Living in Edmonton
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  Posted December 10th, 2015 by Zdenko  in Edmonton | No comments yet.

Edmonton life

By: Zdenko Kahlina

What is it like living in Edmonton
I have lived in Edmonton for over 25 years now, and I think Edmonton is slowly but surely shaping up to be the next trendy destination for many tourists. Forget the Golden Gate Bridge and other touristy destinations down south in America. Tourists should check out the High Level Bridge and North Saskatchewan River here in Edmonton!

Edmonton panoramic2Edmonton downtown

Edmonton is still a very quiet and peaceful city. Edmonton is a nice place in the spring, fall and summer but the other eight months of the year are hellishly cold. This city is full of natural beauty with an incredible parks system running for miles and miles on both sides of the incredibly scenic river valley. The North Saskatchewan River runs through the city, which creates numerous ravines and accounts for the wealth of urban parkland — the longest stretch of connected parkland in North America — known as the ‘Ribbon of Green’.

Where is Edmonton?
Located in the province of Alberta, Edmonton is situated along the North Saskatchewan River, just 220 kilometers northeast of the Rocky Mountains. The city is located on the boundary between the prairies and the boreal forest, resulting in a beautiful and diverse landscape.

edmonton-locator-mapLocation of Edmonton on a map

Edmonton is the most northerly city in North America, and has a metropolitan population of over one million. Though it is the provincial capital, it is the second largest city in Alberta after Calgary. Edmonton is very reliant on cars, so much shopping and entertainment is based in a few key areas such as South Edmonton Common, Whyte Avenue, West Edmonton Mall, and Jasper Avenue, to name a few. Due to a thriving economy Edmonton offers excellent employment opportunities, and it’s likely that new migrants will settle into their new home quickly and with relative ease.

edmonton from the air1Panoramic view of Edmonton

Edmonton itself is actually a very beautiful city, contrary to what you may have heard or expected. Yes, it is in the middle of the prairies, and is flat, but I can’t think of that many cities in North America that aren’t, for the most part, flat! (It’s not terribly common to find cities founded in canyons, or on mountain tops!).

edmonton117Beautiful river valley

The River Valley Park system is beautiful, and stretches through the entire city, form where the North Saskatchewan River enters the city on the southwest side, and exits on the northeastern side. This area in the middle of the city is full of trails and is very well tended. It is HUGE, and there are many, many paths and trails through the heavily forested river valley. You can walk or ride a bike from one end of the city to the other on paved paths that snake throughout the river valley. And Edmonton is incredibly green! To my knowledge, the only city that has comparable parks and greenery is Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.

North Saskatchewan River2The River Valley Park system along the North Saskatchewan River

I often ride my bike on these trails along the North Saskatchewan River. There are 275 kilometers of paths and sidewalks for cyclists – though they have to be shared with walkers. Also noteworthy are the 460 kilometers of unpaved single track and unimproved trails throughout the city.

One thing to be aware of is the fact that more than 30 species of mosquitoes live in the Edmonton area – and the problem mosquito is called vexans mosquito. Some summers can be miserable outdoors, especially at dusk. However, this year in particular (2015), we didn’t have any problems with mosquitos! Also, there are no rats in Edmonton – or in all of Alberta for that matter.

Edmonton08Edmonton downtown at night

You will find the city very spread out, and not filled with a maze of skyscrapers. Most buildings are under 3 or 4 stories, except in the city center, where of course you find the high rises, not unlike any other modern city. The city is easy to get around in, with numbered streets and avenues (totally different than Calgary, which is an absolute nightmare to navigate, given that most of the streets and avenues are names!). There are large freeways and wide main streets and avenues to help get from one area of the city to the other quickly. But, don’t drive here if you don’t have to. Edmonton and Calgary have the worst vehicle accident rates in the country. There are many explanations, but it all boils down to – people here are very bad drivers.

DSC_1899This old train connects Old Strathcona and downtovn Edmonton

The city has GREAT public transport, and is currently expanding its’ excellent Light Rail Transit (LRT) system. The International Airport is 15 minutes from the south end of the city (unlike a lot of other cities, where it takes 30 minutes or more to get to), and there is even a city bus that can get you there. Edmonton is approximately 4 hours by car to one of the most beautiful national parks in Canada, Jasper National Park, which is situated in the Rocky Mountains. Banff National Park, also in Alberta, is about 2.5 hours south of Jasper. The entire road from Edmonton to the gates of Jasper National Park is a double-lane highway that is separated into 2 east and west going traffic, making for a relatively stress free drive through beautiful countryside.

