Where is Better to Live: Calgary or Toronto?
Table of contents
Toronto and Calgary are two of Canada’s largest cities. From major sports teams to internationally-renowned universities and arts centres, both cities are global cities with a lot to offer. However, there are key differences in both the cost of living and in the culture of both places. In this post, we’ll break down the main differences between living in Toronto and Calgary, from the cost of property to the best features and attractions that each place has to offer.
- Toronto, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta, are the most urbanized and highly populated cities within their respective provinces.
- On balance, Toronto has a higher cost of entry to the property market and a higher cost of living, as well as higher tax brackets due to Ontario tax structure.
- The average cost of a home in Toronto as of August 2022 was $1,079.500. The average cost of a home in Calgary, by comparison, was $485,000 in the same month.
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Calgary vs Toronto: Key Differences
Toronto is a sprawling, highly urbanized metropolitan center with a population of around 3 million people (and twice as much in the Greater Toronto Area). It is the largest city in Canada and the 4th largest city by population in North America. It is a cultural hotbed of music, art, and literature, and is one of the most diverse populations of any North American city, with permanent inhabitants coming from all over the world.
Calgary, the largest city in the province of Alberta, is a blend of prairie sensibilities and big city living, with greater access to nature both in its immediate surroundings and in its proximity to the Canadian Rockies. It’s a city of about 1.3 million people, and although it has a diverse population of its own, the city is known for being a slightly more conservative place. In the context of wider Alberta, however, Calgary is relatively progressive. It’s a city known for its oil, yearly Stampede festival, country music, and Alberta beef – among other things.
Both cities have highly urbanized downtown cores with a number of high-rise buildings. The key difference being both the scale and size of Toronto compared to Calgary. To put it into perspective, Calgary has around 20 buildings over 150m (not including those under construction). Toronto has about 80. Living in downtown Toronto truly feels like another planet at times; the noise, activity, and round-the-clock bustle is for many the appeal of the city, while for others it is precisely the reason why they would rather live elsewhere.
Similarly, Toronto has one of the highest costs of homeownership in the country, and a high cost of living compared to Calgary, where property is more affordable and the cost of living is relatively low. Toronto has a more developed transit infrastructure in the form of the TTC, which combines streetcars and subway cars, as well as an extensive bus network throughout the city. Conversely, Calgary has the CTrain, a light rail transit (LRT) network which has seen considerable development in recent years and has further expansions planned. Both cities have international airports, with Calgary’s just 20 minutes drive out of the city. Toronto’s airport is situated a city over, in Mississauga, though the Union Pearson Express is relatively quick and well-developed, and one of the fastest ways to get to the airport from downtown Toronto.
Ultimately, both Calgary and Toronto are exciting places to live. Both cities have fantastic nightlife, shopping, food, major sports teams, and all the amenities, culture, and activities you could possibly need. The key differences between the two are the cost of living, size and scale, and access to green spaces and nature, plus less tangible differences in the culture and character of each city.
Cost of Living vs Average Salary for Calgary & Toronto
Below is a breakdown of some metrics for the cost of living in Calgary and Toronto, plus the average income for individuals in both cities. In general, Montreal has higher taxes, a much lower cost of living in terms of buying or renting a property, and a marginally lower average individual income, though not by much. Conversely, Toronto has a marginally higher average individual income, a significantly higher cost of living on average, and comparatively lower taxes on income.
Cost of Living vs Average Salary in Calgary
The average cost of a home in Calgary is around $485,000 as of September this year, roughly half that of Toronto’s average housing cost at the moment. Calgary’s housing market saw considerable growth during the pandemic and after Canada re-opened, but still remains one of the most affordable large Canadian cities to live in. Particularly in terms of value for money and quality of life, Calgary is becoming a popular destination for people not looking to spend over 50% of their income to live in Vancouver or Toronto. The median household income for Calgarians is $97,218 according to areavibes, which is 18% higher than the national average. Comparatively, Calgary is more affordable in terms of living cost as a proportion of average income. According to areavibes, Toronto’s median household income currently sits at $81,376. The takeaway? People pay more to live in Toronto and earn less, overall.
According to Numbeo, a family of four in Calgary would have average monthly costs of $4,596.97 before rent, and a single person’s monthly costs would be $1,290.69 without rent, both marginally lower than Toronto’s figures, from the same source. By Numbeo’s estimates, consumer prices are 4.07% lower in Calgary than in Toronto, and rent is 32.33% lower than Toronto. Calgary groceries and restaurant prices are 3.39% and 11.99% lower, respectively, and purchasing power in Calgary is 19.02% higher than in Toronto.
