If you are a visual person, login to Instagram and search #finditdowntown. This might just be the best way to see how vibrant, diverse and artistic Winnipeg’s core is.
You’ll be met with stunning shots of Winnipeg’s famed architecture, which is a mix of turn of the 19th century, and early 20th century masonry (or, as we like to say, stone skyscrapers) and modern glass buildings. You’ll also be introduced to downtown’s culinary scene, where gourmet sandwiches, food trucks, and handcrafted cocktails are all the rage these days.
Above all, you’ll see the people that make this place so great, like the singer/songwriters on stage at downtown’s many live music venues, the tour guides who can introduce you to landmarks like the much-photographed oculus at the VIA Rail Station, the chefs and shop keepers of the trendy boutiques and restaurants, the vendors at The Forks Market, and our famed Golden Boy, who looks out from his perch on top of the Manitoba Legislative Building.
Location: The approximate boundaries are Spence Street to the west, the Red River to the east, the Assiniboine River to the south and Higgins Avenue to the north. The Exchange District and Chinatown are also considered part of downtown. Located 6.1 km from the airport.
How to get there: From the airport, turn onto Wellington Avenue and then right onto King Edward Street (Route 90). Take the first left onto Ellice Avenue and continue. Turn right at Spence Street and turn left at Portage Avenue, to enter downtown.
Things to do
During Jets games the explosive atmosphere inside this compact arena has made for a spectacle that is envied across the league, while affordable AHL tickets for Moose games look to be another big draw for downtown.
The MTS Centre is also the go-to venue for big touring acts like Fleetwood Mac, Lady Gaga and Arcade Fire, being one of the busiest arena venues in North America.
The building of the MTS Centre, which opened in 2004, really kick-off a revitalization of downtown which has since seen the opening of exciting new hotels along with the refurbishing of others, the expansion of the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg into Canada’s fourth largest, and the development of The SHED (Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District) which, along with the aforementioned buildings, also includes cultural landmarks like the Burton Cummings Theatre, the Millennium Library, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the newly restored Metropolitan Theatre.
The Burton Cummings Theatre (The Burt) is where you can catch great musical acts, the world’s best stand-up comics, and touring shows like Riverdance, when they are in town. As mentioned, throughout fall/winter/spring (and hopefully early summer) the Jets are a regular fixture at the MTS Centre, when home games transform the whole of downtown – from the smallest bars like the Yellow Dog Tavern to the largest sports bars like the Shark Club and The Pint – into one heck of a festive atmosphere. #GoJetsGo
The Forks, Winnipeg’s most visited tourist destination, is also part of downtown. Amongst its sprawling grounds you’ll find the iconic architectural marvel the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, art galleries, the bustling Forks Market – which contains locally made gifts, food vendors, a fine wine shop, skate rentals in the winter – along with one of the world’s longest skating trails, and water taxis and boat tours in the summer. The stunning exterior of The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, with its circular glass façade and 23-storey pinnacle, calls out to visitors to take an interactive journey through its 11 permanent exhibits. Climbing from its cavernous ground floor up to sunlight-bathed Tower of Hope provides a stirring metaphor, while daily thematic guided tours show visitors human rights issues from around the globe.
Take a tour from the pros: Downtown Winnipeg Biz offers free outdoor events, like concerts featuring members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra at Air Canada Window Park, Yoga and Zumba and all manner of fitness at Memorial Park, along with fun guided tours (for a fee) like patio crawls, pub/beer crawls, and culinary tours.
Established in 1912, the Winnipeg Art Gallery is Canada’s first civic art gallery and home to the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art. The diverse selection of exhibitions offered at the WAG has made it one of Canada’s leading art museums.
Plays with a focus on Manitoban and Canadian artists take centre stage at Prairie Theatre Exchange. It is Canada’s only professional theatre company located in a shopping mall and is a hub for Winnipeg’s biggest theatre buffs.
Scotiabank Busk Stops, located at The Forks, are a free way for visitors to enjoy lively music, puppeteers, magicians, performers and face painters. Each year the performers compete at a public competition in May to earn the privilege of holding a coveted Busk Pass so that they can showcase their talents at distinctively marked busk stops throughout the site.
