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Where is Better to Live: Calgary or Halifax

Where is Better to Live: Calgary or Halifax

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Calgary, the largest city in Alberta, and Halifax, Nova Scotia’s provincial capital, are 2 distinct and unique Canadian cities. In this post, we’ll break down the differences and similarities between buying a home and living in Calgary and Halifax, with key insights into the cost of living, best neighbourhoods, and top things to do in both places.


Key Highlights

  • Calgary is a larger city than Halifax, with a population of 1.3 million compared to Halifax’s 440,000 inhabitants.
  • Calgary is a more urbanized and densely populated city, with a larger total land mass than Halifax and a larger downtown core.
  • Both cities have a surprisingly comparable cost of living, both in terms of the average property value ($500,000) and everyday costs. However, Calgarians enjoy, on average, a higher total income than people who live in Halifax.
  • Calgary is significantly colder than Halifax in the winter, though the weather is wetter and less predictable in Halifax, due to its coastal location.

Calgary vs Halifax: Key Differences

Geographically and culturally, Calgary and Halifax have several key differences. However, generally, the cost of living in these cities is roughly comparable. Calgary, the largest city in Alberta, is well-known for its lively downtown, the famous Calgary stampede, and its proximity to the Canadian Rockies and Banff national park. Halifax, the largest municipality of Nova Scotia, is less than half the size of Calgary by population and is known for its coastal lifestyle, historic appeal, and sense of community.

By population, Halifax’s total inhabitants numbered 439,819 in the 2021 Census. Halifax is considerably smaller than Calgary, which had 1,306,784 people living there in 2021. Both cities have a good balance of access to natural spaces – the Rockies and prairies for Calgary, and the coastal landscape of Atlantic Canada for Halifax – and urban appeal. Calgary’s nightlife is particularly lively and the restaurant and bar scene in the city has seen considerable growth over the last decade.

In terms of the cost of living, both Calgary and Halifax are relatively similar. The average cost of a home in Halifax in October 2022 was $498,895, and for Calgary, the figure was $499,484. Similarly, a comparison of living costs like consumer prices, rent, and groceries in the two cities showed that the cost of living was more or less the same in Calgary as it is in Halifax. Ultimately, the main differences between Calgary and Halifax are geographical and cultural, with Calgary sitting in the middle of Alberta prairies and Halifax nested on the coast of eastern Canada.

Cost of Living vs Average Salary for Calgary & Halifax

The median household income for Calgarians is $97,218 according to areavibes, which is 18% higher than the national average. In Halifax, that figure is $80,863 at the time of writing, which is 2% less than the national average. On balance, there’s a slight disparity between the two cities in terms of living costs versus income. Here’s a breakdown of the cost of living and the average income for Calgarians and Haligonians.

Cost of Living vs Average Salary in Calgary

The average cost of a house in Calgary was around $500,000 in October 2022, which is almost identical to the average cost of a house in Halifax. Both Calgary and Halifax are cheaper than cities like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver to buy a property, but more expensive than cities like Saskatoon or Edmonton. Calgary’s median income is generally higher than the national average, and Halifax’s is in line with the national average. According to Area Vibes, the median household income for Calgary is $97,218. According to Numbeo, a family of four in Calgary would have average monthly cost of $4,596.97 before rent, and a single person’s monthly costs would be $1,290.69 without rent. 

Below are the median income in Calgary, residential property costs, and Alberta tax brackets.

According to Statistics Canada.

Average Residential Property Cost, Calgary (September 2022)

Property Type Average Sold Price (September, 2022)
All property types $499,484
Detached $638,813
Semi-Detached $509,122
Townhouse $343,876
Condominium $308,639

Alberta Taxable Personal Income Brackets, 2022

first $134,238 10%
over $134,238 up to $161,086 12%
over $161,086 up to $214,781 13%
over $214,781 up to $322,171 14%
over $322,171 15%

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Cost of Living vs Average Salary in Halifax

The median household income in Halifax is currently $80,863, according to areavibes.com. This is $9520 higher than the median income for Nova Scotia as a province ($71,343) and $1573 less than the national average ($82,436). As mentioned, the average cost of a home in Halifax is almost the same as in Calgary, with both cities’ average house prices for October 2022 across all property types amounting to around $500,000. Some sources claim that house prices in Halifax are falling, and will continue into the winter.