Here are some graphs outlining average individual income in Calgary, average residential property cost, and Alberta tax brackets.
*According to Statistic Canada
Average Residential Property Cost, Calgary (September 2022)
|Property Type||Average Sold Price (September, 2022)|
|All property types||$485,000|
Alberta Taxable Personal Income Brackets, 2022
|over $134,238 up to $161,086||12%|
|over $161,086 up to $214,781||13%|
|over $214,781 up to $322,171||14%|
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Cost of Living vs Average Salary in Toronto
The average cost of a home in Toronto sits at $1,079,500 as of August 2022. The fact remains that Toronto is one of the most expensive places to buy a home in Canada. While there are a number of first-time homebuyer incentives in Toronto, the city is still one of the costliest markets for Canadians, in real terms. For instance, according to Statistics Canada, the average income for Torontonians is only marginally higher than that of Montreal, according to recent census data ($52,700 per individual in 2020). Toronto has lower taxes comparably to Montreal, but rent and property ownership in the city is much more expensive on average. However, Toronto also has a number of industries, like tech and banking, that are booming, bringing higher salaries to the city at the top end of the distribution.
According to Numbeo.com, a family of four in Toronto would have average monthly costs of $4,788.56 before rent, and a single person’s monthly costs would be $1,311.85 without rent. The first estimate seems high, since space is probably the foremost cost to Torontonians, so take these figures with a pinch of salt.
Here are some graphs and tables showing Toronto’s average income, average cost of a residential property in Toronto, and current Ontario tax brackets.
*According to Statistics Canada
Average Residential Property Cost, Toronto (August 2022)
|Property Type||Average Sold Price (August, 2022)|
|All property types||$1,079,500|
Ontario Taxable Income Brackets, 2022
|$46,226 or less||5.05%|
|$46,226 to $92,454||9.15%|
|$92,454 to $150,000||11.16%|
|$150,000 to $220,000||12.16%|
Comparable Neighbourhoods in Calgary & Toronto
Toronto and Calgary share a similar style, particularly architecturally, in some parts of each city. However, there are also a number of unique neighbourhoods in each city, and some which align more closely along cultural and demographic lines. Here are some comparable areas of each city plus some basic demographic and home price information.
|Neighborhood in Calgary||Neighborhood in Toronto|
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.
Median income: $85,089*
Median age: 34.4
Average home price: $458,691, according to RE/MAX Alberta
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.
*According to Areavibes.com
A cozy, collegiate neighborhood close to downtown and the University of Toronto. This area lies roughly between Bloor and Dupont Street, and Bathurst and Avenue Road. Low crime, nice houses, and great amenities are the pull for this area, though cost of living is quite high.
Median income: $86,251*
Median age: 35.5*
Median home price: Prices typically range from $575,000 up to $4+ million. The cost of living in the Annex is roughly 50% higher than the Canadian average.*
Fun things to do: The Annex is one of the most central neighborhoods in Toronto, close to some of Toronto’s best restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, stores, and bars. Just a stone’s throw from UofT and Chinatown and still in walking distance to great areas like Little Italy, Kensington Market, Yonge Street to the East, and Queen West to the South. The Annex is a central, low-crime and expensive area, within reach of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the nightlife of Bloor, Kensington Market, College Street, and Ossington Ave further to the East.
*According to Areavibes.com
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. Alike not only in name, Calgary’s Kensington has a similar role to Toronto’s Kensington Market: a beloved urban and alternative neighbourhood in the city.
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.
*According to the City of Calgary*According to RE/MAX Alberta
Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most-loved neighbourhoods, and is situated near Chinatown, from College Street to the north and Dundas Street West to the south. Kensington Market is a lively urban and residential area localized primarily around Augusta Ave and Kensington Ave. Known for its street food, Pedestrian Sundays, and nightlife, Kensington Ave is an ideal place to spend the day or night.
Median income: $52,173*
Median age: 38.0*
Average home price: $870,117**
*According to areavibes.com**According to Zolo.ca
Fun things to do: Kensington Market is home to some of Toronto’s coolest bars, pubs, restaurants, and dives. Located close to College Street, another hub for Toronto nightlife, Kensington has a wide array of different style bars from upscale mezcal bars (El Rey) to holes in the wall (Ronnie’s). It also has some of the best street food and general food in the city, like Rasta Pasta and Seven Lives. Kensington Market also has a number of great thrift stores and some of the best street art in the city.
Inglewood is a trendy 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.
Median income: $86,101**
Median age: 38.4*
Median home price: According to zolo.ca, the median price of a residential property in Inglewood is currently $432,106, based on MLS® statistics.
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.
