A Newcomer’s Guide to Edmonton
Read on to learn more everything a newcomer to Canada needs to know about Edmonton.
A rich and fascinating history, a world-famous shopping mall, and stunning natural beauty. Welcome to Edmonton – Gateway to the North! The capital city of Alberta attracts thousands of immigrants each year and is known for its proximity to the Rockies and high standard of living.
A brief history of Edmonton
Edmonton has been the home of First Nations people (Canada’s Indigenous populations) for tens of thousands of years. They hunted, fished, and lived prosperous and dynamic lives before colonization.
There are still 48 different First Nations bands in Alberta, many of which continue to live in the Edmonton area. These can be divided into nine different ethnic groups: Beaver / Daneẕaa, Blackfoot / Niitsítapi, Chipewyan / Denésoliné, Plains Cree / Paskwāwiyiniwak, Sarcee / Tsuu T'ina, Saulteaux (Plains Ojibwa) / Nakawē, Slavey / Dene Tha', Stoney / Nakoda, and the Woodland Cree / Sakāwithiniwak.
The Edmonton area was settled by the British in 1795 and was named Fort Edmonton (after the area north of London). The coming of the Canadian Railway in the 1880s brought waves of immigration and commerce to the area. By 1892, it was incorporated as a town. In 1904, it was designated as a city.
It was chosen as the capital of Alberta in 1912, and the Alberta Legislature Building opened in the same year. In 1947, oil was discovered nearby, and the economy boomed! The population increased from 40,000 in 1930 to 430,000 in 1970, and it continues to grow today.
Who lives in Edmonton? Social demographics
According to the 2016 Census, Edmonton is home to 932,546 residents. The metropolitan area’s population is larger, at 1,366,050. That makes it the sixth-largest metropolitan area in Canada.
According to the 2016 Census, more than 30% of Edmontonians belong to a visible minority group. Over 5% are of First Nations descent.
Ethnic origin Percent of Population
- English 16.48%
- Scottish 13.52%
- German 13.3%
- Irish 12.2%
- Ukrainian 10.59%
- French 9.17%
- Chinese 7.29%
- East Indian 7.29%
- Filipino 6.11%
Wondering about the religious affiliation of Edmontonians? According to the 2011 National Household Survey, the responses show the following :
- Christian (55.8%)
- No Religion (31.1%)
- Muslim (5.5%)
- Sikh (2.5%)
- Buddhist (2.1%)
- Hindu (1.9%)
- Jewish (0.4%)
- Other (0.6%)
- Indigenous Spirituality (0.2%)
If you are moving to Edmonton, you will certainly be interested in the weather! After all, there are few cities in the world that are as cold as the capital of Alberta. Locals love to talk about the highs and lows – and of course, the snow.
Edmonton’s climate is classified as ‘prairie-steppe type.’ This means the area is predominantly sunny and bright, even in the winter season. It is a very dry city, with most of the rain occurring in the summer. Even in the warm summer months, it is hot and dry during the day, and cool at night.
Be prepared for more snow than you are likely used to seeing! On average, over 1 cm of snow is on the ground 141 days each year. Compare this with 65 days in Toronto, a cold city, and you can understand why Edmonton has such a snowy reputation!
Average Monthly Temperatures in Edmonton:
Edmonton Public Transit
The Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) is the public transportation provider in the Edmonton area, and they serve over 80 million trips annually. There are two forms of public transit in Edmonton: Light Rail Transit (LRT), and a vast network of buses that cover every corner of the city and suburbs.
Taking the bus costs $3.25 per adult for a single trip, in which you can take as many buses as you wish for 90 minutes. You need to pay for your fare in cash, but you can also buy single-use ticket packages and monthly passes throughout the city at grocery stores.
Taking the LRT is the same cost, $3.25 for unlimited trips within 90 minutes. You can also buy single-use ticket packages and monthly passes throughout the city at grocery stores.
The Top 5 Things to do in Edmonton
1. Visit the Royal Alberta Museum – The Royal Alberta Museum is one of the best museums in Canada. This modern building is home to a vast array of displays and exhibits covering cultural heritage and natural history. This is an excellent way to spend the day with kids and learn more about your new home. Admission is $19 per adult, $14 for seniors older than 65, $10 for youth 7-17, and free for kids under 6 years old.
