Sure, Winnipeg is absolutely frigid in winter and the downtown core can look like a ghost town in summer when everyone is at the cottage, but The Peg has a lot to offer. The trick is to have a basic plan, and improvise once you arrive.
Once the third richest city in Canada, Winnipeg was built around ambitious aspirations of becoming the financial capital of Canada. A gorgeous legislature building was erected with an absurdly wide boulevard leading to it, as well as beautifully designed banks and hotels.
While Winnipeg missed its goal of becoming a Canadian power city, much of the city’s beautiful architecture remains and neighbourhoods like The Exchange District are a go-to spot for those wanting to discover Winnipeg as it aspired to be. After stuffing your face and admiring the architecture of downtown Winnipeg, venture into neighbourhoods like Osborne Village and the West End.
Best Winnipeg Neighbourhoods for Short Visits
As some of you know, I’ve left world travel for 5 months in a new Canadian city – #winnipeg #manitoba ! It’s very different from my home in #Calgary and #Banff but it’s been interesting to use Instagram for finding the beauty in the city. This amazing building is situated in the #exchangedistrict , which is famous for this style of architecture. – #architecture #exploremanitoba #explorewinnipeg #tourismcanada #tourismmanitoba
One of the benefits of living downtown is having this beautiful parliament building just a couple minutes walk away. The parks provide an awesome place for a picnic and I’ve heard great things about the Hermetic code tours on Wednesday nights. – #winnipeg #architecture #manitoba #tourismcanada #tourismmanitoba #canada #visitmanitoba
Exchange District – Possibly the trendiest neighbourhood in Winnipeg, The Exchange District is home to boutique shops, pubs, gourmet restaurants, and Cake•ology where you can devour moist cupcakes and cake balls. Yum! It’s also home to many historical buildings. An architecture-lovers dream neighbourhood.
Osborne Village – another trendy neighbourhood, Osbourne Village is about a 10 min walk from the Manitoba Legislature. This area is home to boutique shops, cafés, pubs, and some of the best places to eat in Winnipeg. Definitely hit up Osborne Village.
St. Boniface – Winnipeg’s French neighbourhood, St. Boniface is one of our favourite neighbourhoods to explore (and sometimes reminds us of wanders in Québec). Enjoy charming cafes, boutiques, French bistros ––and in winter, Festival du Voyageur!
West Broadway – One of Winnipeg’s oldest neighbourhoods (houses circa the 1800s), West Broadway is becoming one of the city’s trendy neighbourhoods with local independent businesses. Enjoy cafes, restaurants (including a popular vegan favourite, Boon Burger) and shops.
Winnipeg Bucket List
Canadian Museum for Human Rights – Located near The Forks, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights promises to be one of the most enlightening museums in Canada. The inauguration is slated for some time in 2014, but you should still swing by to view the outside. Very unique!
Hermetic Code Tour at the Manitoba Legislature – as a history nerd this tour was absolutely fascinating to me. I loved learning about the Masonic symbols hidden in plain sight throughout the Manitoba Legislature building, and since my tour, I now see those same symbols in buildings throughout my travels as well.
Manitoba Museum – think human and natural history and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect at the Manitoba Museum. The museum has a heavy focus on Louis Riel, Native tribes, and the Hudson Bay Company – all of which are important aspects of Manitoba’s history and development.
Winnipeg Art Gallery – WAG is small, but they have an impressive art collection and attract some fabulous exhibits throughout the year. If you’re an art lover, it’s worth checking out.
The Forks – located along the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, The Forks is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike. The market houses shops, food sellers, and the best fish n’ chip place in Winnipeg. The Forks is also home to the Children’s Museum, and several walking paths (which turn into skating paths in winter).
Festival du Voyageur – an annual event, Festival du Voyageur is Winnipeg’s winter Carnaval and celebrates Louis Riel and its French heritage. Enjoy snow sculptures, caribou (hot mulled win beverage), bannock and other treats that date back to Winnipeg’s fur trading days.
PHOTO CREDITS: 1. Jaillan Yehia, Savoir There | 2. Jaillan Yehia, Savoir There | 3. Jaillan Yehia, Savoir There | 4. Pamela MacNaughtan | 5. Pamela MacNaughtan
Cafes, Coffee Houses & Tea Rooms
BRONUTS DONUTS + COFFEE
This delightful little shop creates donuts from scratch daily and serves up a pretty good espresso. Run by two brothers, Bronuts features seven seasonal donut creations as well as a weekly special. Grab some to go, or stay awhile and enjoy the free wifi.
Neighbourhood: Exchange District | 3-100 King St. | website
A charming coffee and tea shop in West Broadway, Thom Bargen is a popular choice among locals looking for something to go, or to relax and do a little work. If you’re feeling peckish, try their hummus & radish or ricotta & rhubarb toasts!
Neighbourhood: West Broadway | 64 Sherbrooke St. | website
LITTLE SISTER COFFEE MAKER
A trendy coffee shop in the heart of Osborne Village, Little Sister Coffee Maker is a local hotspot with fabulous coffee. A great place to relax with friends, family or to enjoy some ‘me time’.
