101 Guidesanne ditmeyercityTravel

calgary guide

by Grace Bonney

today’s first city guide (stay tuned for columbus, ohio this afternoon!) is dedicated to calgary! i’ve been wanting to add more canadian content to d*s so i’m thrilled to post this guide, written by lindsay bowman of fine things and big dreams and style north, today. linsday’s guide is jam-packed with great shops, attractions and places to eat so i hope you’ll enjoy it! thanks, lindsay!

CLICK HERE for the full Calgary guide after the jump!

Welcome to Calgary! Best known for our Cowboys and The Calgary Stampede, Calgary also has a great Design scene. I moved to Calgary two years ago, and undertook a major renovation process on my home. Through the LONGGGGGG reno process, I discovered lots of great design resources, but it wasn’t without a lot of leg work! I started a blog to help other Calgarians discover these resources, and now, I’m so thrilled to share them with your readers!

Design District (11th Ave SW)

11th Ave SW is home to Calgary’s Design District. Its a great cluster of the best home design stores in Calgary.


Kit Interior Objects (725 11th Ave SW)
Kit is the spot in Calgary for anyone looking to satisfy an Eames fix or a hankering for a Noguchi coffee table. Kit also carries Calgary’s largest selection of Marimekko accessories including fabric.
Country Funiture
One of my favorite stores, it’s where you’ll find an eclectic mix of home furnishings, tablewear, bedding and bath linens. It’s my go-to place for classic comfortable furniture and unique and gorgeous home accessories.

Maria Tomas (1015 11th Street SW)
There is little you won’t find at Maria Tomas. Its Calgary’s destination for everything from Farrow and Ball paint, Sarah Richardson designed furniture, beautiful fabrics and custom design, lighting, wall paper, window coverings and lots and lots of accessories. They also have a designer on staff to help you pull it all together!

Chintz and Company (1238 11th Ave SW).
This store carries an abundance of affordable and eclectic home furnishings and accessories spread over three floors. The gorgeous selection of accessories included an impressive array of mercury glass, an absolutely beautiful selection of faux flowers (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type), thousands of bolts of sumptuous drapery and upholstery fabric, chandeliers, and any accessory you could possibly think of from coral to vases to the largest selection of faux fruit this blogger has ever seen.

Soho + Nada (820 11th Ave SW)
This store’s claim to fame is that they ensure that anything you fall in love with today can be in your home tomorrow, should you live in Calgary! They carry a wonderful selection of high design furniture, kitchen acessories, fine china, and tablewear in addition to Frette and Revelle linens.

Domicile Interior (715 11th Ave)
In the spirit of full disclosure I have to admit that Domicile is the type of store my “fiscally prudent” husband gets nervous just walking by. Sadly, it’s not for the budget-conscious shopper. However, should I win the lotto next week (as planned) the first place I’m heading is Domicile. They have the most amazing modern and designer furniture in the city.
Robert Sweep (739 11th Ave)
Robert Sweep carries a great range of American and European designed home decor accessories and furniture pieces, as well as accents such as lamps, linens and more. Although not for the budget shopper, its also great for inspiration!

The Art of Hardware (730 10th Ave SW)
This is also one of my favorites for door and cabinet hardware, in addition to bathroom fixtures and accessories. They always carry the best new tubs and bathroom fixtures, and I love browsing through all the hardware options!

The French Connection (1222 11th Ave SW)
Gorgeous fine European antiques and French inspired accessories fill this store. Its one of my favorite stores to browse, if for nothing else, inspiration!

Chili Club Thai Restaurant (125-555 11th Ave SW)
My favourite Thai restaurant in town. You’re going to have to make reservations, but it will be worth it!
Brulee (722 11th Ave SW)
An amazing bakery. There’s not a lot of seating, but they’re more then happy to wrap your delicious dessert to go!

Kensington is known as Calgary’s urban village. Located where 10th Street NW and Kensington Road intersect, its a great community for shopping, dining and grabing a coffee and people watching.

