The community of Mount Royal, once known as “American Hill” because it housed Calgary’s U.S.-born business elite, has been one of the city’s most affluent neighbourhoods for more than a century. Oddly, and hard to explain to visitors, Mount Royal University isn’t located in the community and Upper Mount Royal and Lower Mount Royal are the proper terms for the neighbourhood’s southern and northern area; still, most people call it plain old “Mount Royal” (anywhere between 17 Ave. S.W. and 14 St. S.W.). With so much history, character and opulence, it’s a destination neighbourhood ever-capable of reminding us how truly inspiring Calgary can be.
Walking through many of Upper Mount Royal’s older blocks is like strolling a continuous architectural digest. From the massive (and some say haunted) “Coste House” estate to the Tudor-style mansion once owned by Titanic survivors Bert and Vera Dick, the history of Calgary springs to life in vivid detail. This neighbourhood boasts not only many of the city’s oldest homes, but also some of Calgary’s most historic parks and public gardens. Tomkins Park is a small urban oasis created in 1911 and aside from the near-century-old trees and the vibrant gazebo — a place local merchants and farmer’s markets often set up shop — the park was considered the best place for the city’s first public automated toilet (an experience every real Calgarian must try at least once).
The well-established, uptown, pedestrian-friendly 17 Ave. S.W. shopping district (most call it just “17th”) is home to more than 200 shops, services and restaurants. Tons of local-favourites like indie shoe store Gravity Pope are here, as well as lifestyle clothing boutiques such as the Gallery, Blame Betty and 100% Legit.
Some of Calgary’s hardest-working and most unique chefs call Mount Royal home. Buon Giorno Ristorante Italiano is a traditional Italian eatery known for its lasagna; it’s front court skinny patio displays the rich dining experience to hundreds of passers-by on warm evenings. Classic Jack’s and 1410 share the same ownership (they’re also block apart) and sport some of Calgary’s best pub food; both restaurant/bars carry a sophisticated wine menu and worldly draught beer selection. If your diet is more particular, Farm’s locally sourced menu or the Coup’s modern vegan and vegetarian fare have you covered.
Image courtesy of ocean.flynn.