Nestled in the rolling prairies that surround the Rocky Mountains, the Canadian city of Calgary is the perfect place to stop-off before venturing onto the slopes for a week of skiing, or hitting the many mountain bike or hiking trails. That is, if you can tear yourself away from Calgary, it’s a vibrant city with a strong sense of its own history, a theme uniting all the places I visited. If you fancy an off-season break then Calgary could be the city for you.
I started the clock on my 24 hour trip checking in to my hotel, La Germain. The hotel sits at the foot of the Calgary Tower, one of the city’s main landmarks. It’s a short walk from the historic downtown area, one of only three National Historic Districts in Western Canada and the hotel offers 143 rooms in a state-of-the-art complex. It is fully outfitted with eco-friendly technologies and my room came with a huge (like massive) bed, with soft and warm lighting.
Without time to linger (on my lovely bed), I decided to start my day by making the most of the hotel’s fitness suite, which offers a great range of equipment and fantastic views across downtown Calgary. Although La Germain serves breakfast, I opted to head out into town instead, making my way to cool eatery Pigeonhole.
Although La Germain serves breakfast, I opted to head out into town instead...
Offering a selection of local and international fusion dishes, served up on vintage china, Pigeonhole is a big favourite with locals and visitors alike, securing it a place on the . Waffling down the honey glazed brioche and a cup of coffee. Sadly I decided I’d probably best not start the day with a mimosa, I was anxious to pack as much into my 24 hours as possible!
Breakfast efficiently cleared, I decided to take in some culture, and shuffled on over to , a beautiful and airy new building that opened to serve bookish Calgarians in 2018. It’s a great space to browse their collection of indigenous literature (they’ve worked hard to incorporate indigenous groups into the library, including the Elder Guidance Service, offering the opportunity to meet with local elders to discuss culture, history and more), browse their collections of art and enjoy (another) coffee in one of their cafes. The interior wooden design of the building is made of cedar and emulates the chinook clouds, a meteorological phenomenon specific to the region and is well worth a look (it’s beautiful).
After this, I headed on to , home to the National Music Centre, for a tour of their facilities and museum. Studio Bell boasts a huge collection of musical instruments, from replica 16th century Harpsichords, an enormous collection of synthesisers including “Tonto” the huge home-made synth which has featured on many famous albums over the years, including Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and the touring recording van once owned by the Rolling Stones. There’s a wide range of permanent and temporary exhibits, including a collection of outfits once owned by famous Canadian musicians, and oral histories from local performers. For music fans it’s a great place to spend a few hours.
Studio Bell boasts a huge collection of musical instruments...
After a morning of culture, I decided the afternoon called for something much more decadent and so headed over to Inglewood, a district of the town known for its boutique shops and breweries, to do some shopping. First up was the . A local institution and purveyors of fine herbs and spices from around the world, Silk Road is a great place to pick up some gifts.
Pot of “grains of paradise” secured, I took in some of the other shops on the street, including which sells indigenous art and jewellery, , which has a collection of quality clothing, jewellery and homeware from local Calgary artisans, and which sells…well, plants.
And Plant which sells…well, plants...
Shopping complete, there’s time for a quick pint – or litre, as Canada has embraced the metric system, before dinner, and I headed to one of the area’s many independent breweries, . The microbrewery was conceived by university friends Blake and Dan, who wanted to revive this former brewing district of Calgary. Cold Garden has been at the heart of the beer revival in the local area ever since, and I enjoyed a glass of their East Calgary lager in the tasting room.
Feeling I’ve definitely earned my dinner and with the clock ticking down on my fleeting visit to Calgary, I decided to dine at a family-friendly neighbourhood restaurant named after a Calgary icon – the 10 foot tall replica of a 1930s cartoon character called Henry. The interior is fresh and white, full of plants and soft lighting, and the sharing menu is packed full of fresh and vegetable rich foods. A real highlight is the spicy gojuchung cauliflower.
Feeling pretty pleased with my day in Calgary, I head back to the St Germaine and a great night’s sleep in that massive bed before flying out the next day…
Trip arranged courtesy of Travel Alberta (www.travelalberta.com)