According to Numbeo, a family of four in Halifax would have an average monthly cost of $4,460.23 before rent, and a single person’s monthly costs would be $1,251.40 without rent. Both of these figures are slightly lower than Calgary’s, but not by much. By numbeo’s estimates, Halifax is only 0.64% cheaper than Calgary, which may factor into your decision if you decide to buy a home this year since the average income in Halifax is slightly lower than in Calgary. It’s also worth noting that real estate data in Halifax is showing signs of a downturn and falling property prices compared to the end of the pandemic boom.

Here are figures and graphs detailing the median income in Halifax, residential property costs, and Nova Scotia tax brackets.

According to Statistics Canada

Average Residential Property Cost, Halifax (September 2022)

Property Type Average Sold Price (September, 2022)
All property types $498,895
Condominium $398,109

Nova Scotia Taxable Personal Income Brackets, 2022

Source: Taxtips.ca

first $29,590 8.79%
over $29,590 up to $59,180 14.95%
over $59,180 up to $93,000 16.67%
over $93,000 up to $150,000 17.50%
over $150,000 21.00%

Comparable Neighborhoods in Calgary & Halifax

Source: areavibes.com, zolo.ca, City of Calgary, and RE/MAX Alberta

Calgary has the feel of a large North American city, perhaps in greater measure than Halifax (once you get out of the downtown core.) By some estimates, Calgary has 373 high-rise buildings (standing over 35m tall), whereas Halifax has only 105. Halifax also sits on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and has a more historic, European-influenced feel in some parts. However, both cities have comparable neighbourhoods, from more upmarket and recent developments to trendier, historic places. Here are a few neighbourhoods in Calgary and Halifax that are comparable.

Neighborhood in Calgary Neighborhood in Halifax
Mission / Cliff Bungalow

Mission is a trendy inner city neighbourhood in Calgary, close to the downtown core and 17th Ave. Mission is a relatively busy but safe area of downtown with trendy shops, bars, and salons, localized primarily around 4th Street and surrounding areas. Cliff Bungalow, adjacent to mission, is a quieter residential area tucked away behind 17th Ave and primarily detached and low-rise housing.

Population: 4,835
Median income: $85,089
Median age: 34.4
Average home price: $458,691

Fun things to do: Mission and Cliff Bungalow are both located right next to Calgary’s legendary 17th Avenue Southwest, or 17th to locals. 17th is one of the main areas for Calgary nightlife, and home to the famous Red Mile, the route for Calgary Flames fans before and after games. Mission itself has tons of shops, food, and bars along 4th Street, and if you follow it down to the river you can enjoy some of Calgary’s nicest walks. Mission is also home to the stunning Lindsay park, a beautiful public park with year-round fantastic views of downtown Calgary.


Downtown Dartmouth

A ten minute drive (or short ferry ride) from downtown Halifax, downtown Dartmouth is a trendy urban centre with a solid food and drinks scene, and a number of alternative shops, tattoo parlors, and indie boutiques. It also has its own waterfront, and is a more relaxed area than downtown Halifax, with an older population and good proximity to natural spaces.

Population: 2,493
Median income: $67,257
Median age: 45.8
Average home price: 662,500

Fun things to do: Dartmouth has a ton of great natural spaces and areas to soak in the landscape, from the waterfront to Sullivan’s Pond, Leighton Dillman Park, and the Dartmouth Harborwalk Trail. It’s also home to a number of historic sites, including Quaker House, the Dartmouth Heritage Museum.






Kensington

Kensington is one of Calgary’s coolest places to live. As one of Calgary’s Business Revitalization Zones, Kensington has undergone a number of redevelopment projects in recent years. Kensington is located around the intersection of Kensington Road and 10th Street Northwest. 

