Bonjour mon ami! Enjoy a trek over the spectacular Esplanade Riel Pedestrian Bridge across from The Forks and you’ll find yourself in St. Boniface, founded in 1818 by Bishop Provencher for the colony’s French and Métis residents, and is also the birthplace of Louis Riel, the Métis leader who brought on the creation of the province of Manitoba.
Now, it is home to one of the largest francophone communities west of the Great Lakes, and is known as Winnipeg’s French Quarter. The neighbourhood is positively brimming with culture, like with their 10-day winter festival, Festival du Voyageur, which fills the city with snow sculptures, invites everyone to experience the French heritage of their fur-trading past, and becomes a nightly party filled with music and fabulous fashion.
St. Boniface is truly reflective of its French heritage. While here, you can stroll along le boulevard Provencher and peek in at boutiques and quaint cafés along the way. You can enjoy walking tours and view more than 35 designated historical sites in this culturally rich area, while ending the day with some scrumptious French pastries.
Where to Eat
Enter the sophisticated dining room clad with leather lounge chairs and enjoy a family-style dining experience with Chaise Café & Lounge’s Prix Fixe menu. You’ll be served a variety of options for each course with heaping portions for a meal that’s designed perfectly for large groups to try a bunch of delicious cuisine made from scratch. 271 Provencher Boulevard, 204-504-4012.
Take a stroll on the Esplanade Riel where you’ll find Mon Ami Louis, which eschews haute cuisine for a more casual and accessible approach. Try a variety of poutines, crepes, or their French take on thin-crust pizza, and enjoy your meal above the Red River. 50 Provencher Boulevard, 204-938-2226.
Get whisked away on a whimsical journey at Dwarf no Cachette, where you can dine on authentic Japanese cuisine that’s so much more than just sushi rolls, all while surrounded by adorable “kawaii” accessories. 157 Provencher Boulevard, 204-691-9950.
Constantly packed full of well-fed music lovers, you can savour French Canadian eats like poutine and tourtière while taking in live bands playing everything from blues to funk to jazz at the bustling Le Garage Cafe. 166 Provencher Boulevard, 204-237-0737.
Promenade Café and Wine offers gorgeous views of The Forks and the downtown skyline. French bistro favourites anchor the menu, including silky lobster bisque and a generous tuna Niçoise salad. 130 Provencher Boulevard, 204-233-7030.
You might feel like you’ve been transported far, far away when you dine at Resto Gare. Could it be because you’ve hopped aboard an old train station and boarded one of their train cars? Or is it the authentic French cuisine that you’re sampling that’s taking you on a trip? You’ll have to put it in the itinerary to find out. 630 Des Meurons, 204-237-7072.
Gaining buzz in the French Quarter is Marion Street Eatery, which serves stylized comfort food for lunch and breakfast. The food is simple and accessible, but elevated to exceed your expectations, like a hearty bison chili that will have you asking for seconds the moment you’re done. 393 Marion Street, 204-233-2843.
Caribbean dining in the heart of St. Boniface is what you’ll experience at Purple Hibiscus at the St. B. Grill. Enjoy island flavours from Trinidad & Tobago, including jerk chicken and Caribbean Chili. St. Boniface Hotel, 171 Dumoulin Street, 204-233-0670.
Top Places to Shop
Francophone bookworms head to À la Page for the largest selection of French children’s books in the city, along with gifts and magazines. 200 Provencher Boulevard, 204-233-7223.
Bijou carries an eclectic collection of stylish, handcrafted jewellery that makes a statement. Husband and wife team owners, Ashiq Katoo and Léonie Coulson and partner Glen Kennedy are the creative masters behind the stunning, original jewellery displayed. 190 Provencher Boulevard, 204-233-9722.
Pick up a piece of Manitoba art at Wayne Arthur Gallery. This gallery and shop showcases painting, sculpture, print-making, mixed media, pottery, jewellery, glass and photography by local artists. 186 Provencher Boulevard, 204-477-5249.
Satisfy your sweet-tooth at Chocolatier Constance Popp with artisan bon bons, bars, truffles, and more. Their chocolates make fantastic takeaway treats to give as gifts… if you can stop yourself from eating them first. 180 Provencher Boulevard, 204-897-0689.
Top Things to See and Do
One of the city’s major architectural landmarks, Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface attracts thousands of visitors each year. The current cathedral is the fifth one built on this site since 1818. It incorporates the facade and remaining walls of the 1908 building, which was destroyed by fire in 1968. 190 ave de la Cathédrale, 204-233-7304.
Journey back in time to the fur-trade era with a visit to Fort Gibraltar. The fort is a reproduction of the original fur trade post built by the North-West Company around 1810. In summer, costumed interpreters guide visitors through this historical site, while in February it is part of the annual winter festivities of Festival du Voyaguer. 866 St. Joseph Street, 204-237-7692.
Take a walk through the impressive sculpture garden (jardin de sculptures) at La Maison des Artistes, a centre of contemporary art devoted to working with the francophone community in Manitoba and the French-speaking population at large. 219 Provencher Boulevard, 204-233-5074.
Winnipeg’s oldest building—an oak log building originally used as the Grey Nuns’ Convent—houses the Le Musée de Saint-Boniface Museum. An impressive collection of artifacts and displays in French and English explain the history of French-Canadian and Métis communities in Western Canada. A special exhibit is dedicated to Louis Riel, the “father” of Manitoba. 494 Taché Avenue, 204-237-4500.
St. Boniface City Hall is a three-storey, red brick building that was home to St. Boniface’s civic government for nearly 70 years, prior to amalgamation with Winnipeg in 1972. Inside, the Riel Tourism bureau offers information for attractions and events throughout St. Boniface and French Manitoba. 219 Provencher Boulevard, 204-233-8343.
Don’t spare yourself the joy of throwing some strikes at Salle de quilles LaVérendrye Bowling Lanes, where 10-pin lanes are sure to bring a good time. 614 Des Meurons Rue, 204-237-4137.