Built of concrete and steel, the striking red-and-black-topped Calgary Tower has been thrilling visitors ever since it opened to honour Canada’s Centennial in 1967. It stands 191 metres (626 feet) high, and until 1983 was the city’s tallest structure. Although myriad buildings now surpass it in height, the tower remains a wonderful place to go for dinner, romantic drinks, or just a fun afternoon with the family. From the tower’s 360-degree observation deck—it completes a full rotation every 45 minutes during lunch and every 60 minutes during dinner—you get an incredible bird’s-eye view of life below. What will you see? Plenty of other landmarks, of course. Here are five to watch for on your next visit to the top of the Calgary Tower. 


This grand four-storey sandstone building features a red-metal pressed roof and took four years to build. Local jeweler and alderman D.E. Black made a gold key that was used to unlock the door for the first time on opening day, June 26, 1911; a replica of his shop can now be seen at Heritage Park. Black also installed the tower clock, which has kept perfect time since it was installed more than 100 years ago. For reasons now lost in time, 20 palm trees were imported for opening day. These days, the building houses city records and archives, and it’s just as pretty as the day it was built.

Old city hall


Built for the 1988 Winter Olympics, the plaza is still a popular gathering spot for Calgarians and tourists alike. In winter, you can skate on it; the rest of the year, it’s a festival hotspot. The Calgary Stampede, Beakerhead and the Calgary International Children’s Festival are just three of the annual celebrations that offer entertainment at the plaza.

Olympic Plaza at night


The tallest building in Canada outside of Toronto, the Bow was designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster, and completed in 2012. It stands 236 metres tall, a mere 45 metres taller than the Calgary Tower.

the Bow Tower


Built in 1916 for a grand total of $375,000 , this double-decker bridge can clearly be seen from the tower when you look north. See if you can spot one of the four concrete lions that mark the bridge corners. Legend has it they come alive at night and roam the streets of Chinatown.

centre street bridge at night


Unlike so many of the city’s landmarks, Fort Calgary looks small from the air—unassuming, just a handful of small white buildings surrounded by parkland. But seek out the spot; it’s important. Built in 1875 by the Northwest Mounted Police, it was the start of what has become our modern-day City of Calgary.


- By Shelley Boettcher

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