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This article was originally published in 2014 and updated in January 2019
Calgary’s urban streetscapes combined with its proximity to the breathtaking Rocky Mountains makes it a great spot for photographers, whether you’re looking to shoot its fabulous architecture, do a high-fashion photoshoot or simply just get some new snaps for your Instagram feed. Here are some of the best Calgary photography spots, from scenic lookout points to spectacular skylines.
This beautiful space opened to much fanfare in late 2018, heralded as an architectural masterpiece right in the downtown core. In fact, the Central Library in the East Village tends to attract more attention for its forward-thinking design than its wall-to-wall literature offerings: think vaulted ceilings, plenty of natural light, a steel beam that doubles as a time capsule, and even a huge mosaic made entirely out of books. Entrance is free, and on-site amenities include a cafe, a performance hall, community rooms, a board game area and a kids play space.
This huge metal sculpture sits in front of the massive Bow Tower on Centre Street and 6 Avenue. Being a wire portrait of a girl’s head, it was the subject of scorn when it was first unveiled. However, Calgarians have grown to love it and it’s now become a famous site in the city and one of the top Calgary photo shoot locations—just don’t try climbing it!
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Calgary’s East Village has been completely transformed over the past decade into a vibrant, hip area where century-old brick buildings and pretty parks blend seamlessly with glittering, sky-high towers. Sandwiched between the Bow River and downtown, it has one of the city’s most enviable locations which makes it one of the top places to go in Calgary. Photogs love the glimmering National Music Centre which changes colour depending on the sunlight, as well as the historic Simmons Building.
The Rundle Ruins
One of the city’s best-kept secrets, you’ll find this group of ruins along 12 Ave. S.E. near the Saddledome. There are a few different sandstone formations, which means there are still plenty to go around if you find yourself there at the same time as a bride and groom—which is pretty much guaranteed to happen if you visit on a Saturday during the summer.
Despite being another one of those controversial art projects due to its $25 million+ price tag, the Peace Bridge has become one of the most popular photography locations in Calgary since opening in 2012. The bright-red steel beams are a shutterbug’s dream, and the fact that its backdrop happens to be the glittering downtown skyline and the bright green river doesn’t hurt much either. You can find the Peace Bridge along the Bow River pathway, just off 7 Street S.W.
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Scotsman’s Hill in the southeast community of Ramsay is a fave of photographers thanks to its unique perspective of the city. Overlooking the aptly-named Saddledome arena, it offers a fantastic vantage point of the city’s high-rises and is also a prime spot for watching fireworks during the Calgary Stampede.
Surrounded by towering skyscrapers, 8 Avenue has made the most of its surroundings thanks to some cool sculptures that line the popular thoroughfare. Of note are the 10 ‘tree’ sculptures which reach up to 26 metres high, and can be found near the twin Bankers Hall buildings. Another popular spot for portraits and wedding photos is the walkway alongside the Hudson’s Bay building on 1 Street S.W.
A favourite spot for lovebirds, the views from this affluent community just outside the city centre are extraordinary. After heading up a steep hill, you’ll reach the cliff side which looks straight over downtown. Not only is this a great place to watch the Canada Day fireworks, but it’s also great for checking out Christmas lights during the holidays.
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Central Memorial Park
The site of a historic library, this beautiful park in the heart of downtown Calgary is a great place to unwind. Not only is the library itself a great backdrop, but there are also meticulously manicured gardens, numerous fountains including some that light up at night, war memorials and a great little restaurant. Central Memorial Park is located on 12 Avenue and 2 Street S.W. in the Beltline.
Hillcrest Avenue lookout
This tiny slice of land boasts one of the best vantage points in the city. With an unobstructed view of the downtown skyline as well as views of the Mission and Beltline communities, it’s also a prime spot for watching fireworks. Located in the community of Mount Royal, the quiet park has pretty gardens and a couple of benches, perfect for sitting back and enjoying the view.
Where to stay in Calgary
Hotel Arts: This boutique property is always a great choice, whether visiting from out of town or enjoying a staycation. Its sleek, modern rooms are luxurious, there are plenty of dining options, and its swanky outdoor pool is a summertime favourite. It also has a sister property in the hip Kensington area. Click here to book
Fairmont Palliser: This iconic, historic hotel has a great location on 9 Avenue, just steps away from Stephen Avenue and close to the East Village and Saddledome. Guests love the on-site spa, afternoon tea and fantastic downtown views. Click here to book
Hotel Le Germain: The Germain group is known for its understated elegance, and their Calgary property lives up to the hype. The huge, well-appointed rooms are gorgeous, one of the city’s top restaurants is attached to the lobby, and the service is top-notch. Hotel Le Germain is also pet-friendly. Click here to book
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Few other spots, Calgary Airport, just outside of Calgary south on #2 coming into city (wonderful cityscape) from the Calgary Tower 360 degree view.
I agree, the Calgary Tower has a stunning view! I wanted to focus on free spots for this post as there is a fee to get up the Calgary Tower, but I agree it is a great vantage point. I have yet to get up the Bow Tower, but I imagine it’s incredible as well!
For the bow tower it’s not possible to go up I have tried they say it’s a private property
You’re correct Alex, you need special permission to get all the way to the top. Such a shame, I imagine it’s a fantastic view!
Is the professional camera allowed at this place?
It’s Easy enough to get onto roof tops downtown Calgary. I’ve been on the. bow tower roof with a camera just gotta bug building maintenance guys or a security guy who’s not to busy. All depends what office building. Just say your doing a little photo project for a class or something most people are cool with it spend hours 5-10 min and move onto the next spot.
Carburn Park, in the southeast community of Riverbend, is another great spot.
And Princes Island Park provides wonderful combinations of trees, parkland and skyscrapers (plus wildlife in the ponds).
Thanks for sharing Frank! I agree, Prince’s Island Park is absolutely beautiful, especially in the summer and fall.
I’m heading to Calgary in about three weeks for a work event. It will be my first time there, and I really only have the Monday to do some exploring. Thanks for these suggested vantage points. Once I find out which hotel we are staying at, then I will refer back to this blog post for some ideas.
Scotman’s Hill would be my first choice as it generally the most famous scenic shot of Calgary. I lost count how many times Hockey Night in Canada has used it for its opening shot anytime they broadcast Calgary Flames games from the Saddledome!
Hey Ray, so true about Scotsman’s Hill! One day isn’t much time to hit all the spots, but you might find this post helpful as well for some ideas about what else you should see: https://www.globeguide.ca/2015/06/best-things-calgary-alberta/
Hope you have a great trip, and welcome to my hometown!
Do you have any photographs of the Calgary skyline looking west at the Rocky Mountains?
Once i visit in East village and Peace Bridge. I still have photograph with this great memory.