Winnipeg boasts dynamic cultural diversity. The city’s unique districts are close together and easily explored on foot. The local community takes pride in their neighbourhoods and have been the winners in the National Communities in Bloom competition. To find out more about this program visit the City of Winnipeg website.
River Heights – The street was named for a long-established private girls’ school, which still lies at the eastern end. Originally, Academy Road was a streetcar route running through the River Heights residential area. It is now one of the city’s most desirable retail locations due to its proximity to one of the city’s highest-income neighbourhoods. Immediately north of Academy is the elegant tree and mansion-lined Wellington Crescent. The Crescent is home to many prominent Winnipeg families, who owns some of the most spectacular houses along the route. Though Academy has decidedly residential flavour, its renovated houses and storefronts hold some of the city’s most exclusive local boutiques.
Little Italy – It was originally known as “Little Italy” because of the espresso bars and pizzerias here that were frequented primarily by the city’s Italian community. Then something wondrous happened. Non-descript storefronts and small apartment blocks were converted into funky cafes and boutiques. Customers were lured by the wide sidewalks and mature elms that line the street, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment. In only a few short years the area has grown beyond expectations. You’ll now find vintage furniture, contemporary art, high fashion and home furnishings along the bustling walking strip of Corydon Avenue between Pembina Highway and Stafford Avenue. However, the main attraction is still the food. With the highest concentration of restaurants in the city, some of the top contemporary kitchens in town are found here. This is a gastronomic paradise, a people-watching haven and a stroller’s dream. You’ll find specialty dining of every type, albeit much of it still influenced by the cuisine of Italy. Street food, from paninis to gelati, is also available, and walking the avenue, either before or after dinner, is a summer must.
Broadway – Anchoring the southwestern corner of this tree-lined boulevard and topped by Manitoba’s recently restored symbol, the four metre high Golden Boy, is the majestic Legislative Building. This neo-classical structure is made of local Tyndall stone. It fronts onto Memorial Park and Broadway, which runs to Main Street ending at the historic Union Station. Pedestrians can walk through the grand domed station to The Forks National Historic Site. West Broadway is a downtown residential neighbourhood that is enjoying a comeback.
Downtown Shopping – Portage Avenue is the city’s largest shopping district, anchored by The Bay’s flagship department store and adjacent to both Portage Place and cityplace shopping centres. These two complexes boast a variety of specialty stores that complement the department store. The nearby Winnipeg Art Gallery is home to the world’s largest collection of Inuit art.
Portage and Main – In 1862, Henry McKinney opened a dry goods store at the junction of two fur trading trails north of the original settlement at The Forks; one following the Assiniboine River to the western plains, the other the Red River to Hudson Bay. Soon, other merchants followed and today this corner is known as Portage and Main, the most famous (and supposedly windiest) intersection in Canada. It is the heart of Winnipeg’s business district, with office towers on all four corners. One of those towers owned by the James A. Richardson grain company installed a Leo Mol sculpture to celebrate the intersection. Winnipeg’s Downtown Hall of Fame panels run along Portage Avenue from Spence Street to Main Street, the panels commemorate politician and financier Sir Donald A. Smith, as well as the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Paris building, and Portage Avenue. There will eventually be 140 panels.
Exchange National Historic Site – a national historic site due to its well preserved collection of turn-of-the-last-century warehouse and commercial buildings, this area derives its name from the many stock and commodity exchanges that developed in the city between 1880 and 1920. At the time Winnipeg was dubbed the “Chicago of the North” because of its role as a rail transportation hub. Visitors to the Exchange District will find a shopper’s paradise. Interlocking brick sidewalks are peppered with antique shops, toy stores and galleries with home furnishings, artworks and more. The present-day Exchange District is a wonderful shopping and entertainment discovery. From Winnipeg’s hippest art galleries, restaurants and bars to live music and theatre the Exchange is the place to be. The newest addition to the area is Waterfront Drive, a scenic road that follows the Red River.
Museums / Cultural Centres – The Exchange District boasts the Manitoba Museum, the only museum in western Canada to have earned a top rating in the prestigious Michelin Green Guide. It features the Hudson’s Bay Company Gallery interpreting the fur trade era, and other galleries exploring Manitoba’s natural and human history. Aboriginal culture and spirituality are celebrated at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House, situated at the corner of Main Street and Higgins Avenue The Aboriginal Centre is located just across the street, inside the historic CP Rail Station.
Old Market Square – The Old Market Square district is the hub of Winnipeg’s visual arts community, with numerous galleries, studios and workshops located in the historic buildings, whose facades have remained virtually unchanged.
Theatre / Nightlife – Today the Exchange is the centre of the performing arts in Winnipeg, boasting a thriving theatre/nightlife district. Several main theatres are located within three blocks of each other. Restaurants, nightclubs and coffee houses all thrive in the vicinity of these theatres, and movies are often shot on location here.
