Garneau is one of Edmonton’s oldest and most charming neighbourhoods. The grid blocks are lined with old Victorian-style houses and elm trees that give an allure of grandeur and antiquity. It is situated just across the river from Downtown Edmonton and the Oliver neighbourhood and is west of the Strathcona district. The north end of Garneau is bordered by Edmonton, Alberta’s spacious river valley.
It is impossible to discuss the Garneau neighbourhood without mentioning the University of Alberta (U of A). This is one of the top universities in Canada, is world-renowned, and has close to 40,000 students and 6,000 staff. Since it opened in 1908, the University has been a hallmark of life in the area. In addition to the teaching facilities, there is the U of A Hospital, which is one of the biggest hospitals in Canada. As a result, the area has a very campus-like feel. Much of the neighbourhood is populated with students and with staff who work at the University or Hospital. The streets are fairly busy with students walking to and from classes, and during the school year it is not surprising to see half the pedestrians carrying backpacks. This area really is a mix of historic charm and youth!
As the neighbourhood has a high percentage of students, one could describe the ambience as youthful and vibrant. The skyline is an interesting mix of nice apartment buildings and fine old houses. Many of the blocks are university residences; many of the houses are also university-owned and, given their historical significance, are appropriately maintained. The area is known for the elegant oak and elm trees that line the avenues.
As a whole the area is a very convenient place to live as it has many grocery and convenience stores and restaurants. Some of Edmonton’s best restaurants and cafes are in this area. The Sugar Bowl is a local favorite and is particularly popular in the summer as its patio is a very pleasant place to spend a balmy evening. Another favourite is the Highlevel Diner, which offers splendid views of the High Level Bridge and Downtown across the river .
There are plenty of entertainment options in Garneau. One of locals’ favourite spots to see a movie is the Garneau Theater, now called the Metro Cinema . This historic building offers the grandeur of a 1920’s-style movie theater and has become one of Edmonton’s most famous landmarks. Another option is the Jubilee Auditorium, which is one of the best venues to see a live show or a musical in all of Canada. Furthermore, there is always something happening on campus, whether it is a student-performed show or an open lecture. Garneau is also a great place for outdoor and sporting activities. The north end of Garneau borders the river valley, which is great for jogging, bicycling and cross country skiing. Furthermore, there are plenty of sporting activities associated with the university. Given that U of A is close by, there is an abundance of athletic facilities such as gyms, running tracks, skating rinks and open courts.
The housing and real estate market in Garneau is in general fairly expensive. There is a large number of apartment buildings as this is obviously suitable accommodation for students. Many of the houses are quite old, but most have been renovated. There are also many new condo complexes. Houses are quite expensive in this area as the lot value is very high. Even old houses will likely cost over a million dollars. Unfortunately, the neighbourhood has somewhat limited development possibilities as the city passed strict height regulations in the area: it isn’t permissible to build over 6 storeys. Thus, given the high demand for housing and the lower than usual new supply, the prices can be fairly extravagant.
Given that Garneau is a university area, you are going to get some noise as a result of all the young students. Although the area isn’t known as a huge party place, there is nightlife on and around Whyte Avenue and a number of bars. With regards to pollution, Garneau is a very clean area. It is next to the river valley and there is plenty of green space nearby. There are two major streets which go through the area, 109th Street and Whyte Avenue, and which can be fairly loud. However, most of the area is quiet and unpolluted.
The overall crime rate in Garneau is very low. There is a larger than usual number of cases involving sexual assault and alcohol-related violence as it is an area full of young students. However, crime is in general not a major concern here.
As already mentioned, the biggest school here is the University of Alberta, and the area is great for students seeking post-secondary education. There are also options for kindergarten to grade 12 schooling. Garneau School offers a kindergarten to grade 6 program along with some specialized programs . The area is a short bus ride or walk away from Strathcona High School, one of the largest high schools in Edmonton.
The University area has perhaps the best public transportation in the entire city. It has two LRT (light rail transit) stops . The University terminal has plenty of buses that can take you all over Edmonton. As the neighbourhood is centrally located, it is perhaps the best base – better even than Downtown – from which to visit any location in the city.
The area is home to more young couples and single people than most areas in Edmonton. However, there are quieter streets that are great for families. If you don’t mind the hustle and bustle of the university atmosphere, this can be a great place to raise kids. In addition, it should be noted that quite a few seniors also call the area home, as it is close to the U of A Hospital and its associated facilities.