For the uninformed, Edmonton might be overlooked as "a stop-over city" before heading to the mountains, but we know better. Having made the T+L List of places to travel in 2018, we aren't losing momentum. To be fair, having come from the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, I too was a little underwhelmed by my new home city (we're now living in Calgary). But that's the point: it's a place you have to get to know. And if you're visiting for a few days, that's going to be a little difficult. That's where I come in. I have compiled a comprehensive list of EVERYTHING you need to know about one of Canada's sunniest cities, so you can make the most of your time here.
Since Edmonton is best known as 'Canada's Festival City', you might want to coincide your visit with one of the many festivals held throughout the year including Fringe Festival, the Folk Festival and K-Days.
The Canadian currency is the Canadian Dollar (CAD). Gratuities are seldom included on the bill in Canadian restaurants. It is customary to tip approximately 15-20% on the total bill before tax, less for poor service, more for truly exceptional service.
The plugs in Canada are type B (the same as the US). The standard voltage is 110-120 V, and the standard frequency is 60Hz. Canada is a very safe country to visit, and there’s hardly any violent crime committed.
The weather changes dramatically between seasons, so you might want to coordinate your visit with things you'd like to do.
Edmonton is the best during the late spring (May) and summer (June - August), when the weather is warm and being outside without wearing several layers is doable. Also, the days are longer because the sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m. starting in June, which means more time to explore.
Winter lasts from November through March, with the majority of snowfall occurring between December and February, with much shorter days. Winter can be pretty harsh and you can expect snow and temperatures dropping to -30, so if you don't enjoy the cold, it's unlikely going to be the best time to go.
If you’re arriving by air, you’ll be flying into Edmonton International Airport (YEG), located in Leduc just 30 minutes from Downtown Edmonton. You can book transport with SkyShuttle into Downtown Edmonton for $18 per adult and $10 per child or use Uber, estimated $40-50 per trip.
You can also take the train with Via Rail service which goes through Edmonton to Jasper, and then onto Vancouver.
Once you're Downtown, most things are within walking distance, but you can also use Transit. Edmonton Transit provides extensive bus and light rail transit (LRT) services. The LRT provides fast and convenient service to 15 stops around the city. You can pay per trip or get a day pass.
A current popular form of getting around the city is the electric scooter rentals, which you can book through the Lime or Bird apps.
Edmonton is also said to be taking Canada's food scene by storm! So, of course my perfect itinerary is food-orientated. Scatter in some coffee shop stops and a stroll along Whyte Avenue and I'm pretty happy. It's the kind of itinerary that would work in winter or summer, but I'd add in a couple seasonal activities or events too.
I'd skip West Edmonton Mall and the Zoo and opt for more unique and quintessential Edmonton sights like my below picks that you cannot miss on your visit to Edmonton!
During summer, temperatures average around 21- 25°C, but can reach highs of over 30°C, meaning shorts and flip-flops are a must!
In Spring (April - May) or Fall (September - October), temperatures are crisp, and average 11°C to 17°C.
During winter, temperatures vary between low positives, to -30°C. The key to surviving the harsh cold is dressing in layers and thermal gear. A thick winter jacket, beanies (or so-called toques in Alberta), mitts, and warm winter boots are all a must!
See below for outfit suggestions!
The best area to stay in is undoubtedly the Downtown area, along or close to Jasper Avenue. Despite its indie-cool vibe, Edmonton doesn’t have the best hotel scene. Union Bank Inn and Matrix Hotel are both solid options for those looking for small hotels with character. The former is more old-school; the latter on the sleek, contemporary side.
If you’re accustomed to design-forward boutiques (the kind we love), you won’t be blown away here, but both are well-priced and located. If you’re looking for something grand, Fairmont Hotel Macdonald — the place that looks like a castle looming over the riverfront — is your best bet.
Find alternative suggestions for accommodation below.
Planning to visit Edmonton soon? Here’s your guide from a somewhat ‘local-tourist’. We spend our weekends literally exploring Edmonton like it’s our weekend getaway. That means we are basically (self-proclaimed) pros on the topic and we will happily be your guides around town. We’re pretty keen on Edmonton, and you should be too. So, how’s about you book the plane ticket and I’ll plan the rest for you, deal?
Let's start with what NOT to miss. You'll notice that many of these sights are included in our Edmonton Instagrammable Spots List.
Do you know how Instagrammable Edmonton really is? Have you explored all the Instagrammable Spots in Edmonton? If not, here’s a list of locations to take a photo and up your Instagram Game, including a list of Instagrammable Cafes and Walls around the city!