Edmonton, the capital of the province of Alberta in western Canada, might not be the first place you think of when you think of Canadian cities. It is the northernmost in North America to have a population over 1 million, and is nicknamed ‘Canada’s Festival City’, thanks – unsurprisingly - to its year round festivals. Although it i is cold during Canada’s long winters, Edmonton actually has the most sunny days of any Canadian city during the summer! Home to 6 main universities and colleges, including the University of Alberta, MacEwan University and Concordia University of Edmonton, there is a sizeable student population. It’s also incredibly cheap to live in compared to other Canadian cities, which proves to be a bonus for students!
What to do
As ‘Canada’s Festival City’, there’s almost certainly something on at all times of year! Whether it’s the Canadian Food Championships, the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival or the Edmonton Fringe Festival, there’s truly something for everyone. The Alberta Legislature building is worth a visit, but the real draw of the outdoors is strong in and around Edmonton. The breathtaking North Saskatchewan River Valley is breathtakingly beautiful and great for active days out, while winter and summer sports are easily found around Edmonton – there’s even a ski hill!
The city also has some great, if unusual museums to enjoy year round, such as the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, where you can experience the traditional Ukrainian way of life, the popular Jurassic Forest where you can see huge, realistic dinosaurs ‘in the wild’! If you prefer your culture to be more interactive, Edmonton has a whole host of music and theatre venues, both big and small. If you want to try the local music scene, look no further than the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra! Even if classical music isn’t your thing, they explore all genres of music and have performed with a wide variety of artists, so it’s worth a look.
Edmonton is home to the popular Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League, and a trip to an ice-hockey game should not be missed! The new stadium Rogers Place and the Commonwealth Arena provide great venues for a whole load of sporting events. If shopping is more your style, there’s something for all tastes. From the exciting farmers’ and local markets where you’re sure to pick up a bargain, to the city’s huge West Edmonton Mall, spanning the equivalent of 48 city blocks. It even has the world’s longest indoor zipwire! Whyte Avenue is the city’s chic shopping area, with a bohemian spirit that will satisfy the most demanding of shoppers.
Edmonton is not known for its nightlife, but the scene has been growing with the development of the downtown area in the past few years. The Needle Vinyl Tavern has live music every night of the week, while Denizen Hall offers arcade games and bar food alongside a great atmosphere. Alternatively, craft beers spots like Mercer Tavern and Arcadia abound, and the clubs like Union Hall and Y Afterhours will not disappoint! Edmonton also has a great selection of restaurants and cafes – from Alberta-inspired noodles at Prairie Noodle Shop to Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse’s tasty offerings, whatever your tastes you’ll find something delicious. For those with a sweeter tooth, Cookie Love serves homemade cookies and District Café and Bakery offers perfect coffee alongside cocktails and treats.
Where to stay
With multiple universities and campuses around Edmonton, it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of accommodation on offer all over the city. It goes without saying that whichever university you attend will affect which areas you want to live in, but some regions are more popular than others. While some students choose to stay in university residences, others prefer to search for local apartments or flatshares.
The University Area around the University of Alberta campus is a popular choice, although as a result it tends to be pricer than areas which entail a longer commute. Belgravia is another popular option for students, as a safe area located southwest of the U of A campus – although pricey, the characterful tree-lined streets are not to be sniffed at. MacEwan University has its city centre campus in the Downtown area, which is an up and coming area with a lot of development. Areas like Garneau, Strathcona and Parkallen also attract interest as they are close to both the university and Whyte Avenue.
The Light Rail Train (LRT) has opened up other areas as potential areas for students – U of A students have transport cards as part of their school fees, making it an affordable option. The northern area of Clareview is ideal – cheaper rents, proximity to the LRT and lots of amenities close by.
With tons of different accommodation to choose from, you can select the one that best suits you. Consider a spare room with a landlord or host family, or look for existing house or flat shares – the shared bills and local insights will help you to get the most out of your time in Edmonton.