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Iconic Architecture in Downtown Edmonton

by Alyssa Ott

Whether you’re passionate for design, need some IG-worthy backdrops or just seeking a little structural eye candy, we have you covered. We’ve rounded up some of central Edmonton’s most iconic architecture and historic areas to feast your eyes on.

The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald- 10065 100 Street
This 1915 chateau looks as though it’s been pulled straight from a fairytale and is one of the most quintessential buildings in the city. Not only can you stay in one of it’s 198 super swanky guestrooms, but it’s award-winning restaurant, The Harvest Room, has a river valley-facing terrace that is sure to bring out your inner King or Queen. Be prepared, this building may inspire you to bust out Tale As Old As Time at the very sight of it.

Photo by @Z_Kiel

The Gibson Block- 9608 Jasper Avenue
Only a handful of flatiron buildings still exist in Canada and this beauty is one of them. This triangular building is a popular social snap but also has an interesting history, worthy of it’s kooky gorgeousness. In 1913, it’s design concept was more like a Tetris game, rather than an aesthetic choice, since the architect Arthur W. Cowley needed to squeeze it onto the vacant triangular-shaped lot that was flanked on either side by pre-existing roads. Since then it’s led a multi-faceted life, holding retail shops, a boarding house for German immigrants and even Turkish bath houses.

City Hall and the Art Gallery of Alberta- 102A Avenue and 99 Street
These jewels of modern architecture may look as sharp-dressed as our Mayor (Mr. Don Iveson), but there’s a little bit of rustic influence to their design. The Art Gallery of Alberta was redesigned by Randall Stout in 2010, who drew inspiration for it’s swooping metal exterior from our famous winding river valley and the Aurora Borealis. The 1992-built City Hall on the other-hand, features two very large glass pyramids, meant to pay homage to the Rocky Mountains.

Rice Howard Way
Hark! It’s a historic street with good eats! This small T shaped avenue includes two Chicago commercial style buildings: The McLeod Building (1915) and the newly restored Kelly Ramsey Building (1927). This is also a great spot to grab a bite to eat and sit outside for a refreshing drink on one of the many patios, while you take in the views.

Notable bites nearby: Tres Carnales, Woodwork, Craft Beer Market.

104th Street Promenade- 104 Street and 99 Avenue-104 Avenue
This trendy street boasts multiple buildings from the turn of the 20th century and was originally the hub of Edmonton’s fur trading industry. Chock-a-block full of brick facades, original hand-painted wall ads and once-upon-a-time warehouses, it’s worth the multiple block stroll to take in it’s vintage vibes. On the south end (99 avenue) you’ll find a beautiful tree-lined neighbourhood featuring the McKay Avenue School, built in 1905, and on the north end (between Jasper Avenue and 104 avenue), there is an array of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. Plus! Where 104 avenue meets 104 street, the newest and shiniest of Edmonton’s architectural feats, Rogers Place, sits proud.

Tip: We suggest hitting up the outdoor market held on Saturdays, if you’re visiting between May-October, for lots of good local treats like Moonshine Doughnuts or Caramia Caramels.  

El-Mirador Apartments- 101 Avenue and 108 Street
This little Spanish Revival gem, built in 1935, is a instagram staple. It’s white-washed walls and art nouveau address sign make a great photo backdrop, but it also comes with a quirky history. The core of the building is actually a wood framed house built in 1912 (still visible from the North side) and the 1935 addition was built on to the front of the original facade. A house within a house? Definitely worth a look.

Alberta Legislature Building and Grounds- 10800 97 Avenue
Located on the cusp of the Grandin neighbourhood, this mammoth, Beaux-Arts-style building, wouldn’t look out of place along a Parisian street. It was built specifically for Alberta’s provincial government between 1907 and 1913, after Edmonton was made the capital city in 1906.

If you fancy yourself a deeper dive into it’s history, hop on one of their free building tours, they happen every hour (last tour at 4 pm). Strolling the large, landscaped grounds, is also a great activity in any season.

Hint: Don’t miss this one at night! In summertime the multi-coloured fountain display at the north end of the grounds are both refreshing and very picture-worthy.