Neighbourhood: Osborne Village | A-470 River Ave | website
Situated in Winnipeg’s French neighbourhood, Cafe Postal is cute and charming and a lovely stop on a day of exploration. Enjoy coffee or tea, and always buy a croissant (so good!).
Neighbourhood: St. Boniface | 202 Provencher Blvd
Food & Drink
If you’re a vegan then this is THE place for you! Boon Burger is the first all-vegan burger cafe and probably the most popular place in the city. Delicious food and portions are definitely not small.
Neighbourhood: West Broadway | 79 Sherbrooke St. | website
VJ’s DRIVE INN
Yeah, their spelling is completely off, but they have been in business for 55 years. VJ’s is located across the street from the train station and serves one of the best burgers in Winnipeg – and one of the messiest! Every burger comes with chilli, mustard, onions, and pickles on top.
Neighbourhood: South Portage/Downtown | 170 Main St.
Healthy gourmet burgers, NUBURGER is located in Osborne Village. This is probably my personal favourite as they have things like TRUFFLE AIOLI dipping sauce for fries. It was mind-blowing.
Neighbourhood: Osborne Village | 472 Stradbrook Ave | website
Baked Expectations is like a 50’s diner and makes a pretty good burger, but it’s their desserts that are the highlight. If you’re trying to give your sweet tooth a break, don’t go. That being said I highly recommend the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. Yeah, you may want to re-read that last sentence.
Neighbourhood: Osborne Village | 161 Osborne St. | website
DEER + ALMOND
We’re a big fan of Mandel’s cooking. As a young chef, Mandel Hitzer is full of ideas and his food is rarely ordinary. This is a great place to go for a nice meal out. When you order, don’t change ingredients, just go with it. Trust me, Mandel knows his flavours and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Neighbourhood: Exchange District | 85 Princess St. | website
Peasant Cookery’s chef Tristan makes almost everything in-house. That includes the cured meats! This is THE place to go for oysters, and tartare. They also have an open-faced pastrami sandwich on sourdough bread topped with a fried egg, which is a fabulous hangover meal.
Neighbourhood: Exchange District | 283 Bannatyne Ave | website
FERGIE’S FISH N’CHIPS
One of the best fish n’ chip shops in the city, Fergie’s is a small stand in the Forks Market. While you’re in Winnipeg try the Pickerel, a local fish that is moist and delicious. You may also know this fish as walleye, the name doesn’t matter, it is damn delicious!
Neighbourhood: Exchange District | 1 Forks Market Rd | website
Hotels & Hostels
LA CABANE GUESTHOUSE
HOSTEL • 315 Provencher Blvd • $ • 204.794.4218 • LACABANEGUESTHOUSE.COM
A delightful boutique hostel, La Cabane Guesthouse is located in the heart of St. Boniface. Relax in the communal living room and listen to vinyl records or cook yourself a gourmet (or budget) meal in the kitchen. Book a bed in a mixed dorm room or a cozy private room.
FORT GARRY HOTEL
3-STAR HOTEL • 222 BROADWAY • $$$ • 204.942.8251 • FORTGARRYHOTEL.COM
Over 100 years old, the Fort Garry Hotel is a piece of Winnipeg’s history. The hotel is a 5 min walk from the train station and even comes with its own ghosts! The hotel is classically decorated and built chateau style similar to Banff Springs Hotel, Chateau Lake Louise, and Chateau Frontenac. Book a room.
INN AT THE FORKS
4-STAR HOTEL • 75 FORKS MARKET RD • $$$$ • 204.942.6555 • INNFORKS.COM
A trendy boutique hotel located in the famed Forks area, Inn at the Forks is the perfect place for a quiet getaway. While staying with Inn at the Forks be sure to try their restaurant, SMITH, and try the pickerel cheeks! Book a room.
Getting Around Winnipeg
Bus – In Winnipeg you can take the Spirit Bus for FREE! The Spirit Bus makes stops at Canwest Park, Museum of Human Rights, The Forks, the Legislature, and a few other sights. Bus 15 or 20 will transport you between the airport and downtown. Fares are $2.50
Taxi – The airport is about 20km from downtown Winnipeg. If you want to take a taxi to the airport the fare will be roughly $30. Depending on where you’re staying downtown and how much luggage you have, you can probably walk to the train station. Otherwise, the fare will be about $15 depending on traffic.
Winnipeg Reading List
Imagining Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote: This beautiful book features several photographs by Winnipeg photographer, L.B. Foote, many of which have not been seen before. A wonderful peek into Winnipeg history and culture at the beginning of the 20th century.
Louis Riel: Written by cartoonist, Chester Brown, this book is one of the more entertaining ways to read about Louis Riel, a 19th-century Metis leader fighting for the rights of his people.
Winnipeg Cooks: Signature Recipes from the City’s Top Chefs: Winnipeg is not a well known culinary city in Canada, but it should be. There are several incredible chefs in the city, and this delightful cookbook features recipes from many of them.
The Great Canadian Prairies Bucket List: One-of-a-Kind Travel Experiences: Written by one of our favourite travel writers, Robin Esrock, this book is filled with incredible experiences in Canada’s prairie provinces. An ideal travel companion.
Must Do Canada: Another bucket list resource, Must Do Canada is filled with interesting activities and experiences across Canada, from polar bears to Winnipeg Folk Fest.