If your Canada trip itinerary lands you in the Canadian Prairies, indulging in some of the best things to do in Winnipeg is a must.
Built at the confluence of the Red River and Assiniboine River, the largest city and capital of Manitoba is one of the most important cities in the history of Canada. As you sort through all the top tourist attractions in Winnipeg, you’ll begin to weave together a narrative from the city’s humble beginnings as a First Nations and French trading post to one of Canada’s largest modern cities.
Need some help figuring out what to do in Winnipeg? Plan your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Winnipeg, Manitoba…
Top tourist attractions in Winnipeg
Canadian Museum for Human Rights
One of Winnipeg’s most recognizable & impressive landmarks, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is a must-visit Winnipeg attraction for history & culture buffs alike.
The museum is popular for its informative & interactive exhibits and galleries detailing the fight for human rights in Canada and beyond.
The Canadian Museum of Human Rights also offers several tours that delve deeper into various human rights subjects including the rights of women, the Métis, and other Indigenous groups in Canada.
The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
Assiniboine Park Zoo
Established at the turn of the 20th century, Assiniboine Park Zoo is one of the top places to go in Winnipeg for families travelling with younger children.
The 80-acre zoo, located within Assiniboine Park, is famous for its award-winning Journey to Churchill exhibit. The habitat showcases northern animal species such as polar bears, Arctic foxes, and wolves.
Journey to Churchill is also home to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, a world leader in the polar bear conservation, research, and education.
Although the conservation centre is currently closed (summer 2020), it’s a fun & educational experience to learn more about this fascinating and beautiful animal.
Elsewhere in the Assiniboine Park Zoo, kids will love wagon & sleigh rides at the McFeetors Heavy Horse Centre and playing at the zoo’s Arctic-themed Polar Playground.
The Exchange District
When figuring out what to see in Winnipeg, the Exchange District is a great place to start.
Walking around this vibrant historical neighbourhood, named a National Historic Site of Canada, you’ll stroll among the city’s finest collection of heritage architecture, dating back between 1880 and 1920.
At the time, Winnipeg was Canada’s third-biggest city and one of the country’s most important trading centres.
The building boom during the late-19th and early-20th centuries in The Exchange earned Winnipeg the title of the “Chicago of the North,” a nod to the city’s growing architectural portfolio.
While the area saw some decline in fortunes shortly after its heyday, the Exchange District is once again one of the coolest places to hang out in Winnipeg and the city’s cultural hub.
Hidden within the historical buildings here are hip restaurants & coffee shops, art galleries, charming boutique shops, and even some of Canada’s most innovative tech start-ups.
If you’re visiting the Exchange District in summer, be sure to check out Old Market Square. This historic square hosts plenty of events throughout the summer tourist season including the The Winnipeg Fringe Festival and the Winnipeg Jazz Festival.
Winnipeg Art Gallery
Set in the heart of downtown, the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) is one of the oldest art galleries in Canada and the biggest art museum in Manitoba. The gallery is home to over 27,000 works from an insane variety of local, Canadian, and international artists.
Most intriguing at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is its massive collection of modern Inuit art, the largest of its kind in the entire world.
Even if you’re not an art lover, the architecture at WAG while catch your eye.
While the modernist-style main building turns heads, the currently-under-construction additions to the Inuit Art Centre, including a three-storey glass vault to house thousands of Inuit sculptures, is bound to be a show-stopper when it opens up (hopefully) in 2020.
Royal Canadian Mint
If you’ve ever wondered where all those shiny loonies and twoonies in your pocket came from, you need to pop in for a tour of The Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg.
One of the top points of interest in Winnipeg, The Mint produces all those cute animal-laden Canadian coins along with those of almost 75 other countries.
On a 45-minute tour, you’ll get to take a look at the Mint’s innovative coin manufacturing facility and learn about all the intricacies of coin-making.
Elsewhere in the Royal Canadian Mint, you can try your hand at striking your own coin. (Or just simply buy your own collector coins at the Boutique gift shop.)
Manitoba Legislative Building
Fans of stately architecture won’t be disappointed when they set aside time for the Manitoba Legislative Building.
Completed in 1920, the 74-metre-high home to the Manitoban parliament showcases a striking neoclassical style that’s rare within Canada’s architectural palette.
While there’s a couple famous features including a gilded statue fashioned after the Roman god Mercury and Greek god Hermes, Manitoba Legislative Building is more than just a handsome face.
The building is the site of the most popular tours in Winnipeg, The Hermetic Code Tour. On the tour, you’ll discover the sacred geometry hidden within the architectural design including architect Frank Worthington Simon’s sly use of the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio.
The Forks Market
Straddling the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, The Forks is one of the city’s most interesting areas and one of the coolest things to see in Winnipeg.
A modern take on an ancient trading centre, The Forks Market is home to an endless supply of vendors selling everything from wine & artisanal cheese to crafts & artwork.
Even if you can only spare one day in Winnipeg, set aside some time to explore the riverside shopping, entertainment, and dining options at The Forks. There’s a little of something for every taste here!
While Winnipeg isn’t a common place to start a search for French Canadian culture, you’ll find it in spades in the neighbourhood of Saint Boniface.
Hugging the banks of the Red River over the Esplanade Riel Pedestrian Bridge opposite the The Forks, St. Boniface was once a separate city from Winnipeg, founded as a French and Métis enclave within Britain’s former Red River Colony.
The neighbourhood is famous in Canadian history as the birthplace of Louis Riel, the Métis leader of the Red River Rebellion that paved the way for Manitoba becoming a province within newly-confederated Canada.
With more than 35 heritage properties, Saint Boniface is one of the best places for sightseeing in Winnipeg. As you wander around the French Quarter, keep on the lookout for the beautiful Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface, St. Boniface City Hall, and Le Musée de Saint-Boniface Museum, the oldest building in Winnipeg.
Hockey and Canada go together like peanut butter and jelly. And if you happen to visit Winnipeg during hockey season, you simply need to catch a Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place.
Like most Canadians, Winnipeggers are a tad crazy about their hockey.
While the Jets’ Stanley Cup playoff hopes have been dashed for the 2019-2020 season, plan your trip to Winnipeg around the playoffs (if they qualify!) for the one-in-a-lifetime chance to join in a “Winnipeg Whiteout” when the entire arena dons a white jersey or shirt as they go wild for their team.
Where to stay in Winnipeg
While the city sits among the top ten biggest in Canada, choosing where to stay in Winnipeg isn’t too difficult. For most travellers, the downtown area including The Exchange District and The Forks are great places to start your accommodation search.
- Mere Hotel: A funky, colourful & chic hotel with a great location on the edge of The Exchange.
- Alt Hotel Winnipeg: For catching an NHL game, there’s hardly a better place to stay than this hip modern hotel.
- The Fairmont Winnipeg: Featuring excellent city views and a fabulous downtown location, this elegant 4-star hotel is an excellent choice for mid-range & business travellers.
- Fort Garry Hotel: This former grand railway hotel is one of the most legendary luxury accommodation picks in Winnipeg offering everything from a full-service spa to an indoor pool to an on-site jazz lounge.