Population: 14,750
Median income: $79,652
Median age: 36.7
Average home price: $543,938

Fun things to do: There are a lot of fun things to do in Kensington. The area is home to a wide range of stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and more. Some of Calgary’s best graffiti can be found in Kensington, as well as a ton of other great things to see on Kensington’s Art Walk. With a range of coffee shops and restaurants to try out, the area is well-known for brunch, lunch, and dinner spots alike. Kensington also has one of the best bookstores in Calgary, Pages.







Downtown

Halifax’s downtown is the urban core of the city, packed with shops, restaurants, hotels, and year-round events. Located on Halifax’s Harbour, the city’s downtown is one of the most unique in Canada, with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and one of the longest downtown boardwalks on the planet. Downtown is home to three major universities and has a lively and active student population.

Population: 5,894
Median income: $58,306
Median age: 29.1

Home price range: $397,500 to $2,495,000

Fun things to do: Downtown Halifax is a lively, bustling part of the city and a prime tourist hotspot. With beautiful views of the Atlantic along the city’s 4km boardwalk, with its eclectic mix of shops, cafes, and bars, downtown has a lot to offer. For the more historically-inclined, the downtown area is also home to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, which nearly a million immigrants to Canada entered through between 1928 to 1971.
Inglewood

Inglewood is a trendy and historic North East Calgary neighbourhood, located primarily along 9th Ave SE and just outside of the downtown core. It’s home to a number of alternative shops, bars, and quirky heritage buildings, plus newer condos and coffee shops. Inglewood is a popular area for young professionals, students, and artsy types alike.

Population: 4,605
Median income: $86,101
Median age: 38.4
Median home price: $432,106

Fun things to do: Inglewood has a lot of alternative charm, and is known for its coffee shops, record stores, book shops, tattoo parlors, and alternative restaurants. Gravity Wine and Espresso Bar is a local favorite, as is Vegan Street tacos, which provide a quality range of all vegan tacos and some pretty great cocktails. For nature loves, you can check out the Inglewood Wildlands park and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, both located close to the river and complete with beautiful views and peaceful walks. 




The Hydrostone

The Hydrostone is one of Halifax’s most unique areas, and a designated National Heritage Site. A small, relaxed, and historic district, the Hydrostone is known for its distinct architecture and european-style market, pubs and shops.

Population: 576
Median income: $89,104
Median age: 37.7
Median home price: $729,000

Fun things to do:
The Hydrostone is part of a number of tours of Halifax, including guided audio tours of the Halifax Explosion. The area is a regular attraction for tourists given its unique and consistent european-style architecture. The strip is also home to some of Halifax’s local gems, pub-wise, including the Foggy Goggle, the Brown Hound, and Charlie’s Club, a members-only club popular with students and pool enthusiasts.





Is living in Calgary More Expensive Than in Halifax?

According to Numbeo.com, the two cities are fairly evenly matched from a cost of living perspective. On balance, the major difference in living costs between Calgary and Halifax is income. Cost-wise, Calgary and Halifax are neck and neck, in terms of property prices and everyday living costs like groceries, restaurants, rent, and local purchasing power. According to the 2021 census, the average income for Haligonians in 2020 was $52,900. In Calgary, the figure was $58,500 for the same year. Obviously, it depends on your field of work, but generally, your income level will be the deciding factor in the most cost of living discrepancies in these two cities. If you’re planning on buying a property in Halifax of Calgary, be sure to compare the best mortgage rates available before you start the process.

Weather in Calgary vs Halifax

On average, Halifax is warmer than Calgary year-round, particularly at the low end of the recorded average temperatures for each month. Halifax’s maritime climate makes the summers short and warm, and the winters cold, with sudden changes in weather common throughout the year due to coastal weather influences. Calgary winters are consistent, dry, and cold, though temperatures are offset by the Chinooks; warm, dry winds that come from the Canadian Rockies to periodically warm Calgary during the winter. Calgary is a generally sunny city year-round, though snowstorms are not infrequent. Halifax has more rainfall than Calgary, throughout the year, and an overall milder climate.

