Things to do in Winnipeg’s Historic Exchange District
* This post is based on research and personal experience from before the pandemic and code-red shutdown, thus keep in mind that some of the information may change after the shutdown ends.
The Exchange District, between City Hall and the famous windy intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street in downtown Winnipeg, has many wonderful and unique places for shopping, entertainment, food and beverages.
The Exchange District is a national historic site featuring 150 protected heritage buildings built between 1880 and 1920. It feels like you have stepped back in time and are walking the streets from that era.
Several television shows and Hollywood movies have used The Exchange as a movie set.
Cube Stage at Old Market Square in the Exchange District
Old Market Square
A focal point of the Exchange District is a gathering place called Old Market Square.
Keep an eye out for one of the many festivals, free concerts, and craft markets that are held in Old Market Square.
Old Market Square has a cool, futuristic and industrial-looking stage called “The Cube”.
We have watched free shows presented by the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Winnipeg Fringe Festival, and many more on that stage.
The Exchange District is a hub for the Winnipeg art community. Many arts associations, art studios, art galleries, and theatres are located there.
You can watch an independent (sometimes local) movie at Cinematheque in the Artspace Building.
For a meal in the Exchange, we suggest you try the Mussels and Charcuterie Board at Peasant Cookery. We also recommend tasting some of the Dutch-inspired gourmet food options at Amsterdam Tea Room. Our best meals in the past few years have been at these 2 restaurants.
To sip wine or a cocktail in an old school “Mad Men” style lounge or play Video Lottery Terminals, try Bailey’s Lounge.
Johnny G’s is a great place to have a drink and affordable munchies and, on certain nights, they have free comedy shows in the basement called Wee Johnny’s Pub. As a young adult, Kevin visited here late at night after going to the nightclubs many times due to a hunger that only Johnny’s chili fries could satisfy. He also is a big fan of the comedy shows here.
If you are into clubbing , then put on your dancing shoes and head to 441 Main or go to the “world-famous” Palomino Club, where they also have a large outdoor patio right on Main Street.
The East Exchange District
On the East side of Portage, The Exchange District is a little more industrial and there has been some real estate development recently.
In the Winter, visit Winnipeg City Hall to see their holiday lights and massive decorated Christmas tree.
A great time to explore The Exchange is the first Friday of any month during an event called First Fridays, during which many local historic buildings, businesses, studios, and galleries open their doors to the public after 5 PM.
During a First Friday, you may also find special events, entertainment, and special promotions at restaurants in The Exchange.
Kevin & Tina
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