If ghost stories and spooky spots send a pleasing chill up your spine, Haunted Tours of Winnipeg may be just the right amount of “boo” for you. With a number of different options and scare levels, these unique paranormal tours are sure to chill (and thrill) you to the bone.
Places to shop
Whether you’re staying at a downtown hotel or just visiting the area for the day, cityplace offers a relaxed environment to shop and dine. Skywalk connections from the mall get you from the corner of Portage and Main right through to St. Mary Avenue office buildings, the MTS Centre and the Convention Centre.
Winnipeg Square is a unique underground shopping experience with more than 40 shops and restaurants.
Located in the heart of downtown, there are more than 100 shops and services at Portage Place, including a theatre and cinema. Retailers from Le Château to Staples are mixed in with local shops like H’attitude and Argento World of Silver.
Proper-fitting shoes and foot health for men, women and children are the focus at Canadian Footwear. Hard-to-find sizes, widths and orthotics are also stocked.
Two levels of food kiosks, specialty food and wine stores, clothing, souvenirs, jewellery and gifts at The Forks Market offer something for everyone.
Hugo Boss, Replay and Tino Cosma are just some of the high-end labels at men’s clothing shop Hanford Drewitt. On-site tailoring ensures the perfect fit. You can also get more affordably suited up with a custom-made number at EPH Apparel.
Johnston Terminal is one of two retail buildings at The Forks. Here, you’ll find treasures from China at Mandarin House, artwork by Manitoba artisans at Pulse Gallery, a large selection of children’s toys at Kite and Kaboodle, and so much more.
Outdoor adventurers look to Mountain Equipment Co-op to outfit biking, hiking, camping, traveling and paddling adventures. Three deserted buildings were converted in to the shop you see today, using environmentally friendly practices.
Find your favourite professional sports team’s gear at Uptown Sports & Collectibles. This shop carries hats, jerseys, mugs, cards, pennants, toques, and shirts that thrill any sports enthusiast.
Places to eat (a sampling)
Sandwiches are a big deal right now in The Peg and Nick’s on Broadway helped start the trend with slow roasted meats, fresh baked bread and excellent sides. But don’t forget about Oscar’s Deli, an institution that has being doing Jewish comfort food since the 1930s.
Food trucks are also currently on-point, with excellent and intriguing meals on wheels including Tot Wheels, which puts fabulous things like frog’s legs and sweetbreads on really good handmade tater tots; The Red Ember, which does crazy good farm-to-table wood fire Neapolitan pizza off of North America’s second largest food truck; and Pimp My Rice, which rocks out fun Filipino food. Most of the trucks can be found all along Broadway, while some also rotate through what’s been coined “food truck alley” at The Forks.
Along with a cornucopia of food stalls and cheap eats, there is much in the way of finer dining at The Forks too. Sydneys, located atop of the market, does a $55 four-course prix fixe menu; Smith at Inn at the Forks has a meat-centric and comfort food al la carte menu, along with expertly crafted cocktails where you can sit on a real gem of a patio in summer; and ERA Bistro – which is housed in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and also has a great patio – focuses on locally-sourced, fair trade and sustainable fare that is contemporary plated.
For a Manitoba-centric meal served above the city check out Prairie 360, where you can savour local game and fish while seeing the Winnipeg slowly turn underneath you.
The young set and Jets fans tend to frequent Carbone Coal-Fired Pizza, where the pizzas and pour-your-own beer tap system see this place converted into club later at night. Rudy’s Eat and Drink harnesses a Mad Men aesthetic and houses western Canada’s largest urban patio and features a menu full of comfort fare (along with good drinks).
The Merchant Kitchen is one of the newest editions to downtown with a fashionable room that compliments its location within the ALT Hotel. Merchant celebrates global street food, does killer cocktails, and is an ideal spot for before, during, or after a hockey game or concert at the MTS Centre. Mark our words; their Korean Fried Chicken will become a thing of legend soon – it’s sublime.
Located right behind the attractive Mere Hotel is the equally handsome Cibo Waterfront Café, where a rustic Italian menu is served in a splendid looking repurposed industrial building. The restaurant and its patio are situated right on the banks of the Red River, which means that every table in this exposed brick and beam room looks out onto the water.