To really do Edmonton justice, you’d need to spend more than one day in the Albertan capital. But if your time is limited, or if you’re just trying to plan the perfect day, you’re in luck. This guide will help you make the most of 24 short hours in the city.
Ready for an action-packed day in Edmonton? Start your morning with a little caffeine by heading downtown to Drunken Ox Sober Cat, a new café that moonlights as a steakhouse and cocktail bar. The café boasts an incredible interior with copper accents and intricate tilework, so make sure to take in the details while drinking your coffee and munching on a pastry.
When you’ve had your fill, venture outside to explore the surrounding neighborhood, affectionately called the Fourth Street Promenade. This downtown thoroughfare is home to a wide variety of inviting specialty shops, including an Edmonton-based chocolatier, a local homegoods store, and a wine and cheese bar. Consider this outing your first real introduction to the city!
But, if you can help it, don’t linger too long, because the city’s exceptional museums await. Since the downtown area is extremely walkable, you can reach your next destination on foot (just keep an eye out for street art on the way). Whether you choose to visit the Art Gallery of Alberta (a striking steel-and-glass building that houses several fascinating exhibits) or the Royal Alberta Museum (a newly opened space dedicated to both natural and human history), you’re bound to enjoy the excursion.
After such a busy morning, you’ll probably have quite the appetite, and we have the perfect lunch recommendation. Just a few blocks north of the museums is Kanto, a small restaurant that serves up a fresh twist on traditional Filipino cuisine. No matter what you order, you can’t go wrong, but we recommend the chicken barbecue or the bao bae.
With your hunger satiated, you’re ready to dive into an eventful afternoon. Make your way down to the river valley, and look for the funicular near the photogenic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. If you’ve brought your camera, you’ll definitely want to hop aboard, since the connected lookout showcases some of the best views in the city.
But, whether or not you consider yourself a shutterbug, it’s a good idea to spend some time in the river valley. With multiple parks and more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of paved trails winding throughout the trees, it’s a great place for a jog or a bike ride.
And in the winter, you can go snowshoeing or even skate along special IceWays created by the city. (If you’re worried about finding the equipment you’ll need to make the most of the river valley, don’t sweat it — you can rent bikes, snowshoes, ice skates, and stand-up paddle-boards from several providers in the area.)
After you’ve roamed the waterside to your heart’s content, you’ll still have plenty of things to do around the city. For example, if you’re visiting between mid-May and early October, you can take the High Level Bridge Streetcar across the river and into Old Strathcona. This neighborhood is known for its interesting shops, historic buildings, and street art, so look around for a bit — you’re guaranteed to stumble upon a hidden gem. Remember to watch the time, though, so you can return to the river for a relaxing sunset cruise.
Though these outings are not available during the winter, there are still plenty of travel-worthy experiences to discover in cold weather. You can check out Muttart Conservatory, a botanical garden located inside four glass pyramids, or get an afternoon pick-me-up at a café. In addition to Drunken Ox Sober Cat, a few local favorites include Transcend, Coffee Bureau, and Credo Coffee.
When your stomach announces that it’s time for another meal, head downtown to Bar Bricco, a classy, yet comfortable, Italian restaurant. (Note that this small eatery doesn’t take reservations, so you might want to show up early to grab a table.)
Everything on the menu tastes delicious, but the pork-ragu pappardelle, house-made focaccia bread, and meat-and-cheese plates are particularly appetizing. Don’t hesitate to order family-style; the servers will be the first ones to tell you that it’s the best way to sample several dishes at once.
Finally, treat yourself to some of Edmonton’s finest cocktails. Both Woodwork and Clementine offer carefully blended drinks in a cozy atmosphere, letting you unwind after a busy day in the city. Cheers!
And on that note, it’s time to go back to your hotel for some well-deserved sleep. We hope you come back to Edmonton soon — don’t forget to check out our official guide for more travel inspiration.
Cover photo by Alex Ortega