university or professional life, offering pre-university and vocational programs.

Outdoor Activities and Attractions

Calgary and Montréal provide unique experiences in terms of outdoor activities and attractions. Calgary's proximity to the Rocky Mountains opens up a world of unique outdoor activities like skiing and hiking, while Montréal attracts with its blend of culture, outdoor sites and festivals.

Outdoor Activities in Calgary

Prince's Island Park in Calgary

Calgary boasts over 8,000 hectares of parkland and natural areas equipped with playgrounds, tennis courts, soccer fields, and additional facilities. From hiking and biking to river surfing at the 10th Street Wave, Calgary's City Centre offers many outdoor activities, especially during the summer.

For activities like downhill karting and mini-golf, WinSport is a popular choice. The city's proximity to the majestic Rocky Mountains further enhances outdoor leisure options with stunning hiking trails offered by locations like Glenbow Ranch.

Outdoor Activities in Montréal

Montréal offers a diverse range of outdoor activities that cater to both residents and tourists in downtown Montréal. The city's unique outdoor attractions include Mont Royal Park, the historic Old Montréal, and the iconic Notre-Dame Basilica.

From historical tours to skiing, wakeboarding, and various water sports, there's something for every outdoor adventurer along Montréal's beautiful Saint Lawrence River.

Ready to Live in Calgary or Reside in Montréal?

Calgary and Montréal offer unique experiences, each with their distinctive charms. Whether it's Calgary's best neighbourhoods, laid-back atmosphere, and outdoor adventures or Montréal's vibrant nightlife and French heritage, both cities have much to offer. From their distinct lifestyles, public transit systems, job markets, and education systems to their housing costs, cost of living, and outdoor activities, Calgary and Montréal present diverse qualities. Ultimately, the choice between the two cities comes down to personal preferences and lifestyle needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Calgary colder than Montréal?

Yes, Calgary is generally colder than Montréal, with average winter temperatures of -10°C to -15°C compared to Montréal's -5°C to -10°C.

Do You Have to Speak French to Live in Montréal?

Immigrating to Quebec requires at least some level of proficiency in speaking French. It's also the primary language of business, so being fluent will help your job prospects. However, the majority of Montréal's residents are English-French bilingual, and the Government of Quebec offers free French courses for adults.

Are you ready to move to Calgary? Call The Justin Havre Real Estate Team with eXp Realty at (403) 217-0003 to talk with a local real estate agent who can help you discover your dream Calgary home.

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