Willow Studio (1437 Kensington Rd NW)
Opened 11 years ago as a small design consulting firm, Willow Studio has grown into a busy consulting business and retail shop. You’ll find just the right mix of knowledgeable design experts and a large selection of Canadian-made products to help with your decorating needs

Urban Barn (1117A Kensington Rd NW)
When you’re ready to step up from Ikea but don’t yet have the bank balance to support designer furniture, head to Urban Barn. With locations across Canada, Urban Barn offers a wonderful selection of affordable furniture (with many custom options available) ranging from $200 to $2000 and accessories in just about any and all price ranges, even the most budget conscience shopper will be thrilled. And as an added bonus, they deliver . . . and assemble!

In Gear (1115 Kensington Rd NW)
A shop that opened in 1991 with the vision of offering truly unique fashion, jewellery, furniture and home accessories. Today, they still offer a vast selection of products you won’t find anywhere else, and will allow you to reflect your unique style. I particularly enjoy their large selection of kitschy giftwear. Why am I such a sucker for vintage photos on napkins?

Kilian (1110 Kensington Rd)
A beautiful selection of sleek furniture spreads over Kilian’s three floors. Although not exactly budget friendly (think four to five figures), Kilian is certainly a must check when searching for a special addition for your home.
The Cushy Life (106A 10th Street NW)
This is Calgary’s destination for luxery linens and drapery. They also do amazing custom work, anything from bed linens to drapery, pillows and throws, and they offer the largest selection of fabrics in Western Canada!

Kensington Wine Bar (1131 Kensington Rd)

A new addition to the Kensington bar and lounge scene, this is a great spot where you can buy wine by the sip, glass or bottle, and enjoy a great selection of finger foods while you relax.

Molly Malone’s Irish Pub (1153 Kensington Cres)

Probably our favourite pub, if you prefer beer over wine this is your place. Also a great place to enjoy traditonal UK pub food and has a fantastic roof top patio should you be visiting in the sumemr.

Pulcinella (1147 Kensington Cres)

If you’re familiar with Vancouver’s Yaletown, this restaurant has a very similar feel. Its best known for its authentic napoletana pizza, but I think their pasta is even better!

Crave Cupcakes (1119 Kensington Rd)

Calgary’s first Cupcake shop and still the best! Get there early, they almost always sell out before close!

17th Ave SW

Better known for its bars and restaurants (and it’s close proximity to the Saddledome and Stampede Grounds), 17th Ave may not have the greatest selection of design stores, but it is a must see neighbourhood when visiting Calgary, especially if you’re fitting in some clothes shopping or nightlife!


4Living (1445 17th Ave SW)
Great Canadian design and sources. 4Living offers furniture, accessories and a in house designer should you need any help acheiving your vision!

The Social Page (858 16th Ave SW)
A great Calgarian source for stationary, custom invitations and other paper goods. A must visit if you’re looking for custom wedding stationary.
Rubaiyat (722 17th Ave SW)
Offers amazing hand made arts and crafts from around the world from the world’s finest craftspeople and artists. Rubaiyat is especially fun to visit at Christmas time, when the store is filled to the brim with Christmas trees exhibiting the most gorgeous Christmas ornaments from around the world!
Housebrand (202-2212 4th Street SW)
Just five blocks off 17th Ave sits Housebrand. Housebrand is not only a design store that features a fantastic selection of modern furniture but also offers free design seminars on “slow home design” and “Mid-century modern design”.
Farm (1006 17th Ave SW)
Imagine, the choice between succlent cheese platters or a menu of comfort food. Add to it a fantastic wine list. This is the definition of my kind of restaurant. Make sure you try the Mac & Cheese, it won the honor of being one of the 25 best things to eat in Calgary!
JaroBlue (1314 17th Ave SW)
This is my favorite tapas lounge in Calgary. It has a great low key atmosphere, with comfy couches, intimate lighting and great service. Throw onto that a great wine list, delicious tapas and cheese platters, and you have my perfect night.
Brava Bistro (723 17th Ave)
A great restaurant, serving modern mediteraian dishes and lots of wine. The food is simple, and delicious, and the price isn’t too bad either!

