A good 700km from anywhere of similar size and often nicknamed “Winterpeg” for its heavy snows, Winnipeg is well used to being self-reliant and making the best of things. And its success at entertaining itself with great foods, shows and festivals provide some of the best reasons to visit, though the city’s trading roots also provide several worthwhile historical sights.
The flourishing dining and arts scenes, in particular, punch well above the weight of a 700,000-strong city and offer real variety: from Cantonese to French food; from ballet to punk rock. The city also packs its summer months with festivals, the best of which celebrate jazz (late-June); folk (early-July); fringe comedy and theatre (mid-July); and Winnipeg’s multi-cultural origins (Folklorama; early-August). All events are approached in a similar upbeat and no-nonsense way – city traits rooted in its simple role as a prairie farm supply centre.
Winnipeg began as a late-19th century fur-trading trading camp, a gateway for European farming pioneers, and a vital grain trade hub, as the Manitoba Museum reveals. Its star attraction is a full-scale replica of the Nonsuch; the ship those 1668 exploratory fur-collecting voyage led to the creation of the Hudson’s Bay Company. This ran half of today’s Canada for the next two-hundred years and became North America’s oldest commercial corporation, as the museum illustrates with further reconstructions, like that of a fur-trading post stocked with everything from beads and guns to canned foods. Another impressive reconstruction is that of a 1920s Winnipeg street – complete with barber shop, dentist, pharmacy, promenade and a cinema showing period films.
This street scene is worth bearing in mind as you wander the Exchange District beside the museum. Here a well-preserved gathering of old warehouses, commodity exchanges and commercial buildings now house art galleries, boutiques, antique shops and restaurants, and sports a faintly bohemian feel. The main focus is Old Market Square, a plaza and attractive hangout, particularly during weekend produce and flea markets.
Another central Winnipeg focal point, The Forks, has a similar feel. Once the location of Canada’s largest rail-yards, it now houses large indoor markets with small shops, food stalls, bars and restaurants. Old freight cars and cabooses dot the grounds to remind of the past, but the main visitor landmark is an Explore Manitoba Centre – part tourist information point, part provincial museum – from which riverside paths lead along the Assiniboine River to vast swirl of stone and glass that houses Winnipeg’s newest and bravest attraction, the Museum of Human Rights.
Central Winnipeg’s other great focus is its shopping street Portage Avenue, where weatherproof underground passageways and overhead glass walkways link malls and large stores. It runs west from The Forks, through downtown and to the Winnipeg Art Gallery where the world’s largest collection of Inuit art awaits. Hundreds of fascinatingly detailed whalebone, caribou antler and walrus tusk sculptures recall many moments of careful carving during dark months in the frozen north.
With dozens of good, inexpensive places to eat and a wide variety of ethnic restaurants, ranging from deluxe French-Canadian to Ukrainian eateries, it’s easy to round off a day of Winnipeg sightseeing in style. The Exchange District and the adjacent Chinatown both have plenty of good options that tend to reflect their neighbourhoods; as do Osborne Village, a studenty district, or Little Italy which both lie just southwest of the downtown.
If you’re in Winnipeg for longer than a weekend, consider a day-trip to Lake Winnipeg’s golden sand beaches at Grand Beach Park, 60km to the north. On the way maybe take in Lower Fort Garry – the old Hudson’s Bay Company headquarters that’s now brought to life by costumed guides. Or drive ninety-minutes east to Whiteshell Provincial Park for superb backcountry canoeing in the lakes and forests of the granite Canadian shield. Or, best of all, fly north to Churchill, Manitoba’s wilderness capital where, depending on the season, you’ll have beluga whales, polar bears or the northern lights to enjoy.
We will start to add Winnipeg itineraries and attractions shortly, so why not drop us a line now to tell us what you’d like to see covered?
This section of the website will be developed shortly. Why not let us know what you’d like to see covered?
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in C$.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $5 per person
$$ => Tickets $6-15 per person
$$$ => Tickets $16 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $101-200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $201 for a double
$ => $1-20 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $21-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-30 per person