City Guide: Winnipeg

Winnipeg City Guide

When I told people that I was stopping in Winnipeg I frequently heard the phrase “why are you stopping there?!”  Being the bellybutton of Canada – or so said my guides – I feel that the city is under appreciated and underestimated. It’s not a major city like Toronto or Vancouver, nor has breathtaking scenery like Jasper or Banff but what it lacks for in big city lifestyle and breath-taking scenery it makes up for in culture, arts and that certain je ne sais quoi that only a city rich with French history and flair can hold.

Underrated would be the word I’d use to describe the city that blends the old with the new, has lush city centres and shining dome-shaped buildings rising from the ground. It’s quirky and enjoys its coffee culture as well as a thriving student life, and don’t forget the French chic

Being in the centre of the country, VIA Rail has a mandatory stop for four hours in the city, but why not get off the train and spend a night or two in the city. Rest, recover and then get back on board to make the journey the rest of the way across the country.

Fast Facts

  • Language: Canada has two national languages – English and French – both of which are prominent in Winnipeg.
  • Currency: Winnipeg and the rest of Canada use Canadian Dollars (CAD).
  • Credit Cards and Banks: Most restaurants and hotels will accept credit/debit cards. Be sure to bring plenty of cash for small purchases and public transportation.
  • Climate: Summers are hot, humid and thunderstorms are common. Winters are cold and dry with high levels of snow. Spring and summer are short but weather is mild and pleasant.
  • Getting to/from the Airport: The easiest way to get to Winnipeg is by VIA Rail train which stops near the Forks and is within walking distance to the Downtown area.
    If you choose to fly and don’t want to take a taxi, you can arrange an airport transfer with Brandon Air Shuttle. Prices begin at CAD$49.00 one-way. Public buses also run between the airport and the city.

What to see and do

St Boniface, Winnipeg St Boniface Canadian Museum of Human RightsCanadian Museum of Human Rights The Forks Market, WinnipegForks Market
  • Spent time at The Forks. A national historic site at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red River, the forks is home to a market, shops, green space and a skate park. There are also plenty of dining options and plenty of events and entertainment throughout the year.
  • Want to practice your French? St Boniface is the cities French-speaking suburb. From the time you cross the Red River you’ll notice that many people and most of the signs will be in French. Stop at — cafe for a coffee and practice parlant français (speaking French!)
  • Visit FortWhyte Alive and learn how Bison influenced the history of Manitoba and the lives of Aboriginals and Pioneers. See bison up close, try canoeing/snowshoeing and learn more about the Aboriginal people.
  • Spend time wandering through some of the neighbourhoods. The Exchange District is home to much of the cities arts community and the place to visit for street art, local designer items, antiques and vintage furniture; or visit Osbourne Village, recently voted Canada’s best neighbourhood, for quirky, charming stores and great cafes & restaurants.
  • They say buildings can talk and Manitoba’s Legislature building does. Decode its message by taking a Hermetic Tour of the building and discover why there are sphinxes on the rooftop.
  • The notes in your wallet are likely to have been printed in Winnipeg at the Royal Canadian Mint. Learn about the production of coins and hold a 23-pound gold bar worth CAD$600,000!!
  • [Opening 2014!] Visit the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. The museum is a place where people from around the world can reflect and be inspired about human rights. Currently, there are free summer tours of the exterior of the museum.

For more ideas about what to do in Winnipeg check out my recommended tours!

Luxe-on-any-Budget Digs

Fairmont Hotel, WinnipegThe Fairmont Winnipeg Inn at the Forks, WinnipegInn at the Forks HI Winnipeg Royal PlazaHI – Winnipeg Royal Plaza

$200+ – The Fairmont Winnipeg

Located in downtown Winnipeg, at the corners of Portage and Main, The Fairmont Winnipeg is the cities premier luxury hotel.
The rooms are recently renovated and have plenty of space, comfortable beds and great views over the city. One of the big draw cards is their rainforest style shower heads in the bathroom – perfectly refreshing!
There is also a swimming pool and health club for guests to use during their stay.
If you don’t want to wander too far from the hotel dine at The Velvet Grove, the hotel’s restaurant, for simple Manitoban-style food at breakfast, lunch or dinner.

$100 to $200  – Inn at the Forks

Less than a 5-minute walk from the train station, the Inn at the Forks is in a prime location to relax or explore the city.
The large rooms are warm and inviting with plenty of space to move around, and the beds are comfortable and ensure a perfect nights sleep. Be sure to ask for a room overlooking the Canadian Museum of Human Rights for the best view from the hotel.
If you are visiting Winnipeg for work the Inn at the Forks offers free WiFi throughout the property as well as large desks and comfortable leather chairs in each room.
On the ground floor of the hotel is the Riverstone Spa, the place to go for a range of relaxing treatments, or exercise in the parks nearby or the hotels gym which overlooks Downtown Winnipeg. Also on the ground level is Current Restaurant & Lounge which serves contemporary Canadian food.

$40 – $100 – HI – Winnipeg Royal Plaza

Right in the city centre, HI – Winnipeg Royal Plaza is a backpacker or budget travellers prime choice. Newly renovated and with a great choice of rooms, the property is basic but has most amenities travellers need – comfortable rooms, central location and a great price.
On site is also Waves Cafe and Lounge which serves bar eats and some more filling meals.

Restaurants and cafes

It surprised me that Winnipeg has such a dynamic gourmet food culture, with a particular emphasis on working with local producers to provide the freshest ingredients and seasonal dishes.

Average Cost of Food: Compared to the big cities – Vancouver or Toronto – food is reasonably cheap and there are options to fit within any price range. Breakfast and lunch will always be your cheapest meals, with continental breakfasts often provided at hotels or hostels. Mid-range restaurants start between CAD$12-$25 for a main and goes up from there.

