Exploring Winnipeg’s Historic Exchange District
Located in downtown Winnipeg, the Exchange District tells the story of how a quiet pioneer town became one of Canada’s largest cities. Designated a National Historic Site, this neighbourhood is home to a concentrated collection of commercial buildings and early skyscrapers, constructed during the city’s boom years (1880 to 1913) — giving rise to Winnipeg as a centre of commerce and earning it the nickname “Chicago of the North”.
Here you will find the largest and best preserved collection of early 20th century architecture in North America, massive stone and brick buildings set along narrow streets and cobblestone pathways. Distinctive from the other city neighbourhoods that surround it, the Exchange District contains approximately 150 buildings from the turn of the century in just 20 square blocks.
Is Winnipeg’s Exchange District Worth Exploring?
Today, the Exchange District is a cool neighbourhood exploding with art, culture, food and history: independent businesses and artisan shops set among the giants of the past. Tech businesses and graphic design firms sit next to gourmet coffee shops and art galleries. Come for the unique shopping — from clothing and lifestyle to art and food — and stay for the vibrant and fun atmosphere.
Walk the Exchange District
One of the best ways to gain an understanding of this area’s history is to take a walking tour. There are various themes available that help illustrate the impact the Exchange had on the history of Winnipeg and Canada. After all that walking, settle in for a meal at one of the more than 50 local restaurants, breweries, cafes and bar — all within a 10-minute walk. Better yet, head out on a food tour to sample some of the best. If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll find lots of patios worthy of a stop. And in the winter, there are plenty of cafes in which to warm up with a hot drink.
Discover art & culture
At the heart of the Exchange District is Old Market Square which is a hub for culture and arts. Throughout the year — and especially in the summer months — you can catch a multitude of festivals taking place in this space. There is the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, the popular Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival and Culture Days Manitoba, as well as many other small music, art and culture events.
There are also a number of art galleries scattered throughout the neighbourhood and you’ll find art spilling out onto the streets in the form of murals and installations. Despite its industrial past, the Exchange is home to some great green spaces and is a truly walkable neighbourhood that just begs to be explored slowly. Stop for a coffee, browse an art gallery, enjoy a meal and catch a live performance.