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Things to do in Winnipeg’s Historic Exchange District

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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.

Portage & Main

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.

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 Arts

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.

Shopping

We recommend you browse the vinyl records and cassette tapes at Into the Music and the books and comics at Red River Book Shop.

Families will have fun browsing and can pick up an educational or unique toy at Toad Hall Toys.

The fashionistas can buy some unique or locally designed fashion at several stores including Lennard Taylor Design Studio and Tara Davis Studio Boutique.

If you are looking for gorgeous, locally-made jewelry, stop in at Hilary Druxman Inc.

Food and Drinks

Some of the best and most unique cafes in the city are in the Exchange, including Forth, News Cafe, and Parlour Coffee. If you have some time to kill, play a board game while you sip your beverage at Across the Board Game Cafe.

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.

Other local favourites in the Exchange include Alycia’s Ukranian Restaurant, Chosabi, Deer + Almond, Hermanos South American Steakhouse, and Shawarma Khan.

If you are lucky, you might find some of Winnipeg’s best food trucks parked beside Old Market Square.

For a sweet treat order a decadent dessert at Bronuts Donuts and Coffee or Cake-ology.

Nightlife

The most obvious forms of nighttime entertainment in the Exchange would be to see a concert at the Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall (The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, if you are lucky) or see a play at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Here are a few other suggestions.

Grab a pint of beer and sit on the patio or go inside to see a live band at King’s Head Pub.

Sample some locally-brewed beers at Little Brown Jug Brewing.

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.

There is still a lot to do in this area, including a lovely riverwalk between the Canadian Museum For Human Rights and the Mere Hotel, through Steven Juba Park.

Bring your appetite to Winnipeg’s only Brazilian Steakhouse called Carnaval Brazilian BBQ near the waterfront.

Here you will also find Patent 5 Distillery and Tasting Room and La Brasserie Nonsuch Brewing for a nightcap of beer and spirits made on the premises.

Winnipeg City Hall Christmas Tree

City Hall

In the Winter, visit Winnipeg City Hall to see their holiday lights and massive decorated Christmas tree.

First Fridays

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.

 

Happy Travels,

Kevin & Tina

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36 Comments

    • Kevin Strong

      The Winnipeg Exchange District is right downtown, so easy to get to from anywhere in the city. Just head there and you’ll find something great things to do in the Exchange District.

      • L - Franglais27

        This is a very handy guide to keep for a future trip that I may take where I return to Canada as I have not visited Winnipeg before. I like the sound of the jazz festival which must be very entertaining – at which time of year does it take place?

        • Kevin Strong

          Several of the Jazz Festival venues are in the Exchange district, including free concerts on the Cube Stage. The Jazz Festival is held in late June. Between concerts, you can try some of the many other things to do in the Exchange District in Winnipeg.

    • Kevin Strong

      that is ironic. Winnipeg is not on most people’s travel radar, but I am hoping to help change that. Please bookmark this post and my other posts about things to do in Winnipeg to help plan your trip.

      • Elle

        I have a friend living in Winnipeg and she told me soon maybe when I go there we’d get together and she’d show me around! 😂 this post is really helpful for hangouts and simple activities. Will pin this for future reference! Thank you for sharing! xx

        • Kevin Strong

          You should take your friend up on her offer. Winnipeg is really fun and beautiful, so you should visit after it is safe. I am sure she knows lots of great places to visit, but please check out my other recent posts for ideas for other things to do in Winnipeg.
          Thanks for pinning the post.

  • Jodie | That Happy Reader

    I’ve really enjoyed this series which has made me want to come and explore Winnipeg! Thank for sharing.

    • Kevin Strong

      We are glad you like the series of posts about things to do in Winnipeg. We have more to come soon. We hope you do come and explore Winnipeg one day.

    • Kevin Strong

      That sounds like a good plan. Winnipeg is a hidden gem that has recently got international press as a world-class destination because of all of the unique and fun things to do in Winnipeg and for its beauty, so you should visit soon after it is safe again.