*According to Areavibes.com**According to City of Calgary
Church And Wellesley
Church and Wellesley is an LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhood in downtown, to the East of Yonge Street (Toronto’s main arterial route from the North of the city to the South) and bordering the up-market Cabbagetown further East. Church and Wellesley is a stone’s throw from Yonge and Dundas Square, Toronto’s equivalent of Times Square.
Median income: $133,158*
Median age: 33.9*
Median home price: According to realosophy.com, the median price of a residential property in Church and Wellesley is around $747,500, while other estimates put the figure at slightly higher (in excess of $1.5 million).
Fun things to do: A quick walk to Yonge street takes you down some of Toronto’s more mainstream attractives, like great bars, restaurants, and the iconic Eaton Center shopping mall. Church and Wellesley is also close to Allan Gardens, one of Toronto’s well-known parks and botanical gardens.
*According to Areavibes.com
Marda Loop, or ‘The Loop’, as it’s known, is a desirable area of southwest Calgary known for its charming residential feel and wealth of amenities, plus its close proximity to other great neighbourhoods like Mission, downtown, and 17th Ave.
Median income: $118,764 *
Median age: 37*
Median home price: According to RE/MAX Central Alberta, the current median price of a residential property in Marda Loop is $854,493.
Fun things to do: Marda Loop has over 170 shops, boutiques and restaurants of all different kinds. Considered a walkable shopping and dining district in the middle of Southwest Calgary, The Loop is an attractive and well-off area with beautiful scenery. Check out Visit Marda Loop for news on events. Marda Loop is also home to a fair amount of street art, and an annual Mardi Gras festival.
*According to City of Calgary**According to great-news.ca
Cabbagetown is a well-established downtown neighbourhood in Toronto, and is considered one of the wealthier neighbourhoods in the city by many. Located just east of Yonge Street, Cabbagetown gets its name from Irish immigrant families who used their front gardens to grow cabbages.
Median income: $97,459*
Median age: 44.6*
Median home price: According to zolo.ca, the current median price of a residential property in Cabbagetown, Toronto, is $995,529.
Fun things to do: Cabbagetown is known for its uniquely beautiful homes and gardens. It’s also close to Toronto’s Allan Gardens, a botanical garden in the heart of the city. Cabbagetown has some of the city’s best restaurants and legendary pubs, as well as The Phoenix Concert Theatre, the Toronto Necropolis, and the well-known Cabbagetown festival, an annual festival that takes place throughout the area.
*According to Areavibes.com
Is living in Calgary More Expensive Than in Toronto?
The short answer is almost definitely not. Calgary’s average house price is roughly half of that of Toronto’s which means in mortgage payments alone you’ll be saving thousands. (To understand more about how your your house price will affect your mortgage payments, check out our mortgage affordability calculator). Buying a home in Toronto is generally much more expensive than in Calgary, across all property types. Toronto also has a lower average income and a higher cost of living. Alberta also currently has a tax advantage compared to other Canadian provinces, including Ontario. Ultimately, Calgary is much cheaper than Toronto, and the Calgary property market continues to show signs of stability into the last quarter of 2022.
Comparing Ontario vs Alberta Income Tax
Alberta has had an individual tax advantage over Ontario for some time now. You will generally pay less in tax from your income in Alberta than in Ontario. Here’s a breakdown of what you’d pay in income tax for the same amounts in Toronto, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta.
2021 Income Taxes (Individual)
|Income (CAD)||Alberta (Calgary)||Ontario (Toronto)|
Here are representative tax rates for the same income amounts in Alberta and Ontario.
2021 Average Tax Rates for a Single Person
Weather in Calgary vs Toronto
Year-round, Toronto is generally a warmer place to live than Calgary, but the tradeoff is that Calgary is typically sunnier and with less precipitation. Toronto is known for brief but sudden transitional seasons, particularly around fall and September-October. Calgary is known for Chinooks, which are warm and dry winds that flow from the Canadian Rockies onto the prairies, and periodically warm the city in the winter months. Summers in both cities are pleasant, with Toronto seeing extreme heat often during July and August and Calgary sometime seeing uncharacteristic heat, particularly in recent years. Below is a comparison of Toronto and Calgary’s annual weather.
|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|
|January||0° / -7°||9 days|
|February||0° / -7°||8 days|
|March||5° / -2°||7 days|
|April||12° / 4°||8 days|
|May||19° / 10°||7 days|
|June||24° / 15°||8 days|
|July||27° / 18°||7 days|
|August||26° / 18°||6 days|
|September||23° / 14°||6 days|
|October||15° / 8°||8 days|
|November||9° / 2°||8 days|
|December||3° / -3°||9 days|
Top 5 Things to Do in Calgary
Calgary and Toronto are two of Canada’s most appealing and lively cities. Realistically, both have plenty to offer, and can cater to a huge range of people, from sports fans to artistic types, bookworms and nature lovers, to barhoppers and nightlife aficionados. However, it’s worth mentioning a few locales, events, and staples for both cities. Here are some of Calgary’s most well-known draws for locals and out of towners alike.