Unburger, WinnipegUnburger Parlour Coffee, WinnipegParlour Coffee Elements: The RestaurantElements Restaurant
  • Cups of Coffee – Winnipeg has a new wave of coffee sweeping the city in which baristas ensure quality beans and attention to the detail of each cup. For the cities best coffee visit Thom Bargen (Sherbrook Street), MAKE/Coffee + Stuff (Corydon Avenue), Cafe Postal (St Boniface, and my personal favourite, Parlour Coffee (Main Street).
  • Stella’s Cafe & Bakery – Fresh ingredients combined with a casual atmosphere makes for a great breakfast location. Be sure to try the buttermilk pancakes!
  • Winnipeg’s Food Trucks – since 2011, the number of good food trucks in Winnipeg has slowly been growing. As of summer 2013 there will be 18 roaming the cities streets brining you fresh, fast and delicious foods. Click here for more information about Winnipeg’s Food Truck scene.
  • Elements: The Restaurant – Nicknamed the ‘Jamie Oliver of Winnipeg’, Chef Ben Kramer has done what no one believed was possible – he’s serving up fresh, local, healthy food that’s affordable and tastes good at a University campus. Experience his first-rate, delicious and impressive fresh menu changes regularly at the University of Winnipeg.
  • Peasant Cookery – Like Elements, …. . They also have a good range of creative cocktails in their lounge.
  • Deseo Bistro – Comfortable, delicious Spanish-Latin inspired tapas made from freshly sourced produce.
  • Pizzeria Gusto – Modern Italian food specialising in wood-fired pizzas with innovation combinations of ingredients.
  • Lobby on York – Meat eaters rejoin because Lobby on York is for you as you dine on large portions of meat & seafood in this classic steakhouse.
  • Burger Fans Rejoice  – Sit at communal tables while chowing down on vegan burgers at Boon Burger or relax with friends and a few drinks at Unburger with one of their healthy gourmet burgers!

Check out this list of Winnipeg Eats from other bloggers!

Shop Til You Drop

Being a smaller city people might overlook Winnipeg’s fashion scene. Don’t. This is the place to find hot local designers and plenty of vintage pieces. Here’s a few of my favourite places;

  • The Exchange District is one of the more ‘hip’ areas in the city. Check out shops like Paper Doll Clothing  or Hilary Druxman (a custom jewellery shop).
  • Osborne Village is where boho and kitchy become hip. Highlights include The Closet, a shop featuring pre-loved clothing, and HUSH, a store featuring affordable chic fashion and accessories.
  • The Forks Market is a great little place to shop for kitschy souvenirs – check out their belt buckle store, local made produce including jams and canned vegetables and vintage and Inuit clothing stores!

Travel tips

  • The meeting of Portage and Main Streets is said to be the windiest intersection in the world!
  • When visiting in winter the Red and Assiniboine rivers free over and turns into sating paths. Watch as locals skate to work each day!
  • Did you know: A.A. Milne’s beloved character Winnie the Pooh was named after Winnipeg!

A Locals Perspective

  • This Battered Suitcase – A Winnipeg-native, Brenna picked up her well worn suitcase and has adventured through every continent but Antarctica… I have a feeling she’ll be there soon!
  • Ciao! Magazine Winnipeg – Want to find the hottest eats in Winnipeg? Be sure to check out Ciao! Magazine online.
  • Dine Out Winnipeg – Need inspiration where to eat? This Tumblr blog is the place to go for the best food in Winnipeg!
  • Sarah Zaharia: Life in 204 – born and raised Winnipegger, Sarah shares things that she enjoys about Winnipeg and the memorable experiences she creates.
  • Winnipeg O’ My Heart – a blog about moving to Winnipeg and her adventures through Manitoba!
  • Winnipeg Love Hate – daily photos from Winnipeg.
  • 101 Things To Do in Winnipeg – this is created by Tourism Winnipeg but there’s so many ideas that it’s perfect for any time of year!

 FourSquare Reccommendations

See my other city guides from around the world.


Post Image: Jae Jin Park

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  • Reply
    August 6, 2013 at 2:15 am

    Nice guide! Most Canadians never think to go to Winnipeg but it is one of my favourite cities in Canada.

    • Reply
      August 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Thanks Ayngelina!

      I too really enjoyed my time in Winnipeg. It’s a great not-so-hidden gem and really has a lot going on!

  • Reply
    August 8, 2013 at 2:50 am

    This is such an in-depth guide! I also love the addition of the ‘locals perspective’.

  • Reply
    Michael Leung
    August 10, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Thanks for your information!!! I am planning a trip to Canada after I get married.

  • Reply
    August 11, 2013 at 6:21 am

    I was met with the same criticisms about Winnipeg (why?) when I told people I’d be stopping there on my road trip to Toronto this May. Canadians kind of love to passive- aggressively hate on each other’s cities. Really you could replace Winnipeg with any other city in Canada (even the big three) and there’ll be someone saying, “why would you ever go there?” Personally I want to see all, or as much as Canada possible (because we are a pretty big country). I spent one night in Winnipeg, and I only had time to wander around The Forks for about an hour, but I liked what I saw and I’d go back to Winnipeg again.

  • Reply
    August 15, 2013 at 7:31 am

    I have a childhood friend who is now based in Winnipeg. She’s inviting me to come over and I’m thinking of going next year 😀 This is a complete useful guide 😀

  • Reply
    Linda Bibb
    August 17, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Dan and I have been talking about taking an epic trip across Canada. Thanks for showing me things to look forward to in Winnipeg.

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