Inglewood (9th Ave SE)
This is my new favorite neighbourhood. Has a huge selection of antique and second hand shops, and great Italian restaruants, what more could you need!?!

Leo’s Second Hand Store (1225B 9th Ave SE)
One of my favourite second hand stores in Calgary. Make sure you check out the basement, but be prepared to dig! Great selection of art deco pieces for fabulous prices!

Serindipity Gifts and Cafe (1319 9th Ave SE)
Cute gift shop where you can get a coffee and pastry while you shop.

Montauk (1327 9th Ave SE)
Montauk makes the MOST AMAZING seating in the world. Stuffed with actual down, you will never be able to sit in another sofa or chair and deem it comfortable. After one visit, you will start saving for one of their amazing pieces.

Block (1401 9th Ave SE)
Offers quality design that is sleek, simple and modern.

Light Form
Worth a visit just to admire the architecture of light fixtures. Light Form has some of the most amazing fixtures I’ve ever seen and always leaves me in total awe.

Cherry Four(1215A 9th Ave SE)
The best children’s decor store in Calgary. This store is so cute that even non-mothers like myself leave dreaming of the perfect nursary and playroom. A huge selection of custom children’s fabrics and furniture options.

Rustic Residence (1215 9th Ave SE)
A great boutique offering unique design from around the world. I love this shop for its great selection of “Canadiana” and “Western” inspired decor. This shop will make you want a Mountain Chalet in Banff to decorate.

Hinchcliff & Lee Collection (1217A 9th Ave SE)
A beatiful boutique offering Asian antiques. Not for the budget shopper, but shopping here is like walking through a museum of Asian artifacts!

Artful Living (1221 9th Ave SE)
An exclusive importer of designer furniture, this boutique also offers a gorgous selection of art and framing services.

Junktiques (1226 9th Ave SE)
A fabulous antique store, one of my favorites. Two stories of fabulous finds. Make sure you check the basement for an amazing selection of antique doors.

Modern Country Interiors (1227 9th Ave SE)
Exactly as the name says, a huge selection of furniture that has a great modern country feel.

Ellipses Design (1213 9th Ave SE)
A fantastic furniture boutique offering fantastic modern furniture with a great blend of European and Asian inspiration.

Nectar Desserts (1216 9th Ave SE):
You must stop at this fantastic dessert shop for one of their amazing desserts made with only the best ingredients. Their lemon dessert was recently voted one of the top 25 things to eat in Calgary!
Sugo Caffe Italia (1214 9th Ave SE)
Delicious Italian food and fantastic service. Sugo’s menu is carefully planned to use only local and fresh ingredients. Fantastic for lunch or dinner.
Capo Restaurant (1420 9th Ave SE)
Another AMAZING Italian restaurant. Their gnocchi also won one of the 25 best things to eat in Calgary. Its a must try.
Thanks again!

Suggested For You


  • Calgary is a city of rapid growth and little respect for history and culture.
    Why preserve a historic building when you can tear it down and pave it for cheaper?
    The downtown is a ghost town by 6pm after workers have hopped in their SUV’s and high-tailed it down the freeway to their stucco-clad mcMansions.

    Despite all this, it’s good to hear that there’s still a strong design scene in the city, thanks for sharing.

  • I learned how to love Calgary after a couple of months living there. It is a corporate city but there is something happening in the art scene thanks to the Alberta College of Art and Design. Also, The Banff Centre for the Arts which is amazing.

    The River Café used to be my favourite.

    Ghost downtown after 6pm can be even interesting if you learn how to live with it!

  • i LOVE calgary (and all the areas mentioned here) but this post makes me sad because my roommate is moving back there today & taking his two kitties with him! aaack i’m going to miss them :(

  • How wonderful is it to see a Canadian city on one of my favorite blogs!!! And, MY Canadian city ;) Yes, we could stand for my culture here(it’s better in Edmonton–wish we would compete with them as hard for that as we do in sports), but the design scene here is wonderful. And, you haven’t lived until you’ve had a treat from Brulee.

