We arrived in Winnipeg excited and determined to immerse ourselves in the heart of the city. The convenience of having everything within walking distance, coupled with the vibrant food scene, historic areas and endless events and activities, made downtown Winnipeg the ideal choice for us.
Winnipeg’s core is an underrated gem with a lot of soul and character. Stroll the historic streets and you’ll discover a city immersed in arts and culture. Festivals, music and theatre are always on offer, as well as a diverse array of dining options at its numerous restaurants. In this article, we'll share our personal experiences of living in the heart of Winnipeg. Whether you're new to the city or considering a change, we hope this guide will give you a glimpse of what life in downtown Winnipeg is like and inspire you to explore it for yourself.
Since we moved to downtown Winnipeg, we've come to appreciate the easy access to public transportation options like buses and the skywalk, as well as car-sharing services like Peg City Car Co-op. Getting around the downtown core is a breeze with most amenities within walking distance, which is especially important during Winnipeg winters.
Larger stores are somewhat limited in the downtown area, however, Hargrave St. Market is a favourite option of ours, offering a high-end food court with a variety of restaurants, a bar and coffee shops. We love visiting Mottola Grocery, an upscale store with high-quality options for groceries, an excellent deli with a wonderful selection of lunch options and, of course, its in-store coffee shop, where we can indulge our espresso needs.
For those looking to stay active, downtown Winnipeg offers ample opportunities. Popular choices for keeping fit include GoodLife Fitness and Community Gym, while Memorial Park and the River Trail provide scenic spots for outdoor activities such as walking, running, biking or simply relaxing in a green space. It’s where you’ll find us most often going for a run in summer or ice skating in winter.
Culture and entertainment
It’s not just the practical amenities that make living downtown so great. The entertainment options are endless, and we've attended many events throughout the summer and winter, and feel there’s always something to experience, from museums and theatres to concert venues and festivals.
One of the highlights of downtown Winnipeg is the wealth of museums on offer. The Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights are all must-visits, and we enjoy revisiting each one. The museums offer unique perspectives on history, culture and art, and are each a testament to Winnipeg's commitment to preserving heritage and sharing it with the world.
Another perk of living downtown is the variety of festivals and events that take place throughout the year, including Nuit Blanche, a nighttime art festival, Folklorama, a multicultural festival that celebrates the city's diversity, Lights on the Exchange, a new winter festival and Manyfest, a street festival featuring food truck wars. These events never disappoint, and they've offered us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in culture, art and entertainment.
One of our favourite downtown initiatives is First Fridays in the Exchange, an arts and cultural event featuring gallery openings, artist talks and pop-up events, as well as special menus at bars and restaurants in the area. We always look forward to attending First Fridays as it gives us the opportunity to take in the historic Exchange District at night and support local businesses. Plus, it's a great way to explore the local art scene and discover new artists.
Downtown Winnipeg is also home to Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the oldest ballet company in the country. Founded in 1939, it’s known for excellence in classical ballet and commitment to the development and production of Canadian contemporary works.
We also cannot write about Winnipeg without mentioning the sports culture in the city, especially ice hockey. The Canada Life Centre is home to the Winnipeg Jets and offers a thrilling game-day experience, complete with entertainment throughout the game. Even if you're not a hockey fan, attending a Jets game is a great way to take in the electrifying atmosphere of Winnipeg's sports scene. We attended our first-ever hockey game in Winnipeg and loved the pulsing energy and excitement of the event.
Dining and nightlife
Downtown Winnipeg offers a plethora of nightlife and dining options. The Exchange District, one of the city's most vibrant neighbourhoods, with its charming streets, historic architecture, and beautifully illuminated storefronts is the perfect destination for a night out. Filled with an eclectic mix of restaurants, boutiques, galleries and theatres, the area is a hub of creative energy and culture. We've had the pleasure of indulging in the local cuisine on numerous occasions and have been consistently impressed by the variety and quality of options available. From cozy bistros to chic breweries and cocktail bars, the dining scene in the Exchange District caters to all palates.
For evening entertainment, downtown offers a diverse array of options, including comedy clubs, theatres, jazz clubs and cabaret. Taking a stroll along the walkway that borders Winnipeg's Red and Assiniboine Rivers to admire the city lights is a must-do, particularly on a warm summer evening. One of our favourite spots to unwind is the outdoor patio at The Forks, where you can take in the sights and sounds of the happenings along the riverfront. With its lively atmosphere, both in summer and winter, The Forks, a national historic site, offers a picturesque setting and delicious food options at the Forks Market, and is truly a destination not to miss.
Live music events are a frequent occurrence in the downtown core, and with the ongoing revitalization efforts, the area is seeing an increasing number of exciting evening events popping up.
Crime is a reality in any city, but Winnipeg is working hard to keep its citizens and visitors safe. The city is focusing on social programs to address the root causes of crime: homelessness, poverty, mental health and addictions.
As downtown residents, we feel safe living downtown and walking around the area in the evenings. However, it's always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take basic safety precautions, such as avoiding walking alone in dark or isolated areas and being mindful of your surroundings and belongings. It's also helpful to familiarize yourself with the neighbourhood before you visit, to prevent getting lost, and bring a charged cell phone with you if possible.
If you feel uneasy about walking alone, you can connect with the Downtown Community Safety Partnership (DCSP) by downloading their free public safety app which has resources to enhance personal safety for everyone in the downtown area including courtesy walks. If you are in the Exchange District, you can call 204-791-3161 between 8 am and 4 pm on Monday and between 8 am and midnight from Tuesday to Saturday. Red River College, University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba also offer Safe WALK services.
Downtown Winnipeg is a vibrant and bustling hub of activity, with a strong sense of community and a diverse array of entertainment options. Since moving to the city, we have grown to love the many festivals and events that take place throughout the year. As residents of the downtown area, we have found that it offers the perfect balance of convenience, accessibility, and opportunities for staying active and engaged.
To stay informed about the happenings around the city, we recommend following @downtownwpgbiz on social media and signing up for the Downtown Winnipeg Biz Mingle Newsletter. This has been our go-to resource for discovering new events and local businesses in the heart of the city. By staying informed, you'll never miss out on any exciting opportunities and can make the most of everything the city has to offer.
Lies and Ash are digital nomads who have lived around the world and the travel writers and photographers behind Non Stop Destination.