  • Katie

    I’ve never been to Winnipeg, but you make it all sound so appealing! Maybe I need to add it to my travel bucketlist…

    Katie | katieemmabeauty.com

    • Kevin Strong

      It is easy to make Winnipeg sound appealing because of the amazing things to do in the Exchange District and other wonderful places like the Forks and Assiniboine Park. We suggest you add it to your list and visit here if you are ever planning a trip to Fargo, Minneapolis or Calgary.

    • Kevin Strong

      The Exchange District is a bustling and hip place to visit when you are in Winnipeg. It is conveniently located and very unique. We are glad you liked this post. Please check out our other posts about things to do in Winnipeg.

    • Kevin Strong

      You would really enjoy the Exchange District in Winnipeg. You’ll find great restaurants, stores and nightlife. If you are lucky, you’ll find a festival or concert at Old Market Square. If not, there are many other things to do in the Exchange District.

  • Shyla Elza

    This looks like a great place to visit. When everything reopens properly (if and when) I am going to travel as much as possible. I think this could definitely make the list.

    • Kevin Strong

      We can’t wait to travel again too once we are vaccinated. Las Vegas, Puerto Vallarta, and Tokyo in no particular order.

      Luckily, we live in an amazing place like Winnipeg, so we were able to enjoy the great things to do in Winnipeg while we were prohibited from travelling. We hope you can experience Winnipeg one day soon too.

    • Kevin Strong

      You really should visit Winnipeg and the Exchange District one day (hopefully soon after it is safe). You are absolutely right that it is a great city and that there are so many incredible things to do in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

    • Kevin Strong

      Thanks. We hope you find the information useful and it gives you travel ideas for things to do in the Exchange District in Winnipeg. We have other travel guides with things to do in Winnipeg and a YouTube channel with travel inspiration for places all over the world.

    • Kevin Strong

      You got that right. There are so many things to do in Winnipeg that residents love that the world doesn’t know about. If you visit Winnipeg, you should definitely explore the Exchange District.

  • Chris Toone | Toone's Travels

    I have to be honest… when I read ‘Winnipeg’ my mind went blank because apparently I didn’t have any idea of what the place encompasses other than the Jets, so thank you for opening my eyes and broadening my horizons! Adding this to the “travel when it’s safe to do so” list!

    • Kevin Strong

      That is a great idea. We would love to have you as our guest. You will love it in Winnipeg.
      Be sure to check out the many things to do in the Exchange District.

  • Cristina Rosano

    I have never been to Winnipeg before, but this guide seems to cover everything! I really love the pictures of the older building and if I get to visit I would surely go for the Red River Book Shop and the Board Game Cafe! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Kevin Strong

      You would really enjoy the Exchange District if you visit Winnipeg. I have several other travel guides (and more to come) on the blog that give you ideas of other things to do in Winnipeg.

  • Sara James

    Winnipeg historic exchange district is such a cool place to visit. I think Lima Neeson visited this city last year for his upcoming movie Ice Road. Lovely photos and you have mentioned the facts, places, and entertainments so well that I hope you will get more visitors, whenever people can visit freely. Wishing you a happy, healthy, and successful 2021, Kevin.

    • Kevin Strong

      Yes, Liam Neeson was here recently. I wonder how much he got out to do some of the amazing things to do in Winnipeg or things to do in the Exchange District.
      We are glad you liked the information. We try to be helpful, but not too overwhelming.
      Happy new year.

    • Kevin Strong

      If we made one person aware of our great city, we are happy.
      There are a lot of amazing things to do in Winnipeg and the Exchange District.

    • Kevin Strong

      That is a great plan. Canada is wonderful and there are a lot of things to see and things to do in Winnipeg that much of the world does not experience.
      I think Winnipeg’s location is the biggest problem and biggest advantage. We are near the geographical centre of North America and near the latitudinal middle of Canada.
      Once you are here, there are no other nearby big cities for side trips.
      If you want to get out of the city, there are lovely small towns to visit (especially on Lake Winnipeg).
      However, getting here from almost anywhere in North America is less than a 3 hour flight (if you are lucky enough to find a direct flight).
      If you are flying across the country from Toronto to Calgary or Vancouver, you have to fly right over Winnipeg, so you could arrange a stopover in Winnipeg.

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