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 (looking at you Maple Leafs), 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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
Top 5 Things to Do in Toronto
Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world, attracting people from all backgrounds and cultures. It’s a hotbed of activity, with something to do for everyone year-round. Here are a few of the most popular events, locations, and activities to try out if you’re planning on buying a home in Toronto.
Nuit Blanche, ‘white night’, or more colloquially ‘sleepless night’, is an annual all-night arts exhibition and festival that takes over the whole of downtown Toronto. With hundreds of exhibitors from around the world and public art installations dotted around the city, the night has attracted contemporary works from Artists like Ai Wei Wei, Director X, and Daniel Arsham. Here’s a list of the exhibits from this year’s Nuit Blanche.
Go to a Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, TFC or Raptors game
Toronto is a sports fan’s paradise. With 4 major professional league teams in hockey, baseball, soccer and Canada’s only NBA team, Toronto sports regularly pulls in thousands of fans to packed out arenas like the Scotiabank Arena, Rogers Centre, and BMO Field. Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, the atmosphere of home games in Toronto is electric, and truly worth checking out at least once.
Visit the Royal Ontario Museum, or the Art Gallery of Ontario
Toronto has some of Canada’s most internationally-acclaimed art galleries and natural history museums, with prestigious artists and a rich diversity of exhibits throughout the year. Admission to the AGO ranges from nothing to $25 depending on your age, student status, and the day of the week (Wednesday nights at the AGO are free to attend). The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) on Bloor Street, has admission of between $14 – 25 dollars.
Explore Graffiti Alley and Queen Street West
Graffiti Alley showcases some of the city’s best artists and runs in parallel to one of Toronto’s trendiest streets for shopping, eating, and nightlife (Queen Street West). What used to be a contested area between the city and illegal street art has now become a designated area of municipal significance after a lengthy legal battle, and is now one of Toronto’s coolest spots to visit. Similarly, Queen Street West is one of Toronto’s best places to go out, explore, and sample local cuisine and cocktails.
Take a trip to the islands
Located south of downtown, the Toronto Islands provide a stunning view of the city skyline and are a great place to visit any time of the day. To reach the Islands, you’ll need to take a ferry from Bay Street on Queens Quay at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, where you can go to Hanlan’s Point, Centre Island, and Ward’s Island. Perfect for a picnic or a relaxing walk, the Toronto Islands provide some respite from the constant hubbub of the downtown core.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are some of the most frequent questions about living in Calgary versus Toronto. Both cities are amazing cities to live in, and comparable in terms of culture and overall feel. However, there are important distinctions between the two, when it comes to size, cost of living, and weather.
Is it cheaper to live in Calgary or Toronto?
Calgary is considerably cheaper to live in by several metrics, not least of which include: lower cost of housing; lower cost of living; lower taxes in Alberta; shorter commute times. The main differentiator between Toronto and Calgary however is the price of a home. In Toronto, the average price of a home for August 2022 was $1,079,500. For Calgary in the same month, the average price of a home was $485,000 – less than half the cost of Toronto.
Is Toronto colder than Calgary?
While Toronto does have its cold snaps, on average Calgary is significantly colder in winter and on average, year round. For context, according to NOAA, the average low for January is -14°C. For Toronto, the average low for the same month is -7°C.
Which is a bigger city, Toronto or Calgary?
By population, Toronto is a much larger city than Calgary. In 2021 the population of the City of Toronto was about 2.7 million, with the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) amounting to almost 6 million. By comparison, Calgary is a city of about 1.3 million people, with the greater Calgary area only slightly larger than the city’s population, at just under 1.4 million people. In terms of geographic area, Toronto is smaller at 630.2 km² and much more densely populated. Calgary, conversely, is spread over a larger land mass (825.3 km²) with a lower population density and more space.
Both Calgary and Toronto are the largest cities in their respective provinces. Ultimately, they have a lot in common in terms of nightlife, arts, culture, and the overall feel of the city. Calgary is markedly greener and has more space in the downtown area than Toronto, which is a densely populated area. However, both cities have their unique appeal. While Toronto is the more costly of the two, both Toronto and Calgary’s housing markets have remained steady in their growth over the last few years and property values have increased significantly. If you’re looking to buy a home in either city, be sure to compare the best mortgage rates, or get in touch with one of trained mortgage advisors now for further support.
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