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Canada’s fifth largest city, Calgary, is just an hour’s drive from must-see, Banff National Park. Before you head off on your mountain adventure, it’s worth spending a few days in this young prairie city. Nicknamed ‘Cow Town’ thanks to its old western heritage, Calgary gives you quintessential Canadian culture (think microbreweries and poutine), as well as a slick city scene of skyscrapers, energetic nightlife and up-and-coming neighbourhoods.
Calgary hostels keep you close to the action of downtown, so you’ll be walking distance to shopping centres and handy C-train stops. You can stay in a futuristic building with interiors that blend industrial vibes with a Canadian cabin feel, or a sleep spot with the most free amenities of any hostel in Canada. Many hostels in Calgary have organised events like karaoke nights and pub crawls, or make use of entry to local clubs and bars. After a night out, replenish with a free breakfast of hot Nutella pancakes.
The best way to get a real flavour of the city is to explore its neighbourhoods. One of them is Beltline – the inner city’s part-retro, part-boutique design district – where you’ll find a string of art galleries and popular brunch spots. To the south is 17th Avenue Retail & Entertainment District, the go-to spot for shopping and nightlife. There’s also historic Inglewood with a newly found bohemian vibe, and architecturally intriguing Kensington Village for when you want patio beers in the sun.
You’ll have lots of ways to fill your day, from museum crawls to coffee culture pit-stops – you can also ice-skate on a frozen park pond in winter. Glenbow Museum gives an insight into the western culture of Canada, while the National Music Centre plays host to both a rare instrument collection and live music every night. For a real step-back-in-time experience, head to Canada’s largest living history museum, Heritage Park Historical Village. Be sure to slot in a rich brew at a Kensington Village coffee shop between stops or try a 'Caesar' – a spicy, vodka-and-Clamato day drink.
With its own airport, Calgary connects to many international cities. It’s less than a 30-minute drive to the city centre, with several shuttle bus companies serving this route. If you’re visiting from within Canada, buses can bring you in from other famous places like the Canadian Rockies, the Badlands and Edmonton. Once here, you can get around cheaply by bus, C-Train or bicycle. Grab a public bike and glide comfortably in lanes that run alongside most major streets throughout the city.