Edmonton winter city1The North Saskatchewan River freezes during the winter

Weather in Edmonton
The weather is like a lot of other Canadian cities, with a 6 to 7 month winter, and a short spring and fall. Summer in Edmonton is BEAUTIFUL, and something that is not often noted is the fact that because Edmonton is located at high latitude, the summer days are LONG, so long that in the middle of summer, the sun comes up at 4:30-5:00 AM, and goes down at 10:00-10:30 PM, making for sunlight for 17 hours/day! Winter is another story. The sun rises at 8:50 and sets at 4:15, providing only about seven hours of daylight.

Temperatures in the summer normally range from around 20 to 30 C, and it is very dry, unlike most coastal cities. The heat is very easy to take. Winter can be harsh, that is true, but I guess it is something that you just get used to, much like living anywhere else in the world. In the coldest months of the year (January and February), it can get to -40 C, and we can have 2 or 3 feet of snow on the ground. So, you are going to have to buy some warm clothing and boots. But, as was noted above, Edmonton gets more sunshiny days than any other city in Canada! And I have to say, when it is cold and the sky is brilliant sunshine, it is hard to beat!

DSC_1853Spring time in Edmonton looks like this

It is truly magical to go for a walk in the river valley when there is 2 feet of beautiful fresh snow on the ground, and it is sunny and cold! Like living in a winter wonderland!

DSC_2053Princess theatre in Old Strathcona

Nice city to live
Edmonton is a very affordable city in which to live as well, by Canadian standards. Housing, both rental and ownership wise, is very affordable, with most rents for 2 bedroom apartments being around $1,200-1,500/month. Student housing is varied, depending on where you want to live, but can be had for as little as $600/month when you share a house. Food is about average for Canada, gas is the cheapest in Canada (we have the refineries located on the very eastern edge of the city!), and taxes are low. On the subject of taxes, the provincial taxes are the lowest in Canada, and we have NO sales tax, the only province in Canada without one!

In short, Edmonton is a nice city to live in, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And the people are VERY friendly, don’t kid yourself. If you want to see an unfriendly group of people, go live in Toronto! One thing that I have heard consistently about Edmonton is that the people are friendly, and the life style is very easy-going. I guess here in Western Canada everyone is not so money-centric, and tend to just enjoy their lives a whole lot more.

IMG_1256New fountains around Government building downtown

Culture in Edmonton
Edmonton is a major oil and gas center, attracting many migrant workers. As a result of this, the city is ethnically diverse, with more than 25 per cent of the local population belonging to a “visible minority”, mainly Chinese and other Asian ethnicities. This is one of Canada’s most ethnically diverse cities with more than 60 ethnic and cultural groups.

DSC_6406Scene from the Heritage festival

Festival City
Oh, one thing that I haven’t talked about is the fact that Edmonton is called the “Festival City”. The reason for that is because Edmonton is home to many, many festivals that go all year long. This city plays host to several large festivals each year, contributing to its local nickname. Among these festivals is the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, second only to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in size worldwide and the largest of its kind in North America.

Servus Heritage Festival this year marked the 40th annual of this premier three-day showcase of Canada’s vibrant multicultural heritage. This year festival featured 73 pavilions representing over eighty-five cultures from all over the world. Sample culinary delicacies, saw creative performances, shop for crafts, artwork, and clothing. At the festival you can chat with people who will be eager to tell you a little about their cultural roots and their present-day communities in Canada. 

waterfallEdmonton has unique waterfall

Edmonton has a thriving cultural scene, which includes galleries, theatres, live music venues and concert halls, including one of the most acoustically perfect concert halls in Canada, the Francis Winspear Centre for Music. From the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra to Cadence Weapon and Shout Out Out Out Out, the city has given rise to many notable musicians.

We are famous for our Fringe Festival, a very large performing arts get together that happens in a very picturesque and popular area of the city called “Old Strathcona” that is very near the university, and is full of small curio shops, restaurants, clubs, and bars. If there is a place to go in the city, it is Old Strathcona. There are many other festivals, such as the “Folk Fest”, which happens in the summer in August generally, and brings together 2 days’ worth of mostly folk music acts, and is situated within the river valley overlooking our unique Muttart Conservatories, 2 large glass pyramids that contain thousands of shrubs, plants, trees, etc., another attraction.