Calgary Weather

Month High/Low (°C) Rain
January -3° / -14° 4 days
February -1° / -11° 3 days
March 4° / -7° 4 days
April 11° / -2° 5 days
May 16° / 4° 7 days
June 20° / 8° 8 days
July 23° / 10° 8 days
August 22° / 9° 6 days
September 16° / 4° 6 days
October 12° / 0° 3 days
November 3° / -8° 3 days
December -2° / -12° 3 days
Data: NOAA

Halifax Weather

Month High/Low (°C) Rain
January 0° / -9° 11 days
February 0° / -8° 8 days
March -4° / -4° 10 days
April 8° / 1° 11 days
May 14° / 6° 11 days
June 20° / 11° 9 days
July 23° / 14° 8 days
August 23° / 15° 7 days
September 19° / 11° 8 days
October 13° / 6° 9 days
November 8° / 1° 11 days
December 7° / 3° 12 days
Data: NOAA

Top 5 Things to Do in Calgary

Calgary has something for everyone. Pretty much the only thing you’re missing in Calgary compared to Vancouver is the rain and the ocean, but you still have the Rockies on your doorstep, and everything a major city needs. Calgary is one of Canada’s most unique cities and has been growing consistently in property value for the last few years. Here are some of Calgary’s best attractions and events if you’re thinking about checking them out:

Bar hop on 17th ave 

17th Avenue Southwest, or just 17th to locals, has a plethora of the very best cocktail bars and restaurants you could hope for in a small area. From Cleaver, to Lulu bar, Calcutta Cricket Club, Blanco, Porch – the list goes on and on. With some of the best cocktails, food, and nightlife in Calgary, 17th is best explored on a Friday or Saturday with some friends. Just be ready for motorbikes and cars revving their engines down the strip throughout the night. (Protip: if you’re more of a morning type, check out Analog Coffee on 17th, it is quite literally the best coffee shop in the city).

The Calgary Stampede

Calgary Stampede is the city’s most legendary event. For two weeks every summer the city turns into one giant festival, centered around the iconic Stampede Rodeo and Evening Show, fireworks, booming nightlife and the sights and rides of Stampede Park. In 2022, Stampede brought in 1.2 million people in attendance, which is basically the population of the city of Calgary itself. If you’re moving to Calgary, Stampede is an absolute must see.

Walk around the Glenmore Reservoir

The Glenmore Reservoir is a stunning reservoir and parks area that provides much of the city with clean drinking water. Calgarians love this spot to unwind, take their dogs for walks, and enjoy the scenery throughout the seasons.

Check out a Flames game

Even if you’re not a huge hockey fan, or even a sports fan for that matter, there’s little that galvanizes the whole city quite like the Calgary Flames on a hot run. Tickets are reasonably priced compared to some other Canadian teams, and you’re guaranteed to have a good time. What’s more, part of Flames’ fans’ tradition is to check out the Red Mile – the fans’ route of choice along 17th Ave before (and after) games. Which brings us on to the next best thing to do in Calgary:

See a show at the Studio Bell / The National Music Centre 

Studio Bell’s program includes everything from cinematic soundtracks to music therapy, jazz trios, film screenings, and full-orchestral ensemble events. It has a number of fantastic permanent, feature, and online exhibitions, plus rotating artists-in-residence and even opportunities to rent your own studio and event spaces. General admission at Studio Bell is currently a pay-what-you-can rate, with a recommended admission of $15 per person.

Top 5 Things to Do in Halifax

Visit one of the city’s many gardens and parks

Halifax is full of beautiful parks and coastal trails, from the Halifax Public Gardens to Point Pleasant Park, plus a whole host of hikes just outside downtown Halifax. The city is known for its atmospheric coastal weather, perfect for a peaceful walk in the park or longer hike. Halifax has a fairly low population density compared to Calgary and it’s easy enough to find a quiet spot to yourself.