Assiniboine and Red River Junction – Today, it is the vibrant people place known as The Forks, where shops, outdoor activities, festivals and entertainers all come together at the juncture where the Assiniboine River flows into the Red. It is the city’s main waterfront area and without a doubt has become the city’s most popular destination. But this wasn’t always the case. While archaeological evidence suggests that indigenous peoples first gathered here 6,000 years ago for trade and commerce, for most of the 20th century this area was an uninhabited rail yard. That changed in 1987 when the tracks were removed and the land was turned over to the city. Thus began a thoughtful, award-winning development. It includes riverside parks such as The Forks National Historic Site, and commercial development of several new and historic buildings.
Forks Market / Johnston Terminal – The Forks Market, a former horse stall, offers fresh produce, baking and meat. Food kiosks serve taste sensations from around the world, while shops on the first and second level stock hand-made clothing, jewellery and crafts, from both local and international craftspeople. The next-door Johnston Terminal is an exciting home for a variety of shops and restaurants. The Manitoba Children’s Museum occupies another restored building. Nearby, The Manitoba Theatre for Young People performs in the colourful CanWest Global Performing Arts Centre. Citytv has converted an old steam plant into a funky, open-concept television studio. Along the river’s edge a lighted River Walk heads north to Provencher Bridge and west to Osborne Bridge. It connects to other walking paths along the river and across the bridges.
Osborne Village – Osborne Street Bridge connects pedestrians from downtown and the River Walk system to a heavy concentration of high-rise apartments on the south bank of the Assiniboine River. This charming neighourhood around the intersection of River and Osborne is the city’s most densely populated area and it is always a beehive of activity. Multi-level shopping complexes crowded into a few short blocks offer an enjoyable shopping experience. With many of the city’s most creative performers and artists living within walking distance of the Village, it is no surprise that stores here are on the leading edge of design trends, and innovative restaurants abound. Eating options range from takeout sushi and a Mexican cantina to award-winning fine dining. This is a true village in the sense that many of the store and restaurant owners live in the neighbourhood. Whether it is the latest in Goth wear or top fashions from Gotham, the Village is likely to have it. The pace of the street activity is tolled by a bell tower at the corner of Osborne and Stradbrook.
Princess and King
Chinatown – The streets may not bustle like those in Hong Kong, but this picturesque postage-stamp district supports a sizeable residential and commercial Asian community. The neighbourhood is centred around the Chinese Cultural Centre with its formal gardens and ornate gate on King Street. Chinatown offers terrific restaurants and exotic food and import stores. Dim sum is a very popular lunchtime meal option, served at many establishments.
Winnipeg’s French Quarter – Saint Boniface, home to the largest French-speaking community in western Canada, was founded in 1818 by Bishop Provencher who established the first Roman Catholic mission in the West. The grand tree-lined boulevard named after the Bishop is the heart of Winnipeg’s French Quarter. It is within easy walking distance of downtown or The Forks via the Esplanade Riel and revitalized Provencher Bridge. The distinctive Gallic flavour of the district is felt as soon as you cross from downtown. Along the boulevard is the historic St. Boniface City Hall where area visitor information is found, and across from it is the Centre Culturel franco-Manitoba. Heritage storefronts line the street. Paralleling the river is Tache Avenue, site of the Romanesque St. Boniface Basilica, built in 1908, which was destroyed by fire in 1968. It remains an elegant façade to the new structure, built in 1972. Manitoba founder Louis Riel is buried here. Next door, the St. Boniface Museum is the largest oak log building in North America. The city’s best skyline view is from the Promenade on Tache. North of Provencher is Whittier Park.
The North End – Winnipeg’s famous North End has spawned a variety of talented writers, artists and entertainers ranging from Let’s Make a Deal’s Monty Hall to the Guess Who’s Burton Cummings. The commercial main street of this neighborhood, Selkirk Avenue, first saw development in the 1870s and its importance grew with a wave of turn-of-the-last-century immigration from eastern Europe. The old country flavor of the neighborhood still exists with a variety of boutiques, bakeries and butcher shops. A recent influx of Aboriginal people has added a decidedly new-world flavor, emphasized by dramatic Aboriginal wall murals on buildings up and down the street.
Sargent and Ellice – Just west of downtown, a vibrant and colorful neighborhood bustles with the life of many nations. The Sargent and Ellice area is where new immigrants often settle. Humming with the sounds of Portuguese, Greek, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and other languages, the area is rich in commerce as these newcomers pursue the North American dream. This is a working-class neighborhood where you will find small import stores, specialty shops, and of course, dozens of restaurants; at least one for every language.