  • Yay! So great to see some Canadian content!! Thanks for the great info!

    Let’s try Edmonton next!

  • Edmonton also has a great scene. Edmonton has always been Calgary’s gritty little brother. Where Calgary is a white collar town, Edmonton is definitely a blue collar town, and I think that shows up a lot in the art communities. Edmonton’s music scene tends to be dirtier and more rock, Calgary’s music scene is poppier and lighter. I find Edmotnon design to be a lot harsher and darker.

    You should do an Edmonton guide. This town is awesome!

  • I agree with Christine! As excited as I was to see a Canadian city being featured that’s not Vancouver or Toronto, I would have rather seen Edmonton there instead. Not just because I live here, but because I think it has more art, design, and culture than Calgary.

    • kay and christine

      just a reminder- all our guides are reader submissions so we’re at the whim of local experts- because we’re all in ny and certainly not in the know about canadian cities as much as we’d like.

      if you’d like to write a guide to edmonton please feel free to drop me a line!


  • How wonderful to open this blog and come upon a guide to my own city! Don’t forget about Meet, Ming, and Milk Tiger for cocktails, and the Coup and Mercato for dinner! Tubby Dog and Beano are other fantastic places for late night eats and coffee- Calgary has a bad rep, but thankfully lots more is starting to happen here!

  • PS: Don’t foget Honeybees in Kensington and Steeling Home off on 17th ave for home accessories

  • How wonderful to see so many of my favourite places mentioned. Calgary is a great city that has many little independent places for you to find. The average on looker may think that there is nothing to this city but “mcMansions”. Dig just a little deeper and you can find real gems.

    My top list for Calgary eats at least would have to be Eat Eat! in Inglewood (9th avenue)
    4th street SE is an often over looked area that is the host of the ever growing Lilac Festival. Many interesting places to explore along with some great sushi.
    Thanks again for representing a great city.

  • How wonderful to see my hometown featured here! I’m excited for my next trip back to explore some of these places! It has been so long since I have lived in Calgary that many of these places are new to me!
    I’m also excited to hear that Calgary is growing more of a creative and design culture, something that is hard to do when the snow dusted peaks of the mountains beckon each weekend!

  • PS. I completely agree with Brodie Peariso, McMansions are easy to see, they are huge! However it doesn’t represent the whole population. You just have to look a little harder…

  • I’m so happy to see Calgary here! I am not native but I’ve been living in it for 4 years now. Calgary has a bad rep for good reason, it is all about big money, shiny exteriors and hiding dirty secretes. There is some wonderful stuff here, you just have to look

    I disagree Molly Malone’s is a good pub. I know too many people who have gotten food poisoning and it is damn gross in there. The Kensington Pub is just steps away and has much more charm.

    Don’t forget about Cooks and Co. Great kitchen resource store.

    Brodie, My favorite diner is Eat Eat! too.

    Twice a year ACAD has a student sale, you can get beautiful artwork, pottery and blown glass.

    Art Central is full of little shops owned by local artisans, it is thrilling to walk through

    There are also several artist run centers. You cannot buy artwork there, but it is free to look at contemporary art and the openings (also free) have snacks and the artists to mingle with. They are TRUCK, Stride, and The New Gallery

    There are so many more great places… if you do not like drunk teens and crowded venues, stay clear during Stampede week.

  • Wow, some folks are pretty harsh on Calgary. I was raised & I am still living in Calgary so I can tell you that there is a lot going on in this city design wise – there have been some big movements in the past few years including Arts Central downtown & many festivals and shows to attend.

    There have in the past been a lot of SUV driving oil & gas men that is for sure, however, that generation is past & I think if you take a second and look past your stereotypes you will catch on to the excitement of a relatively young city that is figuring itself out & where anything is possible. Every city started somewhere & simply because you don’t trip over design everywhere (like in a city such as Vancouver) doesn’t mean it’s not here – it just means you aren’t really looking. Calgary is a city of opportunity & enthusiasm & I think that to write it off is a mistake. Like a few postings have said before – slow down and take a minute to look deeper & you will see what you’ve been missing.