Go bouldering at Seven Bays 

Seven Bays provides Haligonians with bouldering for all skill levels, spread across two locations in the city’s North End, and a new 12000 square foot location in Bayers Lake. Whether you’re a new climber or have some experience, both locations provide all the required inductions, shoe rental, and more extensive training courses for enthusiasts. Pricing ranges from around $20 a session with a $5 fee for shoe rental, with discounts available on larger punch passes and monthly memberships, which are around $75 depending on what you get.

Check out Halifax street art

Halifax may not be the major urban centre that Toronto or Vancouver is, but it has a vibrant art scene both in its galleries and outdoors in its street art. There’s a self-guided street art tour of downtown. The tour starts at Peace and Friendship Park at the corner of Barrington and South streets, heading on through the downtown core and finishing up at the Waterfront. If you want to head of the beaten track, there are also some great underground artists local to Halifax, who you can discover through accounts like Halifax Street Art.

Discovery Centre

Halifax’s Discovery Centre is a family-oriented, hands-on science museum, spread across four floors. From experimental activities in the Innovation Lab, astronomy shows in the Dome Theatre, and featured exhibits and events, the Discovery Centre is a popular destination for local families and tourists alike. The centre’s Ocean Gallery is also popular, providing live demonstrations and giving kids the chance to learn more about the ocean and its inhabitants. The Discovery Centre is located close to the waterfront, making it a convenient stop for a day out. Members and kids below the age of 2 get in for free, while children and seniors can get admission for just $12 (plus tax). Adult passes are $15 plus tax, and a family of four ticket costs just $48 with tax.

Have a night out Downtown and on the Waterfront

For a city of under 500,000, Halifax has solid nightlife. Downtown and the Waterfront are two of the most lively areas for a night out, and a go-to for locals and tourists. With a ton of great pubs, bars, cocktail bars, and a handful of nightclubs, plus a large student population, Halifax is actually a pretty legendary night out. If you’re looking for cocktails, check out Noble, a speakeasy style bar just off the Waterfront, The Middle Spoon, Lot Six, or Highwayman. For a more laid back bar or pub vibe, check out T-Room, Roxbury Dive Bar, or Stillwell. Failing that, explore Downtown and the Waterfront on foot, and find somewhere that suits your style!

FAQ

Here are the most frequently asked questions about the differences between Calgary and Halifax.

Which is colder, Halifax or Calgary?

On average, Calgary is significantly colder than Halifax, which has a wetter, milder climate, with short warm summers and unpredictable coastal weather throughout the year. Calgary is consistently sunny, with cold winter months, and pleasant summers. Halifax has approximately 44 snowfall days per year, whereas Calgary has around 75.

Is Halifax safer than Calgary?

According to data from Statistics Canada, Halifax’s crime rate is 9% lower than the national average, property crime is 15% lower than the national average, and violent crime is 6% higher than the national average. For Calgary, crime rates are in line with the national average, violent crime is 22% lower than the national average, and property crime is 7% higher than the national average. Numbeo’s comparative analysis of crime in Halifax and Calgary shows Calgary to be a safer place to live, overall, with a lower crime index and a higher safety rating, by a fair, but not overwhelming margin. 

Which is a bigger city, Halifax or Calgary?

By both population and land, Calgary is a much larger city than Halifax. Calgary’s 2021 Census population was around 1.3 million, whereas Halifax’s is closer to 440,000. Calgary’s population is about three times that of Halifax. Calgary has a total land mass of 825.3 km², while Halifax’s is just 97.23 km². Finally, Calgary’s population density is around 1,600 people per kilometre squared, whereas Halifax’s is closer to 1,000 people per square kilometer. Calgary is a larger and more densely populated city than Halifax by a notable margin.

Final Thoughts

Calgary and Halifax are fairly distinct city’s based on their geography, weather, culture, and size. Comparatively, however, they stack up closely in cost of living and property cost. While income levels are typically higher in Calgary, it depends on your field. Halifax has a disproportionately large student population, as well, which may explain some of the variance in average income. Ultimately, if you want to buy a home in Calgary or Halifax, the first thing you need to do is compare the best mortgage rates and see what you can afford. If you’ve already found a place you like, feel free to contact one of our trained mortgage advisors today and we’ll help you get started.


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