DSC_1591Inside West Edmonton Mall

Edmonton is also famous for West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in North America. The mall offers an extraordinary number of activities, including an indoor amusement park with one of the largest indoor roller coasters in the world, a swimming pool with water park, marine life shows, mini golf, bowling, a skating rink and laser tag.

oilers3Oilers – National Hockey League hockey team

Oilers and museums…
We also have a professional football team (North American Football that is), and an NHL (National Hockey League) hockey team, with a brand new big beautiful arena being built downtown in the next few years. The Edmonton Oilers are a NHL franchise team but they started out as the Alberta Oilers and an original member of the World Hockey Association (now defunct). The Canadian Birkebeiner ski festival takes place each year in February. Thousands of skiers from all over the world come to cross country ski 55 kilometers with a 5.5 kilogram pack on their back, reliving the legend of King Haakon Haakonson. There are over 70 golf courses in metropolitan Edmonton area.

We have museums and a brand new Art Gallery as well, along with The Citadel Theatre, a picturesque building for the performing arts downtown as well. There is a very large “Farmers Market” that is open every Saturday in Old Strathcona, a place where you can go and buy many of the local foods produced by farms and companies from around Edmonton, and it is very inexpensive for the most part.

University_arial photoUniversity of Alberta – City on its own

U of A
If you are intended on going to university, the first thing you should be considering is the school, and the particular faculty that you are going into. The University of Alberta campus is really lovely and borders the river. This is really a world class school, with over 30,000 students in attendance. There are some faculties that are truly the best both in Canada, and North America. As was noted above, both Medicine and Engineering are top-notch faculties, but there are other ones that are great as well: Sciences is very comprehensive, with thousands of courses and specialties. Agriculture and Forestry are exceptional, given that Alberta is in the middle of the prairies, and forestry is a major component of the Alberta economy. The campus is quite beautiful, with many buildings remaining from the early 1900′s, and there are many beautiful old trees everywhere on the campus. The campus itself is in a very beautiful and old part of the city, and it borders the incredible river valley.

Edmonton Positives & Negatives

Edmonton’s Positives

  • Friendly people.
  • Low taxes.
  • The highest area of parkland per resident of any Canadian city.
  • Canada’s Festival City.
  • A strong economy, with one of Canada’s best job markets.
  • Affordable housing, with lower prices than Calgary and big cities like Vancouver and Toronto.
  • The lowest gasoline and fuel prices in Canada.

Edmonton’s Negatives

  • Higher crime rates than most comparably sized Canadian cities.
  • Bad drivers.
  • Long, cold winters and extreme weather variations.
  • Expensive housing compared with most other prairie cities.

DSC_1883St. Joseph’s Basilica  in Edmonton

Cost of Living in Edmonton

Restaurants  
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant

15.00 C$

Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course

65.00 C$

Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught)

6.00 C$

Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)

6.00 C$

Cappuccino (regular)

4.56 C$

Markets  
Milk (regular), (1 liter)

2.42 C$

Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)

3.34 C$

Rice (white), (1kg)

6.09 C$

Eggs (12)

3.70 C$

Local Cheese (1kg)

9.58 C$

Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1kg)

14.63 C$

Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)

13.59 C$

Apples (1kg)

4.57 C$

Banana (1kg)

1.99 C$

Oranges (1kg)

4.48 C$

Tomato (1kg)

4.10 C$

Potato (1kg)

2.02 C$

Onion (1kg)

2.76 C$

Lettuce (1 head)

1.95 C$

Water (1.5 liter bottle)

2.49 C$

Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)

13.00 C$

Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)

2.35 C$

Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)

3.17 C$

Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro)

13.50 C$

Transportation  
One-way Ticket (Local Transport)

3.20 C$

Monthly Pass (Regular Price)

89.00 C$

Gasoline (1 liter)

1.10 C$

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)

21,232.50 C$

Utilities (Monthly)  
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment

290.69 C$

1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans)

0.24 C$

Internet (10 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)

55.40 C$

Clothing And Shoes  
1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar)

63.57 C$

1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …)

45.83 C$

1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range)

97.00 C$

1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes

133.67 C$

Rent Per Month  
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre

1,217.65 C$

Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre

973.53 C$

Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre

2,116.67 C$

Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre

1,585.00 C$

Buy Apartment Price  
Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment in City Centre

3,635.85 C$

Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment Outside of Centre

2,683.64 C$

Salaries And Financing  
Average Monthly Disposable Salary (After Tax)

3,440.80 C$

Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly

3.03

These data are based on 1058 entries in the past 18 months from 155 different contributors.

Last update: October, 2015

Edmonton sunsetSunset over the North Saskatchewan River

That is about all I can give you in terms of my experience of living in Edmonton in particular. Hope this will help you when you consider moving to Edmonton!

Have a good and healthy season.

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