  • Just mailed off a couple of my paintings to Calgary so it clicked when I saw it on your site. Calgary is a fun and vibrant city but how about a little visit to Victoria (I’m a little prejudiced because I live there!) Maybe the Gulf Islands or Nelson (whoops I’m giving away all the secrets)

  • Thank you so much for profiling Calgary! Calgary has been pinned under the ‘corporate town’ rep for so long that a lot of people find it hard to see the vibrant and developing arts and design scene here. This is just what our local artists and independent shop owners need, a little good publicity around what they are working so hard to achieve.

  • Some comments are really harsh here, it does surprise me. I don’t understand why do people have to be so negative, if you don’t like the city is fine, but why be offensive?

    I have been living in Calgary for 5 years now and you have to be here to see how much it has change and how many cool cultural and arts things are going on here. I am a dancer, I live and thrive in the arts world, I know a lot of amazing artists who work here. And frankly, I find it a bit offensive when someone says that we here in Calgary don’t respect culture. By the way I grew up in Europe, just so that it is clear that I do know what arts and culture look like :)

    Downtown is a ghoest town? Maybe it was true years ago but not anymore, I go through downtown at night on regular basis and there are always people, everywhere, the C-train is full at 10pm.

    One thing that Calgary does have going for it is that it grows fast, really FAST. And that means that everything changes really fast, the city is changing. For example, I go to different concerts every week, I can’t live without music. So much to pick from, classical, jazz, rock… so many guest artist now visiting Calgary. It would be really nice if people kept open mind about Calgary and wouldn’t base their opinions on what it was 5 years ago.

  • I used to live in Calgary and miss it a lot. It is going through some growing pains from a small town to a bigger city. I’m glad that I can go home to discover new stores here and there. One thing awesome is that they don’t have provincial tax…which is great if you go for a shopping trip.

    Can you do a city guide on Vancouver? I’m fairly new, and would LOVE to figure out some cool spots to try out that are recommended by long time locals! Thanks.

  • Fun! Wish I’d seen this before my trip to Alberta earlier this month. Might have cheered me up a little – it was -38 our first day in Edmonton. I. Wanted. To. Die.

    I agree that it would be great if the guides could head further West…Victoria would be a fun stop. While Vancouver has an established scene, Victoria is waaaaay artsier and far funkier.

  • Wow! I didn’t think I’d ever see my city on d*s. Thanks for sharing. Calgary does indeed have a lot of great shops, art, and interesting culture–they just tend to be more scattered around the city (and quieter) than the corporate ‘n’ cowboy elements for which it is known. Calgary is still a young city (compared to Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, etc) so I think that all this potential has so many ways to grow.

  • I dont think people are trying to be harsh about Calgary. I just think Calgary takes itself a wee bit too seriously. I has this feeling of shameless self promotion which reminds me of Toronto a few years back. I agree many interesting things are coming out of Calgary these days. However the hoopla and horray you hear from Calgarians living all over the country gets old. Really old.

    I really liked Calgary’s surrounding country side much more than the “city” itself. The city feels like an over grown suburb. The country side and rockies are to die for!

    We dont hate you Calgary. Not at all.

    -With love from Montreal.

  • This information is a godsend thank you, I have moved here just months ago and thought i was stuck with Ikea or Urban Barn…brown stuff in a brown house (are all Calgary interiors brown???).

    I have managed to eat or drink in every place listed :-)

    Pulcinellas is really really bad for pizza. I found an excellent pizza place, just like italy called Il Centro way down near chinook, off to the other side of Mccloud. Service was so bad it is funny – worth it for the pizza.

    Cafe Rosso in Ramsay does the best coffee I have ever had. However, with a *bucks on every corner how much are people spending on coffee in this town?

    I was very happy the day I stumbled upon Arts Central, the Uppercase Gallery is brilliant and their in house graphic design in outstanding.

    Alot of design agencies here are quite poor, they seem to have huge offices and quite bad portfolios.

    Plus the countryside is amazing, fish creek is ace too.