2. Shop til you drop at West Edmonton Mall – While you might not think of yourself as a ‘mall’ person, you haven’t experienced West Edmonton Mall. This is Canada’s largest mall, and one of the biggest in the world. It is home to the Galaxyland amusement park, an ice rink, aquarium, water slides and of course – hundreds of shops and restaurants.
3. Explore the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village – Edmonton is known for its large Ukrainian population dating back to the 1890s. Visit the open air Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village to immerse yourself in this fascinating history. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors older than 65, $10 for youth 7-17, and free for kids under 6 years old.
4. Step back in time at the Fort Edmonton Park – You simply can’t miss out on another open-air museum, Fort Edmonton Park. This is a reconstruction of an 1846 Hudson's Bay Company fort and the 1885 pioneer town. Kids and adults alike love FEP – look out for their many seasonal events throughout the year. *Note that the park is closed for extensive renovations until May 2021.
5. Tour the Alberta Legislative Building – Admire the capital building and learn all about the provincial government by touring the Alberta Legislative Building. The adjacent Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre is also home to displays featuring local art, culture, and history. Tours are free for all ages.
Immigrant Services in Edmonton
As a newcomer to Edmonton, there are plenty of services designed to help you settle in and access resources.
- Edmonton Immigrant Services Association – EISA provides programming and services designed to help immigrants integrate, settle and adapt to life in Edmonton. They are dedicated to helping you access education and other resources.
Address: Suite #201, 10720-113 Street, Edmonton, AB, T5H 3H8
- Welcome Centre for Immigrants – The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) provides support and services to new Edmontonians, regardless of their religious affiliation. They can help you fill in forms, search for work, learn English, and meet new friends.
Address: 7609 38 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6K 3Y7
- Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council – The Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) acts more like a social enterprise than a not-for-profit organization. They are dedicated to helping immigrants leverage their education and experience to gain access to meaningful employment.
Address: #304, 10209–97 ST, Edmonton, AB T5J 0L6
The Edmonton Public Library
The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) consists of 21 branches across the city and is open to all Edmontonians. Registering for a library card is free, which allows you to borrow books, DVDs, CDs and other resources. Librarians are always happy to teach you how to use the library and assist you with the computers. You can come here to use the internet, relax and read or do research. The EPL also hosts clubs, kids’ activities and other community events.
Main branch: Enterprise Square, 10212 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton AB T5J 5A3
Getting to and from Edmonton
Edmonton is the northernmost city in North America with a population greater than one million residents. It is 3 hours north of Calgary by car and a 12-hour drive from Vancouver.
Most people arrive in Edmonton by air or by car. It is important to note that passenger rail travel is uncommon and often quite expensive in Canada. For long distance travel, most Canadians drive, fly or take Greyhound buses.
Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (2016). Census Profile, 2016 Census - Edmonton, City [Census subdivision], Alberta and Division No. 11, Census division [Census division], Alberta. [online] Statcan.gc.ca. Available at: https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=4811061&Geo2=CD&Code2=4811&Data=Count&SearchText=edmonton&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&TABID=1 [Accessed 16 Dec. 2019].
Lambert, T. (2010). A History of Edmonton. [online] Localhistories.org. Available at: http://www.localhistories.org/edmonton.html [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].
Pelmorex Inc (2013). Statistics: Edmonton, Alberta - The Weather Network. [online] legacyweb.theweathernetwork.com. Available at: https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/api/sitewrapper/indexb=/statistics/&p=/forecasts/statistics/index&url=/statistics/caab0103/edmonton///? [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].
Statistics Canada (2011). 2011 National Household Survey: Data tables – Religion (108), Immigrant Status and Period of Immigration (11), Age Groups (10) and Sex (3) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2011 National Household Survey. [online] Statcan.gc.ca. Available at: https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/dp-pd/dt-td/Rp-eng.cfm?LANG=E&APATH=3&DETAIL=0&DIM=0&FL=A&FREE=0&GC=0&GID=0&GK=0&GRP=0&PID=105399&PRID=0&PTYPE=105277&S=0&SHOWALL=0&SUB=0&Temporal=2013&THEME=95&VID=0.
Wikipedia Contributors (2019). First Nations in Alberta. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Nations_in_Alberta.