  • Interesting to see Calgary here! Max seems to be going to all the right places! Lets support local buisnesses as much as we can and that means the Calgary Farmers Market. God bless Phil & Sebastian coffee! Calgary has, arguably, the greatest art college in Western Canada and a cool music scene if you look for it (Cantos, Beatnik, Mikey’s Juke Joint, Palomino). Don’t forget our great local designers (Shisomiso, Uppercase, Influx).As a local artist, born in Edmonton, and working in the non-profit museum sector here, I agreee that there is a lot to complain about where Calgary is concerned, but I haven’t given up on it. If all the artists leave and if people don’t go out, see art and music and buy local, then how much worse might Calgary get in the future?
    Check out what Calgary Arts Development is up to: http://calgaryartsdevelopment.com/ Also, a great Calgary-based resteraunt blog:

  • Hey, thanks for posting this. I just wanted to plug Art Central, which is tucked away in corporate Calgary’s Downtown area. I sell abstract paintings (my own) and other artworks. We are basically a mall filled with small businesses. Galleries, shops, studios and a coffee house (Deville). Thanks again!

  • What a wonderful guide to Calgary! Kudos to Design*Sponge for keeping such an open mind… Calgary doesn’t always leap to mind first when thinking of arts and culture, but this blogg did good! I’m new to Alberta, just moved to Edmonton, and Grace, I’d love to start working on a submission on Edmonton… it’ll keep me on the look out!
    thanks so much for your inspiring blog!

  • Great guide to Calgary. Congratulations to Design*Sponge for giving a home to the city’s stories.
    Of course the other thing that makes Calgary such a great city is its wonderful people and the random acts of kindness that happen every day. We’re colllecting Feel Good stories of the people in Alberta who make a difference: visit http://www.feelgoodripple.ca and add your Feel Good Ripple.

  • Thank you very much for this post!I visited several canadian cities. But I’ve never been to Calgary. Now I think it’s really worth seen.

  • Every time when I come to this city, I like it more and more. Though Calgary is quite a young city, it has lots of places of interest. Who knows…may be some day I’ll move to this city.

  • Bumped into this while looking for some design info on Calgary. Some of the comments seem to be made by people who don’t really know the city. Inner city amazingly culturally vibrant and busy even at night by the standards of any city of about its size and some much bigger. Downtown check out Performing Arts Centre (one of the big three in Canada); Glenbow Museum (biggest museum in Western Canada), Vertigo Theatre; Grand Theatre, Art Gallery of Calgary; all of Stephen Ave.; Uptown Cinema; Science Centre; Cantos Museum; I could go on and on but would just add try to catch Alberta Ballet when in the city it is one of the great gems of the Canadian art scene!

  • i am living in costa rica now, but was born in calgary, and this whole thread has definitely made me long for my home city.

    as many have already mentioned, it is a city of big oil and $$, and it’s true that the local government should try harder to conserve the history. having said that, i do think there are some wonderful people behind the scenes working hard to do just that, or at the least, coming up with some super creative and beautiful architecture. the art scene is growing strong; everything is happening totally grassroots, which i think is awesome. the monthly market collective, the annual acad art and sale, and art central are great places to see some art and get inspiration. there are also tons of little restaurants popping up all over the city which have a focus on locally and sustainably grown foods, which inevitably starts to put the big chains out of business. there are a bunch of farmer’s markets scattered about too.

    i love calgary! don’t hate.

  • I’m glad that I came across this post on one of my favorite sites! There are a lot of new things to do/places to eat in Calgary nearly four years later, but this is an excellent place to start. It’s nice to see my hometown here.

  • Calgary and other areas in Southern Alberta have been hit by devastating flooding. Cleanup is underway and they are promising that the 2013 Calgary Stampede will go on. If you have plans to visit, make sure that things are open and ready.

  • Thank you very much for highlighting the City of Calgary! There’s even more now to offer that there was seven years ago when this article first posted. Calgary really is a wonderful town with so much to offer young and old. There is literally something for everyone, including communities to fit varied lifestyles. We love it and know that anyone who gives it half a chance would love it too!